Not everybody knows that the Merrell Outeniqua Traverse is really a road run. A 38km, muddy, slippery, rocky, steep, thrilling, road run.
One can’t help, while struggling to find breath and footing on this incredible race, to wonder about the brave Voortrekker families that forged their way with their teams of oxen over this mountainous terrain, opening up the highway to the north. On Saturday, 21st century runners’ Vibram clad feet skipped and slipped over and in the very ruts made by wagon wheels almost 200 years ago.
Every runner from the tough and technical 38km and 25km as well as the tamer and much flatter 10km races, came in grinning. Filthy, exhausted and aching, yet buzzing with the incredible energy sustained from the mountains overlooking George in the Western Cape.
Not even the small minded pettiness of those who maliciously turned the marker arrows around at several junctions and stole the coloured ribbons used to mark points of the trail could curb the athletes’ enthusiasm. Staff were quick to rectify and replace these, making sure everybody found their way safely home to the George Botanical Gardens – the perfect venue for lazy picnics after a hard morning workout – to claim the many prizes on offer by Merrell, Nikwax and PVM.
This is a special event. Not much fanfare and flash. Lots of genuine trail runners, many of whom return year after year to pay their respects to the incredible route.
Melikhaya Msizi, who last year fought hard for third place with 3h50min (when the 38km hosted SA Champs), this year led in the field in a time of 4h45min – testament to the time sucking effect of the sticky mud and careful footing required on the wet slopes. Dunya Ansems led the ladies in with a time of 5h30, in 5th place overall.
The 25km, following train tracks and then a long, long climb, shares the last 12km of the 38km route from Tierkop hut, over the dam and onto the most tricky and sticky sections. Kei Heyns and Melissa van Rensburg posted brilliant results of 2h21 and 2h47.
The 10km was won by Siyabulelo Mgweba in a fast 41min 40 sec, closely followed by first junior Ross Welsh, with Mellissca Toovy, winning the Ladies in 51min 41sec and 3rd overall.
Well done to all entrants, may your washing come clean and your muscles ease up. See you again next year.