When it comes to trail running in the Drakensberg region, Philip Shezi has been pretty much the undisputed king in recent years, but the 39-year-old is talking down his chances of securing a record fifth successive win at the Euro Steel Run the Rivers event on 28 and 29 January.
Shezi has a trail running CV of major events in and around the Underberg region that is seriously impressive.
He has won the past four editions of the Euro Steel Run the Rivers, including last year and the previous running of the event in 2020, when he finished both events a whopping nineteen minutes clear of his nearest rival.
However, his build-up to this year’s event has not been perfect and the talented athlete has struggled to get himself to the same levels of fitness as in previous years.
“I am not fit this year,” said the four-time champion. “I am a bit unfit this year. My training has not been going well.
“I have not been able to train as much as normal because of my work and have not had as much time to run,” said the tractor driver who is working on an Underberg farm.
“I do not know how I will do this year, but I will be there and I think I can still be competitive. The GPS navigation will not be a problem, so I will just try and see how it goes.”
The organisers of the Euro Steel Run The Rivers trail runs have committed to a fully GPS navigated event in 2023 with no physical route markings, entrenching the event’s commitment to minimizing its impact on the environment.
Shezi has not only been a dominant force in the Euro Steel Run the Rivers events over the past few years. He has also been impressive in other local events, winning the Glencairn trail run four times with two second-place finishes, while also notching up a series of top-ten finishes in the very competitive Ultra-Trail Drakensberg and Sani Stagger 42km events in recent years.
Shezi has become well known in the Underberg area ever since he made a name for himself by completing a hat-trick of victories in the gruelling Sani Stagger in 2009, and he is sure to have plenty of local support as he powers through the beautiful trails that criss-cross the region in the foothills of the Drakensberg at the end of the month.