We are becoming aware that many participants in the VOB trail runs are completely new to the sport and are in need of some guidance. Trail running is, in several important respects, very different to road running. For this reason, it is important to spell certain things out clearly.
These “Rules” are not meant to be restrictive and I know that, unless you actually know the writer, they may sound patronising but this certainly isn’t intended.
1. The Run-at-your-own-comfortable-pace philosophy
First and foremost, what everyone needs to understand about our particular trail runs is that we operate on the basis that people who do our runs want to run at a pace that is comfortable for them and also that they don’t want unnecessarily long regrouping stops.
So there are no formal pace groups like in the Celtics Thursday Evening Runs. Pace groups are ideal but require sufficient regular group leaders – we are not yet that fortunate. It is also not a pack run like the CRAG Wednesday Runs where everyone regroups from time to time to wait for the back markers to catch up. The pack run concept works extremely well for the shorter runs or when you have lots of runners at a similar speed on a longer run.
VOB Runs are a bit longer than the weekday runs and we have a huge variety of talents and experience running in the group. We like it that way. Having only been operating for just over a year, we are also a little short-staffed when it comes to group leaders. Hence our philosophy.
Pace groups form naturally and informally on our runs. It is requested that these informal groups stop every 2 or 3 kms to regroup. Please try and re-absorb a few runners into the group, particularly when you are running in low cloud / rainy and cold conditions or when running in areas where attacks have occurred. This is mainly for safety reasons.
2. One Run Co-ordinator
There is essentially only one person organising, leading and sweeping each run. Typically this person will be leading from the BACK (as explained below). There are however, always a number of other informal “group leaders” sprinkled amongst the entire group who know the way. It is your responsibility to hook up with these people on the run and stay with them. If / When you lose one of these “leaders” then refer to the Default Situation below. Whilst we take all reasonable precautions on these runs, you are primarily responsible for your own safety. Please take it seriously and don’t delegate it.
When there is a particularly large group then it is important that all of the runners are looked after and the backmarkers are the most vulnerable. The Run Co-ordinator has a duty to ensure that all runners get to the end of the course safely.
3. Preparation for VOB Trail Runs
Bear in mind that these runs are generally longer than the Celtic Thursday Evening Runs and the CRAG Wednesday Runs and as runs get longer it becomes more difficult to keep people together AND keep them on the correct route AND allow people to run at their natural pace.
The best way you can help yourself on these runs is to do a little preparation for our trail runs. It’s not complicated stuff but unfortunately, unlike road running, you can’t simply “rock-up-and-run” because you may well get lost:
a. You need the correct clothing and equipment. This ALWAYS includes:
• Hydration and energy snacks in some form or another;
• Thermal base layers of moisture management clothing;
• A windbreaker (preferably a waterproof top) not for use while running but when you stop for a rest or are injured;
• Appropriate shoes (some routes can be run in road shoes, some really should be done in trail shoes).
Please also always try and carry a fully charged cell phone (preferably an old one and with the Run Co-ordinator’s cell phone number stored therein) and a whistle.
b. Familiarise yourself with the route beforehand and estimate how long you are going to take. This is one of the reasons that we circulate a detailed route description well before the run itself (the preceding Monday). The other reason is that it helps us work out the route. But at least read and try and understand the route description beforehand. You aren’t expected to remember all of the details but bear in mind that even if you are running with people who know the route, you may get separated from them. It also ensures that you are adequately prepared in terms of food etc.
4. The Default Situation
If you go ahead of the group on any organised trail run then make sure that you know where you are going. If you subsequently come to a place where you are in ANY doubt, then stop and wait for the group to catch up. This is where you put the windbreaker on. If you don’t want to stop then please don’t proceed on guess-work. This is where the trouble starts. Rather “go-back-and-fetch” the slower runners. This is a familiar concept with all forms of training run.
This also applies if you are running in a group that “becomes too fast” for you. If the group drops you and you are at all unsure of the way, then stop and wait for the next group to come through or come back and fetch.
Our runs are not races. So a little bit of time invested in either waiting or running back to fetch, can save a whole lot of time and trouble later.
5. The Desperation Default Situation – The Arrows-in-the-Path Philosophy
If, in the unlikely event that you fall behind our current, Rubenesque Run Co-ordinator / Sweep then this next information is crucial for you.
At any intersection in the path, you need to look out for arrows in the path. Where possible, these will be drawn by the Sweep in the sand in the path or next to the path. Where there is no sand, look for arrows made out of stones or out of sticks or at worst, scratched lightly but not indelibly on a rock. Please spend a little time looking for these arrows. They should be very obvious.
6. When All Else Fails
Stop. Do not wander off the path.
Extract cell phone from pack and phone Run Co-ordinator.
If no cell phone or no signal:
Take out the aforementioned whistle (3.a. above). Apply whistle to lips. Take a deep breath whilst taking great care not to swallow the whistle. Exhale strongly through same whistle. Repeat until help arrives. Then prepare yourself for endless teasing and ridicule.
I hope that this helps people understand our constraints and ultimately helps everyone enjoy the VOB runs even more.
Finally, we also have a separate list of some general trail running guidelines (see the VOB website – www.vob.co.za ), to help you prepare for and enjoy the sport. It’s not exhaustive and if you have some tips we would be more than happy to add them.