Nick Clark counts down to Salomon SkyRun

Nick Clark

Nick Clark is one of the most respected 100-mile runners in the world. He is known for being tough and getting the job done! Born in the UK he moved to the US way back and started notching up a list of stunning ultra results that dates back to 2006.

He placed 4th at Western States and won Wasatch 100 in 2010. In 2011, ‘Clarky’ did an impressive double of placing 3rd at Western States and then 3rd at Hardrock 100 just 2-weeks later.

For many though, Nick elevated his profile in 2013 when he went head-to-head with Ian Sharman in the Grand Slam of ultra running. In an epic battle, the two US based Brits traded blows in one of the most exciting moments in our sport. Sharman came out on top but only just… Clark has often joked that after he won the last race, Wasatch he was the Grand Slam record holder in 2013 until Sharman finished. It takes some doing just completing four 100-mile races but to place 6th at Western States, 3rd at Vermont, 2nd at Leadville and then win Wasatch blows my mind!

Clark started 2014 with The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, his first multi-day race… he went on to say it was one of the toughest races he has done. At UTMF he placed 10th and recently he placed 5th at Run Rabbit Run. The only blip this year came at Western States when he toughed out a 47th place… a real bad day at the office!

And now the Salomon SkyRun in South Africa looms. I caught up with Nick to find out about his expectation are for what will be a tough day out in the Drakensberg mountains.

How have the last couple of months been from a racing perspective?

Up and down, I guess. I had a terrible run at Western States this year – I think I was burned out on the race – then came back and had a much better run at the Run Rabbit Run 100 in September, filling me with a good level of confidence for the SkyRun.

How’s training going; have you been training specifically for South Africa?

As noted above, I’m just looking to get into the mountains and to get into remote, steep terrain with some navigational elements thrown in. Off trail and steep is the mantra.

Maybe you have been brushing up on your navigation and looking at some maps?

I’m forever looking at maps dreaming up fun routes in the mountains. It is for this reason that I’m so excited about Sky Run.

Are you intimidated by the navigation element of the SkyRun?

Absolutely not. It adds a unique and seriously fun, in my opinion, element to racing in the mountains.

The course sounds extreme, particularly if the weather turns. Have you researched the course?

Not in depth, but I will. I plan to be as prepared as I possibly can be for this event.

A strong local contingent will be toeing the line… Iain Don Wauchope, AJ Calitz and so on… do you know much about them?

No, but thanks for the heads up. I’ll seek these guys out and assuming I can keep up, probably slot in behind for much of the course. Working together with friends in the mountains is one of the best parts about hitting remote routes.

Michael De Haast has put up a great price purse should somebody post a great time, is that an incentive for you?

Ask me halfway through the route. I have no idea how stout that time really is. If I’m on schedule through halfway and feeling strong, then I’ll definitely be motivated to go after it. If not, then I’ll just continue to enjoy the primary reason for being in South Africa: enjoying a new mountain range and culture.

Have you been to SA before?

First time. I am seriously excited. I’m really looking forward to connecting with the South African running community, eating some local delicacies, and getting stuck into those Witteberg Mountains.

The South Africa Sky Run provides a truly unique opportunity to race in a remote and scenic mountain location. For me the best part about the event is the navigational aspect. Having no markers to follow means that I’ll need to be in tune with the topography and hyper-conscious of my location in relation to that topography. In my experience, the navigational piece really helps to connect with the particular location I am traveling through, which in turn adds a level of appreciation for the terrain that you just don’t get if you’re racing head down through a landscape. I look forward to bringing home a beautiful mental picture of the Witteberg Mountains to share with friends and family.

 

The Salomon SkyRun takes place on November 22nd and you can view the official website HERE.

The Witteberg is a South African mountain range just off the south-west corner of Lesotho. The range, which rises to 2408 metres, stretches for about 60km from Lundin’s Nek in the east to Lady Grey in the west. The range lends its name to the Witteberg Series, the uppermost fossiliferous sequence of the Cape System of sedimentary rocks in South Africa. The race starts in the town of Lady Grey which is famous for its annual Nativity Play and its quaint houses and incredible scenery. Discover the wonder of Balloch cave along the route with it bushman art and idyllic setting nestled between some of the highest peaks in the Witteberg.

The Witteberg range is one of the most picturesque places in South Africa with some distinctive peaks like Avoca and Halston Peaks dominating the skyline.

The Terrain:

The Salomon SkyRun is true mountain running with a variety of terrain from hiking paths that lead you up to the tower, some jeep track is a welcome relief from the majority of the terrain which is on the mountain side as this is a self-supported and self-navigation the route choice is very much in the hands of the individual competitors. Once you have left the town of Lady Grey behind the beauty and remoteness of these mountains soon engulfs you and it is not uncommon to run for the entire race without seeing much civilization around you except those involved in the race.

The fauna and flora is incredible and there are over 650 plant and 80 animal species know to habitat the mountains of the Witteberg.

RYAN SANDES – Drakensberg Traverse Interview #DrakTraverse

©iancorless.com.IMG_2606

Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel embarked on the ultimate Drakensberg adventure – the Drakensberg Grand Traverse.

Spanning parts of the Free State and Kwa-Zulu Natal provinces of South Africa, as well as the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, the unmarked route has broken many an adventurer.     Griesel and Cobus van Zyl set the previous Drakensberg Grand Traverse (DGT) record, of 60 hours 29 mins.

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

 

Fighting the elements and the terrain, Sandes and Griesel brokee the existing record by an incredible 18 hours to complete the traverse in 41 hours and 49 minutes on 25 March 2014. (Intro by Kelly Burke fluxcom.co.za)

I had the opportunity to catch up with Ryan just hours after his finish to discuss the epic adventure and ground breaking run.

Images ©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

 ryno-ryan-dgt-map-drakensberg

IC I bet you are a little tired?

 

RS Just a little Ian, I’m deprived of sleep but I have been catching up. I ‘m really pleased with how the DrakTraverse went. It was an awesome experience and adventure.

 

IC This attempt has been followed worldwide, 2-years in the planning, can you give us an insight into what this has meant. In particular Ryno, he held the previous record.

 

RS The Drakensberg Mountains (Dragon Mountains) they are the biggest mountain range in South Africa. They are iconic for any mountain sport. The thing with them is that they are extremely remote and very difficult to get too. The Drakensberg Traverse is a journey from one side to the other.  Starting in the north, we finish in the south. Along the way you have six peaks to traverse and several checkpoints. You have to self-navigate and be self-sufficient. There are no proper trails, so basically you have to make your own route. The terrain is brutal. We did plenty of recces over the final 6-months to decide on the best route and that takes a great deal of effort. Ryno has grown up in these mountains and he knows them really well. For me it was important that I came and understood the mountains and the terrain. I wanted to spend as much time as possible here to figure out what the terrain is about. It was an emotional experience to cross the finish line; it has been a dream for both of us. To see it all come together is great.

 

IC The previous record of 60:29:30 as you said was the first time anyone had approached this with a ‘faster’ approach and of course Ryno was involved in this. Ryno and Cobus put the record at a new benchmark; however you guys have smashed that! You ran instead of hiking, you had minimal sleep, you travelled very light, the record now stands at 41:29, is that a solid record or do you think ‘we’ could go quicker?

 

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

RS I’m sure it would be possible to go a couple of hours quicker, however, everything would need to align. We did the best that we could and we had brilliant weather conditions. We were very lucky. I’m not going to look back and say we could have done this, or could have done that. We are both really happy. So many factors come into play with a record like this, you can get really fast runners that on paper should do really well but with this course so many factors come into play, luck being part of it! I’m amazed at how un-runnable the route is. Certain sections you can run quite quickly but mostly the terrain is brutal and unforgiving. I looked at this as an adventure as much as anything, it’s nice to have the time but the journey was the most important thing. The concept of starting in one place and finishing in another place and completing the traverse is what matters.

 

IC Some of the photographs (Kelvin Trautman) that have been publicized are stunning; they really show the terrain and the beauty. I also know The African Attachment were filming, when can we see some footage of the journey?

 

RS We will have some footage available early next week I think? Everyone will work hard to get this done ASAP. I think the actual video of the whole project will be coming out in 6-weeks or so.

Video Here

 http://www.redbull.com/en/adventure/stories/1331642891250/footrace-across-the-dragons-back

IC That’s cool, boy, they have a few long days and nights ahead.

 

RS For sure!

 

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

IC An early image showed you going down the chain ladders traversing a sheer rock face. The terrain is crazy as you have said, how beat up are you both?

 

RS We did the chain ladders at night. I don’t enjoy heights so I was please to do them in the dark. On the recces we did them in the day and I ‘froze-up’ a little. The terrain is tough but I don’t feel too bad. My feet are pretty battered and they are sore but generally all is good. I have a few hotspots, my toes are swollen, my ankles are sore but that is all down to the unforgiving nature of the terrain. You are constantly running on sharp rocks or boulder hopping. The camber is difficult and that is continually hard. I think we both came out pretty well when all is considered. I would always prefer physically tired over mentally tired. The sleep deprivation was very tough. I struggled both mornings with a lack of sleep and I had the sleep monsters.

 

IC Ryno has a strong adventure racing background so he is used to 6+ days on the edge. Did he push you?

 

RS I think we complimented each other very well. I was nervous beforehand that Ryno wouldn’t let me sleep but we both decided on a power nap of 30-mins at the same time. But I couldn’t sleep. I was cold. I tossed and turned. We had no sleeping bags because we wanted to travel so light… that frustrated me. Later we managed sleep after 2-hours more running. Just 10-mins. It’s so cold that you can’t sleep any longer. A powernap is quite incredible. It was a new experience but that is what I wanted… I wanted a new challenge, something that would push me mentally and physically. I got what I asked for! Funny, during the night I could hear helicopters and I could see reflections in the water but it was just my imagination.

 

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

IC The high point was 3482m at Thabana Ntlenyana, was this also the toughest part of the course?

 

RS For me it wasn’t the toughest part for me. We had many peaks to climb; some of the harder sections are in the final section. Smaller peaks but you are going up and down. The second last climb is just a vertical rock face that lasts 800m or so, it was fine in training but extremely tough during the event after 190 km. In general I really enjoyed the course and the severity. I tried to take in as much as I could. We were so lucky with weather, no rain at all! I’m at the finish now in a hotel and thunderstorm is raging…

 

IC Without a doubt, on that terrain in those conditions, rain alone could cause serious problems. You both traveled extremely light. You both had just Salomon S-Lab vests. Can you give us an insight into what you did carry?

 

RS For sure, the idea for us was about going fast and light. We wore shorts, t-shirt and visor. Obviously shoes and socks and we carried 2-jackets each. I find that 2-jackets are warmer when it gets really cold. My hands can get cold so I had 2-sets of gloves, a thin pair and a waterproof pair. We had a space blanket (bivvy style) between us… a large one that we could both get inside and keep warm if required. I am sure Transgrancanaria guys will be happy about that…!

 

IC You had to get that one in?

 

(Laughter)

 

RS I also had a first aid kit, sun cream but mostly we had food. It probably accounted for 80%. We had to be fully self-supported so we carried everything and took water from streams. I had some bars, chomps, a few gels, peanuts and some Red Bull shots. I think I took too much sweet stuff; I couldn’t face it in the latter stages.

 

IC That is often the case in longer events; the longer the event and the more you crave savory food. Did you purify the water?

 

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

©kelvintrautman ©redbullZA

RS We just drank from the streams. We chose flowing water. We were really high up so it’s fresh. You can get cattle so I suppose it was a calculated risk. If it’s flowing you are usually ok.

 

IC 204km in a time of 41hrs 49mins; is it the hardest thing you have ever done?

 

RS Mentally it was tough. Pushing through the sleep monsters I found difficult. Personally it is one of the biggest things I have ever done. I am surprised how good I feel less than 24-hours later… I don’t think it has kicked in yet. I am not sure the traverse and our achievement has kicked in. It was really challenging at times but it was so new for me that I just continually enjoyed it. I embraced every moment; it was a great 2-days in the mountains.

 

IC You tweaked your ankle in the first 2-hours. After your injury issues from 2013, how much did this stress you?

 

RS Yes that was the most worrying moment. Ironically, I fell in the first hour and gashed my hand and then 2-hours later I did my ankle. It was a worrying time and it played on my mind. I became nervous. That is the main thing about that terrain and particularly at night; if anything goes wrong you can be in serious problems. I ran scared for a couple of hours but I settled. My ankle feels good today so that is reassuring. I need a few days with my feet up and then hopefully back to training.

 

IC I’m impressed that you want to start training again so quickly! This event was about 2 of you. How important was it having Ryno along; he has a great knowledge and experience of this region?

 

RS For sure, Ryno was instrumental in this journey. I couldn’t have done this without him. His knowledge of the mountains and the effort he has put in is extremely special. To share the Traverse with him has been incredible. Ryno has been over this route for 7-8 years. He has done the Traverse 3 or 4 times now. He has even tried it in winter with half the course covered in snow. We formed a special bond. I am really grateful. We fulfilled a dream.

 

IC Recovery is paramount but in 30-days or so you will be lining up at UTMF in Japan.

 

RS Jeez, it’s that soon…

 

(Laughter)

 

IC I was thinking exactly the same Ryan; it’s not far away. You’ve had a great start to 2014 with Transgrancanaria and now the DrakTraverse, is UTMF a good idea coming so soon?

 

RS I don’t think it’s a bad idea. I need to listen to my body, recover and then slowly come back. I am not going to get any fitter. It’s just about getting fresh and recovered. I will have some fatigue in my legs but I will be okay I think, I will hold back. I did the same after Transgrancanaria, I only had 3-weeks between that race and the Traverse. That worked well but I listened, the second recovery week I felt flat so I had more rest. I am really looking forward to Japan and the opportunity to run Mt Fuji is great. Then I will think about Western States.

 

IC Western States is the next big thing. You are going to want to improve on 2nd but you will be a marked man!

 

RS Yes for sure but WSER is a stacked race. Anyone in the top-20 can win. It’s an iconic race and a great vibe.

 

IC Great… feet up and start the recovery. Really appreciate you finding the time to speak so soon after the event. Many congratulations to you, Ryno and all the team.

 

RS Anytime, thank you so much for all the support and for everything that you do for the sport.

INTERVIEW NOW AVAILABLE IN SPANISH

HERE

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Links:

Ryan Sandes HERE

Ryno Griesel HERE

Red Bull HERE

Salomon HERE

 

©Video content,  The African Attachment HERE

©Photography, Kelvin Trautman HERE

 

 

African skyrunning leaps sky high following Lesotho Ultra Trail

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High mountains, arduous climbs, thin air, incredible vistas and the adrenalin rush of running on technical trail – the Lesotho Ultra Trail (LUT) promised everything a skyrunning experience should offer, and it delivered even more.

As Africa’s first Ultra Skymarathon®, the announcement of the LUT drew much attention in the world’s skyrunning arena, and the event did not disappoint. The race, which was staged in the Maluti Mountains of northern Lesotho, just 50km of the border of South Africa, attracted athletes from around the world, including South Africa, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Australia, Canada, UK and USA.

Affectionately known as the Mountain Kingdom, Lesotho boasts some of southern Africa’s most beautiful skyrunning terrain with its vast wilderness of unspoilt mountain vistas, and is regarded by many as a paradise for skyrunners. The LUT was hosted by the Maliba Mountain Lodge, providing a superb hub for the efficient organisation of the event.

Both the men’s and women’s field provided a tightly competitive edge, with many of South Africa’s top trail runners vying for top honours. The day brought its share of surprises and made the race even more exciting than predicted.

For the first third of the 50km race, the trio of Lucky Mia and race favourites Iain don Wauchope and AJ Calitz led the field, with several fast runners forming the chase group as they climbed the 1 150m of vertical gain over 15km to reach 3 145m, the highest point of the route at 23km.

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Thick mist on the 10km stretch of ridgeline above 3 000m reduced visibility and made the sighting of the bright yellow route markers difficult for the runners. With the front three runners Mia, Don Wauchope and Calitz temporarily losing their way, the chase group of Andrew Hagan, Quinton Honey and Spain’s Manual Diez Raobago took the lead, and the race was on.

Hagan, well known for his high-speed downhill running capability, took full advantage of the 8km technical descent, earning him enough of a lead on Raobago and Honey to maintain the gap over the next nasty climb, which called for a 720m vertical gain over 6km. The final 700m technical descent further clinched Hagan’s lead, and he took line honours in an impressive 6:07:22.

Raobago came in 2nd place in 6:22:14, followed by Honey in 6:23:10.

The ladies race was just as hotly contested, with Robyn Kime and Tracy Zunckel leading the fray together until the 37km mark, when Zunckel took command over the final 13km, achieving an 11 min gap on Kime to win the race in a convincing 6:56:17. Kime finished in 2nd place in 7:07:28, followed by Canadian Stacie Carrigan in a very solid 7:23:36.

Speaking about her experience at Africa’s first Ultra Skymarathon®, Carrigan was ecstatic. “When I arrived at Maliba Lodge, I was blown away by the scenery – it was incredible. The race course too did not disappoint, and my hopes for a challenge were met. During the low points when I started to feel beat up and broken, I would look up and catch a glimpse of a waterfall, river, the mountains and valleys and all the beauty of my surroundings was enough to make me smile and keep pushing to the finish line,” said Carrigan.

LUT race organiser Andrew Booth sees skyrunning in southern Africa as the exciting future of trail running. “For years South African trail runners have watched with envy as the sport of skyrunning grew in Europe. Now, with the formation of the South African Skyrunning Association (SASA), the discipline has officially arrived in southern Africa. That means we can have a national skyrunning series in our own ‘backyard’, accessible to all,” said Booth.

The LUT was SASA’s second sanctioned skyrunning event – the first being 36km Matroosberg Skymarathon®, which was staged in the Western Cape in October.

“The success of the Matroosberg Skymarathon® and the Lesotho Ultra Trail has seen much excitement, and the imminent announcement of the launch of a national skyrunning series in 2014 has got the trail  community in South Africa quite abuzz,” said SASA chairman James Hallett.

For more information visit the official SASA website of follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Website: www.skyrunning.co.za

Facebook: www.facebook.com/skyrunningsa

Twitter: www.twitter.com/skyrunningsa

The countdown has begun to Africa’s first Ultra SkyMarathon®, the Lesotho Ultra Trail.

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With less than 36 hours to go before the 55km ultra trail race through the Tsehlanyane National Park in the heart of Lesotho’s Maloti Mountains, anticipation is building amongst the trail running community for this, the second South Africa Skyrunning Association (SASA)-sanctioned event on the South African trail running calendar

After the success of the Matroosberg SkyMarathon® in October, skyrunning fever is running high, setting the ground for the imminent announcement of a national skyrunning series in 2014.

Presented by Maliba Lodge, KZN Trail Running and The North Face, the Lesotho Ultra Trail will see a selection of South Africa’s best trail runners facing the challenge of an ultra-distance, high altitude course boasting more than three kilometres of vertical ascent, peaking at 3155m above sea level.

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Big names include South African trail star and winner of the Verdon Canyon Challenge in France AJ Calitz (K-Way/Vivobarefoot), mountain running legend and winner of the 2012 Otter African Trail Run Iain Don Wauchope (The North Face), 2013 SA Ultra Trail winner Nic de Beer, Stellenbosch-based mountain runner Andrew Hagen (Vibram) and Gauteng trail speedster Lucky Mia.

In the women’s field, Canadian ultra trail star Stacie Carrigan will be dicing one of the most competitive women’s contingent of any southern African ultra trail race to date, including Matroosberg SkyMarathon® winner Robyn Kime (The North face), 2013 SA Ultra trail champ Tracy Zunckel (Race Food), 2011 Otter African Trail Run winner Su Don Wauchope (The North Face) and SA ultra running legend Linda Doke (Salomon).

With Lesotho offering world class skyrunning terrain and warm hospitality, the Lesotho Ultra Trail is set to become one of the continent’s premier off-road ultras.

For more information about the race, visit www.lesothoultratrail.com of follow the race live via Twitter [www.twitter.com/lesothoultra]

Article ©lesothoultra

Feature on AJ Calitz

AJ Calitz in Europe, early 2013. Zegama-Aizkorri

AJ Calitz in Europe, early 2013. Zegama-Aizkorri

In just the last two months K-Way athlete AJ Calitz has been on the podium, won or set course records at many competitive trail races. As the year winds down, so does his racing schedule. This weekend’s 55-kilometre Lesotho Ultra Trail race will be his last for the year.

Two weeks ago Calitz took part in the annual Salomon SkyRun – only a week after winning Red Bull LionHeart.

“I didn’t expect to still feel LionHeart in my legs, but I did – unfortunately,” he says.

“SkyRun was a tough one,” Calitz says, recalling the challenging terrain and adverse weather conditions that led to the course being shortened and runners diverted off the mountain and down to safety.

After getting horribly lost between checkpoints one and two, Calitz managed to catch up to the chasing group. He stayed with them – safety in numbers.

“The weather was horrific with torrential ice-rain and winds of 100kph. It was very dangerous on the Dragon’s Back, but luckily I had all my emergency kit to keep me going.

“I really had a terrible day from the start and with the cold and navigation problems I didn’t eat as well as I should have. I felt the effects of this towards Balloch,” he explains.

Reaching Balloch he was already very cold. “I just couldn’t warm up again,” he remembers. He decided not to carry on.

But then, his K-Way teammate Annemien Ganzevoort – the leading woman runner – came in and told Calitz that she was carrying on. He decided to join her.

“If something happened to her in those conditions and I could have gone along – but didn’t – I would never have forgiven myself… and I really didn’t want to have a DNF on my first SkyRun either. So, we suited up in our K-Way mountain-trekking and cold-weather gear and carried on. We were halted by race organisation just short of Edgehill Farm though.”

“It’s amazing how weather like that can draw athletes closer together… where you switch from competing to surviving in only a few moments. I love this kind of racing. It’s not all about the winning or prize money or whatever the reason why you run, but it becomes an expedition and a truly valuable life experience,” says Ganzevoort.

While Ganzevoort takes a well-deserved rest, Calitz has one more race before he can put his feet up.

Lesotho Ultra Trail is a marked route that is 55-kilometres in distance and, staged in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, the 3200-metres of accumulative ascent comes as no surprise. The course description promises stream crossings, loose rocks, steep descents and “two notable climbs”. The section between nine and 22 kilometres is run at over 3000-metres in altitude.

The men’s (and women’s) field is very competitive and Calitz is expecting to work hard to gain ground on Nic de Beer, Iain Don-Wauchope and Lucky Mia.

“I’m just going to take it as it comes,” he adds.

Although your money can be safely bet on Su Don-Wauchope or Robyn Kime for a win in the women’s race, the odds are fairly good that Linda Doke, Tracey Zunkel, Chantal Nienaber, Megan Mackenzie or Stacie Carrigan (Canada) could be up front too.

Matroosberg Trail Challenge – South Africa’s first SkyMarathon®

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Excitement is building as the South African trail running community gears itself for the country’s first South African Skyrunning Association (SASA) sanctioned event, the Matroosberg Trail Challenge (MTC).

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Staged in the Matroosberg Nature Reserve near Ceres in the Western Cape, the 36km race classifies as a SkyMarathon®, in which runners will exceed an altitude of 2 000m, enduring inclines exceeding 30%, with climbing difficulties of less than 11 degrees.

Runners from across the country will be on the start line on Saturday 26 October, with big trail names like AJ Calitz, Nic de Beer, Ake Fagereng and Charl Soumer contending for the top positions, with the likes of Derrick Baard, Noel Ernstzen, Luke Powers, Michael Owen and Leo Rust in the chase group.

The women’s line up will be equally competitive, with Robin Kime, Linda Doke, Annemien Ganzevoort and Chantel Nienaber predicted to give each other a good run for their money.

SASA is an associate member of the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF), whose founder Marino Giacometti saw the birth of the sports discipline of skyrunning some 22 years ago. He believed the name spoke for itself – it was about running where earth and sky meet.

MTC 1

The MTC is the first of two SASA-sanctioned events in 2013. The much-awaited Lesotho Ultra Trail, southern Africa’s first Ultra SkyMarathon®, will cover 55km in the Maluti Mountains in the Kingdom of Lesotho on 30 November. The starting line-up will boast one of the best ever fields in trail running in southern Africa, including Canadian ultra-distance trail runner of the year 2012 Adam Campbell.

Both races will form part of a national skyrunning circuit from 2014 – the details of which will be announced soon.

MTC race organiser Ghaleed Nortje is excited to have his race as the one that introduces local trail runners to skyrunning in South Africa.

“I’m really excited about the MTC being sanctioned by SASA, and by the prospect of it forming part of a national skyrunning circuit from 2014. Gone are the days when we trail runners had to drool over skyrunning events in Europe and the USA – our South African athletes can now be a part of the rich experience too, by participating in local skyrunning events,” says Nortje.

With just a few days to go before the race, all eyes are on the weather – just a fortnight ago the Matroosberg was still covered in snow. As with all mountain trail races, runners will be required to carry specific mandatory kit with them during the race to prepare for all weather eventualities.

To watch the action unfold come race day, follow the event on Twitter  – www.twitter.com/MatroosbergTC and #MTC2013

All images ©Andrew King | D4 Productions

Lesotho Ultra Trail

Inaugural Lesotho Ultra Trail attracts world class field
On 30 November 2013, Skyrunners® from all over the world will toe the start line of the inaugural Lesotho Ultra Trail – Africa’s first Ultra Skymarathon® – ready to tackle the 55km, high altitude course through the Tsehlanyane National Park in the heart of the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho.
As the event continues to attract the keen interest of both the local and international trail and skyrunning communities, four of the world’s top international men’s athletes have already confirmed their entry into the race. Americans Mike Wolfe (The North Face), winner of the 2012 Transvulcania Dakota Jones (Montrail/Clif Bar), and 2nd place finisher at the 2012 Hardrock 100 Joe Grant (INOV-8/Arc’teryx), will join 2012 Canadian ultra trail runner of the year Adam Campbell (Arc’teryx) in making the long trip across the Atlantic Ocean to go head to head with some of South Africa’s best.
“One aspect that I love about mountain running is the opportunity to explore beautiful places around the world” comments Campbell. “I specifically choose races based on their aesthetic and the accompanying sense of adventure that they bring. Being able to compete in Africa’s first Ultra Skymarathon®, amongst some of the most stunning mountain terrain that I’ve seen more than satisfies that criteria. I can’t wait to experience the local culture and to race through the region’s mountainous landscape on foot.”
Mike Wolfe, having never travelled to Africa, is thrilled to be making the journey in November:
“The locale looks amazing, and I have always wanted to travel to South Africa to experience a new landscape and people. It is wonderful that the South African Skyrunning Association and the organizers of Lesotho Ultra Trail are enthusiastic about hosting international athletes. This kind of event helps our sport of ultra running grow on an international level, and continues to grow the international community of runners.”
Amongst the top South African men’s athletes already securing their spots, is up-and-coming trail star AJ Calitz (K-Way/Vivobarefoot) joined by winner of the 2013 SA Ultra Trail Champs Nic De Beer and mountain running legend, and winner of the 2012 Otter African Trail Run, Iain Don Wauchope (Mountain Splendour).
Not to be out done, the women’s field is also stacking up to be a stellar affair with confirmation already coming in from local South African ultra running legend Linda Doke (Salomon South Africa), winner of the 2013 Women’s SA Ultra Champs Tracy Zunkel (Race Food), 2011 Otter African Trail Run winner Su Don Wauchope (Mountain Splendour) as she makes a firm come back after almost 8 months of injury, and 3rd place finisher 2013 Women’s SA Ultra Champs Chantel Nienaber. On the international front, Canadian ultra-runner and winner of the 2012 Gobi March in China, Stephanie Case, will be making the journey from her newly-adopted home of Kyrgyzstan, ready to test the skills of the local girls.
Having raced at the 2012 Sierre-Zinal in Switzerland, one of Europe’s oldest Skymarathon® events, Linda Doke knows the excitement and prospects of skyrunning first hand:
“I’m thrilled to be doing the Lesotho Ultra Trail” explains Doke. “Not only is it a new ultra on the trail calendar, but it’s in Lesotho, which guarantees fantastic running. Also, being an Ultra Skymarathon® will see the start of skyrunning in southern Africa and having experienced it last year, it’s brilliant that it’s coming to southern Africa!”
Hosted by the luxury 5 star Maliba Mountain Lodge, the Lesotho Ultra Trail will encompass some of the most spectacular mountain trails that the Tsehlanyane National Park has to offer, affording runners the opportunity to climb to over 3100m above sea level while immersed in the rich culture of Africa’s “mountain kingdom”.
For more information about the event, head to http://www.lesothoultratrail.com or follow @LesothoUltra on Twitter

Skyrunning makes it to South Africa

SASA logo - web vector

Skyrunning hits Southern Africa with the Lesotho Ultra Trail

A new ultra-distance race has hit southern Africa’s trail running calendar with the announcement of the Lesotho Ultra Trail, to take place in northern Lesotho on 30 November.

Created by well-known KZN race organiser Andrew Booth, the 68km race will traverse mountainous, rocky trails combining steep ascents, descents, some contour running and loads of single track, will be hosted by Maliba Mountain Lodge, just one hour south from the Free State town of Clarens.

Sanctioned by the South African Skyrunning Association (SASA), the event will be is recognised by the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF) as Africa’s first Ultra Skymarathon®, earning it the potential of being placed in the global circuit of ultras on the international trail calendar.

Defined as mountain running up to or exceeding 2 000m, where the incline exceeds 30% and where the climbing difficulty is not more than 11˚ gradient, the sport of skyrunning has taken the trail running world by storm in Europe, America and Asia over the past 20 years.

Skyrunning, a term coined by the ISF, is a discipline conceived by Italian mountaineer Marino Giacometti who, with a handful of fellow climbers during the early1990s, pioneered records and races on Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa in the Italian Alps. In 1993, sponsored by Fila, skyrunning took off across the world’s mountain ranges with a circuit of challenging races spread from the Himalayas to the Rockies, from Mount Kenya to the Mexican volcanoes.

copyright Andrew Booth

copyright Andrew Booth

Giacometti’s term skyrunning is, as the name suggests, where earth and sky meet.

Today, skyrunning has grown to span some 200 races worldwide, with about 30 000 participants from 54 countries.

Formed in 2011, SASA is an associate member of the ISF, and aims to promote and facilitate the growth of skyrunning in South Africa.

“The Lesotho Ultra Trail is the ideal event to pioneer the way forward for skyrunning in southern Africa,” said SASA chairman James Hallett.

“Not only does the location and route of the race represent the philosophy of skyrunning, but we have no doubt that it will the race be of a world class calibre. Offering spectacular terrain, incredible high altitude vistas and a 5-star host venue, we are extremely excited about the prospects of the Lesotho Ultra Trail.”

copyright Andrew Booth

copyright Andrew Booth

Hallett is confident that the Lesotho Ultra Trail will be incorporated into the ISF World Ultra Series, a new addition to the Federation’s global series offering.

“Following the inaugural running of the race in November, we will submit our recommendation and application to the ISF for possible consideration into the 2014 series. If successful, this will put South Africa into the world skyrunning arena, further exposing our country to top international athletes.

Booth said he believed there to be a great synergy between the race, its location and the development of skyrunning in South Africa.

“The Maluti Mountains offer some of the best terrain for high altitude running in the world. To be able to stage what is sure to become a world class event in this region is very special, and we look forward to playing a role in the pioneering of skyrunning in southern Africa.”

courtesy of Maliba Lodge

courtesy of Maliba Lodge

He added that the event’s partnership with Maliba Mountain Lodge as host for the race added an extra angle of quality to the event.

Hallett added that as the first official skyrunning event in southern Africa, the Lesotho Ultra Trail will also help facilitate the creation of a national circuit of skyrunning events.

“The Lesotho highlands and the regions of South Africa surrounding Lesotho are prime skyrunning regions, and we will be working with other race organisers in this area and around South Africa to develop the opportunities that present themselves there,” concluded Hallett.

Image credits:

LUT1: courtesy of Maliba Lodge

LUT2-4: Andrew Booth