Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun 2016 on RUNULTRA

Richtersveld

“South African trail running pioneer Linda Doke and 2015 Marathon des Sables female champion, Elisabet Barnes placed 2nd and 3rd respectively in the ladies’ race. Both ladies summing up their experiences with a similar thought process, “What an incredible privilege it was to spend 5 days running through this magnificent part of the world on the Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun®. Sometimes it takes experiencing places like this to remind us how just how fragile and yet so powerful nature is, and how unbelievably insignificant we are in the bigger scheme of things.” – Linda Doke –

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Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun 2016 – Stage Four

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Today, the 2016 Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun really did go wild with an early morning crossing of the Orange River and two days in Namibia.

It really was an incredible day!

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Leaving the magnificent De Hoop Camp on the banks of the Orange River, runners were transported by a small rubber dingy on groups of 4-6 with a series of staggered starts on the Namibian side.

Race images will be available on iancorless.photoshelter.com

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From here, the runners had a short run down stream for a few kilometres before reaching a small section of ‘main’ jeep track that runs past Oom Kobus Jansen’s old farm.

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A runnable climb up Jansen’s Aloof follows to the base of Zebra pass, so named for the clear trail created by the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra – a species of zebra especially adapted to arid and desert environments.

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What followed will be one of the most memorable sections of the day and maybe of the race for some, following a wild game trail rollercoaster down Zebra Kloof to meet with the enormous Fish River Canyon.

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Once in the canyon, it’s a steady and hard fought battle up the Fish River Canyon to the Wilderness Hot Springs Camp to enjoy a welcome rest in natural hot springs.

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Today, Elisabet Barnes found her legs and in her own words said, “I had a great day, I loved it!” Starting in the 2nd to last group, Elisabet caught all the runners before her and held off the top 3 runners of Tobias Mews, Jo Williams and David Kaswari all the way to the line but a slight navigation mishap in the final km allowed David Kaswari to pass her and with a sprint he took the stage victory – Elisabet finished 2nd.

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Jo Williams and Tobias Mews finished just behind Elisabet and Tobias commented, “It was a tough day today, we made a few navigational errors and the terrain dictated that we needed to walk certain sections. The course and the route though was just amazing. It was a highlight of the week, it combined the best of the Richtersveld and Fish River Canyon was just amazing… I was sad to finish but I was also glad it was no longer; it was a tough day!”

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Ultimately, it was a tough day and a tough day for all. The runners ran into the night and head-torches glowed in the pitch black night as the final runners ran into camp, 12+hours after starting.

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Highlights of the day were discussed around camp fires under African skies with plates of hot stew – talk of Zebra, Ostrictch, Kudu and incredible sights. The Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun really did come to life today and as Owen Middleton (race director) said at the pre-race briefing, the opportunity to run and spend time in this wilderness is a complete privilege. It’s not our right to be here but an immense and memorable opportunity. It’s one the runners will not forget!

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Overall, although not yet confirmed, the top 3 ladies and top 3 men positions will not have changed.

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Tomorrow is the final day and at 36km, it will be a welcome shorter day but it has 3 climbs and a 300m technical descent to the finish at AI-AIS HOT SPRINGS RESORT.

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Ranking after stage 4 (tbc)

  1. Jo Williams
  2. Tobias Mews
  3. Dawid Kaswarie
  4. Daniel Meyes 
  5. Stephen Cunliffe
  6. Linda Doke 
  7. Elisabet Barnes

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Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun 2016 – Stage Three

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Golden light illuminated the ‘Springbok Flats’ and moody blue clouds provided a stunning contrast to the opening miles of day 3 of the 2016 Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun.

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It was a stunning start to the day. As the runners progressed across the flats, they were spotlit as they worked their way to one of the key highlights not only of the day but the whole Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun – the Tattasberg Boulders.

Race images are available at iancorless.photoshelter.com

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Huge balls of rock, some the size of houses, leave an impression on the mind and eyes. Following a line of markers (the only section of the race to be marked for safety reasons) the runners weaved a route up, over and around the huge marbles of stone and at the top they then worked their way down to the valley and a downhill run to the Orange River. Across the water, Namibia and stage 4 of the race.©iancorless.com_Richtersveld2016_Day3-4286

But first, 10km’s of sandy trails would lead in to camp and the stunning setting on the banks of the river.

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As per day 2, the race had several start times, the first starting 1hour earlier than day 2 – 0700, 0730, 0800 and 0830.

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David Kaswarie, Tobias Mews and Jo Williams dictated the earlier pace to cp1 and then David pulled away and opened up a gap. At one point he had gained 15 minutes but after the Tattasberg boulders, the flat running allowed Tobias and Jo to close the gap to 10 minutes at the Orange River and below 5 minutes at the finish line. David finished in 4:08 and Tobias and Jo 4:10. David must really be kicking himself with his error on day 1, he would now be leading the race…

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Elisabet Barnes found her legs today and after the run she said, “I had a great day today, I was worried about the boulders but I loved the section and once we got into the final 15km i could run, I love to run and it was great to open up my stride and gain some time!”

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Linda Doke by contrast had a less successful day, “There was too much running today, I prefer the more technical stuff.” Linda lost time to Elisabet Barnes but her 2nd place is still secure.

In the men’s race, Tobias Mews still holds a convincing lead as does Jo Williams in the ladies race.

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Tomorrow, the runners go ‘transfrontier’ and cross into Namibia and the Fish River Canyon.

Stage Results day three:

David Kaswarie 4:08:11

Tobias Mews and Jo Williams 4:10:04

Daniel Meyes 4:42:48

Elisabet Barnes 4:46:41

John Cuff 4:53:09

Sue Peterkin 5:11:52

Linda Doke 5:12:37

Ryno Bakkes 5:18:34

Christiaan Vorster 5:21:54

Ranking after stage 3

  1. Jo Williams 12:44:00
  2. Tobias Mews 13:03:02
  3. Dawid Kaswarie 13:29:29
  4. Daniel Meyes 1`4:46:48
  5. Stephen Cunliffe 14:52:07
  6. Linda Doke 14:54:10
  7. Elisabet Barnes 15:43:38

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Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun 2016 – Stage One

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The silence was deafening. The darkness was black, oh so black and the stars glowed in abundance in the sky. It was the first morning of the 2016 Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun and anticipation was high.

There was a high level of anticipation, nerves and worry – particularly in regard to the route and the provided GPX files that had been uploaded to GPS units, or not, as was the case in some scenarios.

Buttons were being pressed, beeps could be heard and chins were being rubbed as rapid navigation 101 was undertaken just 30-minutes before the 0800 start.

Suddenly they were off and what followed was a stunning warm and sunny day in the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.

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At the first control point, backed by an amphitheater of rock, it was soon apparent that despite a gps route, many runners were using navigation knowledge to cover ground as quickly as possible. The rule of the race confirms that between controls, the gpx route is a guide and that providing access to the control is from the correct direction, then a free route choice was allowed.

Tobias Mews and Jo Williams were the first to arrive at the first control but not via the direction the gps route indicated – was this a tactactical navigation move to gain time?

Race images are available at iancorless.photoshelter.com

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It looked like it as Linda Doke and Stephen Cunliffe arrived via the same route option. Slowly but surely runners arrived but a lack of Elisabet Barnes raised a few alarm bells. Elisabet arrived approximately 30-minutes later have followed the gps route, mark-by-mark. The 2015 Marathon des Sables champion was now on the back foot with a tough chase on her hands.

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At control 2, Linda Doke and Stephen Cunliffe arrived and then a string of runners

and then Tobias Mews and Jo Williams – it was a little confusing, how had so many other runners gained so much time and what had been the leading duo?

Tobias Mews explained post race, “We made a navigational error and had to backtrack obviously loosing time and allowing Linda and Stephen to take the lead, however, we were surprised to then find other runners infront of us when we chased – we later found out that these runners had missed control one!”

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The savvy navigational shortcut early in the race had unfortunately caused a problem for 5 competitors and due to missing the control, a 1-hour time penalty was applied.

What followed was a strong effort by Tobias and Jo, they reeled in the other runners, pursued Linda and Stephen and then pushed on. It was a brave move so early in a five stage race however it payed off.

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Jo Williams and Dawid Kaswarie finally made a break from Tobias and Stephen and they crossed the line joint first in 4:27:43, only for Dawid Kaswarie to loose all his hard work with a time penalty. Stephen Cunliffe and Tobias Mews ran together to finish joint 2nd in 4:46:49 and Linda Doke finished 3rd in 5:00:42.

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Way back in the race, ladies pre-race favourite was having a bad day – she had taken a tumble and was running with open wounds to her left knee and unfortunately another minor navigation error resulted in some additional lost time. Something was right though, Elisabet fell a further four times and once back in camp she relayed her story, “I saw Tobias and others taken an alternative route and I decided to follow the gps route as I was under the impression that was the correct thing to do. I lost time and sometimes you just have to accept that these things happen. However, I was feeling light-headed, lacking focus and after falling once, I fell a further three times. I feel a little banged up – it was a tough day!”

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Elisabet was not the only runner to make errors with navigation, in nearly all cases it was the error of the runner to solely rely on the gps as a form of navigation and not use the provided map as a reference and counter reference. For some it was a tough lesson.

Day 1 at any multi-stage race can be a tough one and here in the Richtersveld, the 2016 Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun has provided a greater test than some expected.

Despite difficulties, the unanimous decision about the route and the scenery has been glowing – “This is like running in heaven,” said

Results day one:

  1. Jo Williams 4:27:43
  2. Linda Doke 5:00:42
  3. Elisabet Barnes 5:57:54
  1. Stephen Cunliffe and Tobias Mews 4:46:49
  2. David Kaswari 5:27:43
  3. Daniel Meyes 5:34:08

IMAGES to follow when we can get connection