This month marks 10 years since Buzz Bolton started the Riverside Trail Running Group, which sees more than 70 people running together on a weekly basis, exploring the beautiful trails of Umhlanga and its surrounds. We found out a bit more about the group and the man behind it.
After more than 30 years as a dedicated road runner, with 20 Comrades marathons under his belt, Buzz Bolton accidentally entered a 50km trail running race in 2007 … and inadvertently discovered his new life’s passion.
Afterwards, he signed up to join a friend in the gruelling Cape Odyssey event, comprising a 210km run over five days. “This not only introduced me to multi-stage trail running, but sent a loud and clear message to say that I was now obsessed, hook, line and sinker with trail running.”
After two years of running on trails, Buzz took it upon himself to start a formal trail running group in Umhlanga. “Trail running is so big in the Cape, and with so many beautiful open spaces available to us, I couldn’t understand why we didn’t have any organised runs here.” And so began the Riverside Trail Running Group.
The popularity of trail running has grown immensely in South Africa over the past decade, and the North Coast in particular has a wide selection of beautiful trails available to runners.
For most trail runners, Buzz says, the real draw card is the simple pleasure of being able to immerse yourself in nature. “Unlike road running, trail running is not really about beating your previous time. Every run is different, with rivers to cross or mountains to climb, and we often stop along the way to take a photograph … and catch our breath,” he laughs.
Buzz’s appreciation for the outdoors stems back from a childhood spent on sugar cane farms and in game reserves and on his wife (of 47 years) Hildegard’s family farm in Namibia.
“This outdoor life was peaceful, interesting and ever-changing. Mud fights in the river, playing sticks with other boys and running in the sugar cane were the order of the day. In later life witnessing the beauty of nature in Namibia added to my appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us and its preservation.”
When he first started the Riverside Trail group, Buzz says the interest and support wasn’t quite what he had thought it would be. “It became clear that trail running only appealed to a limited few and the mass envisaged support from local clubs did not happen. Very few joined on any of our training and pioneering runs.” But, they numbers grew slowly as the sport grew in popularity, both in the area and the country.
In an attempt to grow the club faster, Buzz met with Umhlanga Tourism’s Peter Rose and together with other stakeholders they came up with the idea of including a trail run as part of the annual Summer Carnival in December. This was a turning point for the club.
“Our Wednesday regulars group grew to around 30 and Saturday runs 15 and, as time progressed and we did more Umhlanga trail runs, so did the numbers.”
Apart from their love of running, Buzz says, the now tight-knit group of runners have other things in common too – including a shared passion for nature and a cappuccino problem!
There are organised trail runs on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, always at 5.15am and starting at different points. Thursdays 7km ‘stamina run’ is the most popular with between 60 and 70 runners taking part. “There are both fast and intermediate groups and you can even start off walking,” says Buzz, who has taken part in almost every single run over the past 10 years.
The Virginia Bush and Izinga Ridge routes are among the group’s favourites and their Monday morning runs often take place along the beach if the tide is low enough.
“There are so many things to love about trail running. It really allows us to enjoy the natural beauty around us. It also makes you super fit and time just seems to go by so fast when you’re on the trails.”
The Riverside Trail group has become an integral part of the community and Buzz says it’s extremely rewarding to see people enjoying parts of the area they might never have seen otherwise, whether it’s running or just walking their dogs.
Asked what’s next on his own personal bucket list in terms of running, Buzz says that while he doesn’t do too many long runs any more, he would like to try the beautiful Mnweni 40km in Bergville in the Drakensberg … at least once.
Details: For more information or to join a run, contact Buzz via Facebook: RiversideTrail or on 082 777 7073
Text: Leah Shone