Lady Grey, the start of the 2013 Salomon Skyrun powered by Red Bull, was ravaged by some of the worst weather seen in the 16 year history of this extreme race. Testing from the begining with monsoon conditions greeting the runners at the 4am start on Saturday morning, fierce winds gusting up to 80km/hour were the order of the day as rain and low cloud cover made visibility very poor. The runners were battered by these conditions throughout the day, as the temperatures plummeted and the terrain became very tricky for both athletes and marshals. The very real risk of sever hypothermia and exposure to the brutal elements, left event organisers with no other option but to shorten the race. Always a difficult decision however the safety of runners was top priority. The Salomon Skyrun is an extreme mountain challenge at the best of times but when conditions are as hard as during this year’s race, the need to carry all compulsory equipment as well as a solid event organisation are critical to ensure that all athletes come off the mountain safely. “This year’s race will be spoken about for many years to come by all who were at the Salomon Skyrun 2013 and can only add to the reputation that makes this race one of the toughest ultra-mountain runs in South Africa, if not the world” said Race Director Adrian Saffy.
The Skyrun Lite remained unaffected by the decision and all athletes that reached Balloch completed the race in its entirety. The Skyrun Lite was won by Chris Cronje, with Murray Sanders in 2nd place and Justin Short in 3rd. The Ladies Lite was won by Laura O’ Donoghue, with Taryn Mc Donald in 2nd and Janneke Laesk in 3rd.
Iain Don-Wauchope took 1st position in the shortened Men’s full route, with Hylton Dunn in 2nd and Steven Erasmus in 3rd. The runners will however have to wait another year in order to take a crack at 2012 winner Ryan Sandes’ lightening quick record of 12hrs36min. Salomon sponsored Sandes did not compete in this year’s event as he will be racing in The San Francisco 50 Miler at the beginning of December. In the ladies race, 1st place in the full route went to Annemien Ganzevoort, with 2nd going to Su Don- Wauchope and 3rd to Tatum Prins.
There is no doubt that athletes will look back on this year’s running of the legend that has become the Salomon Skyrun with a mixture of frustration, relief and respect as so well put by AJ Calitz “ I was humbled by the route, weather and our Maker….felt pretty small out there in the mountains. The fact that everyone is safe is testimony to Pure Adventures incredible team. Well done Mike and Adrian, your team and the mountain rescue crews. 2013 is a year I will never forget…all the athletes are truly bound together by this EPIC experience. See you in 2014.”
The 11th THULE 4 Peaks Mountain Challenge in Association with SALOMON takes place on the weekend of the 23rd / 25th August 2013. The 24km mountain run is through the beautiful and challenging Witteberg mountain range near Ficksburg in the Eastern Free State. Last year saw the introduction of the ‘Pyramid Challenge’ where athletes have the chance to take on the ‘beast’ 40 % gradient vertical ascent and descent of the first pyramid at Moolmashoek Nature Reserve. The THULE 4 Peaks Mountain Challenge provides a weekend festival of Free State hospitality and an introduction to ‘mountain-running’ where both the accomplished trail runners and weekend warriors get to challenge themselves. The hospitality is rooted in the management of the Moolmanshoek Guest Lodge and the beautiful private nature reserve serves as HQ for the weekend activities.
Moolmanshoek Private Nature Reserve is situated 360km from Johannesburg and 230km from Bloemfontein and the unique scenery with mountain peaks such as Visierskerf, the highest in the Witteberg mountain range, provides a perfect venue to run, to explore and to challenge yourself against the elements. The 24km mountain run is a great introduction to the ultimate running challenge – mountain -running, with the 24km distance being the equivalent of a road ultra-marathon. The THULE 4 Peaks Mountain Challenge is an un-supported off road run, the concept derived from British ‘fell running’ whereby runners will conquer slopes to then enjoy superb vistas that the Witteberg mountain range ridgelines provide. The course is not marked but follows a circular route starting at 1460m, with a total vertical ascent over the race of 1420m to the highest point at 2312m. The concept of mountain running is one of expedition and adventure, where crossing the finish line is about conquering the elements, navigating your way through the rough terrain the course provides and feeling a sense of achivement not matched by any traditional running event. Participants must be totally self sustainable carrying their own fluids and nutrition for the entire race. The top competitors usually complete the race in 3 hours or less with some runners taking up to 9 hours, the cut off, to receive the revered Four Peaks medal.
The weekend see’s the main event, the THULE 4 Peaks Mountain Challenge kicking off at 6am on Saturday the 24th. Entries received already include Salomon runners such as Thabang Madiba, Ryno Griesel, Jock Green and Matt Kretzmann against the local knowledge of multiple winner Isaac Mazibuko . In the ladies race we expect to see Salomon’s Jackie Moore racing with Takalani Ndandani and Megan Mackensie. This front pack of runners will be followed by the weekend warriors challenging themselves to the next level of running – building some bravery for ‘the ultimate’ the Salomon Skyrun hosted in November each year. After Saturday’s nights festivities, we kick off Sunday morning with the Red Bull Pyramid Challenge which will see runners tackle a net altitude gain of 850m over 3km ascent and descent of the first pyramid.