AfricanX Advice From The Girl Who’s Won It 4 Times, Landie Greyling
The 10th AfricanX Trailrun presented by ASICS is a couple of days away – a gruelling three-day stage race in the trails – and who better to ask for tips than the AfricanX queen herself, Landie Greyling? Landie has run this race six out of the 10 times that it’s been held. What’s more, she’s won it four of those six times. As one of South Africa’s top runners, she’s done her fair share of events, but she still rates AfricanX as one of the best.
Stage Racing At The AfricanX
“I think if I had to choose, I’d choose multi-day events,” says Landie. It’s not just that there’s more running, it’s the whole race village vibe. “The fact that you suffer together over those multiple days definitely makes it more special,” says Landie. “You become a family.” What better way to live than to race, eat, swap war stories, sleep and repeat? “You meet new people every day and, when you go home, you just can’t believe that it’s over!”
And there is just something so special about the trail running community. “They are such a friendly bunch,” Landie says. “If something goes wrong, you know the trail runners will always have your back.”
Like marriage, picking the right partner is key, and doing a multi-day race like AfricanX with the right partner can be the best experience of your life. “But if you choose someone who doesn’t have the same vision for the race, it can really affect your team,” says Landie. That vision can be enjoying the pristine trails or running your heart out for a spot on the podium.
“I’ve seen many teams break each other because they’re not communicating,” she adds. “There’ll always be one partner who is either stronger over all three days or stronger on one day. But if you’ve chosen that partner, you must commit.”
READ MORE: 6 Strength Moves For Trail Runners
A lot can happen in three days when you’re tackling the trails. Make sure you know what your team’s game plan is, and stick to it. “I really enjoy racing with a partner. Ninety percent of the time I’ve had great partners,” Landie says. “It’s an incredible experience and takes running to another level because you need to adapt your normal running style for your partner.”
And it’s not necessarily the two strongest runners out there who will take the race. A good partnership is much more important than individual skill.
Train Like Landie
It’s a bit late to be thinking about training for AfricanX, but for those who missed out on an entry this year – here is next year’s game plan.
“Because AfricanX is a multi-day event, you need to train to run back-to-back with tired legs and fatigued muscles,” Landie says. “Gym work is very much a part of the build-up to the AfricanX.” Aim to make it part of your routine six months before the race. “Then you can build a nice, strong power-house for the hill work,” she says.
As you get closer to A-day, start to focus more on the running, including long back-to-back runs over the weekend. “Get some climbs in, do some speed sessions as well, there’s also a lot of flat trails in the race,” she adds. Build it up and get in that mileage. “You’re going to be running three pretty much 30km days in a row.”
But don’t forget to taper. “I prefer to taper two weeks before the race,” says Landie. She cuts her normal weekly running routine down to 60 percent in the first week. “In the week of the race, it will probably be between 50 and 60 percent.” Landie doesn’t like to let her legs feel like they’ve got off easy, however, and adds some sprint work to get them going – just not to the point of exhaustion.
“Less Out Of Packets, More Out Of Your Garden”
Landie likes to eat healthy all year round and, in doing so, keeps up a good energy level. “I don’t really change my diet before a race,” she says. She also believes it’s important to keep it simple. “I don’t like to over-complicate my nutrition. [Imagine] you make your body used to weird things that aren’t accessible everywhere, then you get to a race in the middle of nowhere…” We see where she’s going with this. Keep it simple, keep it healthy.
“Nutrition on the first day of AfricanX is really important,” Landie adds. It’s important throughout the race, but on day one especially to ensure that you recover for day two and three. “Eat while you’re running. Take in nutrition on the hour during the first day.”
Ups And Downs Of AfricanX
“For me, day two is usually the make-or-break day.” Day two is usually the toughest stage in terms of distance and elevation. But for some teams, day one can be tougher. “A lot of people, because they’re fresh, go out too hard and day one can end up being the hardest day,” Landie says.
But the killer climbs and tricky technicals are all bearable with the continuous good vibe that carries you through. The AfricanX is one of the best organised races and has everything you could possibly want. “There’s recovery, massages, the food’s amazing.” There are quite a few stage trail running newbies at this event, but the organisers are very accommodating. “I think it’s a great first-time stage race for newbies,” she concludes.
READ MORE: 5 Things You Should ALWAYS Do On A Trail Run
What To Expect This Weekend…
“I’ve just had a quick look at the profile and, in this instance, day one is going to be the hardest in terms of elevation and type of terrain.” For those trail runners who are used to smooth-ish single-track and open jeep roads, say hello to Jonkershoek hiking trails and some serious climbs. “It’s going to be one of the hardest stages, so my advice would be to hold back on day one. Day two and day three is where you can open up the tank and give it some gas.”
Pace yourself, but make sure you also look around and take in those beautiful trails. “Enjoy the vibe. Make lots of friends and spread the love on the trails,” Landie advises. “It’s such a privilege to be healthy, to be mobile and to be able to get out in the mountains. Go out and enjoy those trails.”
Feeling inspired to make those trail running goals reality? Check out Landie’s trail running training programmes here.