Responses from participants

Dann Betts / US

Update: I did have a great time during the race.  It was grueling though.  

265 kilometers over 5 days is tough.  I burned 17,898 calories during the race running.  I did not eat enough each day to replenish the calories.  So running on less stored energy each day.  But that is one of the challenges of a staged race.  I climbed over 3830 meters in elevation over the five days (12,532 feet).  That also means I descended that same amount as we finished where we initially started. That is a lot of pressure on thighs and toes.

Thankfully, I did not get any blisters or chafing.  Just a bad case of bacterial infection which I am now on an intense course of medicine.  One pill 3 times daily, another pill 1 time daily, two creams two times daily, an IV medicine once daily and a shot administered on the first day.  But it was worth it.  I saw so many animals up close and personal.  I saw lots of wildebeests, zebras and impalas running by me, with me and behind me.  I saw a rhino, a crocodile, hippos, warthogs and giraffes.  The staff had to start a couple of the days late because of lions on our paths and even had to bus runners around a pride of lions during one of the days.  So cool.
 
Funny story: I was running down a dirt road through a forest and made a left turn and almost ran into a huge male giraffe who was standing in the road eating leaves. He looked down at me and I stared up at him.  He then proceeded to slowly lead me down the road until there was a clearing for him to move out of my way.  I thanked him and he went back to eating.  

 

Ursel Plehwe / Germany

at breathtakingextreme in south africa 265km in 5 days in entabeni nationalpark successfully completed in 44 hours. It was a very adventurous and extreme experience with "great" trails in the middle of the African wilderness. a lot of sand, lots of stones, the last 2 stages 70% offroad and heat of about 40 degrees were too extreme. in this run one can say: only who tries the impossible, knows what is possible. we had encounters with giraffes, zebras, rhinos, and many other animals and lion roars in the night. Through the many rangers, we were always in absolute safety. Among other things, this trail is one of my most beautiful running experiences. the orga perfect, many thanks to kurt and his team that made this run possible. thanks also to the rangers who were "hidden" for safety always near us

 

Toosie Bawden / SouthAfrica

Racer experience news
 
Trailrunning, wildlife spotting and saving rhinos- three of my favourite things all wrapped up in one awesome race! It was an easy decision to enter, as a South  African who wouldn’t want to race in the heart of the African bush?  
 
Make no mistake, this is not an easy race. The daily mileage and variable terrain along with the cutoff time being nightfall, make sure you push yourself to the maximum with every step, and yet you are rewarded with little treats along the way, great support from the crew and wonderful campsites at the end of the day( compete with showers / river).
 
Every aspect of trail running is incorporated into the  route- grass, rocks, sand , hills and even some bouldering up a waterfall to keep you entertained. The route selection can be savage at times, with your legs showing the brunt of some good bushwhacking, making earning the gorgeous medal all the more sweeter. 
 
At no stage did I feel vulnerable, safe in the knowledge that the rangers had my back but at  same time alert for the possible sightings of wildlife, especially when the wildlife chose to escort you for parts of the route ( in my case I got to run with a giraffe for one whole km!) 
 
For me, this race was the most fun I have had for five days! I couldn’t have wiped the smile off my face and every day was better then the next. Whether you were racing hard or just there to complete the race, it seemed the same for everyone. 
 
I can’t thank the BTX team enough and can’t wait for 2020.

Toosie Bawden
 

Philippe Richet / France

265 km in five stages: this is the new challenge of the extreme mountain rider on the occasion of the BreathTaking Xtrem 2019

"It seems impossible until it's done." This is the motto of the ultra-run Breath Taking Xtrem that was launched in South Africa on April 20 and the new challenge that Philippe Richet has just taken on.

At 50, the specialist in stock, elected Oscar "Southwest" 2019, finished fifth in the marathon version of the test. Is 255 kilometers (with an altitude of almost 4,000 meters) and five stages swallowed 30 hours and 38 minutes through the South African bush in the heart of Entabeni National Park, among lions, giraffes and other rhinos.

A breathtaking adventure that ends the Montois in the Top 5, for the French Nathalie Mauclair, a German and two Kenyans.

Andrea Ellesser / Germany

Andrea Ellesser has successfully completed the 265 km long Ultra Run BreathTakingXtreme in South Africa.

A total of 27 runners took part in the premiere of the BreathTakingXtreme Ultra in Entabeni, Limpopo, South Africa, of which 16 were able to cover the entire distance. The race was run in 5 stages that were all very demanding (61 km, 39 km, 77 km, 49 km and 39 km). It was sometimes extremely hot and laborious in the sand and bush to continue. The last two stages were still very technical with a lot of climbing and swamp. During the stages we stayed in tents, we took care of ourselves and we experienced a lot. We had many encounters with African wildlife (wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, jackals, wild boars, etc.). The Rangers, however, have protected us very well and have ensured that we take a different course than Löwen. Elephants. Before the start, we had a safety briefing and had to sign that we were complying with the rules. The most important rule in the African bush is: "Only Food Runs" means: don't stay and run when a lion or a leopard appears! Do not turn around, but roarer.
It was a great week!

 

 

Richard Shannon / Zambia

Breathtaking Xtreme Ultra - 265km in 5 days. My first reaction to this race is WOW. Absolutely fantastic venue for a run (I use the word “run” loosely), Five-star amenities, and First-Class event organization and support staff. In my opinion, the hardest stage race in South Africa.
Kurt Alderweireldt and the BTX team put on a great inaugural event and can be extremely proud. The race was held in the Entabeni Game Reserve which has the Big Five roaming free. Running down sandy roads following lion footprints is not for those of a nervous disposition. The game rangers and wildlife management team of Entabeni did a great job of keeping all the runners safe and out of danger – even transporting runners by vehicle past the lions on one of the stages and escorting runners on foot past a pair of grumpy hippos on another day. Wildebeest, Zebra, Kudu, Impala, Blesbok, Giraffe, Warthog, Baboon, Hippo, Crocodile, Rhino and even a Black Backed Jackal were seen. There was also a large variety of bird life for those that took the time to look around. The highlight for most was sleeping a few hundred meters from a pride of white lions on the second night. 
The stages of the race varied in distance from 39km (stage 2) to 71km (stage 3). The difficulty of the stages was not always in proportion to the distance. Definitely the hardest day (in my opinion) was stage 4 which was only about 53km long. It involved 1,300m of climbing and only about 20% of the route was “runnable”. Every day had its own unique challenges and one was definitely never bored. Steep rocky climbs, thick soft sand, technical single track, rock hopping, bouldering and bundu (bush) bashing all had their fair share of the route. 
The BTX crew were extremely well organized and had camps set up and functioning well before the runners arrived. The two race doctors were professional and always on hand. A bonus was the availability of hot showers on all but one night and access to flushing toilets every night. Supper was also provided by the lodge on two of the four nights in the bush. There was a bar each night with cold beer and other drinks on sale. Pure luxury….
The race was won by Kenyan Benson Sitati, and Frenchwoman Nathalie Mauclair. These two were in a class of their own and it would be great to see if our local South African runners could challenge them next year.
Thank you to my friend and tent mate Dan Betts for joining me on this adventure. Also well done to my Munga friends, Stephan Muller and Rolf Müller. Stephan finished the full race. Rolf had an injury and hitched a ride on the long day but still managed to get back out there and complete day 5. A great achievement on its own.
I caught up with some old friends and made some great new ones. Thank you, Kurt Alderweireldt, for a fantastic experience. Look forward to the next event… 

 

BENEDICT HOFFMANN / Germany

 

Run 265 km in five days - only these numbers are an announcement! But the sporting challenge was even more extreme and adventurous, since the stage race took place in the Entabeni National Park in northern South Africa. A great animal world is at home there with the so-called "Big Five" - ​​these include lions, buffalo, elephants, rhinos and leopards.

When in January 2019 the organizer Kurt Alderweireldt wanted to convince me to start at the first event of the "Breathtakingextreme" stage race, I was skeptical. How do you run a running competition in a South African National Park? But Kurt Alderweireldt convinced me! Up to 15 supervisors, including eight local rangers and two doctors, accompanied a group of 28 runners, almost 24 hours in eight days. The Rangers guaranteed us that there would be no danger to wildlife, but it would be an experience - and it was. There was always a forest ranger nearby during the flight. More importantly, Rangers were always aware of what part of the park the animals were when we were running. zebras, giraffes and monkeys came very close to me during the flight - moments I will not forget after all those years as a runner! In addition, I was motivated by the fact that the run also collected donations for a rhino breeding station, because the rhinos are poached and their supplies are in great danger.

In addition to the beautiful impressions, I was mainly confronted with a very big sporting challenge. The organizer had invited the two Kenyans Peter Kamau and Benson Sitati next to me. From day one to five we were at the front like a top trio. We could not always enjoy the scenery, because the paths were technically very difficult to count. Everything that could be presented as a running background had to be controlled. Dusty roads, paths with deep sand, grass paths on which one can only guess where and how the foot hits, but also steep rocky slopes and descents with a slope of up to 40 percent. In addition, my body had to struggle with 27 to 30 degrees.

I tried to adjust to the rhythm of the two Kenyans at each stage. This was usually only up to 30 km from the respective phase well, at the latest Benson Sitati has accelerated the pace. With his changing pace, he probably wanted to make me "mellow". On the first day over 61 kilometers, his plan went ahead as well, at kilometer 35 I had to let him go. At first Peter Kamau was no longer in sight - but at kilometer 45 I had it back and finished the day in second place. Day three over 40 kilometers was a difficult "fight" between us until the end. I again finished second behind Benson. We all had a huge respect for the third phase. It was the longest distance of the five days with 76 kilometers. As an experienced "100 KM runner" I know exactly how to divide such a brutal podium. The two Kenyans sat down after 10 kilometers. I was not worried and deliberately kept my rhythm. It took until km 40, until at least I saw Peter Kamau again. But I no longer saw Benson Sitati that day. He won the third leg for me. After three days, Sitati now had a 31-minute lead. Now I had to hope for a miserable fourth day for Benson to win. But even on day four at 53 kilometers, Benson still seemed "completely in the juice". Up to kilometer 30 we were third again. Shortly after a boarding post, he did what I had to accept so often in recent days. He increased the pace so much that I could barely follow him. Whether the terrain was rocky or sandy didn't seem to interest him. Well, I went on with Peter - let's see how fit he is. At kilometer 35 he could no longer follow my pace. I now tried to extend the distance further. At kilometer 43 I also came back to Benson, and we delivered an exciting duel in the last 10 kilometers and eventually came across the finish at the same time.

I suspected he was running too fast in the first three days. But he taught me a little better. From the start he ran the last 39 kilometer long stage at high speed, I only followed him to kilometer 15. Yet I was able to finish in second place again in the last of five stages.

Second place was therefore also my final result after five adventurous and sporting challenging days. Yet it was also breathtakingly beautiful. I would like to take up this challenge again in 2020!

 

Leung Winwin / Hong Kong

 

Hey man!  What's your plan?

 

Well... This year again, I have a plan to run in somewhere I have never been to and this time is South Africa.  I have been finding a race that's not only running on sands in Africa for a long time.  Thanks for the Race Director - Kurt for introducing me to join the first edition BreathtakingXtreme 265km 5 days stage race.

 

I love to participate in stage race since you can enjoy the scenery during day time without suffering from sleepless nights.  Not being a newbie of stage race, I thought I have prepared quite well.  However, when you met with the fellow racers, there were still lots to be learnt from them.  Hearing their stories really inspired me.  You will become friends with most of the racers, helpers and volunteers.  This is the most enjoyable part of a stage race.

 

For the first three days, we were running mainly on mud or sand roads with endless grassland.  I have spent 120% of concentration on wildlife spotting.  There were lots of wildebeest, zebras and impalas while I was running.  I can even saw kudu crossing the road, giraffes eating leaves on tall trees, hippos in ponds, warthogs digging holes, rhinos resting far away and many others that I cannot tell the names.  I never expected to hear the roaring of lions nearly the whole second night in campsite.  Lucky that we were safely guarded by the rangers not only on that night but throughout the whole race.

 

The challenges came on the 4th and 5th day on which we had more variety on the terrains include river trekking and lots of bushwhacking. Happy that I was running with friends on these two days so that we can chat, share snacks, find our ways and even take photos for each other with the stunning scenery as backdrop.  Time flied and seemed that 5 days were too short since every day was a Wow For me. Finishing the race together with friends was the most rewardable prize.  The race was ended up with a bonus to join the Africa Drum Dance in the after race party.  What’s a wonderful experience!

 

 
 
Thanks & regards,
Wiwin