Christiaan Greyling interview

Nicknamed Buiteperd, this dark horse went from supporting his elite athlete wife in trail races, to taking podiums in his own right. Christiaan Greyling's most notable recent victory is the 100km Ultra-trail Cape Town, putting him among South Africa's top ultra trail runners.

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Christiaan Greyling interview photo Brett Nattrass TRAIL magazine t18Christiaan has raced in a team with Landie, stage races, and in local and international ultra distance events, all the while working full-time as an engineer. A dark horse no longer, he is firmly in the limelight.

What came first, Landie or trail running?

Landie and Christiaan Greyling t18First it was adventure racing in 2006, then came Landie in 2008, and then I had to run to keep up with her. I became a runner in 2012 when I decided to focus on trail running in 2012.

But I always loved trails.

My parents started a hiking trail on our farm in Mpumalanga in 1992, one of the first in the area. It was one of my monthly tasks to scout, maintain and mark trails. Building trails, walking, and running were part of my life.

My mom was a Springbok gymnast in 1968, so she has had a good influence on my competitive side.
At school I did a bit of cross-country and track, but did not break any records.

I excelled in road cycling at school level, but the fish pond was too small a challenge.

I fell in love with endurance events after varsity and did about ten 40+ hour adventure races, and completed the 500km Expedition Africa in 2012. For the record, I hate road running!

Christiaan Greyling Complete the sentence t18Farm to city to farm

After growing up in Mpumalanga, I studied Industrial Engineering at University of Pretoria.
It was a no-brainer to move from there to the Cape. The freedom of movement and access to trails, mountains and the ocean has always been idyllic to me, so when Landie and I got the chance, we moved via George to Stellenbosch.

Landie and I have just moved into a farm cottage in Rustenberg, surrounded by trails.

The only other place I can imagine living would be Nelspruit, but the sport needs to develop more in Mpumalanga.

Trails versus careerChristiaan Greyling by Brett Nattrass t18

The more you do, the more you get done.

The good thing about doing both very intense careers is that once I step onto the trails I completely
reset my mind and soul and forget about work stress. When I step into the office I completely forget about any race-related stress.

The challenge is to step out of the office and into the other office.

I am looking into creating a relationship between my sport and my career. There are so many synergies.

A day in the life

I am not a routine person by nature, but it looks more or less like this:

Wake-up between 4:45am and 6am after getting about seven and a half hours of sleep. I will sleep-walk to the coffee machine to serve my lovely wife with a double Americano and rusks. We do Bible study in bed.

Then one of five things happen before work: a run, a massage, catching up on
work, a business meeting, or coffee with a friend.

I will arrive at the office between 8am and 9am depending on whether I am traveling by bicycle or by car (cycle is normally quicker).

I have many plans for lunch time, but I usually (unfortunately) work through it. In Winter I sneak in a run or a track session.

After work, it is rush time to go straight to training. Twice a week I gym with Runstrong, and twice a week I do speed work with Stellenbosch Triathlon Squad.

Christiaan Greyling podium 2014 2015 t18I have mastered the skill of changing clothes in traffic.

After training, Landie will welcome me home with a delicious quinoa salad or healthy chicken curry.

We chat about the day, the future, our dreams, upcoming events, and trips.

We do not have a TV, and by the end of dinner it’s 9pm and bedtime anyway…

I cope better with seven and a half hours of sleep, but often I work until the morning hours to pursue my dreams, scout for trails on Google Earth or get some time to do PR.

We often end up with two or three social events per week as well, which makes it even more of a juggling act.

But I choose a busy life over boredom.

Weekends can be even more overwhelming in the Greyling house, with two long runs or one race, a braai with friends and hopefully some time at home to relax, and reset for the week to follow.

Describe yourself

I have the gift of being extremely calm, and low-stressed, although I choose to have a lot on my plate.

I believe that adventure is a choice, and I try to live my life according to this ideal.

Exclusive: Landie’s romantic memory

Christiaan is a very romantic guy and loves to surprise me.

In 2011, I was working in the US on secondment for PWC and he came to visit me after two months. Before this we had been dating for three years, enjoying the freedom of our youth.

While visiting, he took me away for the weekend to a very romantic little cottage in Colorado. He had the idea to run up the famous Pikes Peak.

As Murphy would have it, my calves were extremely stiff as a result of the barefoot shoe craze (I accidentally ended up doing a very long run in them in the first week). My calves insisted that we were going nowhere up a mountain.

Christiaan had also broken his collarbone three weeks before, so I would have to carry the backpack. He delayed his plans…

That evening, for some reason, after a couple of glasses of red wine, I decided to start the yet unspoken marriage conversation. I suppose it had something to do with the fact that he was visiting for two months, staying in the same apartment (to save costs) and the romantic cottage.

I was quite upset when he said that he had no plans for marriage any time soon, and that he and his friends were planning to travel oversees for some time in the next year or so. I went to bed, not the happiest camper.

The next morning, Christiaan, the plan-maker that he is, decided that we would drive up the snowy road in our hired 4×4 to the top of Pikes Peak. As we reached the top, there was an icy wind and temperatures of negative eight degrees. But that didn’t stop the Saffas from jumping out and playing in the snow. Most of the other people got back in their cars as soon as they got out!

Christiaan set the timer for the camera using the tripod and made me pose for the picture. As the 10 seconds were counting down, he fell on his knees in front me. I thought that he tripped in the snow and shouted: “Get up, get up, you’re not going to be in the photo!”

Landie giving Christiaan his congratulatory hug after he won the 2015 Ultra-trail Cape Town.
Landie giving Christiaan a congratulatory hug after he won the 2015 Ultra-trail Cape Town.

It was then that he pointed out to the shiny diamond in his hand!

It was the biggest surprise of my life. My first reaction was to thump him on his quads because the discussion of the previous night was a very recent, vivid memory. Eventually he asked “And, will you marry me?” And I said “Yes of course!”

He put the ring around my finger, and magically, it was the perfect fit! He hadn’t known my ring size so he took a wild guess. Clearly it was meant to be.

We celebrated this blissful moment in our lives with a dash through a snow-fallen forest trail a little bit further down the mountain where it was slightly warmer…

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