Sitting on the fence about entering the Merrell Whale of Trail? Five finishers from the last three year’s chat a bit about why they wouldn’t think twice before entering again, and what they got out of their experience running the 53km through De Hoop Nature Reserve. Listening to their reasons it becomes apparent how the beauty of an area has the ability to entice people back for more! This is what they had to say.
1. It’s got nature, the outdoors and it’s a challenge – what more could you want?
“I do trails because I love nature, being outdoors and off course, I love a challenge and the Whale of Trail ticks all three of those boxes! Is it value for money – hell yeah! It’s the best excuse for a weekend away ever,” says Rheinhardt Schulze. From technical climbs, ridgeline running, fast descents and undulating coastal trails to cliff-edge, nail biting stuff, beach sections and rock -pools – the route really does take you through all types of terrain. Being situated inside a reserve makes it all untouched, conserved and utterly beautiful. ““I have always said the most beautiful and untouched run that I have done to date, is the Whale of Trail. It is still the most memorable run I have done and the one I want to return to. I have two young boys (2 and 5-years-old) and after finishing the run I said to my wife that as soon as both are old enough, I am taking them to hike the Whale Trail,” said Schulze, completely blown away by the experience.
2. As well as beauty, you get to nail a five-day hike in one day!
“I would enter again because it is such a beautiful race and because of the diversity of trail,” says Jacoline Haasbroek, 2015 podium finisher. “The organisers are so enthusiastic, the marshals are very friendly, as well as the field of trail runners. Everyone is just happy to be there, plus finishing a five-day hike in one-day is such an awesome achievement.” Consider that for a moment, a route that takes most people five days to walk and you’re going to attempt it in one session! Finishing an event like the Whale of Trail really is an epic achievement. “It is a beautiful trail, unspoiled by human beings. It really is just you and nature and of course there are the whales. If you have time to look at the ocean in between watching where your feet are going, they are incredible and in abundance,” says Haasbroek.
“For me, the Whale of Trail is an awesome run with beautiful scenery. The organisers are great and the whole event offers very good value for money (much better value than other similar events where hiking trails are condensed into single-day runs), which is why I’d enter again,” says Andy Davis. In its fourth year, the Whale of Trail prides itself as a grass roots initiative, with a single intention of sharing incredible trails with like-minded people. It’s not about exorbitant entry fees or running a business, it’s about sharing the simple, pure love of trail running.
4. The package deal makes it worth it
Linda Doke, no stranger to the trail running world, ran the inaugural Whale of Trail in 2015. Just like the other finishers, she would happily enter again, here’s why. “The route’s a unique blend of inland trails surrounded by fynbos, dramatic coastal path, cliff-edge paths and beach running and make it a proper challenge. The incredible scenery, energetic vibe and superb organisation would have me back at the start line for sure.”
5. It’s doable
I think one thing can be noted, the route is beautiful. Ask anyone that has finished the event, and they’ll tell you about the spectacular scenery. What a lot of people maybe skim over is the fact that it is a very ‘doable’ ultra, especially if it’s your first one. Bryony McCormick, two-time finisher, used it as her first ultra in 2015. Despite being daunted by the distance, she lined up to start and finished with a smile nine hours later. “It’s a combination of things really: getting out of town for a weekend, exploring a nature reserve on foot, running alongside whales, being immersed in incredible beauty, dealing with the physical and mental demands of an ultra, that cold beer post finish line… but most importantly – it’s doable. You don’t have to climb a million vertical meters, put yourself in real danger or do anything too crazy. It’s just this beautiful, seemingly never-ending single track that keeps you interested, engaged and excited the whole way to the finish.” Bryony McCormick