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Conversations with nature: discovering trail running

  • Trail Run
  • Training

As I ran past her she said, “oh flip!”

“What the…?” I thought to myself, and in that moment a very bright light flipped on in my brain…

“I just took something away from her. This is a race… what does she mean by ‘oh flip’? Wait… run, run RUN!!!”

And so I ran. 

I ran past the lady in front of me, and I will never know if she had said something to me because the finish line was fast approaching and I could hear something else talking to me.  The wind? Mother Nature? My spirit?  She said, “you are in 3rd place… do you want to settle for that?”

It was an uphill sprint to the finish line. “I am strong uphill!” my spirit exclaimed. Nothing could stop me now! As I crossed the finish line, I lifted my hands in the air the way winners do, and I went on to finish 2nd in the open female category of 2014 Spur Cape Summer Trail Series short course in Lebanon Forest.

Suddenly my brain was flooded with a flow of inward conversation.

“When did I start competing like this?”

“What does this mean”

“Do I have to stay for prize giving?”

“I need to sit down. Sit and exhale.”

“I feel so confused.  Why am I confused? Is it the way runners are coming up to congratulate me?”

“Do I need to find the winning lady and shake her hand?”

Nobody had prepared me for what happens when one does well in a race!

I wanted to make the voices stop for a second and be silent. I wanted to close my eyes and go back to my first race in almost 3 years.  The fact that my first ever trail race was only 18 days before this moment.

I wanted to tell those around me that when passion meets love, greatness is inevitable. I wanted to tell this to myself and believe it.

Backtrack a few weeks…

Tim Biggs, my colleague and author of the book “Three rivers of the Amazon”, walked pass my desk and excitedly mentioned a trail running series that was coming up in a few days.

‘Hey, you should enter! You’ll love it!  It’s going to be in the evening but we can all drive together.  It will be fun!”

“Nah I don’t think so, Tim,” I replied. I haven’t done much running lately and I’m not running fit.  Plus, I’ve never done trail running before.  But, er… I’ll think about it.”

He walked back to his desk. I entered right away.

It was love at first stride as I took part in my first ever trail race in the Tygerberg Nature Reserve on 14 January 2014. I walked when I felt like it, I slowed down to admire the beautiful sunset, and I had amazing conversations with the trail…

And the words the trail spoke were, “welcome to greatness – your greatness.  Child, hear me when I say, welcome to running!” 

I ran and tears ran down my face as I crossed the finish line.

“This is love,” I whispered to the wind.

To my surprise I finished 9th in that race, in the short course open female category. On that evening my running experienced a rebirth. I had found something that I actually like. I discovered trail running. 

But first… I had to discover myself

Before this magical and miraculous experience, my last run was the Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon in 2011. The rest of that year I spent telling myself that it was completely insane to quit a good job, give my stuff away and leave the country.

By March 2012 had quit my job and was living in South America on a shoestring budget, doing volunteer work wherever I could find it, spending my birthday summiting Machu Picchu and discovering my inner spirit again. 

When I came back a year later I knew that I wanted running back in my life. Running was the one thing that kept me sane, but I also knew that I didn’t want to pound the pavements again.

I loved running but didn’t like road running. But I didn’t know quite what to do, so I decided to forget about running for a while and found other ways to keep sane.

It was with a little push from my dear friend and mother of my (god)children that I came to discover Kung Fu in September 2013.

It was the amount of training I did under the 7x undefeated SA Kung Fu champion Siphiwo Ngcipe that made me say to her, “Kung Fu has made me strong for hills.”

I don’t even know where that came from, but she believed me. I believed me.  And I proved just how strong I was during that uphill sprint finish in Lebanon Forest.

I am the trail…

My name is Buyiswa Alice Sikutshwa.

I worked and live in one of the beautiful places in the world, Hout Bay.

Looking back to where I grew up in the village of Qweqwe just outside Umtata, I remember how I was studying for my matric exam under the candle light, being content in those moments and knowing that I was bigger than rural ways and poverty.

I wanted to travel the world and live an amazing life. And I knew that there was only one person to make that happen, and that person was ME.

This is the journey I chose for myself.  And the choices I had made along the way led me to meet amazing people and to the point where I find myself now.

In the space of a few short weeks I have discovered a new side of me. 

Some people find their spiritual home in the water or on a bicycle or by lacing up and hitting the road every day.

I found mine on mountain trails.  I am the trail.

This year I will be doing my first Old Mutual Two Oceans Trail Run and I can’t wait to share my journey with you.

I have found trail running… and discovered that trail running, for me, is simply love in motion…

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