Robert Rorich – The Art of Running

An unabating love for running, matched by a thirst for life: this is rising trail star and artist Rob Rorich.


Words: RYAN SCOTT. Photos: MIKE FINCH |

Rob Rorich is an enigma on the South African trail-running landscape. While his exploits are legendary – and include the fastest time by a South African on the Otter Trail on his way to an eighth-place at the 2018 international Golden Trail Series Grand Finale – Rorich, who is 25, barely looks the part – often wearing old tie-dyed T-shirts, scraggly pants and mismatched socks to the start line. But perhaps this outdoor enthusiast and artist’s unique view on living (and running) mindfully is the reason for his success…

How would you describe your interaction with the world of art and sculpture?

When I’m sculpting, I directly feel powerful creative energy flowing through me. This is a brilliant teacher of the energy flow always accessible to us – so making art is an integral part of my life.

Is there a crossover between your running and your work?

Yes. Energy, openness, connectedness, love, passion, conscious presence.

Your life seems uncomplicated and free spirited. Is there a way of explaining the manner in which you choose to live?

A childhood filled with love and few restrictions can lead us to feel free, to know our true freedom and limitless potential – that we are completely held and loved. Thanks mom and dad!

How would you describe your relationship with running?

Deep. Expanding. Ecstatic.

What is the best way for you to express yourself with running?

I guess… giving the mountain everything I have, in the form of moving physically; and being open to Mother Nature’s teachings and connection.

Has running fast always come naturally to you?

Yes.

What does success in races mean to you? And what aspirations or goals do you have in this regard?

Growing up, I only played board games to win… I don’t see things the same anymore, though. We have the capacity to open our own bodies up, and explore our fantastic potential; and while we all do this together, we expand as one.

What do you find most challenging in life?

Whole-hearted presence in every moment is a challenge.

Where does your artistic inspiration come from? And how do you choose what sculptures to create?

Growing up in Mpumalanga, very near the Kruger National Park and the bushveld, brought hundreds of in-depth encounters and experiences with wildlife. Something inside me is deeply stirred by the motion of bodies. I do my nut looking at pictures of ballerinas, or watching a lion walk.

Your sculptures have a distinctive South African flavour, even portraying local stories and scenes, or characters from the past – like Jock of the Bushveld. Do you feel patriotic, and proud of your environment?

I love where I live. If everyone could love where they lived – and then experience this shared love – we would realise our oneness so directly and immediately, we wouldn’t understand the concept of patriotism.

Is there an overriding message in your artwork?

I’d like people to feel joy when they look at the works, in whatever way it comes to them. I would also like to honour the animals depicted.

Is your running synergistic with any other parts of your life?

Access to ecstatic states of being comes through running; this totally affects my entire life. A run helps me drop into a slightly deeper realisation of our true nature, and the divine within. For example, I certainly wouldn’t have a degree now if I hadn’t gone running to ‘clear my mind’ all the time back then.

Where are some of your favourite places to run?

Mountains. I love running over rocks – the energy transfer feels so immediate, but completely solid and peaceful.

What races have you triumphed in before?

I felt overwhelmed with ‘triumph’ at the Red Bull Lion Heart race a few years ago – egoic triumph, for sure. The finish-line photos of the 2018 Cape Town Cycle Tour show my best friends and me coming in about 10 minutes short of the cut-off, looking like we all just simultaneously won the Tour de France. That was epic.

What’s the toughest race you’ve run? And the most fun? And your most proud running accolade?

The first time running Otter was pretty tough. One’s first hours in the pain cave can hurt and be confusing at the same time. Most fun? Probably the Red Bull Lion Heart. And proudest… Otter again. It was pretty cool running the Salomon Golden Series finale at Otter in 2018, with all the fastest trail homies from all over the world.

Do you do any other physical activities that you feel feed your running success?

Cycling is good, swimming too. Strength sessions with Magic Mike Watson.

What distances do you feel you are best suited to, and what does the racing future hold for 2021 and beyond? (The year 2021, not races beyond 2021km!)

Haha! You banana. I’m all in for cycling races beyond 2021km. Running? I think maybe between 20 and 40km… not sure. The future is held in the infinite – we don’t have a clue, no matter what our minds think.

Running and physical activity have changed, with the huge disruption we’ve had in 2020. How do you feel the future of running will unfold?

Participation in outdoor sports seems to be at such a high after the lockdown times. Hopefully, more people will have access to the beauty of the mountains and nature in future. In South Africa, living in such a phenomenally vast and naturally diverse land, I see more and more of our population slowly gaining some kind of access to this beauty.

Is there a reason for your (mostly) unmatched socks?

Ha! When I started doing my own laundry, I stopped pairing socks.

Who wins the fight… snake or meerkat?
There is no winner – they are One.

What’s your favourite piece of running gear?
The gear I don’t have on. Less is better.

Uphills or downhills?
Both! Ah, love them all.

Favourite post-race drink?
Water, always. Jack Black beer
for the weekends.

Who would you most like to
run with?
I sometimes imagine running
with a young version of my dad
– as if we’re the same age.

Shave your head, or grow a beard?
Shaved head equals liberation – and sunburn. Worth it every time, though.

Race medal, or a tree to plant?
The trees will grow; let’s plant them now. They will grow when we’re gone anyway, though.

Snooze button, or up-and-at-‘em?
Sit up, sit still, breathe.

Face mask, or Buff?
Home-made face mask.

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