Why These 6 “Hidden Gem” Races Need To Be Added To Your Calendar

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Cally Silberbauer |

Winter is here and all we want is: bed, series, hot chocolate… But trail runners and mountain bikers are made tough. Whatever the weather, the bikes and shoes will come out. They just need more washing afterwards.

Here are five races that you may not have heard of yet, but they’re definitely worth entering…

Photograph by Em Gatland

1. Berg & Bush MTB Race

When: Descent (5-7 October), Great Trek (9-11 October) and 2-Day (13-14 October)

Distance: 50-100km

This race is described as proper mountain biking. Spaced over three days, the race kicks off at the top of the Drakensberg escarpment near Harrismith. Explore KwaZulu-Natal along breathtaking singletrack. Get to know the bushveld on a more intimate level as you weave between cattle farms and camp along the Tugela River.

This race is split into three different events to meet every cyclists’ needs. The Descent (the main flagship event), the Great Trek (the less crowded race with a slightly slower pace for those who enjoy checking out the view) and the 2-Day event (for the social riders – but still a proper ride). Simply choose an option that suits your needs. To drop in on this Drakensberg adventure,

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Image by janbraaimarathon.com

2. JanBraai Marathon

When: 19-21 October

Distance: 8-21km

Run, braai, party, repeat. For runners who enjoy some quality banter, food and beer as much as getting in some mileage, here’s your race. It’s new on the calendar and has been described as “fresh like a West Coast oyster”.

Unlike your typical marathon, this one is spread over three days, but you’ll still get in your 42km. Touring the trails of the Slanghoek and Breedekloof wine valleys, this race includes the many wine cellars – and say hello to water points with a difference. Did someone say braais and wine pairings? Every night back the Goudini Spa base-camp will feature live music and a legendary race village vibe. To enter what promises to be more fun than run,  

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Image by piketbobergtrails.com

3. Piket-Bo-Berg Cycle Challenge & Trail Run

When: 8 September

Distance: MTB: 10km, 27km, 37km or 63km. Trail Run: 8km or 18km

Riders and runners unite at this incredible event hidden away on top of the Piket-Bo-Berg Mountain. The routes cover some of the most incredible trails you’ll ever experience. Expect to work for your kilometres, with elevation to make the legs burn. But it’s worth it for the amazing view from the top. Return to base for great food and a beer tent at this one-of-a-kind race village. If this event has managed to slip under the radar, then to secure your entry.

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Image supplied by Oak Valley

4. Nissan TrailSeeker Trail Run: Grabouw

When: 15 July

Distance: 4, 5, 10 or 21km

The Nissan TrailSeeker events have been cyclist-dominated, but this is all about to change. The first Western Cape Nissan TrailSeeker trail run is scheduled for July this year. Taking place on the beautiful farm, runners can choose between a variety of distances and return to sample a few of the best wines this valley has to offer. Follow the winding singletracks all over this farm for some spectacular views – with some climbing required. Make sure you’re able to say you were at the first Nissan TrailSeeker trail run! Get your entry  

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5. Grabouw Mountain Challenge Trail Run

When: 6-7 October

Distance: 15-28km

This one’s called a mountain challenge for a reason. This will be the second year that it’s running and, boy, never underestimate the Grabouw mountains! The race is divided into a long and a short option, both including two days of running. The race heads out from adventure-orientated bike hotel, , and immediately hits some of the best singletracks and rock gardens, making for some exciting running. Come hungry as this race includes all meals and the water points are stocked. If you haven’t explored the Grabouw mountains yet, this is the best way to do it. Short or long distance is up to you, but make sure you get an entry:  

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Image supplied by Boschendal

6. Boschendal MTB Race The Sun

When: 1 September

Distance: 40km

Here’s a race with a difference. The cut-off time is sunset, so it really is a race against the sun! The race begins on Church Street in Stellenbosch at exactly 4:26pm. The cut-off time at Boschendal is 18:26pm. Besides being home to many award-winning wines, Boschendal also boasts some of the most incredible singletracks – and these flowing tracks offer something for everyone. R350 gets you a spot in this race, a burger and beer with your name on it at the finish line. Don’t miss out – get your entry  

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