Running with the Vultures in the Magaliesberg

43 days to the start of the 2016 Grand to Grand Ultra

Today was a “crazy” day of training for the Grand to Grand Ultra.

One of the local trail runs which I like doing, especially as part of my training for a desert run in the second half of the year, is the annual Crazy Store Magaliesberg Challenge. The race is held at the Van Gaalen Kaasmakerij cheese farm close to Hartebeespoort Dam, approximately 70km northwest of Johannesburg. Runners have four distance options to choose from, namely 12km, 22km, 36km, and the crazy challenge, 50km up and down the Magaliesberg.

The 50km race is an extreme trail challenge, with steep ascents and descents over very rocky and technical terrain. The elevation gain for the race is more than 1500m. To make things interesting, the last 5km also includes a river crossing and running across two floating bridges.

After finishing the race in 7h30 in 2015, it took me almost nine hours to finish today. Not sure why I struggled so much, but after a few weeks of hard training, maybe it was to be expected. However, time on your feet is essential preparation for a multi-stage desert race such as the Grand to Grand Ultra, and in six weeks from now, I will hopefully reap the benefits of today’s effort.

The highlight of this race is always the opportunity to see vultures in their natural habitat. The Magaliesberg is one of the oldest mountains in the world (almost 100 times older than Everest), and the area surrounding the race location is home to White-backed and Lappet-faced vultures. From the top of the mountain, it is a majestic sight to see them gliding through the sky.

Unfortunately, vulture populations close to urban areas face an unprecedented onslaught from human activities, including electrocutions and collisions with electrical structures, poisonings, land-use changes and a decrease in food availability.

Let’s hope that through increased public awareness about the critical role of vultures in maintaining ecosystems, and the work done by organisations such as the Vulture Conservation Programme, and its rehabilitation centre based close to the Hartebeespoort Dam, future Magaliesberg Challenge runners and visitors to the area will continue to see vultures controlling the skies over the Magaliesberg.

The countdown to the Grand to Grand Ultra continues…


I’m using my participation in the Grand to Grand Ultra to raise public awareness about NTDs, highlight the work of the END Fund, and mobilise $10 000 in support of the END Fund’s work in Africa.

I invite you to support my fundraising campaign and encourage others to do the same.

Follow updates on my blog, Facebook, Twitter, fundraising page, and via the END Fund’s various online platforms.

Together, we can END NTDs!

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