South African pro trail runner Landie Greyling crossed the finish line of the 55km RMB Ultra-trail Cape Town just five seconds in front of Germany’s Kimi Schreiber, and the mother-of-two says it was the race of her career.

The Cape Town Trail Marathon, which she won in October, was Landie’s focus for the second half of the year. However, this Biogen-sponsored endurance athlete always planned to see if she had one more race left in her after she had completed the 46km race.

“RMB Ultra-trail Cape Town is always a highlight on the calendar. It is such a great event community-wise and showcases Cape Town to the international runners,” said Landie.

“I decided to use my fitness and motivation after Cape Town Trail Marathon to give it one last shot for the season.”

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A new challenge

Her decision was sealed after Ultra-trail Cape Town race director Stuart McConnachie, sent her an invite for the new 55km event.

“I was excited about the route and the opportunity to line up against internationals because I didn’t have the chance to travel this year due to my young children.”

Landie, who is married to professional trail runner, coach and fellow Biogen brand ambassador, Christiaan, said she had overcome many obstacles between the two races.

“I had personal challenges, missed key training sessions due to being emotionally, mentally, and physically tired. I was very doubtful whether I should race in that state of mind.

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A sickening setback

Getting sick five days before the race didn’t help. “I got the green light from my doctor prior to the race, but there wasn’t much time to get myself mentally race-ready.”

The day before the race, feeling refreshed, she completed a run, sprint, and strides. “My body felt amazing, and I knew I would be disappointed if I didn’t line up and give it my best shot,” said Landie.

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Running her race

Landie’s race strategy was simple – to run her own race, start conservatively and use her 14 years of trail running experience to her benefit.

“I started conservatively while two of the international athletes started very fast. By the first checkpoint I was in third position trailing the leaders by one minute. At the Hout Bay station, I was between four and five minutes behind.”

Landie didn’t feel like she was having her best day, but she knew she was holding back. “I hoped I would make up time as I went along.”

She then encountered a section which was particularly difficult. “Between the Hout Bay and Constantia stations, I had a really tough time. I couldn’t eat or drink much and lost a further 10 minutes.”

Fortunately, her form returned from Constantia Glen and she started feeling really good. “I managed to keep the pace and maintain the gap with the leader. At that time, I was lying second, so I tried to keep the gap as small as I could, hoping I would have a better second half and catch up.

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A fast finish

With just 10km to go at the University of Cape Town station, she learned that the gap to the front was a “gigantic” 17 minutes. “I was also told that the third lady was only two minutes behind me.”

At that point, Landie told herself that she was so far in and had worked so hard these past few years, to give up now. “I knew there was no reason not to race my heart out and fight for the front.”

Landie held nothing back over the last 10km. “I did the Block House climb like it was the start of the race. I took a Biogen gel and went as hard as I could.”

With seven kilometres to the finish line, Landie came upon the woman’s race leader, Schreiber, who was standing still.

“As I passed her, I asked if she was okay and she didn’t respond, so she must have been in agony. I decided to do my thing and race.”

Realising that victory was within her grasp, Landie ran “conservatively hard”, knowing that a runner behind her could still triumph. Then, just three kilometres from the finish line, Schreiber appeared.

“She had led the whole day and didn’t want to give up. My animal instinct kicked in, I bolted onto the boardwalk, managing to get a little gap, and finished a few seconds ahead of her.”

Overwhelmed with her dramatic victory, Landie said everything had come together in a unique way.

I would never have anticipated that this would be how my year ended – with the race of my career. I am relived and grateful for support of the trail community and my sponsors for believing in me and backing me.”