The Surfers Challenge by Bruce Fordyce

A criticism that is often leveled at road running is that it is too much of the “same thing.” The road is the road, the tar is hard and it either goes up or down or stays flat!

That’s one of the reasons that trail running is undergoing something of a renaissance and has become so popular. It doesn’t have that “sameness” element to it.

The Surfers Challenge deserves to be lauded as one of the original runs with a difference because it predicted so much of what would follow. As such the event continues to be a leader in the calendar of South African endurance events.

For obvious reasons I remain a purist, a road running fan, but even I accept that the Surfers deserves its roIe as a challenge with a difference. To me road running is classical music; the Surfers challenge rock and roll. It’s fun, it attracts a different crowd, and it even has an eccentric bunch paddling their way to the finish.

Let me emphasise that the Surfers Challenge is not fun because it is easy. In fact I think it is extremely tough and should not be taken lightly. As I struggle on the rocks and pebbles or waddle my way through thick sand I remind myself that this race is not for sissies. There are uplifting moments, such as the first sight of the distant finish area at Nahoon or the cheering crowds in Gonubie (its bliss to run those 5kim or so on Gonubie’s Ocean Way, but much of the Surfers Challenge is just that; a challenge. For a start no one seems to be certain how far it is. Estimates vary from Tom Cottrell’s Runner’s Guide’s 16.5kms to Bob Norris’s 18kms. It doesn’t really matter. All I know is that the next day I always have a pronounced limp and my legs tell me I ran a marathon effort.

But we all keep coming back: Perhaps it’s Neville and his organizing committee backed by invaluable sponsorship from Discovery that makes it so special; perhaps it’s those exhilarating swims across the two rivers. Most likely it’s the party afterwards. In my case I will be running my sixth Surfers Challenge because I am granted the singular honour of being the only runner allowed to wear the Discovery Surfer’s Challenge finishers T shirt at the start!

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