Flow of Life Q&A with Clyde Berning

1. How did the idea to run the 360km Eden to Addo Corridor in 8 days, that’s more than a marathon a day,  come to you?

I realised that we needed to find a way to raise much needed funding and awareness for the Eden to Addo Corridor Initiative because their annual hike had been cancelled due to Covid-19.

2.  What was the relevance of calling the run ” The Flow of Life”

Well, I was on a trail run in the Indalo Conservancy outside Plettenberg Bay and I’d been thinking about corridors and biodiversity and the migration of elephants, a keystone species in the region. Why is there only one elephant left in the Knysna forest? The flow of movement, of life, through the five biomes (between the Addo region and the Garden of Eden region) was established by elephant migration, insuring biodiversity and the movement of all species, fauna and flora. I realised that we needed to run/move/flow through the five biomes because the elephants and other species cannot and this is all due to land fragmentation; the result of fencing, unsustainable farming practices and human settlement/activity. The run had to be a part of the ‘Flow of Life’ so as to show how restricted movement through the biomes is. We saw this on the second day when we came across a kudu that had died after being caught in a fence.

3. Why did you choose to run from Addo to Eden and not from Eden to Addo?

We were originally going to run from Eden because that’s the route the hikers take but a closer look at the logistics made it clear that the Addo to Eden Route was going to make more sense in terms of transport and our family all being in the Garden Route area at the time of the run.

4. How much training did you do?

Not enough. I managed to get in about 20-25km’s per week and a few HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions but I could definitely have done more and lost a bit more weight!

5. How did you manage to persuade your running partner, Damien Schumann, https://www.dspgallery.com/lets-talk   to join you at such short notice?

It didn’t take much. He agreed straight away and I think his eagerness and availability had everything to do with good timing and his genuine desire to run for a great cause. Not to mention his wealth of experience having run the length of the Cape Fold Mountain Range; he had already covered some of our route two years prior to the run. I think Damien also has a curiosity that drives his determination to help wherever he can.

6. Were you aware that you would be crossing 7 mountain ridges between Addo and Eden?

No. And the three ‘kloofs’ on the last day came as a surprise too.

7. Were the Rivers you encountered such as the Kouga, Baviaans and Groot quite easy to cross?

All the rivers were fine as there had not been much rain but for the Palmiet; it was rushing when we crossed it twice on the last day (day 8) and tested us as a result. Evidence of this will be in Damien Schumann’s documentary about our ‘Flow of Life’ Eden to Addo run no doubt.

8. I am sure its hard to answer as the beauty of the area you ran through is so varied, from desert to forest, but which sections did you find were the most beautiful?

Top of the Kouga Mountains on day 4 was indescribably beautiful and we managed to capture some of the majesty with an extra 6kms in the evening light; Breathtaking.

9. Were the five different biomes you ran through, Fynbos, Forest, Succulent and Nama Karoo and Thicket quite distinct to you?

Completely distinct and sometimes strikingly so. The contrast between the Springbokvlakte and the Baviaans was especially clear.  Mostly because of the water (or lack of it).

10. Did you see the buffalo or the rhino or any signs of them?  What wild life did you notice?

We smelled the buffalo when we left the Baviaans on day 3 and shortly after that we saw Rhino droppings on the climb out of Geelhoutbos (in the Baviaans) but we weren’t lucky enough to see either of these iconic animals. We did see two black eagles (fighting with crows), tortoises (living and dead ( stuck in fences)), lots of steenbokke,  grey rhebok,  kudu, giraffe (on day 1 close to Addo), hares, Damien saw a honey badger (on day 7 above Soetkraal) and we both had an incredibly close encounter with an adult Cape Cobra above Geelhoutbos.

11. You were running an average of 45km a day on rough terrain with a total of 10,500m elevation . What nourishment did you carry?

We carried raw cashew nuts, dates, ethically sourced kudu droëwors, far bars (race food), GUs, fresh fruit at times and our saving grace: Drip Drop oral rehydration solution sachets.

12. Did you have any injuries?

Yes I had shin splints on day 5 and some extra special ITB issues on day 6,7&8. Damien had some light pain in his left foot once.

13. What was your hardest day?

Day 5 and the shin splints; a seemingly endless gravel road that I couldn’t run. Damien was gracious and kind enough to keep me company despite my attempts to convince him otherwise.

14.  On which day did you find you were in the most remote, wild place.?

If by wild you mean raw, unbridled natural beauty then I would say the landscape between Rooihoek (in the Baviaans) and Kouenek (on the edge of the Baviaans). Being high up in the mountains with the immeasurable scale of Southern Africa stretching out before us without a soul in sight and the silence of that wild place; it’s very difficult to describe.

15. What did you think about while running?

I spent a lot of time keeping doubt at bay, focusing on our surroundings, positive thoughts, thoughts of family and my kids, ongoing conversations with Damien, the effects human activity have on the landscape, and the many reasons that answer the great ‘why?’/‘why am I doing this?’ questions when the pain set in.

16. How long did it take for you to recover after the run?

 I went for my first light run (5kms) a week after finishing and felt great despite a few cracks in the heals. So I’d say about a week and a half.

17. How did the run change your philosophy and views on life ?

I realised that I am/we are capable of far more than I/we realise. The effort required may be great but it is definitely not too late to make a difference for our one and only planet.  I emerged from the doldrums of endurance with hope and a new understanding of perseverance. The run initiated a shift that I would like to believe is happening on a global and a personal scale simultaneously and also partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.