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by Hugh Upsher / 28.08.2015

Trail Running off this Mortal Coil

It is human nature to torture ourselves. Pushing ourselves to breaking point is just built into our DNA. Over the last few years my lifestyle has slowly evolved from the destructive torture of partying and hangovers to the constructive torture of exercise and healthy eating.

The combination of not wanting to spend any money and enjoying the outdoors meant a mix of jogging and hiking fell into my natural selection of activities. My younger self tells me it’s not cool. My older self knows this, but still tries to justify it as an extreme sport due to the amount of tourist deaths each year.

2015 will be remembered as the year I exchanged my old skate shoes for a pair of silver and lime green shoes specifically for running on mountains. Now, I not only have a solid game plan for suppressing the dreaded beer boep, but I can also contribute knowingly to every single Capetonian braai conversation.

The Mountainside is no Virgin Active, it is just an enormous series of stacked rocks that makes you and all your stupid problems seem very insignificant. When you mix this humbling experience with the false sense of accomplishment associated with conquering a peak, you can’t help but feel better about yourself.

Mountain Etiquette

Spending more time on mountain routes around Cape Town has made me increasingly aware of the unspoken etiquette involved in sharing the mountain space.

1. Unlike other shared public spaces, almost everyone greets each other in passing on the mountain. This is done with the absolute minimal amount of effort possible – a millisecond of eye contact, a slight raising of one hand and an out-of-breathe grunt partially resembling “Hi” or “Morning”.

2. You should always be prepared to assist in taking a group photo for some luddites who are yet to own a selfie stick. Seriously though, why doesn’t everyone have one by now?

3. When asked how far it is to the peak, the response needs to be unrealistically optimistic in an attempt to fool the enquirer into the ‘just around the next corner’ mentality.

Diversity of Fauna

Access to most of the Table Mountain National Park hike routes are free, which goes against Cape Town’s cultural trend of segregation and elitism. It is a classless space, a micro-utopian dream where people are judged not by the colour of their skin or how much money they have, but rather by how difficult they make it for you to pass them on a narrow path. While I’m at it, I may as well pass judgement on people who write their names in Tipp-Ex on rocks, or throw their Energade bottles in the bushes – you can all go to hell.


A. There is the underdressed type who climbs Table Mountain in jeans and sunglasses while they pump Chris Brown out of their tinny Blackberry speaker.

B. The overdressed type in their tight neon everything courtesy of some talented salesperson at Sportman’s Warehouse. They look as if they were planning to summit Kilimanjaro but in reality they’re just walking their schnauzers half way up Lion’s Head.

C. Then there are the tourists who look the same as they do everywhere else in South Africa because they didn’t anticipate the continent of Africa to have level floors, shade or running water.

But Why

The question ‘What are you running away from?’ always popped into my head when I saw miserable looking joggers sweating along the roadside. This was always followed by a little self-gratifying chuckle to myself. I don’t do that anymore because now I know the morbidly uncomplicated answer. People are running away from death.

Exercise is the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth at this point. I imagine, over the next few years, I will become increasingly regimented in my commitment, possibly even buy running shorts to replace my surfer board shorts. Maybe I’ll start entering races. Maybe I’ll also become a painfully boring person who talks about exercise as if people give a shit.

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