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A Champion Road Trip

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We are told that when two Rhodes Run champions took a road trip this past weekend it did not take long for their common trail to become a focal discussion point. 

One, who has multiple Rhodes Run titles under his belt gently referred to the other who has one win to his name as a 'Rhodes novice'. Novice or not, no denying that both have been infected by, what the senior statesman refers to as the 'Rhodes virus'.
Apparently on their road trip "the subject kept returning to Rhodes…the ultimate road trip".
"The conversation was filled with words known only to those privileged to be associated with our special race .. Mavis, tufts of terror, Polar Bear, Evie’s admin, Hooggenoeg, Tiffindell, Naude’s Nek, Walkabouts…"   
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Craig Muller's image above shows our two road trip champions on Mavis last year. Sadly, only one will be racing in July, but both are looking forward to their road trip to Rhodes.
After all ...
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At her kindest she's unfriendly

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For many with legs firm and toned from countless carefully logged miles under sun and over sand the Rhodes Run cut-off of four-and-a-half-hours at twenty-one-kilometres is as pedestrian as reading this when typed without using digits.

After all, back in the day when plimsolls ruled the road the slowest 26 mile, 42.2km for our metric readers, qualifying times for those epic South African tar runs were set at 4:15 and 4:30. And everyone managed those.

Yet here is a quirky event in a remote corner with a four-and-a-half-hour cut-off at twenty-one-kilometres. And seemingly no-one can run a sub-two-hour.


Typo? Altitude error? 

There is even an 'award' for the first runner who reaches the check point on the wrong side of 4½ hours. A memento. A blanket. Apparently for warmth, but whispers are that it is to hide and soak up tears.

A second cursory glance, this time at the route profile, reveals only one hill. Well a few undulations, but only one trifling bump. And the Route Director has the temerity to refer to it as a 'conversation stopper', a phrase apparently taken from his pre-dawn training runs in Westville with a blind runner, but we digress.

Perspective. Always a good thing is perspective. 

No more cursory glances, time to delve into this aberration of time and distance. 

History reveals perspective. Over the past 29 years that check point has been used 27 times. On two occasions severe snowfalls kept the route, and the runners, in the snow crusted valley. Of those 27 years only four runners have reached that check point in under two hours. Only four! And one super-being, Dirkie Moolman, achieved the feat on two occasions. Dirkie holds the best time to reach the Mavis Top check point, for that is how she is referred to in polite company, of 1:53. Pedestrian by conventional tar standards, but in the hills under Ben MacDhui it is a best time that has stood since 1995 at the seventh edition of the event and we sit on the cusp of the 30th. 

The second-best time was set by Jannie le Roux in 1991. He went on to win that year by almost 30 minutes having crested Mavis in 1:57 and a few pennies and was back in the village in under 4 hours. He was stepping out of his shower and many had not reached the top of Mavis.

Jannie recorded three wins at Rhodes. Interestingly his sequence broken by names well known at that longer run commemorating soldiers of the Great War. Taking line honours in 1991 and again in 1992 Jannie deferred, as did the entire field, to Deon Holtzhausen who took the win in 1993. Jannie reclaimed the title in 1994 with Charl Mattheus taking the honours in 1995.

Jannie runs with the prestigious mauve Snowflake No 47 and will be heading out for his 22nd Rhodes Run on 7 July.

Jannie's mauve Snowflake number

We have digressed. Back to that pedestrian twenty-one. 

Somewhere between the village and the Mavis Top check point, admittedly hidden in a swirl of murky myth and legend, lies an incline. An incline that apparently brings out fierce naval language. Language which drifts down to the Kloppershoekspruit and, so we are told, is best left in the valley. 

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'Klippies' overnighting in the Kloppershoek kloof and their first customers 

There was a time when the 'Klippies' from St Dominic's Priory School (Port Elizabeth) set up camp in the kloof and provided a brief respite. Now rest breaks before reaching the check point are optional, but seemingly mandatory. Always useful to point a lens at some far-off object, it gives the rest a degree of purpose, and dignity.


If Comrades gold medallists 'Waltzing' Dave Wright, Deon Holtzhausen, Charl Mattheus, Sarel Ackerman and Johan Oosthuizen did not dip under 2 hours on their way to a win or top ten finish at Rhodes then maybe that pedestrian 4½ is not so pedestrian after all.

It would seem that at her kindest, Mavis is unfriendly.

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Jannie le Roux
Having set new best times for Mavis Top & overall - 1991 Hooggenoeg Ridge - 2016

Petard Trophy up for grabs

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Heavy hearts all round.

It was with heavy hearts we received a note from a heavy-hearted Snowflake Number 368 Peter Cross that he would not be defending the Petard Trophy this year. Peter completed his 16th Rhodes Run last year as a sprightly 71-year-old. An inspiration to many a quarter of his age.

Plans have been laid and D.V. in 2019 Peter will be back to reclaim his 'Petard' crown.

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For those who are not up to speed on the background to our Petard Trophy, click here for more details.

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It all means that the Petard Trophy will have a new winner's name engraved on it after 8 July.

Image: Craig Muller | Backyard Adventures


Matchmaking Online - Update

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Today, 31 January, was an entry cut-off for one of our invitation tranches, which meant a predictable flurry on our Forum as invitees scrambled for a nominee.

One of the successful recipients was our '42-year-old looking for a date with Mavis ...'

If you missed the article, read here 

We are always pleased when our Forum works its magic and were particularly thrilled when our trail equivalent of Cupid did his thing and found a suitable match for Eddie, probably with some help from Leapy Lee.

Not sure where Leapy Lee fits in? His 1968 hit predates even the Rhodes Run. Some of his Cupidesque lyrics are 

"So why not face it and admit

That you love those little arrows

When they hurt a little bit"
Having read the original article, you will find one line from Leapy Lee's hit that will resonate
"Oh Oh Oh the pain"
Yip, we relate, on Mavis we relate big time!
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Images: Craig Muller | Backyard Adventures


Matchmaking Online

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No prizes for guessing where this request was spotted.

"42-year-old male looking for a date with Mavis"

On our Forum, where successful matches are made every year.

The matches are successful, but the partnerships, more often than not, are frightfully painful. Much naval-type language is frequently overheard, and often extreme displeasure is shared. Frankly, the majority of the relationships tend to be one-off encounters. Ultimately, after 8-or-so hours of close, intimate companionship the compatibility factor misses the mark. Some end badly, very badly. Absolute crash and burn stuff. Sadly, sometimes never to be attempted again.

But folk being folk, there are always girls and boys looking for that fantasy experience, hoping for that memorable date.

All that said, our Forum has set up some amazing matches over the years. We have had gold medal results, and matches which have ended with broad smiles and promises of a second date. 

Craig Muller braved our thin air and captured a few of our recent successful 'blind dates' as they approached dear Lady Mavis.

We love spotting them through Craig's lens.

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It is an interesting phenomenon.

Bleating to get a date with Mavis, and whimpering on meeting her.

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All images courtesy Craig Muller | Backyard Adventures


Ring in 2018 - Tick your goals

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Almost time to ring in the New Year and welcome 2018

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Tradition: On race morning the Event Director wakes the village with peals from the church bell

No surprise what we will splash 2018 in with ...

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Wishing everyone a cracker 2018 - loads of laughter and fun on your runs, lung-busting trails with stunning breathtaking vistas, an injury free, healthy year with plenty of goals ticked. 


All roads lead to Rhodes in 2018

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So long 2017 ... in a few hours it will be hello 2018 
Which means the 30th Rhodes Run is less than 190 days away
"All roads lead to Rhodes"
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Sad farewell

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There comes a time, even with the best will in the world, when trail shoes are placed to one side.

Over our 29 years we have bid farewell to numerous wonderful runners, many of who are recorded in the annals of the event. A number return each year to encourage and support the 'newbies'. The next generation who tackle the Kloppershoek kloof and its bumps, Mavis, Lesotho View, Hooggenoeg with its 'Tufts of Terror' and the thigh jarring Carlislehoek. First timers who follow the trail, and the myths and legends, of the past.

Many send us a line or two, expressing gratitude when they hand back their invitation and share a few memories.

This past weekend we received one such retirement letter. A rather poignant note of farewell. To be perfectly honest, it made our day, so much so we wanted to share it.

The runner, who has a three-digit Snowflake number, has given us his OK to share his thoughts.

I want to gracefully decline my invitation for Rhodes Run. I am really sorry to inform you about this because I always want to run another Rhodes in a snow blanket. 
However, after struggling with torn hamstrings for two years and thereafter with torn ligaments in both my feet, the latest injury put a hold on another Rhodes Run. Since beginning of last year, a pinched nerve in my lower vertebrae resulted in a lame and very painful left leg which even the specialists don’t want to operate on. 
I was blessed in completing three Rhodes runs (one in a snow blanket!) and will always regard those three races as the best in my running career. 
Also, I always loved the emails you and Darrell send out to the runners, full of information and banter. 
Okay, I think you get the message so let me stop before I get the sniffles!
I am sure there will be a runner on your long list that will be popping the champagne corks in anticipation of getting to know the "Mavis Bitch" much more intimate with my number. 
Thank you for all you and your team members efforts to gift us runners the opportunity to enjoy the Rhodes Run.
Wish you well
And his follow up 
Thank you for the understanding of my unfortunate situation. I really meant what I was saying. At all other races, including xxx , xxx , xxx etc, runners are just numbers! Running Rhodes is like a family home coming…
You are welcome to share it, please just take note that my command of the Queen's English is not always what it should be!
Hopefully one day I will recover and source a number again. 
Good luck with the race and I'm holding thumbs for a white race day!
Thank you for your generous comments and our wish for all our runners is that they have fond memories of the Rhodes Run when the time comes to pack away their trail shoes.

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Rhodes Run 2018

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