Saturday, 2 May 2009

Trail and mountain running - lots of options

I always find the best way to keep in the loop about events within a discipline is to run a website for the discipline - hahaha. In early 2008, when my AR calendar was overrun with trail events I created a website for trail running. I'd been hosting dates and content on the longer races for many years, because the sport didn't have its own home. At the beginning of this year I dissolved my trail running site and merged the content with Trevor Ball's, which is now a central home for off-road running events in South Africa.
As the calendar hasn't been in my hands, I've felt quite out of the loop and don't want to miss out on any events that I may like to do. So I'm doing some online research. Here are a number of events coming up this year - obviously these are biased towards my interests (distance & duration) - that may be of interest to you.

Mnweni Marathon, held in the Drakensberg, is on again this year. I'm under correction but this event, organised by mountain runner Bruce Arnett, must be in its sixth year? Possibly eighth? I've run it twice (the last two years) and can highly recommend this stunning mountain run. It takes you up Mnweni Pass and across the source of the Orange River. Race distance is put as 38km; but don't be misled. Both times I've done this race I have finished fairly well - and it has taken me 7h50 to cover the route. This race is in two weeks - Saturday, 16 May. Laura Forster is the administrative power-behind-the-throne. Drop her a note at As I type this, she is running the Addo 100km.

A staged running newcomer is the 3-day AfricanX Trailrun; organised by the same bunch that present the Xterra events. The race is held in the Kleinmond region of the Western Cape. It is a paired team event and you cover 25-35km per day. Cloverleaf format (same overnight spot every night; in Kleinmond) and fully supported. Race dates are 8-10 May. Entries closed end-April. Keep a close eye on the reports coming out post-race, because this may be an event you'd like to diarise for next year. The entry fee of R1800pp (R3600 per team) includes tented accommodation and meals. event website is

Freedom Challenge is sporting a very slick new website; only I'm battling to find the information on what is called the Dusi Trail Run on the website. Freedom Challenge started a good few years ago and the original event included Comrades Marathon. Participants then mountain biked from 'Maritzburg to Paarl on trails and dirt roads (the Freedom Trail). The event ended with the 2-day Berg River Canoe Race. This is the Extreme Triathlon version of Freedom Challenge. Some participants just do the ride.

Now there's an off-road run to replace Comrades. It is called the Dusi Trail Run and is listed at 88km. And it looks like you can just do the run - you don't have to do the whole Xtreme Triathlon thing. This is the first year that this run will be held; and the date is Friday, 12 June. The run starts in Durban and follows an 88km course up the valley of the Umgeni River and the smaller and wilder Umsimdusi River. The finish is in the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg. Wild and remote in many places. There is no entrance fee although runners may make a voluntary donation to the Freedom Challenge K4K trail development fund. This is a self-supported event and runners are allowed a support crew. Find the Freedom Challenge website at

Adventure racer Garth Flores is again presenting his Outeniqua Traverse, a mountain run that d├ębuted last year. Race distance is 38km and it will be held on Monday, 10 August 2009 (this day is a public holiday). Garth says, "The terrain consists of some steep climbs and descents. Your legs will burn. Take it easy on the climbs otherwise you might burn out with over 20 km to go!". As an indication, winning time last year was 5h39. The race starts and ends near George, W. Cape and the entry fee is R250pp. Race website is

Baviaanskloof Trail Run is a new addition to the trail scene and it will be held on Saturday, 12 September. It is organised the Evie and Darrell Rauenheimer of long-standing Rhodes Trail Run fame. this 1-day race covers 50km of 'extremely harsh, rugged and unforgiving terrain'. The race starts and finishes at Geelhoutbos on the western side of the Baviaanskloof and runners must be self-suffient. The event website is

Magnetic South's The Otter is talk of the town. Although this trail run is part of their multiday Southern Storm event, it is a stand-alone trail run. The pure appeal is that participants get to run the entire 5-day Otter Trail hiking route over 2-days! The Southern Storm is a 6 day individual or team relay duathlon (full service) featuring trail running and mountain biking (alternating days) and includes The Otter as day two. Race date for The Otter is Sunday, 20 September. Day 1 is an 8km prologue. Day 2 is where the fun begins. The route starts at Storms River and ends at Natures Valley, a total distance of 45km. There's a fun poll on the event website ( where people are asked to vote as to whether they think the 45km route can be run in under 5hrs. I don't know the route at all; but I've taken a flyer at voting 'no'. 31% of the respondants agree with me. Entry fee is R1800 and it includes tented accommodation (2 nights), meals before and after the race and munchie tables during the race.

Dave Gassner is the organiser of the 2-day Amatola 100km Trail Run (aka BIG Baffer). Nicholas Mulder is the current course record holder (he set a new record last year). I've never run Amatola but have heard only good things about it. The event is set for 17 & 18 October 2009 - 50km each day. There's also a 35km option on the 18th if you don't want to run the 100km.

Dave is also the organiser of the Wildcoast Ultra, a 270k, 6 day, staged run along the Wild Coast from Port St Johns to East London. The event was started in 2005 and Dave put it together for a small group of people. This year the race was opened to public entry. This race is scheduled for 8-13 February 2010. Dave's new no-fuss website for his events (Baffer and Wildcoast Ultra) is

And, of course, there's Skyrun (100km, 2 days) at the end of November. The 28th & 29th to be precise. Always a great event to do. Contact Adrian directly at

So, these are the events that have my attention. I haven't committed to run any of them, having come off the Namibia Trail Run (5-day, end Feb) and Midnight HellRun (80km, mid-March). So that's why I'm surfing the web - looking for fun and games for later this year. If you know of any other events that fit into this category of multiday / ultradistance / mountain trail runs, add a comment with event information below.


Anonymous said...

Yep, My friend is trying to get me to do the Amatola 100km...I said:- "why not?, it sounds like a good thing to do". I have always enjoyed hiking, which originally led me to start mountain biking. I now think it is time to try something trail running and eventually I hope to break into Adventure Racing...isn't life a 'JOL'??
...It is so fantastic to try new things...a couple of weeks ago I tried surfing while on holiday - after sitting on the beach for years but not trying as I was too scared I would make a fool out of myself. Well now I don't care much so, I went and bought myself a 9ft (long board) and spent the last five days of my holiday surfing. Some days I could hardly move afterwards as the muscles suffered from the punishment, but I can tell you, I had so much fun!. Hey, and I am only 46yrs young.

adventurelisa said...

Heya anon... now that's something I've never tried - surfing. Yes, definitely go for doing Amatola; it's a very good thing to do. And with a year to go, set Swazi Xtreme as your 2010 adventure racing goal. Happy adventures.

Garth said...

Good post Lisa, I have been taking an AR sabbatical since last year (partly due to injuries and partly just getting my bank balance to stabilise after the Bull of Africa) but the photos from Swazi Xtreme have me itching for some action again... however for the time being with family commitments (read children) I will have to set my sights on one of these trail runs - a lot less admin to commit for a good trail run! The Baviaans, Sky Run and Amatola look like the ones I will have to choose from. Reason being - they take place in remote areas and take place in the mountains. They also give me enough time to get in shape for a demanding weekend in the mountains! I have also been saying to Adrian Saffy I am going to come run the Sky Run for the last 2 or 3 years, so hopefully this is the year :-)