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Golden Gate Challenge 3 day stage race. Review by Herman Mulder (race winner)

Golden Gate Challenge 3 day stage race. Review by Herman Mulder (race winner)

Herman Mulder work as special needs teacher near Hartbeespoort Dam.  His achievements include a Comrades best of 6:19, first place in the Cradle Mayhem 3 day stage race and numerous other achievements.  Enjoy his vivid account of the race… 

Ascenders of the Golden Gate.                                           

 23-26 October 2014

 Majestic. Somehow that posh sounding little word always comes to mind when encountering a magnificent chunk of dolomite.

My bubble, of thinking I had this trail running thing sorted, was abruptly popped by Her Majesty on day one of the 2014 ” Golden Gate Radox Old Mutual” 3 day stage trail race.

Another tenacity testing event from the trusted pain inducing stable of the “Wild Series”.

A series of events committed to saving the planet one step at a time.

I used to pride myself on being able to run the whole trail distance in a race (give or take a few rock climbs).

Dawns a new era. The era of walking. Kneebreak Hill, yes, that’s what they call it. Walking with slippery hands pushing down on failing legs.

Seemed to be the only way to cope with the ever increasing load on the quads, desperately endeavoring to move forward which was…well…upwards.

Is going up and going forward the same thing? My mind was trying to make logical deductions of the problem at hand.

I remember using the single, most appropriate F word on a number of occasions.

One could almost reach out and touch the Radox banners at the finish, going home!

Red Alert!!

Conquer the Buttress first, you know, up and ….over.

Surely they won’t do that to us, would they?

Cables, chains and sweat dripping on, what seemed like 1000 steps.

A new level of severe discomfort, no scratch that, PAIN, burns it’s imprint into my brain.

The 27km (accurately measured…thanks guys) stage 1, pretty much set the stage for the following stages.

Day 2.

Intimidated by the merciless route of day 1, the participants set out at a conservative pace, carrying a newfound respect for these ridiculous accents in the back of their minds.

The pace made for a pleasurable first part of the run, absorbing jaw dropping sights such as herds of Wildebeest racing over the Little Serengeti plains, which aren’t open to the public.

A welcome distraction.Yes! This is why we do trail running.


Once again, up, yes…up to the Highlands Retreat atop the summit of the mountain.

Can’t describe the view, you’ll have to see it for yourself.

Climb no more.An insane downhill snaking into the valley all the way to the main road.

The sudden stability under our feet and engaging a new set of muscles made us realize that…life is actually good (as long as its downhill).

29 km once again, accurate in measurement.


Cometh the hour, 4:15, stage 3.

Slight drizzle,thick mist and an uncoordinated up and down bopping of beams attempting to slice through the thick fog.

With vision only a few meters deep, we were fortunate to have a tar road followed by concrete jeep track to lead us back to the Mountain Retreat (which of course, was atop the mountain).

Yesterday’s glorious downhill seemed to morph into this morning’s tool of torture.

Past the Retreat Chalets, still climbing into the mist,up to 2438m, realizing that the sun never rose.

The trail consisted of slippery rocks and muddy surfaces.Risky business.

This meant making crucial, split second decisions and being forced to choose between performance and safety.

The strong chilly winds and tangible mist on the spine of the mountain, momentarily made my mind drift to visions of ancient battles fought in the Highlands of Scotland.

Clans flying their banners and bagpipes spurring on brave warriors.

At this stage it was easier to see without the headlights, which seemed to reflect off the mist instead of lighting the trail?

Lone standing figures of rangers, volunteering as marshalls, popped out of nowhere, looking eerily out of place. Perceptions of depth and distance were altered by the density of the misty blanket.

Engage all senses and focus. Don’t think, just focus.

It’s difficult to calculate energy usage when the top of your climb is invisible. How long? How high? How many? Questions that eat away at our self-confidence.


A welcome but technical decent.

The last but oh so significant obstacle was indicated by a clearly visible arrow pointing left.

The arrow indicating, now or never!

Up the steps, up, up. The now familiar cables and chains. Head down, mouth open, keep going.

The pleasant decent, knowing that you’re there. There where you’ve wanted to be for the last three days.

Over the bridge, turn left, 100m and into the arms of the waiting race organizer, Hilary Bruss.


The Golden Gate Challenge, surely one for the books.

An experience for people who love nature and live life.


Thanks Mother Nature….I think.


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Zelda Coetzee

Media Manager & Blogger at UltraRunner ZA
Really crazy lady with a passion for trail running and photography. She is often referred to as the "Ultra Mommy" because she takes good care of everyone on the team.
Follow Me

About The Author

Really crazy lady with a passion for trail running and photography. She is often referred to as the "Ultra Mommy" because she takes good care of everyone on the team.


  1. It brings back a LOAD of memories… thanks Herman. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this!

  2. Well done, old man! Great article. ?..

  3. Nice work!


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