From jeep track, to single track to no track: this was Impi, a trail run second to none. The start was marginally delayed while the logistics team were putting the final touches to the course. You know, your average trail items like clearing the puffadders, securing the 8m high tightrope and making sure the 10ft high wall is stationed. And then the hooter went for Impi Challenge Elite 2011- boom!
Out the gates the pace was immediate. Clearly there was going to be a lot of jostling with each runner putting in a bid for R7000 first prize. The pecking order was soon established however when a late starting bare-chested blur passed us off the trail and led the way into the first minor obstacle: a drain pipe about 1m high with barb wire and mud: let the games begin! After that, I only caught glimpses of the legendary mountain goat bouncing up the firebreaks ahead.
So back in the drain pipe, the light at the end of the tunnel was going to be a frequent (and very welcome) sight for the rest of the course it seemed. We blasted into sunlight and headed out for the first swim, 150m across a small lake, fully clothed. The route planners obviously gave the design a lot of thought since every water obstacle was immediately followed by 1:10 gradient hill, preferably up a rocky firebreak- or equally unstable terra not-so-firma. The swim did set the field apart a little and so onwards and upwards we travailed.
The first 6km of the route was a series of insanely steep climbs along 4×4 jeep track followed by mad, muddy descents along single track. It was the perfect shampoo recipe: rinse, go up, repeat. Oddly, the sight of the first obstacle was a welcome relief.
Up and over poles and nets, 2m high, some more running and then through a series of 11 gates not higher than about 20cm each, which is fine if you need to run over them. Only problem was, we had to go under every single one of them. Be warned: beer boeps will struggle.
From crawling along the ground to more running and jumping and swinging across cleverly (read mischievously) designed monkey bars. When last did you manage over 30m over primate activity? Adrenalin counts for something because the rules were: if you dropped halfway through, you would need to start all over again. Not something you really wanted to do.
The snakepits had been enhanced this year. In the past, we enjoyed a relatively not-so-scenic scramble through a dark underground tunnel like a mole on speed. This year, things slowed down a little. If you lay down flat- and by flat I mean you pressed yourself into the muddy water- the top of your head just scratches under the ceiling. Your shoulders bump against the earth walls and you start burrowing. The tunnels were apparently designed by Indiana Jones and at times, it was so dark, prickly, muddy and tight, you could actually see more when you closed your eyes.
By the by, my skin is still on fire from whatever plant I rubbed myself in like an itchy rhino.
The swamps, gorges and drain pipes were standard issue. The forest single track was amazing. The now 5m leap of faith from a gangly gangplank into cold water was sweet. The running on water across the lilypads and dragging through the freezing swamp on the rocky ropes was great. Even the Vit-T-Go Tank, 15m up theeeerrrre, was awesome to scramble over. The Twin Towers was insane!
Imagine for a moment, you’ve been running for well over an hour. You’re scratched, burning, sore and tired. Someone in the middle of the forest suddenly gives you this random piece of dangling rope and says “climb”. Climb where? you ask. So you look up. 8m off the ground, in the tree tops is a plank. There. About 10m on the other side of the tree tops is another plank. Inbetween the two is a piece of dental floss. Walk across the dental floss, 8m above the ground, without a net to break your fall, and you’ll be an Impi Elite Warrior, my son. Perfect. Today, I die.
After traversing the twin towers, I believe I can now do just about anything; even stop a Chuck Norris punch to the head with my nose, and survive. Which is probably what caused me to sign up for this race in the first place…
And then, to top off the list of obstacles, a 3m high wall- just standing there. No ropes, no ledges, no little nooks and no help. Just one pancake-flat who’s-your-daddy chunk of solid slippery wall painted with bright yellow Velvaglo waterproof paint. Yes, we had just crossed through more swamp and mud. Thank you, Indie.
The home stretch was a killer. Across farm lands only cows graze on. Over fences that stop rampaging bulls until finally… the finish line.
The best thing I saw that morning was my family standing to the side, cheering me on and my little boy running towards me with the biggest smile ever! Arms wide open, crash tackled into my arms, we crossed the line together and that was Impi Elite 2011. Flippin’ amazing!