Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 134, October 2020 Issue 134, October 2020 | Page 29

TRAIL RUNNING had won at the age of 22 , thriving on the challenge of the steep climbs . Then in 2008 , the Wildrunner Trail Series came to Gauteng for the first time , and Lucky won both the Summer and Winter series . “ That ’ s what really got me hooked on trail running , although when I started , trail was still new and there were less events . Now there are always events , and the competition is
getting better all the time .”

Donning National Colours

When Lucky won the Ingeli Skymarathon in KZN in 2013 , he earned himself a spot in the K-Waysponsored South African Skyrunning Association ( SASA ) team , alongside Iain don Wauchope , for the Skyrunning World Champs in the Mont Blanc Marathon in France . Lucky had a storming run , climbing from 13th place after 10km to seventh place at the 29km checkpoint , but around 26km in he had picked up a groin injury that was soon to wreck his race , forcing his withdrawal with just 13km of the 48km to go .
“ I slowed down because my groin was burning with pain , hoping that I would be able to push again ; but it just became worse . Moving slower in the unfriendly
weather conditions my body temperature dropped as well , and just moving forward was a tough mission . At the La Flégère checkpoint at 35km , I was advised to stop , as I was in danger of hypothermia . It was my first international event , I had felt strong the whole way , and I could see that a top five finish was possible , so I was really disappointed that I had to withdraw … but I also knew I could get to that point again , where I would compete at a high level with a strong international field .”
Fortunately , another chance soon came his way . Having recovered from the injury , he returned to racing and at the beginning of 2014 , he was signed by K-Way as a brand ambassador and sponsored member of the company ’ s trail running elite squad . “ Having the sponsors and support systems behind you is important , because then you don ’ t have to worry about anything but racing . Everything else is taken care of and you can focus on what you do best ,” says Lucky , who also subsequently picked up a shoe sponsorship from Saucony .
That support helped him successfully defend his title in the 2014 Num-Num Trail Challenge , which saw him selected for the WMRA World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in the USA , to be contested on the brutal 21km Pikes Peak Ascent in Colorado . This race starts at 1900 metres above sea level and climbs to 4300 metres at an average gradient of 11 %, with the first few and last few kilometres even steeper at a 14 % gradient , but Lucky gritted his teeth to come home 19th overall , and he also grabbed fourth place in the 30-34 age category .
“ I started slowly , which is what the experienced runners advised when we asked them how we should approach the race ,” says Lucky . “ As the altitude went up , I battled and dropped a few positions , but I kept on fighting . The altitude was really hard on me , and for the last mile it was really a mission to run – I walked almost the whole of it – so I was very happy with my result , especially as I had never run that high before .”

Back on the World Stage

Two more opportunities to run for SA came in the next two years . In 2015 , Lucky was selected for a second time for the World Long Distance Mountain Running Champs , this time held in conjunction with the Zermatt Marathon in Switzerland . This race climbs from 1116m above sea level to 3089m , so it was once again a tough proposition for the South Africans , says Lucky .
“ What kills us SA runners at World Champs is that we have full-time jobs , so we have less time to go to real mountains to train , like the Drakensberg , or at least the mountains in the Cape . I spend the whole week running on the road and can only really hit the trails on the weekends , so these true mountain races are really tough , but what a great experience ! I was the second South Africa to finish , behind Johardt van Heerden .”
Then in 2016 , Lucky was once again selected for the Skyrunning World Champs , this time held as part of the BUFF Epic Trail Aigüestortes Skymarathon in the heart of the Spanish Pyrenees mountains . This race features an overall 3200m vertical gain over 42km , taking runners up to 2729m at the 13km mark , and again to 2600m around the 30km mark , before a massive 1500m drop in altitude over 11km to the finish . Lucky came home 30th , and says , “ The first half seemed to go well , I felt I was pacing myself right , but then everything changed after halfway . Racing with the world class guys was tough , and I realised I had probably started too hard , because
my wheels came off !”

The Sky is the Limit

In late 2016 , having never raced anything longer than 50km in a single stage , Lucky took the plunge and stepped up to the 100km of the SkyRun , and was pleasantly surprised with his result . “ To come second overall was unbelievable . I never thought that I would be able to spend over 13 hours running in the mountains , non-stop !” he says . A year later he was back at the SkyRun , and this time he was determined to get the win . “ My second place in 2016 made me