Besides for the delightfully amped up Jonny Clegg song that immediately pops into your head when you hear the name IMPI – the IMPI challenge has definitely become a staple in the fun activity category around the country.
The event has grown immensely over the last few years – from a mere 250 challengers in its first race to thousands now competing in each event, the Impi Challenge is gaining momentum.
You can currently find an IMPI challenge in the Western Cape, Namibia & Gauteng… Why is it so popular?
I feel it’s a great excuse to get as muddy as possible and not be judged for it, but it also brings a new angle to the good old fashioned trail run (as if those weren’t hard enough already).
So, in search of discovering new things, last week Sunday I took the scenic drive into the Stellenbosch Winelands and took on the challenge…
IMPI CHALLENGE CAPE TOWN FACT SHEET
Date: 18 & 19 October 2014 (I took part on the 19th)
Location: Lievland Wine estate
Events: 6km Dash, 12km Challenge (they bumped this up to 13.5km’s), and the 20km Elite Challenge.
There was also a kid’s obstacle course set up for the little ones to join in on the fun as well.
(You have to be over 18 to compete in the 12km or 20km race and over 10 for the 6km.)
Start Time: From 07:00 for the Elites and starting times continue
throughout the day to 17:00 on Saturday and 14:00 on Sunday.
Cost: Elite – R550, Challenge R400, Dash R300
THE NITTY GRITTY
Cape Town summer arrived with a bang and the weather was incredible for the whole weekend. We started at around 10:45, so were running in the heat of the day, but the frequent water obstacles and shaded sections helped out with the beating sun.
I found out that I need a more waterproof sunblock, as my shoulders are now a fantastic shade of pink and some interesting mud patterns are tanned onto my legs. I now have Baz Luhrmanns “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen” song in my head and am cursing myself for not listening to it.
For these shorter races I tend to go before I leave the house (mommy always told me so), but the toilets where not bad at all and were kept well cleaned throughout the day. They were only at the start/finish area but they aren’t really needed on route, in a race like this.
In previous years I have found parking at this race to be a nightmare, because they made you park in the forest and all those trees look identical after a good run. People were found wandering the forest listening for the beep of their car.
This time around, they opened up a field for parking that was relatively close to the action, and car marshalls directing traffic is always a win in races with this many attendees.
Throughout the challenge route there were 3 water tables (every 3ish km’s). The heat of the day probably contributed to my thirst but boy was I happy to see them when I did. I think that they could have added a few more in places, but then again if the weather was different it would have seemed like too many.
I love it when races provide something to munch on as well, and because we ended up running through my usual lunch time, the bananas and apples offered on route definitely hit the spot. I did hear that on the Saturday they ran out of water for a while, which is never a good thing, thank goodness that didn’t happen on my race.
Our starting group was between 10 and 11am. I find it weird when you aren’t given an exact time and standing in the starting queue for over 45 minutes waiting to load into batches was not super fun. For the starting group they let off about 150 – 200 people through every 15 minutes but during my wait it felt like 50 people every 10 minutes. Patience is a virtue though and eventually the hooter went off and we were on our way.
We were met with 21 obstacles over 13.5km’s and I am not going to tell you about all of them or you will be here all day, but these are a few that we experienced…
Rawson wall: 2 x 2m high walls (I am pretty sure it was more like 3m high) that you had to get over, to be honest I would never have made it without another person running with me, but it was fun to chuckle at some of the macho displays (which ended with a few people cartoonishly splattered against the walls as they attempted to jump). I have no idea how solo’s do it and can only assume that they help each other out where needed.
Vietnam Crawl: A crawl under barbed wire through the mud. The team ahead of us spent the entire wait debating whether a sideways roll or leopard crawl would work. They provided some amazing comedy as they troubleshot (that’s a real word I promise) the pro’s and cons of each, amidst shouts of “my shoulders are too broad” and “my bum sticks out too much” I won’t tell you which worked best, you will have to figure it out for yourself.
Swamp and mud pits: One thing I definitely learnt from this race was that you can never assume to know how deep the puddle/mud pit is. The swamp section was hilarious. As the depth went from 1 metre to 2 metres in seconds, you had to switch between tentative steps into soft sinking mud to running strides on patches they were more solid. You never knew if you were going to sink a foot or run right over. They say we all love a mystery and this was a wet dirty one.
The Lilipads: These are an IMPI CT staple – a bridge made from floating wooden pallets that slowly sink when you put weight on them. You have to run as fast as you can or you will get submerged into the water. It is the last obstacle of the race and the easiest to view as a spectator which means you run into lots of support and cheering. You finish feeling a bit like a rockstar really.
Various other: A lot of the obstacles looked pretty daunting, but in fact were a lot easier than they seemed but in the same breath there were some obstacles that looked easy as pie but had all of us crazy adults wobbling and shaking all over the place.
It’s ridiculous to think that children play on jungle gyms like this daily and here we were, a few old fogies getting defeated by some ropes and beams. Then there were also the water obstacles, swims and rope pulls, that made you just want to wallow in for a bit and relax in the afternoon sun.
Of course you also had to get from obstacle to obstacle and this was a challenge (they don’t call it the IMPI CHALLENGE for nothing). The route was a mix between some great forest single track and some gruelling up and down vineyard roads.
It felt like there was no flat portion on the route. If the obstacles were all removed, it would have still been a pretty tough Trail Run that crossed through forests, rivers, dams and vineyards, showcasing a bit of everything that the venue had to offer.
What did others have to say about Impi Challenge Cape Town?
On speaking to some of the other competitors I received mixed feelings, a few diehard fans that had been a part of the race from its inceptions were very disappointed at the amount of queuing and waiting around at obstacles and would have like more water stops.
Others who competed as a corporate group absolutely loved it and loved the camaraderie that went along with getting through some of the obstacles.
Dress up is always fun and a “nurse” told me she was so happy to be wearing a surgical mask to avoid the dust, but was also super excited that the obstacles were not the same as in previous years – she loved the change up.
A group very new to exercise were not that impressed, mainly because they thought they would get through the course in 2 hours (as the IMPI facebook group indicates) and ended up spending 5 hours on route. Mixing lack of fitness with the extremely steep inclines and bottlenecking at obstacles no doubt contributed to this. Note to future Impi Contender’s: Come prepared.
The Challenge and Dash runners did not receive a generic medal; instead team/solo photo’s were taken at the finish line and printed out as a souvenir ‘medal’. I love this idea, simply because I am one of those people who plonks medals in a box and barely look at it again. Instead, I now have this guy displayed proudly on my fridge!
Most of the obstacles were pretty memorable, but my highlight of the day was during a rope climb where a very determined young lady was struggling her way up the rope.
The crowd waiting to do the obstacle next were so encouraging and amazing to her. Even when she slid all the way down to the bottom again and was going to opt out of the obstacle, the crowd encouraged her to try one more time.
When she got to the top, the cheers and claps were pretty incredible. I love seeing this in races. Everyone getting behind each other is a feeling of comradery that leaves you with goose bumps.
I also really loved the teams and individuals that put a lot of effort into their outfits. I saw naughty nurses and their patients, the Flintstones, angels, devils, ‘Where’s Wally Father Christmas’s’, some very exuberant cross-dressing men and a lot lot more. Dressing up is a great way to bring your group together and make a fool out of yourselves in the mud in unity. 🙂
IMPI is not just about the event, it is about the vibe as well. I took part on the Sunday and really had to fight the urge to spend the rest of the afternoon lazing around in the lawns next to the dam, watching others finish, with a well-deserved ice cold beverage of my choice in hand. The Vibe is fantastic and really welcoming for a good day outside.
Value for money
Plus Impi gives back! All competitors were encouraged to dump their shoes at the finish line to be redistributed to those less fortunate than us who need them more than we do. It’s always awesome when an event gives back, especially when it is visible. You may think, who wants my dirty old shoes, but you would be surprised at how much joy your old takkies can bring to someone. (If you want to donate shoes you can always get in touch with share a pair)
R400 for 13km’s seemed a bit steep especially as there was no goody bag, but we did spend a good 2.5 hours on course so I suppose in time measure it’s not that bad. The obstacles were definitely well maintained and good fun, so for a novelty event R400 is doable.
The route was fantastic, the obstacles were a great mix of easy and hard and they really got the adrenalin pumping at some points. The queues however were a huge downfall. Bottle necking for up to 30 minutes at some of the obstacles became very tedious. There is scope for this to be an incredible race, if they build more of the same obstacles to speed things up or simply enter fewer people, it would definitely be a WIN but for now…
I would recommend it to those who have never done it before, but until bottle necks and numbers have been resolved, I would not recommend a repeat of the race (or maybe I should just train up and do the elite which has a much fewer entries?…)
Impi will next be in Namibia on the 15th & 16th of November, book your tickets here. Won’t be in Namibia then? Stay connected with them on facebook & twitter to find out when the challenge next appears in your town – 2015 dates will be announced soon.
Thank you to Impi Challenge for inviting us to experience their event and to Action Photo for providing the pictures. Action photo is South Africa’s leading sports photography portal and they can be found at many of the major races in South Africa. If you took part in the Impi Challenge and want to find your pictures, visit their website, type in your race number or scroll through the unidentified images to find your memories.Want to try the Impi Challenge for yourself?
Physiotherapist, Tour company manager, Dog lover, Adventure craver, Endurance Racer (Bike, Run, Swim, Paddle & &…), Thrill Seeker, Wine Drinker, Explorer (of life and all things tasty), Web designer, Candy Eater (life is better with a sugar high), Yes-Girl