How to Survive the Wildcoast Wildrun®

Wildrunner’s tag line isn’t ‘Exploring wild places’ for nothing. Each Wildrun® allows trail runners to experience and explore extraordinary areas and places, often never (or rarely) seen by anyone else.  Adventure doesn’t come without challenges though, and the Wildcoast Wildrun® is no exception, as avid trail enthusiasts are expected to cover a distance of 112km from Kei Mouth to Hole in the Wall over three days. The beautiful, unkempt and mostly rural coastline is empty and wild, and you’ll need a few bits of advice to survive its natural obstacles. Several Wildcoast Wildrun® finishers have you covered though!

How to cross a river

When it comes to crossing rivers, take the flow of the water into consideration and try to roughly calculate where you’d like to exit the river, and then accommodate the river flow and walk upstream before you enter. “The important thing is to see which direction the current is flowing and to enter the river at the appropriate point,” says Jeremy Botha. Angelo Henry’s advice is no different, and suggests that if you’re near a river mouth, to walk further upstream to avoid being swept out to sea. “It’s best to just jump in upstream, the current will take you to the opposite bank, sometimes its lowest where the mouth meets the sea,” he says.  If the river is shallow, just jump in and get it over with! “Just run and jump in. Your shoes will get wet if you go in slowly and probably won’t be dry before the next river anyway,” says Stewart Chaperon.

And if you’re really scared, or struggling… “When all else fails, wait for a runner who will let you swim across with them, and grab your arm when you start washing down. When even that fails, stand on the bank, crying, until the organisers swim you across,” says Sandra du Toit who admits to doing the latter. That’s the beauty of the WCWR, you can show both your strengths and weaknesses without being judged! In fact, showing your weakness and overcoming it like Sandra did kind of makes her a hero!

How to keep your shoes dry

Dave Johnston, a keen trail runner and experienced Wildrunner® offers some practical (and innovative) advice on keeping your shoes dry on long trail runs. The benefit of keeping your feet dry is that the skin on your feet is less likely to soften, and you’re therefore less likely to form blisters. And nobody wants blisters on a stage race, or ever really. “Basically, I run with two rolled up rubbish bin bags in the side of my backpack. When I hit a shallow river, I quickly haul them out (as I'm running to it) and at the edge I step one leg into each, pull them up and wade through. I step out of them on the other side, stuff them back into the side and off I run. Everything stays dry.” Look, no one said that trail running was glamorous!

How to run on sand (and maintain a sense of humour)

Sandra du Toit, who we’ve established is maybe not someone you want to cross a river next too (kidding), mixes up running and walking in a bid to get through sandy sections. “I use a regime of walking and running when the sand is too soft. Unless you are one of those trail running gazelles, you don’t really go that much faster, and you just get tired.”

Jeremy Botha gives similar advice, except with less running! ““Walk, unless you are trying to win! It’s a total waste of energy to try run these sandy sections. Sometimes it's also better to run closer to the where the waves are reaching as generally it's harder there.” Lastly, if you are getting bored of walking, head down to the waterline where the sand may be more firm. ““Stay as close to the water mark as possible. It might mean running a slightly longer route but the soft sand is much worse,” says Stewart Chaperon

How to NOT get lost?

It may seem obvious, but runners have failed to do so in the past – download the GPS routes! “Download the routes, saved from pervious runs onto your Garmin watches. This will help a lot, especially with shortcuts!” say Jeremy and Tasha Botha. “If you don't have the track on your watch, then try stick with someone who has it or has done the event before or try and keep them in your vision.”

If all else fails, listen to RD Owen Middleton and Stewart Chaperon’s advice – “Keep the sea on your right and the land on your left and keep moving forward. You will get there eventually.” But seriously, if you find you’re running with the sea on your left… you’re in trouble and will end up in Cape Town. 

Article Written by Bryony Mc Cormick - July 2016

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