Regardless of whether it’s pinned to the fridge with a dodgy magnet or in our minds – we all have a bucket list of sorts, a list of accomplishments and experiences that we hope to tick off in your lifetime. As a trail runner, there are just certain runs that need to be on that list, the Merrell Whale of Trail is one of them. A pristine ultra-trail that steers you over mountains and across ridgelines, teeters you along dramatic coastlines and across white sandy beaches popping you out at the finish, some 53km from where you started. In a bid to figure out just what makes it ‘bucket list-worthy’, Whale of Trail chats to several finishers about their experiences, and why they’d convince fellow trail enthusiasts to add it to their list.
It ticks all boxes
The Whale of Trail is made up of a variety of different types of terrain making it impossible to pigeon hole it as a ‘mountain run’ or a ‘beach run’. To get through the day with a smile you need to be able to navigate technical descents, gruelling climbs, tapered coastal paths, devilish beach sand and undulating trails that will make you want to scream at times, but that’s what makes it so unique! “The Whale of Trail is beautiful – but tough and tests not only your physical abilities, it tests your character and your internal fortitude! If it is epic trail you seek then seek no more because Whale of Trail ticks all the boxes! From the first tough single-track climbs to the crazy coastline scrambling and of course the spirit-crumbling beach running – this trail has everything you can ask for,” confirms 2016 finisher, Peter Moses
It uncovers a new place
Why run an event in your back garden when you can explore a new place or area? The Whale of Trail offers you such a unique opportunity to explore the De Hoop Nature reserve – on foot nogal – giving you hands down the greatest perspective and vantage point of the pristine reserve. “It’s a weekend getaway away from the normal rush to a place you might not normally go. The event gives you a chance to explore the areas better and enjoy the beautiful scenery. And then of course, there are the whales,” says podium finisher, Jacques Mouton
It offers blissful remoteness
If you ever need a time out from reality, throwing yourself into nature is a sure way to do that. With a limited number of runners each year, as monitored by partner’s CapeNature in a bid to ensure the reserve can recover accordingly, it guarantees a fairly private tour of the Whale Trail and offers ample quiet time. “I was absolutely blown away by the beauty, remoteness and serenity of the Whale Trail! The limited number of runners meant you could be alone, really alone if you wanted to. Or you could always join a group of fellow runners,” said Nicola Collins when asked about her favourite parts of the run.
It guarantees a day-long smile
It’s seldom a race organiser has a finisher of a challenging 53km trail run proclaim that the day out ensured they had a smile plastered across their face all day long – but that’s what the Whale of Trail is capable of. Maybe it’s the people, maybe it’s the place – regardless it has the potential to put a smile on your dial all the way to the finish. “The Whale of Trail – wow! I think it’s the only race I’ve smiled all the way through, even when I wanted to cry. It’s breath-taking and exciting and varied and exhilarating. From high-flying vultures to expansive clifftops. Even the long, wind-stinging, foot-sinking stretches of beach, which would usually crush your spirit couldn’t take the smile off my face. We (my now husband and I) even loved the soundtrack Merrell used so much that we ‘borrowed’ it for our reception entrance at our wedding,” admits two-time finisher Penny Harpur.
It leaves you with rock star status
Finishing 53km is no small feat, and it definitely doesn’t go unnoticed at the finish line of the Whale of Trail. Podium finisher Jacoline Haasbroek agrees! “Tatum Prins is a little piece of dynamite and makes every runner feel as though they’ve just won the biggest race of their life in an incredible time! Even if you are the last person across the line, she will be waiting there for you, making a big fuss of your last few steps. This is definitely worth coming back for.”
Whether you’ve run it, tried and failed it, or simply curious to give it a bash – add the Merrell Whale of Trail to your bucket list and enter today! Entries are limited to 175, so don’t miss out.
Written by Bryony McCormick. Photo from Andrew King.