Training for the RETTO in CPT

by John Brimble, 3 times OTTER Finisher

Living in Cape Town, your problem for training is one of so many choice.

But what wonderful choices.

So grab your GU, put some GU electrolytes in your hydration system and get out on the trails.

Running the Otter, or this year’s RETTO running, is without doubt the most technical you can get. No soft farm roads, broad trails on smooth terrain, fields or wide grassy slopes. It is narrow, steep inclines and declines, stoney, loose under foot, with low, unexpected branches at eye level. Fabulous fun.

All the following runs require no entrance fee except perhaps some parking charge.

  1. NEWLANDS FOREST STATION – up to Plum Pudding beacon, straight up the rough track to the Block House road. Back along the contour path to Cecilia forest. Back to the top gate at Kirstenbosch or lower roads to your start. This section is tight, rocky, steep, greasy if wet and under trees. Except lacking numerous  hills this is the most comparable technical training you will get for the Otter.
  2. NEWLANDS FOREST STATION – same start except up to the Block House.  Behind the building is a contour path (don’t take the ascent path to the top of Devils Peak via the saddle). Contour around on excellent tight single track to Platteklip Gorge. Drop down to Tafelberg Rd back east and at first gravel road about 300m along, drop down to take fire break roads back to the style above Rhodes Memorial. Either continue to contour as in 1 to Newlands Ravine and then down to your car, or take the shorter lower path down past Rhodes Mem to Newlands Forest station.

The contour from the block house to Platteklip is excellent practice for the Otter top section between Andre Hut and the point where you exit the trail down to the beach.


3  HILLS , THEY NEVER GET EASIER – ONLY FASTER   – From Constantia Nek up to Vlakkenberg -cross over to pick up the tar road to the mast at Constantiaberg. After 10 mins -a signed path off to your right – take this and drop in a long rocky traverse to above Hout Bay. Take contour path that takes you to Blackburn Ravine. A brutal, technical, in places wet , long climb up to the Broad Walk on top. Follow the path round to the Tokai side keeping your height. A sharp drop to the forest roads in Tokai Forest station. Back along the highest roads to Vlakkenberg and pick up where you came from and return. You cannot get a better example of similar hills and descents than this, for the Otter. A long run.


4   SILVERMINE SOUTH  – Parking R5.  Follow park roads with Steenberg Peak on your left.  Either take the long loop keeping left, which will take you around and past Nellie’s pool, or the short loop over the concrete bridge above the waterfall. Contour on till the road becomes a path.  After 10 – 15 mins,  path off to the right takes you down sandy tracks to the Sunbird Centre. A short tar stretch will take you to Ou Kaapse Weg at Silvermine. Cross over and follow the Old Wagon Route in a long steady climb. You can run this hard and really work the legs. You come out near the Silvermine Dam. Take the river walk down to your car. Good water all the way along. This last section is very similar to around Oakhurst Hut on the Otter Trail.


5     SO YOU WANT TO WORK ON HILL TRAINING!  – Ha!  Just the place for you. Park at UCT, run up the road to Rhodes Memorial whilst admiring the views of the Peninsula below. Do a few repeats up the steps while the Bronze Lions look on in detached amusement. Water near the parking.


6     MOUNTAINS AND VIEWS  -Park at Suikerbossie – another car at Constantia Nek. Straight up to Llandudno Corner.  Very steep, very technical. Pay attention as people have fallen here and been killed . Along the top past Grootkop. Have a quick stop to admire the incredible views. At the top of Kasteelspoort, go right to the dams  , round them and back down the forest roads to the Nek.

A variation is a car at Rontree Estateon the Camps Bay side and then descend at Kasteelspoort. This descent is more technical and harder on the legs. But the coffee shops are better .


7     SO YOU WANT TO BE OUT FOR A GOOD 5 HOURS. -This is everything. From Newlands Forest run up to Block House, as before. Along to Platteklip Ravine, but this time up it.  Up all that 750m of steep climbing. At the top of the ravine head towards Maclears Beacon at 1086m. Continue on along what is now Smuts Track to the top of Skeleton Gorge. Contour around past Nursery Ravine to meet up with the road. Continue down at sharp lower corner past the bridge; take the forest paths to drop down Spilhaus Ravine to Cecilia. Back along Kirstenbosch roads to Newlands. This is a long run and excellent for your last big day.  Say two weeks before the event. Keep an eye on the weather.


These are just a few favourite choices. There are so many more.  To these routes around Table Mountain you could still add -Jonkershoek reserve at Stellenbosch, Fernkloof mountains behind Hermanus, and the mountains above Kleinmond. We can be grateful for the privileges of the myriad of choices.