Monday, 25 February 2013

Race Report: Highlands Trout Mountain Challenge 2013

On Saturday I ran the most beautiful race that I've ever run in my life - the Highlands Trout Mountain Challenge Half Marathon 2013.  The race took place in the Kingdom of Lesotho, a landlocked country that is completely surrounded by its only neighbouring country, South Africa.  


[Source.]

The Kingdom of Lesotho covers an area measuring approximately 30 000 square kilometers and has a population of just over 2 000 000, of which roughly 40% live below the international poverty line.  I experienced Lesotho as a country that is almost frozen in time: A country where heavy stuff is still carried by donkeys; carts are still pulled by oxen and the elderly walk over mountain passes to get where they need to be.  


A typical village in Lesotho.

The landscape of Lesotho is simply breathtaking.  My eyes just couldn't get enough of its beauty and splendour - I was in awe!  The country is characterized by the presence of the Maluti Mountains, which, of course, makes for a challenging running experience, but a viewing experience unlike any other.


The Katse Dam.
  
The Maluti Mountains.  There's just no way to capture its beauty on film.

We stayed at the Orion Katse Lodge in Katse Village (highly recommended!) and the race literally started right outside our hotel room.  I must confess that I haven't been this nervous before a race in quite a while: It was my first race at high altitude (between 2000 and 2500 m above sea level) and I had no idea what to expect - I kept picturing myself gasping for air with my hands clasped around my neck!  In the end the altitude didn't end up making that much of a difference (I live and train at about 1400 m above sea level), but, trust me, the uphills did!  Those mountain passes are steep!  Hats off to the local full marathon runners who caught up to us half-marathoners (uhm, yep) and flew past us on those uphills.  Amazing!  I handled the uphills in quite a different fashion, with lots of highly unflattering huffing and puffing going on...       


Nervous and cold at the starting line!

One of the highlights of the course, for me (and there were many), was running across the wall of the Katse Dam (the highest dam wall in Africa).  Regular traffic isn't allowed on this road, which made the experience extra special - the view was amazing!


Katse Dam wall.

Another highlight was most definitely the people of Katse Village: Everyone was so helpful and friendly and outgoing.  I trust that the race funds, which will be put to use at the Katse Village orphanage, will really bless and make a difference to these wonderful people.  They truly touched my heart!



I finished the half-marathon in 02:26:06 - my second slowest half-marathon ever.  I'm very happy with the time, though, considering the altitude and the uphills.  But I must confess that I've caught myself thinking: "I wonder if I can go faster next year...?"  (Ha, just joking, Will!  Sort of.)


Finishing in 02:26:06.

What a blessed, amazing experience - do this race if you can!

                                                        ***

P.S.  I've also updated my Running the World page!

5 comments:

  1. The finishing time is not important because this was the first experience far, at high altitude and with many uphills. However you have another half under your belt, you enjoyed the place and ... you took many pictures to share with us: thank you!
    And last but not least you look very fit and in perfect shape: you are a runner!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awesome! Congratulations! Those views are the best! Very similar to Sani Stagger marathon. Lesotho has some of the most beautiful scenery on offer. I love running there! Rest well!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Congrats on finishing the half marathon! What an experience to run in such a beautiful place!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Congrats on the half marathon! Those pictures are absolutely stunning!!!

    ReplyDelete

I love hearing from you!