Q: Why do you only open entries only a few months before Forest Run?

Runners have asked me why I don’t open Forest Run entries a year in advance, like some other events. A few reasons… Aside from needing a good break after presenting an event, I prefer to focus on event planning in blocks so that the admin and my focus is contained. Also, if you’re anything like me, you probably use January to look around and see what events are on in the next six months. If I’d opened Forest Run entries already last year and the places were all snapped up, I’m sure you’d be disappointed not to even have had a chance to consider it. Forest Run is a small participant-number event so I prefer to give you time to decide that you’re in for the 30km or 46km route (yes! yes! yes!) and me time to recharge my batteries for intensive event focus.

I do publish the date – on this website and the Forest Run Facebook page – far earlier. You can always expect it to be around the 3rd weekend in May.

Q: I loved the old Forest Run venue at Lakenvlei. Why have you moved it to the Parys area?

A: In short, I moved.

At the beginning of December 2015 I moved full-time to Parys, which took me a distance further away from Lakenvlei. Distance definitely affects my convenience and accessibility and the costs for planning, organising and hosting Forest Run. Lakenvlei was far easier to access from Jo’burg.

I’d been out to Venterskroon once or twice in 2015 and my eyes couldn’t stop feasting on the hills in the Vredefort Dome. To say that my feet were itching would be an understatement. I spent many a night flying around the hills and valleys on Google Earth. In December, after yet another lovely outing and lunch at Old Imperial Inn, my heart was set on doing ‘something’ out here. Within days I’d decided to move Forest Run with me.

Finally, I get a wonderfully rewarding kick from the scouting and planning side of events. I had it easy with Lakenvlei because I knew the area incredibly well after more than 10 years of orienteering out there. Preparing this new route has been immensely challenging. I’ve been up and down hills, on and off tracks. I’ve crawled through fences and I’ve scurried along old animal tracks. I have been in absolute bliss playing out here. I’ve discovered so much more than I even imagined. I knew it would be great out here; I just didn’t know how wonderfully great it is, especially on the longest route, which has the luxury of distance to show you the most variety and the best spots. In planning the routes I covered almost 250km on foot over a few weeks.

Q: When is race briefing and must I be there?

A: Race briefing is 20 minutes before each course starts on Saturday morning – race day. Yes, you must be there. Please see the ‘Dates & Times‘ page for specifics.

Q: How long does it take to get to the race venue from Jo’burg?

A: It takes me 1h15 to drive from Bedfordview to Parys on the R59. It’s a similar time on the N1. And I don’t speed. From Parys town it is 12km on the Potch road to the Venterskroon turn-off and a further 16km to the start. In a double-cab, the drive from Parys takes me around 25 minutes; in my VW Polo it takes me no longer than 35 minutes. 

Q: Should I stay overnight in Parys or closer to the start?

A: It all depends where you’re coming from. Although the race is within easy driving distance from Jo’burg, I’d definitely recommend staying over at least on the Friday night so that you have a really chilled race morning and are refreshed after a good night’ sleep. There are a bunch of accommodation options right near the start/finish venue. I definitely recommend one of these.

Take a look at the ‘Accommodation‘ page for my recommendations and venue contact details.

If you’re doing the 16km, your race start is only at 09h00 so you can even drive through in the morning… but it will be far more fun to sleep over.

Q: Is it a circular or A-to-B route? 

It is a circular route. You start and finish at the same place.

Q: How tough is the route?

Compared to the previous Forest Run route? Much harder, purely because the terrain is more rugged and there are climbs and descents. There’s nothing too extreme but it is definitely more challenging. I’ve tried to mix in some swift running on more open tracks with the rocky paths to give your mind a rest. There are sections where you’ll be walking (I was anyway!) and there are sections where you’ll delight in letting your legs out. I think the route has a lovely bit of everything.

Q: Are the hills really as steep as they look in the altitude profile?

Before you look at the profiles and think, “OMG, look how steep those hills are!”, read my post about elevation profiles.

Q: Do you need an off-road car to get to the start? 

No. There’s a tar road all the way to the Venterskroon turn-off from the Potch road. The dirt road to the start is sometimes more corrugated than other times, depending on how often they grade the road. I travel this route gently in my VW Polo and it is fine. There are no jutting our rocks and few to no potholes – less than in Parys’ tar roads! Just plan to take a bit longer if you’re in a sedan. Low-slung sports cars won’t enjoy it.  

Q: Do we get tee shirts or medals?

Nope. Personally, I’m not into race tees. Too big, too small, too thick, ugly designs, made for guys, not girls… I’m not into medals or trophies either so the items you’ll receive at Forest Run are more in the line of thoughtful and useful than commonplace. 

Q: My partner is coming along to support. Is there a short route that they can do?

Not this year… But, I can definitely recommend a bunch of other activities in the area like horse riding, fly fishing, abseiling and archery at Thabela Thabeng.

Also visit the newly opened and recently refurbished Vredefort Dome Museum, in the historical building near the Venterskroon Inn, to see rock samples and to watch short videos about the meteor impact that led to the formation of the crater.

Q: I’m a road runner and I think that the entry fee is expensive. What do I get for this?

There is no way that a beautiful, marked, off-road race with a maximum of 250 people can ever compete with a road race where you pay R90-R160 for 21km and there are 6,000 people participating. Goodness, I think that R150 for a 21km is pricey, especially when you consider the volume of people participating. You can’t even compare to Comrades where there are >14,000 people (plus dozens of sponsors). 

What you get at Forest Run are a few treats (coffee/tea and rusks pre-start, Forest Run sewn bag, finishers item), water points, well-stocked feed station and a team of people on the day – hosted by Forest Run for the weekend – who make this day possible. You also get a post-run burger, race medics, free photographs and a special Forest Run memento that you’ll use for many, many years.

You also get a beautiful route that has taken me many weeks plus well over 250km on foot to scout and lots of organising to coordinate land access permissions (multiple landowners) to plan. And then there are the many days ahead of the event where we trim and tidy the trails, mark the routes, deal with entries and admin, employ photographers and medics, host marshals for the weekend… There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes.

Do yourself a favour too… look around at other events and then see if you can tell me with a straight face that Forest Run is expensive…  

Most of all, you get a whole lot of special. Forest Run is not a regular run; it’s a running experience packed with specialness. Forest Run reminds you why you run.

Q: As this is my first loooong trail run, can you perhaps advise the best option as far as water is concerned – i.e. run with a bottle or get one of those hydration pack things? What’s the most comfortable, light and efficient?

Definitely a hydration pack for volume and efficiency and comfort. There are a lot of good brands out there – try on lots of them and select the one that fits your body and wallet the best.

To get the best value for money, get a pack that holds a 2 or 3-litre reservoir (most come with the reservoir) and that has some space for ‘stuff’. I’d say look at the 10-15 litre volume range. I’ve found that my ancient 15l is my favourite-favourite. It has compression straps on the side so if the pack isn’t full I can squeeze it down and yet I’ve got space for stuff if I need it.

Make sure the pack has a chest strap and waist belt.

Running with bottles is not my preference at all; but some people like it. I don’t like the water sloshing around and I like to keep my hands free. Also, I drink a lot and I don’t run a 3:30 pace so I need more water than the racing snakes. Even if the reservoir is 2l, you don’t have to fill it up all the way, just what you need. 

As this is your first ultra, better to be prepared and not to skimp. Trust me, you’ll have a far better day if you’ve got enough water and are comfortable.