Long after most of the winners have crossed the finish line, the area could be mistaken for a picnic spot. Groups of people happily chatting away, enjoying their complimentary boerewors roll and Glaceau Vitamin water with the lull of music and bursts of laughter. However closer inspection will reveal some exhausted individuals with blistered feet, bruised and battered legs with scratches and cuts and the odd loose toe-nail for good measure.
This is what the entrants have come to expect from the Merrell Outeniqua Traverse in George. Trail running at its best over terrain very few other races can rival and, with race organisers like Graham Bird and Tatum Prins at the helm,you know it is going to be tough! The event, starting from the George Botanical Garden, offers three different routes to accommodate all levels of fitness. The 10 km discipline to give the beginners a taste of trail running.The 25 km distance which offers a great route through the mountains. And finally for the real hardcore trail runners the 38 km route which goes the whole way round the mountain.
Starting on a lovely flat section of closely mowed land, runners may very well have thought they were in for an easy day. Some easy jeep track through pine forest comes next allowing the legs ample time to warm up and to get the backpacks comfy and secure. Depending on the distance entered, runners were then to turn off into amazing single track traversing the Outeniqua Mountains, through fynbos, and number of small streams all infused with some breathtaking mountain vistas. Traverse may well be a bit of a misnomer as it has a soft fluffy feel to it, however with an average slope of 9,3% and 7,8 % on the 38 and 25 kilometre distances respectively this trail run needs to be taken very seriously.
A total of 222 runners arrived on the day and apart from the few withdrawals many entrants achieved the finish line. The 38-kilometre distance was won in a brilliant 4 hours 22 minutes by Charl Souma (VOB) and Chantel Nienaber doing her thing in 5 hours 16 minutes. Jacques Mouton won the 25-kilometre race in 2 hours 21 minutes and the first lady, Lisl Grobler coming in with a time of 2 hours 59 minutes. JC Visser smashed the 10 kilometres in 41 minutes 25 seconds and Kaye Bester winning the ladies section in 54 minutes 16 seconds.
But the day is not about winning or losing it is about getting out and about in spectacular surroundings, meeting old friends and making new acquaintances. Entrants from a far a field as Kimberley made the trip for the day illustrating the appeal of the event and the fact that any die-hard trail runner should add it to their bucket list. Just don’t be mislead by the name or start, as registration is at a tea garden, who could be blamed for thinking it will be easy! See you all again next year.
See www.mountainrunner.co.za for full results and photo’s.
Photo Credit ~ Mark Sampson / THRIBE MEDIA