Following his recent Comrades 2015 win, Gift Kehele has a new target in sight; to conquer South Africa’s iconic Table Mountain by racing the Ultra-trail Cape Town (UTCT).
On Saturday 3 October, UTCT will once again welcome an elite group of top runners as they cover 100km of the Cape Peninsula’s mountains and vibrant city streets. The route embraces various technical terrains and includes a total climb that is more than a Mt. Everest ascent.
Trail running has seen major growth in the last decade, with notably increased interest in the 100km to 100mile races, in which Europeans and Americans seem to dominate. “We are very excited from a South African perspective to see the likes of Gift wanting to run ultra trails,” says race director Nic Bornman. ”Beyond our own event, we want to find and launch South Africa’s best talent into an ever more competitive international landscape. The word development springs to mind, but if you look at the South African performances at this year’s Comrades it is clear that our runners need more exposure, rather than development. The talent pool runs deep”,
After winning last year’s UTCT in 10H41, Eric Ngubane famously said he believes it is possible to run the course in under ten hours, “I just need to be pushed,” he added.
Whether this is even possible is anyone’s guess. Says Bornman: “To be honest it’s hard to predict what the guys are capable of these days. Each year, mountain ultras are increasing in popularity and with the crossover from other running disciplines, the bar keeps being raised higher and higher. We are excited at the possibility of the elites going under the magical ten hour mark”.
Kehele is quite aware of the difference between Comrades and a race like UTCT. “I have heard it’s a tough but beautiful course so it will be a good challenge for me. Mountain running is quite different to the races I usually do so I am excited about going to Cape Town and giving this one a shot.” His coach, John Hamlet, is confident that Gift will be ready. “Changing the game from road to trail makes for fresh thinking, and the training we do in Dullstroom is really trail running. Determination and commitment are a daily norm.”
This year Ngubane returns to defend his title as he toes the line with Kehele and Jordanian desert running specialist Salameh al Aqara. No doubt they will all be pushing for that elusive sub-ten hour finish time. Some of the other men’s hopefuls are Andrew Hagan, Jock Green, Christiaan Greyling and Nic de Beer. The ladies field, meanwhile is shaping up as one that will be too tight to call. Sally Mcrae (USA) and Stephanie Case (Canada) will line up with Landie Greyling and Linda Doke, both racing UTCT for the first time, along with last year’s first and second place finishers, Nicolette Griffioen and Chantel Nienaber.
For more information about the Ultra-Trail Cape Town, as well as race entries, please visit www.ultratrailcapetown.com or follow the event on Facebook and Twitter.