Hardworking Joburgers need a very compelling reason to go out on a school night. 300 of them were convinced once given the opportunity to dress up in ridiculous clothing, apply luminous war paint and chase each other around Delta Park for a few kilometres in the dark.
Many of those same lunatics found themselves amongst the 500 runners at Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens on Saturday morning, tackling the heat, the heart rate and that notorious hill.
The two races comprising the annual Merrell Autumn Trail Runs held last week in Gauteng cannot be more different. One is a lush, green, flat path and the other a dry, rocky, steep and technical trail. Both draw out a lot of sweat, some profanities and many jubilant smiles from all the characters who triumph the route, some attempting an off road race for the first time and others seasoned trail addicts.
Michael Moyo and Moreblessing Ndlovu pushed the pram with their three month old daughter in it through the finish line, having run the entire 5km evening race without any torch, prompting organiser Graham Bird of Mountain Runner to instantly offer a spot prize of a Black Diamond headlamp to the couple so their little navigator can better enjoy the view on their next night time excursion. Other participants picked up a plethora of Merrell and Nikwax sponsored prizes for being brightly dressed, for reaching the microphone first with a correct answer and of course for finishing first, second or third in their category.
Joburg trail runners now have the whole of Winter to wait before the Merrell Spring Runs opens up again in August with two more different and challenging races.