This Salomon athlete won the bruisingly hard Mnweni Marathon in KZN in 2013, and the mixed team at ProNutro AfricanX 2014 with Megan Mackenzie. In July, Andrew and his brother Steven finished in joint second and third behind AJ Calitz at the Fish River Canyon Ultra 100km. His improving ability has put Andrew high on the official Salomon Skyrun list of athletes with top placing potential. From running track at school, and only two years of running trail, Andrew is keen to represent South African at international events in future.
What got you into trail running?
My brother Steven. I used to run road quite a bit but never really enjoyed it. He talked me into doing Mnweni trail run. When I finished the race I had the biggest smile ever and my wife Louise said to me “I have never seen you this happy after a run, I think you should rather stick to trail.” So I did.
What other sports have you done in the past?
Cycling and triathlon for a few years and really enjoyed it. I still cycle as part of my training but no races.
How does your career in landscaping fit into your passion for trail running?
I definitely have a passion for the outdoors. I absolutely love being outside. I don’t think I could have an office job. If I spend more than a few minutes in the office I start to get grumpy. I work for Palm Lakes Estate on the KZN North Coast. I’m the landscaping manager, and my brother works on the same estate, landscaping for the developers. Other than running professionally, we have the best jobs in the world.
I thought I was invincible and all I needed to do to be strong was to run, until I found myself sidelined with injuries for a few weeks. All the research I did pointed to one solution: strength training. I now do two days of strength work a week and it has made a big difference.
Events on the radar
My last race for 2014 is Salomon Skyrun. I am really looking forward to it. Next year I would like to do Fish River Canyon Ultra again. It’s an amazing race.
Number one running goal
I would like to represent SA in an international race. I think it would be an incredible feeling standing on the start line knowing you’re representing your country.
What’s on your bucket list?
- Race overseas
- Otter African Trail Run
- Hardrock 100
- Run the Drakensberg Grand Traverse
Does your wife’s love for trail running make racing easier?
It makes it a lot easier. She is really supportive, like when she drove with Steven and me to Fish River in Namibia. She’s always keen to kick me out of bed early in the morning to go running or even join me. I don’t think it is easy being married to a competitive trail runner but she somehow stays positive and supports me even when I know it’s not easy. It is fantastic to have a partner who also has a love for the outdoors.
Favourite race distance?
I really enjoy anything longer than 80km. I think the longer the race, the more planning it takes. You have to get your race strategy right, plan your eating and make sure you know the route so you don’t go out too hard. I enjoy the mental aspect most.You have to get your race strategy right, plan your eating properly and make sure you know the route so you don’t go out too hard. I enjoy the mental aspect most.
Best trail race
Tough one to answer! There are so many good memories. Mnweni 2013 is one of my favourites. The weather conditions were crazy as we climbed Mnweni Pass and got worse. When we got to the top we were in a blizzard. But I love racing in bad weather conditions. It was my first win in a trail run and I got to share the win with my brother. I also really enjoyed racing AfricanX with Megan Mackenzie. She’s a really positive person. Even when I was having a bad day, she managed to smile and laugh and just seemed to be happy that she was out on the trails. I enjoy stage races and racing in a team. You get to share the experience with someone.
In 2013 my friend James Robey and I thought we should go and do the first section of Skyrun a few weeks before the race. When we left in the morning, my brother asked if we had headlamps. James and I replied “We will be finished long before it gets dark.” Well, we weren’t. James picked up a knee injury, the run took us 14 hours and the last section was in the dark. We had no idea where we were, as the GPS had died three hours back. We got to the point where James just wanted to stop and sleep. Luckily my brother found one of the local farmers and came out to find us or we might still be in the mountains. Being stuck in a situation like that makes you realise how dangerous it can get in the mountains. You should always plan appropriately.
Ryan Sandes. He has done so much for trail running. Trail running has so many role models. Every week I meet someone new that I look up to. I have yet to meet a trail runner that is not an awesome person. For instance, Thabang Madiba who in his spare time trains to be the SA champ – and still manages to find the time to help children with prosthetic limbs.
What will your trail running life look like when you’re 60?
I hope as good as some of the older runners on the scene at the moment. I have been blown away by some athletes in their fifties and sixties. I’ve been fortunate to run with Graeme Macallum. To him age is not an issue. He is strong and is racing for podiums in every race. He does not just race in his age category.
How competitive are you and Steven?
We are very competitive. We usually start longer races together and help each other out. But by the end of the race it is generally a race between us. We try not to be too competitive as this filters through into our everyday life. Sometimes the smallest things become a competition, from designing gardens to racing up a flight of stairs in a shopping centre. When we were running track at school we use to split up our races so we would never be racing each other.
How many races did you do together in 2014 and who won most?
Haha, trying to spark some rivalry? Steven was injured mid-season last year so the results don’t really do him justice.
How does his presence add to your trail running experience?
It is brilliant having someone that is as competitive as you to train with, we never let each other miss a training session. Racing together is a big advantage. We go through bad sections at different times and having someone to tell you to eat and to suck it up when you hit those horrible spots, is a massive help.
Comments from Megan Mackenzie, Andrew’s friend, teammate and AfricanX partner:
“Andrew Erasmus is one of the most humble people I know. As you get to know him you’ll discover so many achievements and accomplishments (not just in running). This is a really important quality for a competitive athlete. It shows that he does what he does for the absolute love of it. He’s the most fun person to race, run and adventure mountains with. There is never a dull moment and he always has a grin on his face. I remember the last time we went training in the Drakensberg together – he got back from a 4 hour run with a massive smile and said to the rest of the group “that was fun, who’s up for a hike?” He’s a calm and incredibly supportive. I know he believes in me one hundred percent even when I don’t believe in myself… I couldn’t ask for more in a friend and racing partner!”
This interview was published in TRAIL 13.