Cleo Albertus finishes first female in the latest K-Way SkyRun 38km race route

Author: Cleo Albertus | 22 November 2018

My preparation for K-Way SkyRun was a bit of a whirlwind adventure if I am honest. Six months prior to the event I had broken my Fibula and thought my running season was over. About Two months into my rehab I was asked to participate in the K-Way SkyRun and my first thought was no, I am not a night runner and I don’t like the dark. However, knowing the person I am I do love a challenge and being taken out of my comfort zone, so eventually, I agreed.

At 3am on Saturday morning we were woken up as the 100km and 65km Athletes got ready for their big race. I remember lying in my tent smiling and listening to the music, with thirty seconds till the gun went off I opened my tent and saw the red flares were lit and all the runners making their way out on the course. I remember saying to myself, Cleo you are exactly where you need to be.

With the excitement running through my veins I got up for a quick coffee and a chat with the K-Way Team before heading back to my tent for a nap. After a snooze it was 7am and the sun was shining it was breakfast time - my favorite part of the day. I whipped out my oats and future life and two rusks. With 7hrs 30mins still to go before my race and wide-awake, I knew I needed to strategically conserve my energy as it was a scorcher of a day.

Time felt like it was standing still and the race would never come. In so many ways I was learning patience, learning to sit with my anxious feelings and above all learning to embrace the process.  Finally, at 3pm we were briefed and told at 4:30pm we would be starting. I got myself ready took an ice-cold shower to help cool my body down and mentally prepare for the adventure I would be embarking on. Within seconds the gun went off and I went. All I could think about was getting to Bridal Pass before sunset and kept telling myself to take it easy it was just the start. Once I reached Bridal Pass I paused to take in the beauty around me and realized, man, what an incredible view. The sky was burning with the color red which ignited my fire and passion for the trails even more.

It got dark very quickly and I knew the game had changed. I felt I was at the mercy of nature. Running along the path, I did not see a rock in front of me and fell solidly on the ground, ouch!!!! I got up laughed at myself and said walk it off Cleo. It was then I realized I needed to pull myself towards myself and focus.

For the next few kilometres, it was the darkness and me. There were moments when my mind was playing tricks on me and I thought I was being followed. However, nothing can compare to the stillness and peace that nature brings. Despite my fears, I knew I was safe and that I was going to be okay. Even if a cow or two frightened me - those yellow eyes are real.

I remember going through the checkpoint just before the amazing hut that contained soup, water and friendly faces. I could not wait to get some wholesome nutrition into my system for the last push. I just kept telling myself one foot in front of the other, you have got this…breathe. Once I left the hut I met three friendly faces doing the 100km that advised if I stuck to the fence, I would be okay and find my way home. Finally, I reached the climb leading to Halstone. I knew I had met my match, and began to climb whilst praying for strength and a sense of humour. I cannot explain the joy I felt when I reached the last checkpoint, knowing the end was near.

After the craziest decent of my life, thinking I was either going to fall off the mountain or break a leg as I found myself on my bum or rolling down the mountain. Whilst descending, Psalms 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” replayed over and over in my head. Once I hit the bottom I knew I was almost home and kept telling myself every second, keep moving Cleo. As I got to the end, I could see the finish. I could see the lights but for some reason, I could not get to them. I was in a field and it felt like I was running in circles, screaming someone help me. I eventually saw the river. Not knowing how deep it was, I launched across and climbed up an embankment, splashed into another river and up the embankment grabbing plants to get me out. Eventually, I was back on land, one more fence to climb and onto the gravel road home.

After crossing that finish line and being warmly congratulated by so many people, I felt so much relief and happiness. I remember being asked how was that? With a smile on my face, I said: “it was brutal, but I loved it and I am coming back.”

Thank you to Jesus, my running is a gift from Him and the only reason I am able to do what I can do. Throughout the race, I felt His hand, His strength and His direction on me. All Honor and Glory To Jesus.

To my parents, Gregory and Rene Albertus, I cannot thank you enough for always being my number one supporters and believing in me. You have given me a life I am eternally grateful for and your love for me, constant motivation and guidance has made me the woman I am today and the athlete I am growing into. I love you guys, thank you for always believing in me.

To my coaches: thank you for putting up with my running surprises, teaching me discipline and patience, none of this could have been achieved without you. I’m so grateful. To Trevor Lagerwey, thank you for always pushing me and helping me realize I am stronger than I think, I could not have asked for a better mentor and coach.

Pure Adventures, congratulations on the success of an amazing event. Till Next year!

Lastly, to the Team K-Way ladies and legendary teammate of mine, Wesley Sweetnam, you guys were the best. Honestly, there was so much love and support, I couldn’t be more grateful. I felt extremely blessed and happy to see your faces especially in the end, and to my sponsors, K-Way, thank you for looking after me. Proudly K-Way!