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Q & A with Ryan Sandes

Photo credit: RedBull/Ryan Sandes

Q & A with Ryan Sandes


By Kate Allen

Q. How much fun did you have planning the Cape Town Trail Marathon route? Do you enjoy pouring over a map and planning the course?

A. Yes it was lots of fun. For me it was about planning and setting a logical route so there wasn’t too much map work. I had an idea of the route in my head already, taking in some of my favourite trails and as you say, I had to think not just of myself but 400 other runners.

My main idea was to make it a challenge but also rewarding and I really love the marathon distance. I think it’s a perfect distance to push yourself but it’s not too far or unachievable. So I’m really excited about it and I think it takes in some of the best spots Table Mountain has to offer.

Q. Did you have to consider things differently as you were plotting for hundreds of people rather than just yourself? Such as considering the impact on the flora and fauna of the area?

A. Yes I worked closely with South African National Parks to use trails that weren’t overly technical and taking care not to put people, as well as the flora and fauna, at risk. We wanted to make sure that the best possible route was chosen for everyone concerned.

Q. Have you set a time on the course for the leaders in the first marathon to chase?

A. I have run the route but in two sections. I will definitely give it a run beforehand and I think about 4 hours will be a good time for the marathon. It’s 46kms with about 2,200 meters of ascent. On Table Mountain some of the trails can be quite slow going but I also selected some faster moving trails, single track trails still, but ones that do allow runners to move a bit so it’s a nice combination.

Q. Looking at your list of achievements, there was a general slow down even before the pandemic. Was that due to family?

A. In 2017 my major focus was Western States and in 2018 I did a big project with my friend Ryno Griesel to run across the Great Himalaya Trail so they take a lot out of you. I had a couple of races in 2019 and I had a big adventure planned along the Skeleton Coast but that didn’t completely pan out but still that was a large run.

For me, I’ve been racing for 14 plus years; I still enjoy racing but there’s only a limited amount of races that appeal to me, like UTMB or Hardrock if I could get in. Those two and one or two more races but for me it’s about those key races and then some other cool projects and trying to give back to the sport. I also do some mentorship programmes and stuff like 13 Peaks; I think it’s cool to not be involved in just one facet of the sport.

Q. You’ve been trail blazing since 2008. What is your next adventure? (assuming post Covid).

A. The focus for me right now is the UTMB but then Ryno Griesel and myself are planning a project for next year. Still doing some final planning and plotting but, yes I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve been really lucky to be able to run all over the world but I want to explore more of Africa so there’ll definitely be something in Southern Africa.

Q. Your challenge 13 Peaks was designed to mimic the famous UK rounds – which one appeals to you the most?

A. I guess the Bob Graham Round is the most famous having been up to the Fells and having run on parts of the route I think that would definitely be my favourite. It also looks like it’s an amazing trail running community up there.

Many thanks to Ryan for talking to us.

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