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Namaqua Quest 120km Trail Run Report

Namaqua Quest 120km Trail Run Report

Namaqua Quest

When I first saw the Namaqua Quest (NQ) flyer in Nov. 2013, everything inside of me said  ”Yes!” …. but as the months went by, the reality of 120km dawned on me. Was I training enough? Was I doing enough hills? Will I still be able to run after the 42km stage? As the months became weeks, the option of pulling out became very tempting. But (luckily) there was too much to lose at this stage.

I booked a cosy little room for my husband and I in Springbok (15km from race venue). Although we usually love camping, we figured that a proper night’s rest is mandatory for what we were about to experience…. At first the price of R325 pp/night, seemed too much to me. But as the days passed, l realised that R1 000 a night would still have been worth it due to a cold front that would pay us a visit during the following week…

Registration took place at Jakkalswater; where many a brave soul also slept in tents, ate, showered and where some of the stages would start and finish.

On Thursday 26 August at 8am, 120+ athletes gathered under the START arch, somewhere between somewhere and nowhere, surrounded by a sea of flowers, waiting to start the first 21km leg of this 4-day stage race. The route was going to be quite technical, lots of bundu-bashing and running up and down flat rock tables. My goal was not to fall and have a comfortable, steady pace to reserve energy for the 42km the following day. Luckily I wore long calf socks to protect my legs against the merciless Namaqua bushes with their long nails grabbing at you with each step.

On the second day we were taken by bus to a remote area 20km from the little town of Nababeeb. It was 6ºC and it started to rain as we tackled the 7km in the Schaap River Canyon; a remote area which few people have the privilege to see. I even found a leopard footprint and skeleton down there with baboons barking at me. As I climbed out of the canyon, the panorama of mountains took my breath away! It was just me, the mountains, and my Maker.  For the next 25km I enjoyed the solitude of true Namaqua beauty. The last 10km the effects of all the boulder hopping and thick sand beds of the canyon kicked in. My legs were aching and I longed to see that finishing arch as I weaved through the gravel roads of Nababeeb.  A little town, with friendly locals cheering us on through missing front teeth.

On the third day the start and finish was at the picturesque Goegap Nature Reserve. 30km of running in the untouched, natural beauty of flowers, mountains, and quiver trees. Except for the start of a 45º, 800m climb, the rest of the route was jeep track and quite runnable. In the valleys it was wind still, but on other parts of the route, an ice-cold wind cut through my skin. The finish was a very steep downhill, and one runner had to dive into a bush to break his speed! At the finish, I indulged into a huge Namaqua burger (only R20!) for lunch.

That evening as I laid down my tired body in my soft, warm bed, in our cosy apartment, a ferocious wind was plucking at the windows. I had sympathy for my fellow runners in their 2-man tents.

The final stage had arrived! I had mixed feelings of relief that I’ve come so far, and disappointment that my adventure was almost over. 28km of full-out technical running and a wind howling at us at 80km/h! As we dashed off, it felt as if the wind was trying to stop me from going further. Many hats went flying off into the bushes 15m away!  I leaned forward and pushed forward as hard as I could with every stride; sand blasting at me as l try to cover the first km. I tried hiding behind a fellow runner, but unfortunately runners doing 120km in Namaqua don’t have much to hide behind. We climbed to the top of Toringberg. 7km of climbing like a herd of baboons. I breathed heavily and my heart raced inside my chest; 57min on my first 7km! Then came the downhill! A shot of pain with every step went through my tender quads as I tried to stop myself. After a difficult 24km, the last climb awaited me, over a neck and down into a valley. There was the finish line….or what was left of it after the wind decided that all tents and banners had to be blown onto the mountaintop. All the spectators were hiding in their cars.

A spurt of energy flowed through me as I covered the last 300m on the gravel road. I felt like a champion as I crossed the finish line. Even though it was just me and the time-keeper at the finish.

You will be surprised at what you can do when you give yourself the chance!



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  1. Namaqua Quest 120km Trail Run Report | Run On Trails - […] By Marcelle Coetzee […]

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