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1100km Trail Run (and climb, and hike, and crawl). Jonno Proudfoot interviews Pioneer Alpine Runner Damien Schumann

Jonno interviews Damien Schumann before he becomes the first to run the entire length of the Cape Folds Mountain Range.

Race Day is fast approaching – 1 September 2018

#wikipedia says: The Cape Fold Mountains form a series of parallel ranges that run along the south-western and southern coastlines of South Africa for 850 km from the Cederberg 200 km to the north of the Cape Peninsula, and then along the south coast as far as Port Elizabeth, 650 km to the east.


Cape Fold Mountains. Photo: Damien

I first met Damien (affectionately known as Skollie) in school more than 20 years ago, but it wasn’t until 2013 that we really got to know each other. Skol shot the first few photos of me and Thane while we were trying to raise awareness and some sponsorship money for our epic swim from Mozambique to Madagascar in early 2014.

I thought swimming the oceans was tough, but what Skol is about to do is nuts.

We had a chat last week, and this is how it went.

Jonno

So, Skol, lay it down for us. What are the stats of this mission?

Damien

In cold numbers, here it is.

* Race Day  – 1 September 2018

* The distance – 1,150km, mostly off-trail

* Elevation – 47,090m

* Time   – roughly 26 days

* Estimated calorie burn – Burning 120,150 calories

* Per day – a distance of 44km with elevation of 1,800m for 26 days

Some other noteworthy stats – It has required an entire year of planning, including the scrutinizing of 52 x 1:50,000 maps to get to this point.

Jonno

Tell us about the terrain and the style of running. Is this a new genre of sport or running?

Damien

Trail running is trending but the reality is a hang of a lot of this route is off trail. It’s also impossible to run large sections due to bush and rock faces. So even running isn’t an apt title. Mountain running and Fell running come close but are not quite accurate. So I’ve settled on Alpine Running (adopted from alpine style climbing) as a genre as it best outlines the self-sufficiency required to navigate off trail as fast and lightly as possible. It’s not a new sport, if anything its moving closer towards an older, less cushioned way of doing things. But there is definitely scope for the style/genre to take off.

Jonno

What kind of training have you been doing and when did you start?

Damien

My objective is to move as fluidly and efficiently through my environment as possible, over a very long time and distance. So training has involved a lot of reconnaissance trips into the Cape Fold mountains to map the best route, learn about the landscape and run long distances. At my threshold I was averaging about 130km per week. The most adventurous training was a solo 3-day traverse attempt over 150km.

Jonno

What are the biggest dangers and risks when you do an event like this?

Damien

There are many. The Cape Fold are not the highest mountains but they are highly technical and volatile. Weather fluctuates dramatically, and there are steep cliffs to up and down climb. Maps aren’t always accurate in the current state of paths or terrain, there’s often no reception leaving one totally self-reliant. Water is scarce. And then the usual fatigue, injury, animals and getting lost after nightfall. Basically every type 2 fun ingredient you can imagine.

Jonno

So you’ve chosen a different angle – running for yourself instead of for a charity. Is that entirely true? What does this run mean to you?

Damien

When I dreamed up this project my focus was not to raise charity. It was to connect all of my favorite places and learn as much as possible about the Cape landscape as possible. So to say I’m running for charity isn’t accurate. But I am passionate about our environment and how it is being destroyed by humans’ interactions with it. So over this trip I will be speaking a lot about endangered species, best mountain practices, unique histories, and over population. Where charity is focused at giving, I’d prefer to align with action and activism.


Running the ridges adds more distance, but it is better than running in the valleys of thick fynbos.

Jonno

What are some of the things that have already stumped you?

Damien

Buy me a beer and I’ll share the full stories. But so far I have:

  • Been benighted (had to spend the night out…) twice, once by a torrential storm and again by poor navigation.
  • Injured my knee which led to aborting one recce and having to scavenge a lift into Barrydale, where a taxi driver put me up for the night.
  • Spent 13hrs on the run without water. That was tough.
  • Got arrested on suspicion of being a rhino poacher, after unknowingly running 55km through a buffalo adn rhino reserve
  • Got stuck on a ridge in a storm and had to down climb a grade 15 face (rock-climbing jargon) with a 200m drop below. That got the pulse going.
  • Protea bush. Twice its taken me 12hrs to traverse 20km through bush higher than my head. That’s not pretty.

I’m so happy I’ve ticked off these experiences before the run commences. But worried what’s still ahead.


Damien about to have a hot bath in the shelter of a random taxi driver’s house. The guy was kind enough to give him a beer. 

Jonno

Funding? How much does it cost to pull something like this off, and are there sponsorship opportunities?

Damien

There are definitely sponsorship opportunities. The basic costs are equating to R100 000, which have come out of my own pocket. Being the first alpine run traverse, and to my knowledge the first full traverse of the Cape Fold from Clanwilliam – Uitenage it is going to generate a lot of media opportunity. A series of interviews, articles and social media takeovers have already been booked, and we have a production company itching to make a film. The mountain enthusiast and adventure sports markets are devouring this mission. Your name can be on the cover when #thecapeunfolds to a very large audience. Please just plant some money trees in the Cape Fold in return!

Your name can be one the cover when #thecapeunfolds to a very large audience. Download my sponsorship presentation here

Did I mention I start running on 1 September? It’s getting urgent.

Jonno

And finally, what will you be eating?

Damien

I had massive problems with nutrition, and even cholesterol a year ago. After endless experimentation the only thing to work has been to keep my diet as unrefined and unprocessed as possible. So gluten, sugar, and dairy are minimized. Anything that’s advertised probably isn’t great. Variety is good. So on the road I jump between bananas, dates, cashews, biltong, preservative/additive-free bars, tuna sandwiches for lunch, and a GU gel in case I hit the wall. DripDrop ORS is my hydration tool. It’s actually designed for dehydration from cholera and diarrhea, needless to say it suits athletes perfectly.

Jonno

Anything else you want to throw in?

Damien

You can follow the adventure on and me on Instagram @damienschumann or #thecapeunfolds.

For sponsorship opportunities please write to dspgallery@gmail.com

Our backyard is incredible and I can’t wait to show it to you. Watch out for 1 September!

Jonno

I’m super stoked I got to hang with Skol, but I’d be a lot more stoked if someone out there could get this man a bells, and then some cash to make this event happen.

I know him well, and what scares me the most is that if he doesn’t get the dosh to do this, he’ll probably do it anyway and just eat less, or eat leaves. And we don’t want him to be like the guy from Into the Wild, so show him the money.

Follow him. This is going to be awesome.

You’re welcome,

Jonno

And just in case you missed that sponsorship proposal link


Photo Credit: Craig Kolesky