The answer is up in the air. Quite literally! Mexico City is located 2 2240 metres above sea level where the high altitude and thin air can wreak havoc on the human body.

Thanks to the organizers of the Columbia Thin Air Challenge (2 March) in Dullstroom, trail runners and mountain bikers can now experience for themselves what it is like to compete at such a high altitude. “It does not matter whether you cycle or run, competitively or for fun, the challenge is to see whether you have the lungs,” is how the event is advertised.

Dullstroom (2100m above sea level) is listed in the ‘Notes from Higher Grounds: An Altitude Training Guide for Athletes’ as ‘One of the top 15 high altitude training venues for international athletes’.

Scientists have determined that at high altitudes of 2 000 meters plus, we inhale approximately three quarters of the amount of oxygen molecules that we would at sea level.

According to Bennie Roux, an up-and-coming trail runner from Centurion, running at such a high altitude is the ultimate challenge for any athlete. “I once ran at Sani Pass which is 2600 metres above sea level. I got quite dizzy while running and battled to breathe properly. The best way to describe my experience is to compare it to driving a car. You push the pedal flat down, but the car does not respond. It feels as if it is not firing on all its cylinders.”

But the Columbia Thin Air Challenge is certainly not just about survival.

“Imagine the early morning sunrise breaking the mist blanketing the dams and streams. Where the absolute silence is only broken with the occasional flick of a gear or tearing of tread on dirt,” is according to the organizers what the athletes will experience while cycling or running.

The routes will feature natural and hand-built single-track sections with bridges and streams, as well as long climbs and furious descends. “Conquer the ‘Everest’ mountain and, once you're on top, you'll be rewarded with long downhills. The only thing that might slow you down is the superb views and wildlife,” is a promise being made.


Venue: Dunkeld Country Estate, Dullstroom, Mpumalanga

Friday 01/03: 17h00 - 21h00 Registration, Dunkeld Estate, Dullstroom, Mpumalanga

Saturday 02/03: 05h30 - 08h00 Registration, Dunkeld Estate, Dullstroom, Mpumalanga

Saturday 02/03: 07h30 - 75km BIKE "A". Batches at 3min intervals

Saturday 02/03: 07h40 - 40km BIKE "A". Batches at 3min intervals

Saturday 02/03: 07h50 - 20km BIKE "A". Batches at 3min intervals

Saturday 02/03: 08h00 - 10km RUN

Saturday 02/03: 08h10 - 05km RUN

Terrain: Mountainous | Forestry | Duel Track | Single track

Elevation: 2081m

Features: Dams | River crossings | Long ascents & descents

Accommodation Special:

Dunkeld Country Estate’s Reservation desk is offering an event accommodation special for the “Columbia Thin Air” on 2 March 2013.