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Playing in the magnificent Wolkberg mountains… Interview with race director Steve Willson

Playing in the magnificent Wolkberg mountains… Interview with race director Steve Willson

I will be back, that’s for sure!!   – Rian Burger (2014)

5 star hospitality!  Thank you guys it was brilliant. This is a race not to miss, very well organized!!      – Vimbai Mhike (2014)

 The ClemenGold Wolkberg trail is a two day stage race on 8 and 9 August, through the magnificent Wolkberg Mountains, summiting the highest point in Limpopo, the Iron Crown. The routes provide a fantastic mixture of tough but beautiful trails. Runners will experience some of the best kept trail running secrets in the country.

Ultrarunner caught up with Race Director Steve Willson for a quick chat …wolkberg1

They beauty of Stanford Lake College and surrounding area

Tell us a bit about Stanford Lake College, which will also be the race village for the weekend?

Stanford Lake College is a private boarding/day high school. What sets us apart from any other school in the country is our world class Outdoor Education programme. Adventure classes are a part of our curriculum in Grades 8 and 9 and we specialize in all adventure sports. It’s a great way to introduce our pupils to the great outdoors and instil a love of adventure from an early age. Much of our Alumni and staff are very active on the national Adventure Racing, Mountain Biking, Kayaking and Trail Running circuits.

Your team has created a great event! How’d it come about?

Thank you! First and foremost we are trail runners, triathletes and mountain bikers who love to train and play in the Wolkberg Mountains. We just felt that this would be a great way to share some of our favourite running spots with like-minded people.

What inspired you to put together the Wolkberg Trail Run?

We are extremely lucky to live in a part of our country that is so conducive to multisport events, so this beautiful area had a lot to do with it. We also thought that this would be a great challenge for us – to put together a great event free of all the problems and hassles that we ourselves had experienced at races. We are not there yet but we will never stop striving to improve.

In 2015 the WTR became a member of the Skyrunner Series, which means that Day 1 is now an official SkyMarathon. Big thumbs up! Tell us a bit more

The guys from Skyrunner approached us in 2014 and we were excited to have such a well-known brand come to us. The type of running that athletes will do on Day 1 is perfect Skyrunner territory: altitude, steep climbs and technical descents, so it was a no-brainer for us to join the Skyrunner family.

What is the hardest thing about putting together a race? 

Most people don’t realise how many small little details go into organising and running a successful event. Trying to get all the little pieces together, while still trying to work a day job, is a real challenge.

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As Race Director, what’s the most stressful part of the race for you?

Route markers on race day! There are a million little things that have to go right on race day and usually we can deal with most ‘curve balls’. However if runners get horribly lost due to poor route marking then almost everything else is redundant. Runners are in some pretty wild territory up there so their safety is always a concern for us.

What’s the secret to ensuring a successful event?

Teamwork! We have such an energetic and dynamic staff at Stanford Lake College and they make my life so much easier by giving up what little free time they have and just getting things done.

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There are mixed feelings about race registration fees. Wolkberg Trail Run is extremely well priced. Seeing that stage entries flew and you have waiting lists, how is it possible to stage a race of this magnitude at such a low price?

Our title sponsor, ClemenGold, help us so much in covering most of our operational costs.  However unlike most event organisers our main goal is never going to be about profit, but rather about the experience for the runners.

This year, the stage race filled up extremely fast. What do you attribute this to?

We are proud to have UltrarunnerZA on board as marketing and media partners since the inaugural race. They are doing a great job in handling our entries, marketing, social media etc. We also ran an ad in the TrailMag to advertise the race. Last year was such a huge success that we expected queues when entries opened. This also one of the best value for money stage races in the country.

Besides the jaw-dropping gorgeous setting and views, what sets Wolkberg Trail Run apart from other races?

In 2014 there was a fantastic ‘family feel’ to the whole event, which was what we were trying to achieve. The fact that 90% of last year’s runners are coming back again shows that we are on to something.

It’s pretty hilly around there. Are you making the most of that?

You can’t run for more than 100m without hitting a nice hill around here! Let’s just say that stronger climbers will be in their element on Day 1, and the speedsters will love Day 2.

Are there on the day entries for the 25km, 10km and 5km on Sunday, or should runners pre-enter?

There are day entries for those still trying to make up their minds, however it’s easier for everybody involved if runners pre-enter on wolkberg.ultrarunner.co.za

Do you think the Sunday trails are suitable for first-time trail runners?

Absolutely. The 25km is a real challenge but good for first timers who have trained properly, and the 10km and 5km will be great for anyone entering their first trail run.

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Tell us a bit more about the entertainment on Sunday?

We have organised for a few of our local food producers to set up stalls, which will offer all different kinds of locally produced food and beverages. There is also a kiddies run for the youngsters.

What’s new in 2015?

Apart from a whole lot of new faces, we have added a little bit to each route. We did this so that runners spend less time on dirt roads and more time on proper trails.

And last, but certainly not least, for all the traveling runners coming to the race, what are a few things they should make sure to do while in town?

Too many options to name them all, but personally I think a beer and burger at the Iron Crown pub, or a pizza at the Pot & Plow is a must.

Congratulations on launching and developing such a great new set of trail races! I hope you have a great event this year!

 

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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 Comment

  1. Great event you guys! As with the Magoebaskloof MTB event, this trail run will definitely become an annual event for my wife and I. Hoping to bring it all together for the Wik triathlon next year!
    Thanks Steve and the team at Stanford for hosting us.

    Reply

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