Trail running is something I had never really tried, excepting a small 5ks I did along the walking trail alone the Klienmond sea front. I enjoyed it a lot, the sea breeze, the sights and sounds of the flora and fauna and the excitement of not knowing what challenge is around the next bend.
So we had heard of the Dodo Trail, a run through the nature reserves on the western side of the island. They had 3 trails to choose from, a 14, 26 and 52km. Being a week after my first half marathon, and not really knowing what to expect I didn’t want to push my luck, so I signed up for the 14.
On the Friday, race pack collections and pre race briefing were held at La Pirogue hotel just down the road from us, a well-organized gig as well I must say. After collecting my race number I proceeded to stroll around waiting for the race briefing. I saw a sign that read “From Hell to Paradise” and assumed it was for the more hard-core runners doing the 27 and 52k. We were tight for time and they were having issues with there sound equipment so I thought to myself, what more can they tell me, I rock up in the morning for the bus, get to the race and run right? So back home we went, a move I would later regret!
So after a fair intake of pasta, a good nights sleep and a bathing of sunscreen, I arrived at the hotel ready for the transfer. There were plenty of people waiting, which was nice to see after the small attendance at the Mauritian Marathon. The bus drove us to the start point, a fair distance by road to where we were would eventually end up.
A young American lady, Nicole and myself had got chatting, and luckily for me she had a fair grasp on the French language so translated what the announcer had to say. Which was pretty much drink lots of water while you can, and enjoy the race. The pack of us, a fair 270 odd runners headed down to the start. I noticed lots of camel packs, runners wearing gloves and lots of compression socks. I however had no such gear, just my stock standard road running attire! Feeling I was in for a little more that I signed up for Nicole asked me what my goal time was, I shrugged and said I didn’t really have one, I just wanted to run as much as possible. After a high 5 and wishing each other good luck we were off. With the large pack we quickly got separated, which was not much of an issue at the time.
The first 2km or so was on pretty flat dirt road, after that however it got tricky, we started to climb, and climb and climb! As we climbed the roads became trails and after that they became rocky hill faces with little resemblance of a trail. It didn’t take very long until I had had my first fall, nothing to injure myself, but not a good feeling. The terrain became harder and harder to negotiate, with loose gravel, loose rocks and tree roots jutting out of everywhere. And then, as if Mother Nature were having a laugh it started to drizzle. This however I didn’t mind. The fact that it made the already tricky paths wet and slippery was not my worry. I was dying from the heat, and yet to see a water point.
Running was barely an option at some points if you valued your life, and if going up was not enough work, coming down on the other side was even scarier! The drizzle had stopped and now the sun was pelting down on us! The gravel coming down the side of the mountain was loose, and the gradient was steep, so much so that at parts it seemed almost impossible to stay afoot. Luckily at what seemed the steepest part of our decent there was a fence alone the side of the trail. This provided a lifeline to grab onto when my feet started slipping out from under me.
We finally reached the bottom of the hill, and a tarred road. At this point I was suffering from dehydration and my head felt that it was on the verge of exploding. The road didn’t last long though and before I knew it we were back on a path, but now at least it was under the cover of trees. We ran along the side of a river over rocks and through a fair share of mud. At one point we had to run ankle high through the river, which would have been great if it didn’t smell of rot and death. After the marshy section we made our way back onto a road, and through a village with locals cheering us on. The smell of breakfast in the air! A marshal directed us onto a field and finally the first water point. 11km in! I glugged down 2 cups of coke and the same in water, I drenched my head and hair with ever more water. I felt my temperature dropping and started feeling much better.
We ran off the field and I immediately knew where I was, Tamarin Beach. A marshal told us something as we ran past, and I had it translated for me! 3km to go. We ran along the beach for a while, then up onto a path that took us around the rather hectic rocks that line that part of the beach. Thankfully I must add. Once we had passed the rocky area we were back on the beach and struggling to find firm sand to make the final stretch a little more bearable. At this point there were 4 of us running together, a local lady who seemed no stranger to the sport, her teammate, Nicole and myself. We ran this section in single file literally on the waters edge. We where fooled once or twice by sail boats belonging to the hotels, thinking there brightly coloured sails where the finish. But finally there it was! Our final destination.
We pulled into the hotel and ran the last couple of meters along the hotels path. I crossed the finish line with a great sensation of relief and accomplishment. To be honest it had not all sunk in yet, it was all just to much to take in at that moment. The grueling climbs, suicidal descents, lack of water, the strong scenes of camaraderie as well as the breath taking scenery.
It is something I will definitely do again, but next time I will certainly gear up better and be both physically and mentally prepared for the challenge!