Salomon Sky Run

The Toughest Trail Run in South Africa

Skyrunner Ryno Griesel tells us more about his personal journey through what is considered the toughest trail run in the country.

How would you describe the race?

It is a personal journey of discovery. You experience a deep connection with nature, but you are simultaneously faced with your contrasting limits to what was originally perceived. At the end of the race you are emotionally overwhelmed by your ability to break through these barriers. You literally grow spiritually throughout the race. You experience more in one day than the normal man on the street would in a year.

Skyrunners are fit, brave adventurers and dedicated environmentalists leaving only their footprints, and cherishing the unique shared experience of the Salomon SkyRun.

How long does it take to complete?

Internationally acclaimed ultra-distance champion Ryan Sandes from South Africa holds the record at 12h36min. Normal people like me complete the distance in a time anywhere between 15 to 33 hours.

How do you prepare mentally and physically for a race of this nature?

As a minimum you have to be fit enough to complete the distance over the rugged mountainous terrain at a high altitude. But your ability to stay positive and keep a good sense of humour throughout is essential. My advice would be to set a clear mental goal before you go into the race regarding why you are doing it and what you want to achieve. Write it down visibly somewhere, even on race day. Commit to that personal goal. Meditate over it before and during the event. Stick to it, knowing that the personal reward will be worth it. Remembering that you started this journey to enjoy yourself must form part of this goal.

Can you briefly describe a race day highlight for you?

The spectacular views throughout the route are breath-taking. But finishing, knowing that you stuck it out, is the absolute highlight.

Can you describe your worst experience on race day?

After sitting down for a moment, having received much appreciated attention and feeding at the 65km Balloch control point, it is a tremendous mental challenge to get up and climb the extremely steep infamous Balloch wall directly thereafter. The fact that your mind shouts to your tired legs at this point that you are just over half-way, definitely adds to the spiritual battle.

What is your advice to interested participants?

Make sure that you are physically prepared for the route. Study the route on Google Earth. Attend the organiser’s guided scouting trips beforehand. Make sure that you are comfortable with operating a GPS. Pin down your mental goal visibly before and during the event and refer back to it often. Proper nutrition is a very important ingredient for success, therefore experiment with what works for you over such a prolonged period of physical excursion. Train with all your compulsory equipment including your backpack beforehand.

What can go wrong out there?

Given the remoteness of the event, quite a bit – but stay positive and focus. The very experienced crew of PURE Adventure have the best possible emergency protocol in place should something go wrong. You are in good hands.

What is the vibe among competitors?

Everyone is there to compete against themselves but are also extremely supportive of each other before, during and after the event. There is an amazing family culture at the Salomon Skyrun and in trail running in general.

What is the most intimidating aspect of the race?

I guess the distance and the basic navigational requirement. Both of which can be managed through proper preparation.

Do you feel like you’re out there alone most of the race?

The challenge is definitely personal, but you see quite a few other competitors along the route fighting and overcoming their own barriers, which is very encouraging.

What goes through your mind during the race?

Absolutely everything from – “this is awesome!” to “why I am doing this?” The challenge is to stick it out, to overcome your perceived barriers and to reach the realisation at the end of the journey that you have grown physically and spiritually into a better version of yourself.