The inaugural Munga Trail race, billed as the toughest race on earth took place for 19th – 24th April 2017 over a 402,4km route from Belfast in South Africa to the rim of the Blyde River Canyon.
23 runners set off for Lakenvlei at noon on Wednesday 19th April, chasing the final cut-off at the rim of the 3rd largest canyon on earth. With several runners staying together at a conservative pace over the first 15km, it was a sensible start.
Navworld runner Bennie Roux was the first to up the pace slightly and he breezed through the first water point at 26km in the lead, followed by fellow Navworld runner Naomi Brand. And as night fell, the field settled into their own rhythm and strategy based on their goals. Here one can appreciate the many different reasons people have for entering – few enter to win; most enter to challenge themselves, to explore new limits and to understand their own potential.
Dawn on day 2 saw Naomi Brand become the first casualty – scratching as a results of exhaustion brought on by an emotional lead up to the race and apparent ‘flu. It also saw the field tackle the first major climb of the race – Verlorenkloof with 630m ascent over 3,3km.
At Race Village 3 at Merry Pebbles in Sabie, Bennie Roux had a commanding 6 hour lead over Hanno Smit and Tatum Prins who are normally teammates on Adventure Racing team Merrell Adventure Addicts, with Danish runner Carsten Nohr Nielsen running with Nicky Booyens from Mutual Safes following. From here, with another serious climb of over 1000 vertical metres Carsten put in a huge effort to reduce Bennie’s lead to 32 minutes at WP8, only to squander 90 minutes shortly thereafter by going off route into a jungle.
Over the last 100km the lead continued to drop as Bennie pretty much managed the race from the front, but a real humdinger was developing in the ladies race between Nicky Booyens and Tatum Prins. Nicky was one of two runners aiming to be the first to achieve the Munga Double – a medal in both the MTB race and the Trail – along with Riaan Potgieter.
Nicky made into WP9 just behinds Bennie, and left without stopping to take the overall lead in the race by 10 minutes, causing Bennie to chase hard and taking a wrong turn. Nicky made it into the final Race Village in overall 1st place with 20km to race, causing Bennie and her to run together eventually with Tatum Prins 20mins back and chasing like the clappers having cut more than an hour off Nicky’s lead out of Race Village 4.
Tatum’s chase was not to be though as she took a wrong turn inside the last 5km to lose more time.
In the end, Bennie Roux claimed the first Munga Trail number 1 medal in a time of 101 hours 25 minutes, along with R 40 000 and the Trophy of 2017 Champion. Nicky Booyens crossed the line 2 minutes later, followed by Tatum Prins and Carsten Nohr Nielsen in overall 4th.
9 Runners completed the course within the 120 hour cut-off time, with Kerry Longhurst finishing the course just over an hour outside the cut-off time.
Bennie Roux (South Africa)
Carsten Nohr Nielsen (Denmark)
Andy Wesson (South Africa)