Women Who Run With the Dawgs

Maybe not as soul-stirring or profound as Clarissa Pincola Estes’ Wolf-running version, but to this running lady it comes preeeetty darn close.

See, we’ve been running for longer than we have been raising and loving pups. And in the past 10 years or so we have tried and tried and kept loving and trying to stay patient, but running with our four-legged chidlers, with leashes or without, just never was any real fun. The Jack Russel really, REALLY wanted to run, oh yes. As soon as he saw any indication that we were even LOOKING at our running shoes, he approved with his high-pitched, incessant barking, quivering with excitement.

For the first 500 m of our seaside runs, Jack had to be on a leash, which we would take off once we hit the beach. If we survived the 500 m being dragged by what felt like a rabid kudu, an extended mandatory walk break would follow (for the human). Jack, of course would then celebrate his newfound freedom by flying off miles out ahead, scaring every biological being on the beach, from non-suspecting bird life to poor peaceful fishermen. So in the wake of this embarrassment the human would start running again sooner than the dragged-legs could recover.

Unlike other normal runners (or runners with normal dogs?), our beach running had to take place ON the beach. On the deep, sandy and bouldery section, and not on the compact walkway a few yards in. All this just to try and keep Jack from picking a fight with every other dog. Tiny woolly ones, rottweilers or boerboels were his favourites. Attacks on the woolly ones would usually entail an ears-down-tail-tucked-in run down of his victim, followed by a dusty brawl, while the hysterical owner (usually female), lashed out at us for not keeping our vicious dog on a leash. Luckily there was never any (serious) blood shedding (that we are aware of).

Attempted attacks on the larger canines would usually entail a nervous, flat-eared Jack going in for the kill without any pleasantries, straight for his opponent’s throat, his irate prey just lifting his head away to avoid scarring. Often times WE ended up being the hysterical party, trying to call off our silly pup, not looking forward to what may have followed if the big dawg lost his or her temper.

Or Jack would just run. And keep on running without looking back. And we would get the all too familiar phone call from a kind stranger or the SPCA to come fetch our dog. That happened all too often. We met many new people like that.

Dear sweet Jack. Innocence personified.

On the complete opposite side is our big yellow Lab. Umfaan turned 10 this year, but he is every bit as cute and clumsy as he was at 6 weeks when we got him. Loving, caring and very attached to his humans. He always wants to be within 5 cm of us, or closer, if possible. So much so that, when he runs with us he will either step on our heels when he is following, or stop dead in his tracks when he is leading, turn sideways to check if we are coming, causing his human to stumble or jackknife over him. He just doesn’t have personal space, and we love that about him. But not during a run.

And then there was Denali. The first puppy we had since the boys were born. Shortly after he came to stay with us I noticed that this pup was really very sensitive and bright. He could play a decent game of fetch before he was 3 months old, actually dropping the ball for his human to throw again (Umfaan would keep it, Jack would eat it. No comparison, we love our fur-boys equally, but eish, have we bought balls the last 10 years!)

Denali (8 weeks) napping on Umfaan.
The boys and their pups.

About two months ago, when Denali was 6 months old, I started to take him on short runs with me. At first he was a little skeptical, not really sure what the point of the running without a ball or a short-term reward was. But we kept at it, running with him for short distances about once a week. Sometimes he needed a lot of encouragement. He would stop dead in his tracks while I ran out ahead. I would call him, praising him, to which he would respond very enthusiastically. So much so that he would come sprinting, leaping up on my unsuspecting calves (and later, as he grew taller, my lower back) in mid stride, sending his shocked human forward in a lunge or a crouch.

Well, after two months I can happily report that the 8 month old pup is a running dawg now. He gets it, and he loves it! This week he ran with me three times (only 5 or 6 k’s at a time) and he also did some hill repeats with the hubs. He was an absolute star.

He is still very young, so obviously we don’t want to exert him too much too fast, but for now we both really love our shortish runs together. His quiet, happy and oh-so-grateful companionship is such a tonic. For the first part, as we run out, he usually follows me, staying in my tracks, a step or two behind me. On the return trip he usually leads, right in front of me. Sometimes I try to run next to him, but he just scoots over to my side again. He wants to lead. And he doesn’t take too kindly to walk breaks. He has his own steady pace and you better keep up, my Lady!


This morning as I headed out I called Denali and he didn’t seem to be in the mood for running, just watching me leave over the hill. After about 5 minutes or so I heard footsteps behind me, skrikking me in a tizz, only to turn around to his friendly, panting black face (he is so black that my camera can’t focus on his face if his tongue isn’t hanging out!) He ran after me for about a kilometer or so, all on his own. I couldn’t be more proud.

So after all these years of trying and trying and hoping and giving up, we are finally Running With The Dawgs. And we absolutely love it!

Brandberg Rhino Run and Cycle Tour 2016: A Reflection.

Friday afternoon, 10 June 2016, as the Damaraland shadows grew longer and Lady Brandberg started basking in her own ocher glow, runners and cyclists from across Namibia started pouring into the tiny town of Uis in northwestern Namibia. Wicus Burger even flew in with his Cessna 210 to line up for his very first trail run. Every single bed in Uis was filled during race weekend, and campers pitched their tents far and wide. A number of athletes also drove from the coast on race morning before the starting siren went off.

Runners at the start of Brandberg Rhino Run and Cycle tour 2016.

The race consisted of 4 different events, namely a 26 km trail & jeep track run, a 13 km trail & jeep track run, a 7 km fun run and a 31 km mountain bike ride added this year. The routes were all located within the Tsiseb Conservancy (named after the Tsiseb gorge in which the White Lady rock painting is located), home to elephant, black rhino, leopard, cheetah, mountain zebra, kudu, gemsbok, ostrich, springbok, steenbok, black-backed jackal, klipspringer and many more.

As a running, mountaineering, outdoors family we have always loved the Brandberg and surrounds. Brandberg (from Afrikaans meaning Burning Mountain or Fire Mountain) is of course the highest mountain in Namibia (2 573 m), home to 40 % of the mammal and reptile species and 10 % of the plant species recorded in Namibia. Two thousand species of insects are found on Brandberg, of which 200 are endemic to the Brandberg. An entire new order of insects, Matophasmatodea, was described after the endemic gladiator species Tyrannophasma gladiator was discovered on Brandberg. This granite massif and its natural and archaeological heritage is also a national monument in Namibia and on the tentative list for UNESCO world heritage sites.

Tyrannophasma gladiator, Mantophasmatoid endemic to Brandberg. (Source)

In 2015 we acquired a home in Uis and immediately knew we wanted to share the magic of being active within this wilderness area. With our new home being a stones’ throw away from the last population of free roaming desert adapted black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis), we knew it was our obligation to host the event in aid of rhino conservation. Similar to it’s inception event in 2015, Brandberg Rhino Run and Cycle Tour 2016 was a fundraiser with Save the Rhino Trust, Namibia (SRT) as our beneficiary. The men and ladies of this NGO works tirelessly, day and night, for the prevention of senseless poaching of the rhinos in the Kunene region. All event entry fees and auction income were deposited as donations to into SRT’s account, while event costs are covered by sponsorships.

The running and cycling routes comprised a perfect blend of rocky, sandy, gravelly and hilly terrains. The routes were moderately tough and 90% off-road, crossing Damaraland’s rugged shrublands and koppies.

Stephen James, always in good spirits (Kat Imaging, 2015).
Johan Bronkhorst and Kirsty Brits recce run of the Rhino Run route, 2015.
Johan Bronkhorst and Kirsty Brits recce run of the Rhino Run route, 2015.

On Friday night, the eve before the race, we were treated to a scrumptious braai prepared by the Daureb Isib Camp staff and Cactus & Coffee restaurant. An auction of incredibly generous donated items took place during dinner, and we were overwhelmed by the equally generous bidding of our athletes and supporters! Luxury getaways, fully inclusive accommodation packages, personally autographed books by incredible authors and photographers and a stunning piece of artwork, all donated by various companies and individuals across Namibia, as well as from South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana were auctioned. Through the auction alone a total of more than NAD 80 000.00 was raised for SRT! The highest bid for the night went for the Sandfontein Lodge and Nature Reserve package of 3 nights for four people, all inclusive, sold for NAD 18 000.00.

The Raiths having fun at the auction.
Kingsley Holgate’s book and inscription was special.
Salome Botes with the stunning Rhino Run 2016 cartoon created and donated by Duif Keiser. She bought the 2015 cartoon by the same artist on last year’s auction as well.
Nico probably missed his calling as auctioneer…

Entertainment during the social function was provided by the very talented 17 year old Janus ‘Firestorn’ Botes, with a pixel poi and then fire poi display.

Janus ‘Firestorn’ Botes, fire poi display.
Firestorn, pixel poi display.

A total of NAD 130 000.00 was raised through cash donations and sponsorships, with RMB Namibia and KPMG Namibia being the top and equally large cash sponsors.

With the event starting at an early 6 am, athletes were treated to a stunning sunrise and breathtaking vistas that inspired long beyond finishing the challenge. We were fortunate to be able to call on Piet van Rooyen, a local Uis businessman and pilot, to take our event photographer up in his microlight aircraft for a bird’s eye view of the course and the athletes.

Cyclists set off first just before dawn.
Bird’s eye view from Piet van Rooyen’s microlight of the Brandberg and run/cycle course.
Beautiful sunrise on Brandberg while runners and cyclists make their way down the course.

Race day itself was a whole lot of fun. Locals who didn’t take part in the race volunteered as time keepers or to man water tables. The Uis Police department generously assisted with safety on the main road, while high school pupils from Petrus Ganeb Secondary School in Uis acted as marshals at key points on the route.

The oldest (tannie Toekie far back) and youngest Uis locals that took part.
Lorraine from SRT, Annegret and I sharing a moment.
Tannie Toekie, spirited Uiser that joined us on the 7 km walking event.
Uisers, young and old, volunteers, athletes, supporters, we love them all.

During all of the excitement, our two boys Z and V were overjoyed with the fact that they could stay up late and rise before dawn (they are big on adventures like these!), and that so many of their friends were in town as their parents took part in the race!

Z and V having their morning cereal next to the finish line.
Littles playing while parents are sweating it out.
Elvis Vries, runner from Uis police department.
Final stretch down 3rd Avenue, Uis, towards the finish line.
Hein Profijt having fun.
Frances Courtney-Clarke looking fresh.
Paulus Ndamanomhata not even breaking a sweat.

The winner of the 31 km mountain bike event was the young Luke Munting in a time of 1:15:32, while his female counterpart, Lelanie Swart, won with a time of 1:31:00. The 26 km running event was, like last year, won by Erich Goeieman in a time of 1:36:00, while Risa Dreyer was the first lady across the finish line with a time of 2:21:00. Risa, as well as Johan Bronkhorst and Kirsty Brits, both top finishers in the 26 km Rhino Run just returned from the Comrades Ultra-marathon in South Africa before joining us for this event. We were honored to receive these and other top Namibian athletes in our humble little beautiful town.

Risa Dreyer, freshly back from Comrades, won the 26 km Rhino Run.

Albertinus Goeieman also defended his title by winning the 13 km run in a time of 0:55:24, with Bernise van der Westhuyzen finishing as first lady in a time of 1:10:00.

More results are available HERE.

Simson receiving a race goody bag with goodies from sponsors.

Our stunning race medals are hand made by a local crafstman in Swakopmund.

What was really heart warming was to receive teams of riders and runners from the various sponsors, all driving from afar to personally support the event! We had a total of 265 athletes, of which 87 were cyclists.

Robert Grant from KPMG, with his pretty runner wife Odette and friend Conrad Dempsey from RMB. Lorraine from SRT was the medal-lady.
Team RMB, one of the Diamond sponsors of the event.
Riders from Team RMB.
Team RMB Namibia, with the vehicle they sponsored to SRT through another fund raiser in 2015.

This year we also had a kiddies run preceding the prize giving ceremony; our littles’ turn to shine after cheering on their parents all morning.

Little Rhino Run in full action!
Some athletes felt they would be faster if Mommy carried them 😉
Little ones receiving a sweetie and a medal from SRT’s Lorraine.

The organisation of an event like this is of course not the work for one or two people alone, and we are incredibly fortunate to have had the best support team in the the country. Publication and advertisement of the event is of course key, which is why we were overjoyed to welcome back our immensely talented event photographers Karl Terblanche and Bernd Curschmann from KAT Imaging. These guys again sponsored their time and expertise to make magic of our dusty show, staying up late at night with us and rising before the first athletes appeared.

Karl Terblanche from KAT Imaging.

Oom Des Erasmus and his wife Annelie at Erongo/Republikein newspaper also took this event on as their baby, and supported it from every thinkable angle since 2015. The most beautiful part of an event like this is not necessarily only the direct support from participants and sponsors, but the beautiful friendships that are made and rekindled through the whole process.

Oom Des Erasmus and Annelie taking notes for the next publication with Nico and Simson Uri-khob from SRT in the back.

The prize ceremony and race day was ended with a nice lucky draw of generously sponsored goods, including boxes of Windhoek Lights, for which our athletes were really happy during the midday heat in Uis.

Happy to receive some Windhoek Lights, sponsored by Namibia Breweries.
Cobus and Steph Brayshaw were also lucky!
Elated for some cold tall ones 😉

All entry fees and proceeds went directly to Save the Rhino Trust, which means that every single athlete that entered the Rhino Run and Cycle Tour is a benefactor of our joint cause: Conservation of our Namibian black Rhino. We are grateful beyond compare to be a part of such a beautiful running, cycling and giving community, and can’t wait to host our athletes and friends in Uis again in 2017.