HOKA Clifton Lifestyle featuring Matt Bouch

02 May 2024, 11:00
HOKA Clifton Lifestyle featuring Matt Bouch

When Matt Bouch isn’t blazing through the Drakensberg trails in his Mafate Speed 4’s, he’s rocking a pair of HOKA Clifton Lifestyle’s through the city streets.

Our homie, Matt, recently came second in the Ultra-Trail Drakensberg, which is a remarkable achievement for even the most skilled athletes. We caught up with Matt to find out about his journey to and through the mountains. 

SL: Who are you and where are you from?

MB: My name’s Matt Bouch and I’m from Cape Town. I’m an ultra-trail runner, and I work in the creative industry as a producer and photographer.

SL: How did you get into trail running? Tell us about your journey.

MB: Mountain photography has long been a passion of mine, and I started running to get and stay fit for the hiking that this involved. Back in the early days I ran with the SL Run Crew in JHB – I could barely get a 5km done in under 30mins. I persevered and soon found myself finishing competitively at some local trail runs. I guess this process working toward something seemingly impossible is what gripped me. In 2021 I joined Flat Rock Endurance and started taking things seriously.

SL: Would you say this is something you’ve always been interested in or passionate about?

MB: Not at all. I grew up in Cape Town – surrounded by nature - but had zero interest in the mountains. It’s such a shame. It wasn’t until I moved to Johannesburg after my studies that I realized something was missing. It was a hiking trip to the Drakensberg that captivated me and inspired me to get outside more.

SL: You’re an incredible filmmaker and photographer… nature seems to be a big focus in your work, did this influence your interest in trail running?

MB: Thank you! Being outside, particularly in the mountains, is the motivation behind most of the things I do. Modern life is ultra-connected, frantic, and filled with noise. Nature is the opposite. The further off the grid you get, the simpler life becomes.

SL: You just ranked second in the Ultra-Trail Drakensberg which is an incredible feat- how was the training and build-up to this for you?

MB: I had a consistent build up to UTD, which allowed me to start the race feeling confident. A key block included a training camp in the Cederberg, where I ran 130km over 3 days. This felt more like a holiday thatn training because the landscape out there are just so epic. I am lucky to work with a great team, who help me to properly prep: Coach, Erin van Eyssen; Strength & Conditioning, Tish Jones; Nutrition, Andy Brodziak. And of course my training partners and fellow athletes add huge value to every session: Skye Clarke, Justin Broadley, Mike Obery, Raydon Barrett – in fact the whole Flat Rock crew.

SL: For those of us who know nothing about the sport, tell us a bit about how you plan a 160km run in only 21hours? How does sleeping, eating etc. work?

MB: I could write an entire article on this, but the key point is to practice everything you intend to do on race day during training. This includes your nutrition plan, gear, pacing and mental strategies. The best advice I can give within the race itself is to keep moving, keep eating and keep drinking. Take a variety of snacks so that when you stop enjoying one you can pivot to another. Be fast and efficient at aid stations – a lot of time is wasted here. And be kind to yourself. At some point you WILL hit a low point. When that happens, remember the mantra: keep moving, keep eating and keep drinking.

SL: When you’re doing the actual run, what is the mental journey like?

MB: It’s a bit of a rollercoaster and can vary widely between races. One thing you can always be sure of is that there will be highs and lows. The trick is soak up the good moments, and don’t dwell on the low points. My brain wanders widely during an ultra. At times I let it drift, other times I bring it back to the present – focusing on how I feel in that moment. Practicing these techniques in training is crucial.

SL: Is there any songs you listen to, food you eat or ritual you do to keep you hyped before or during a race?

MB: Before a race I actually try to avoid any hype – I want to be as calm as possible. The same during the race. I occasionally listen to an audio book (usually stories or biographies about mountaineering), but generally I try to stay present and listen to what’s going on around me. I rely heavily on Precision Gels to fuel me, but am also a big fan of Snickers bars and Speckled Eggs.

SL: What do you feel is special about trail running compared to road-running or other endurance sports?

MB: We get to run through the mountains, covering huge tracts of pristine landscape. There’s no road race on earth that compares to this in my opinion. That said, Adventure Racing must come pretty close.

SL: What are unexpected challenges you had during this process?

MB: It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but the final 8km on a long flat gravel road was a real slog. Oh, and the cows blocking the trail right at the finish. That was a bit of a curveball.

SL: Name 3 of your essentials for the Ultra-Trail Drakensberg?

MB: HOKA Mafate Speed 4’s, Squirrels Nut Butter, Colin and Natasha van Den Bergh – my crew.

SL: Now that you’ve accomplished something of this caliber, do you have an appetite to compete in international competitions or do this professionally?

MB: Competing internationally is, and always has been, part of the plan. I will be racing the Ultra Trail Monta Rosa in Switzerland in August, and potentially Mauritius by UTMB in June. With the sponsorship support I get, I’d consider myself semi-pro. Going fulltime is something I’d love to experience but am not sure how feasible it is within the South African industry. I currently have a great career, and a decent work-training balance.

SL: What have you taken away from the experience?

MB: A renewed realisation that the Drakensberg is my favourite place to run. I have also taken some great memories with Adie and Grobler, who I ran many, many kilometers of this race with.

SL: One piece of advice for anyone who wants to start trail running.

MB: Start, and stick with it. Keep things simple. In the beginning, ignore everything anyone else is doing, and focus on what excites you. There’s plenty time for fancy training plans, nifty gadgets, and other frills later on.

SL: How did you celebrate after the race?

MB: By having a good old fashioned nap!

HOKA Clifton Lifestyle

The HOKA Clifton L Suede's are available now, in-store & online for R3499 in UK6-UK11

HOKA Clifton L Suede photos by Ramon Mellett