Team Monster Hounds | As the sun rises over a hungover Joburg, a motley collection of Lycra clad racers are steadily gathering outside one of Joburg’s trendiest pubs. It’s Sunday morning and the latest race in the Kinetic Urban Challenge is starting and finishing on the expansive lawn of Outer Limits in Fourways.
Amongst the sponsor banners of fitness fundi’s Asics and USN are Outer Limits staff, efficiently mopping floors and serving coffees. I imagine that the time between closing the club and opening for us has been slim. But they seem unfazed by the rising sun and more startled by the transformation in their clientele from trendsetters to adventurers.
The Kinetic Urban Challenge has very quickly established itself in the psyche of those Gautengers on a quest for something different. It is a city adventure race – designed to get competitors from start to finish in intriguing and interesting ways. The popular disciplines are trail running / hiking and mountain biking; but from here it gets interesting: orienteering, obstacle courses, rollerblading, paddling, leopard crawling, even sprinting through the local fire station. Its Urban Adventure personified.
Today’s race – the fourth in the series – follows this theme. Competitors select which leg they want to do, ensuring that no one really knows whose winning until you’ve crossed the finish line. It also means that you don’t know what you’re doing until you’ve collected instructions from officials at the start of each leg.
A series of checkpoints guides you through each leg, ensuring you navigate back to the start and follow the route. Last race we found ourselves slithering down the fireman’s pole at Grayston station (terrifying) before heading off to find a phone number on a junction box. The formula means the race is a constant surprise and this coupled with routes that expose extra-ordinary parts of the city, is what really makes it great.
We head out as the sun burns away the morning mist and the weatherman’s promise of rain. My role is to try and keep up with my teammates Ian and Mark who I can see peddling furiously into the distant horizon. We quickly leave tar and taxis behind, cycling down technical jeep tracks that are bounded by mansions which are large, even by Joburgs standards.
We switch to single track and head down to a very pretty river, complete with Willow trees and ducks. Amazingly we’re in the countryside even though we’re in Fourways which I’ve spent years sneering at for its high-density living and vast stretches of townhouse development.
But this is really what makes this race amazing – how organizers Stephan and Heidi Muller do it is a mystery, but they expose Joburgers to parts of the city that few people know exists.
We peddle along fence lines, cross bridges, navigate through the ruins of an old farmhouse and back up country lanes before racing to transition for the next section.
We sprint on foot through the shopping center looking for clues hidden between banks, garden centres and wedding chapels, before switching back to bikes and again finding ourselves in surprising countryside.
Our final race instructions send us sprinting to the Virgin Active Club for a final mini-indoor triathlon. A run, row and cycle gives me an opportunity to finally see the boys sweat, with Ian puffing on the rowing machine and Mark peddling as if he’s on a sprint finish at the Tour de France.
And we’re there…tripping over the high-rise trapeze boards that snake through the Asics banners, before hauling ourselves over the inflatable obstacle course, bouncing to the bottom and over the finish line to a respectable third place.
This event is an excellent example of race organizers and sponsors working well together. At every transition USN was merrily dishing out drinks, water, cramp pills and bars. Asics’ branding through the obstacle course cleverly associates them as the shoe for adventure. Virgin’s opening of the club to a host of muddy, less-than-fresh racers was a great way to amuse their clientele. The free coffee at race start and breakfast buffet transformed my idea of Outer Limits as a hangover haven to an excellent, laid-back restaurant. And Kinetic’s ongoing involvement reinforces their excellent reputation as sporting specialists.
All thanks to Heidi and Stephan, for their attention to detail: for hunting out country routes in an urban environment, for their vast spread of prizes (no-one went home empty handed), and their dedication to growing our opportunities to access outdoor adventure.
Kerryn Krige, Team Monster Hounds
Kinetic Adventure, 26 September 2009