Article by Chris Wilcock

This article was originally published on 16 July 2015. This year’s Forest Run takes place on May 21 and will have a different location. It will be taking place at Venterskroon, Vredefort Dome near Parys. Although the location has changed you can still expect the same vibe as Adventure Lisa brings to all her events
I believe an event should be written about while it is still fresh in one’s memory. For an endurance event this would be while still stiff and sore from the race. (As a side note, if you’re not stiff and sore you didn’t take it seriously and you shouldn’t be writing about it!)
The Forest Run takes place mid-March (this year it took place on Saturday, March 14) and is set in
the Lakenvlei Forest Lodge in Belfast, Mpumalanga. Organised by Lisa de Speville aka.
Adventure Lisa (creator of Metrograine). 2015 marked her third annual Forest Run – a ‘race’ that boasts two different routes one being 30km in length while the other being 60km.
I know what you’re thinking – it’s July, the race happened in March, why is he only writing about this now?! In my defence, I did start this my review while still stiff and sore, and I find that reminiscing about a run is almost as enjoyable as the run itself. So belatedly, here is my story…
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise!” 
This is the beginning of the children’s song The Teddy Bears’ Picnic. The 2015 Forest Run wasn’t a teddy bears’ picnic but there were plenty of surprises in the forest between Belfast and Dullstroom .
After having run and thoroughly enjoyed the inaugural run in 2013 (opting for the 60km distance), I
missed the 2014 one but made it back this year. Due to a minor injury I took the 30km option this time around.  
My entry was a Christmas gift resulting from some innovative marketing by Lisa (Thanks Sanet – what a lovely gift!)
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
As I have previously written, there is a tendency to label virtually every event, other than a two lap urban half-marathon, a “unique” event. The word unique is far too easily used so I won’t call the Forest Run unique which would just lump it together with every other event in this fashion. Such a wonderful event as this really deserves better. So let’s just say that the Forest Run is very different
from most events.


Personal attention 
The Forest Run has a small field and Lisa knows all her runners by name. When the helpers ask you how you are, you definitely feel that they actually want to know. Very different to the anonymity of a large city marathon where you are, at best, a number.
Fairies and elves
One of the first and most eye-catching things people notice at the Forest Run is that it is apparently
organised (and in some cases, run) by fairies and elves!
The chief fairy…
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
A running fairy…
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
Peter Ypenburg in high spirits!
Helper fairies and elves…
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
Some elves even did an ET
and phoned home…
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
When enquiring about a race, many runners first ask about the t-shirts, medals and goody bags. Lisa is quite blunt: “There aren’t any!”  For her, and I wholeheartedly agree, the Forest Run is all about being given the freedom of the forest for a day to do what we all love best – running in nature! 
The Forest Run is not about the hand-outs. It is about the forest, the fresh pine-scented air in your lungs, the feel of the trail under your feet, the sighing of the breeze in the trees, the bird calls, the peace, the solitude as well as the friendships and the accomplishment of completing the course. Not to mention an encounter with forest fairies…
Each participant is given a hand-sewn bag to put race stuff in and a plant on completion. Mine and
Michael’s (my son who ran with me) are growing nicely and provide a constant visual reminder of our day in the forest.
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
This year one had the option of buying a commemorative t-shirt, with or without fairy angel wings on the back but definitely without a sponsor’s logo in sight.
This is a marked route which is described on the website in the following way:
This is the loveliest and friendliest terrain that you’ll ever find in an ultra.
And again
There are very, very few rocks to trip you up and while the grassy avenues demand more effort, energy and concentration than the smooth, jeep-track trails, the ground underfoot is very
pleasant overall.
All I can say is that Lisa wears rose tinted glasses! It is quite a bit tougher than she says! Or she’s a lot tougher than the rest of us…
There are some torturous parts and those “grassy avenues” pounded knees and ankles and caused a few falls. And 60km is still 60km…
The terrain is varied and there are some lovely sections which are run in the shade of the trees on a carpet of pine needles which are nice and soft underfoot. Recent rains had created some wet and muddy sections which necessitated some puddle hopping and caused some slipping and sliding.
There are some undulations just to give your flat road muscles a bit of a rest but there are no lung-busting climbs. Also it is run at an altitude of over 1800m above sea level which could have a slight impact on coastal runners. Suffice it to say that this will provide a tough work out without being
ridiculously tough and, as Lisa says at the briefing, there are no cliffs to fall off.
The two distance options vary according to prevailing conditions which necessitate minor route changes and also according to how many wrong turns or missed turns you make. The route is well marked but it is so easy to get carried away and lost in thought and to not notice that you haven’t seen a marker for a while. I did about 3-4km extra but I’m not complaining. It was entirely my own fault and I did get to spend some extra time in the forest! J
Some lovely cool sections on smooth tracks…
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015\
Some puddle hopping was needed
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
Some grassy sections through the cosmos which was in full bloom…
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015 Run 2015
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
Fernando’s tree (Pic by Fernando Santos)
Runners treasure their hard earned medals but how many runners post pictures of their medals on social media a year later to show how they (the medals that is) are doing? Well Forest Runners post pics of their trees a year later to show how they are growing! How cool is that?
 [bctt tweet=”Runners treasure their medals but how many runners post pictures of their medals on social media a year later to show how they are doing?” username=”nutreats”]
A what award?
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
Quite a few races give an award or some kind of recognition to the oldest competitor.  The Forest Run is no exception but calls it, somewhat macabrely, the “Coffin Dodger’s Award!”
Sixty-eight year young Maz Moore won it this year. Her prize? A free entry to next year’s race!
 No water sachets
Water sachets are an absolute curse and Sean Falconer of Modern Athlete regularly rants about the
mess that runners make by discarding the sachets all over the place. His words are mild compared to what I think of runners who just chuck their used sachets down with the attitude that the water point helpers are their personal servants. How heavy is an empty sachet and how much time will you lose carrying it to the next bin? But don’t get me started..!
The Forest Run, like most trail races, supply water to top up your bottles or hydration packs and do not supply water sachets. Forest runners are amazing, thoughtful and considerate people anyway so there is not a discarded sachet, paper cup or gel packet in sight. Heaven!
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
Some quirky touches
I have already mentioned the hand-outs which are different from elsewhere and the special water points so here are a few pics to illustrate what I mean…
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
The last runner being helped home by the Chief Fairy
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
For more details of the race itself Lisa has reported on it comprehensively and provided full results. What I will share from a runner’s perspective is that the 2015 edition was a most enjoyable race with good weather, smooth organisation, some impressive performances by the winners and much fun, which all made it really worthwhile the trip to the forest.
My strategy of taking it easy to not aggravate my injury and do the “half.” worked and I finished in
good shape. As one who normally goes for the longest distance on offer it was also a new experience to finish the half, shower, go to Dullstroom for a rehydrate and then return to cheer home the last few finishers in the 60km run. An ego buster was the fact that the winner of the long run finished his 60km ahead of many of us doing the 30km version…
My son, Michael, did this as his first trail run. (He could have chosen an easier one – but not a nicer one!) We started and finished together which was really special.
Adventure Lisa's Forest Run 2015
The next Forest Run will be on the 21st May 2016 and is not to be missed whether you want to go for the win, get in a really good Comrades long training run without pounding the tar for hours or if you just want to chill in the forest doing a very different event.  So do come down to the woods and enjoy a pleasant surprise!
The details for 2016 will be on or look for the AdventureLisa blog which has a whole bunch of other interesting stuff from the Chief Fairy!
Many thanks for the use of the photos which I “borrowed” from the Forest Run website and Facebook pages.There are many more beautiful photos on the website from the 2015 and previous
races. Do go and browse them as the few that I have included really don’t do justice to the natural beauty of the forest, the participants or the race itself.
Thanks to Ëditor Cat” Beverley for fixing my grammatical shenanigans!
Thanks to Lisa and her whole team for a wonderful event.
Thanks to Lakenvlei Forest Lodge for letting us use their facilities at the start and finish and
Finally, thanks to Komatiland Forests for giving us the freedom of their forest for a day.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No Comments Yet.