The stage is set as trail runners from across the country make their way to the spectacular Drakensberg Mountain Range in preparation for the Drakensberg Northern Trail this weekend. Taking place on Saturday, 25 March at the top of Oliviershoek Pass, the highly anticipated event features the popular 40km skymarathon, which is the first race on the South African Skyrunner Series, as well as three shorter distances of 20km, 10km and 5km, making it a welcome weekend of running for all.
Now in it’s third year, the Drakensberg Northern Trail was borne out of a friendship between elite trail runner, Tracy Zunckel, and KZN Trail Running’s Andrew Booth and has since grown to become an important event within the trail running community. Last year’s event drew a wealth of competition to its line-up, with the likes of Johardt van Heerden and Nicolette Griffioen taking the overall and women’s podium from tough competitors Iain don Wauchope (Costa Rica Coastal Challenge winner in 2015 and 2016), Christiaan Greyling (Ultra Trail Cape Town 2015 winner), Kane Reilly (2nd in the Otter Trail Run 2015), Megan Mackenzie (African X winning ladies team 2016), and Nicky Booyens (2015 Skyrunner®Series ladies champ), Marzelle van der Merwe (Lesotho Mountain Challenge 38km ladies winner 2015), to mention a few.
This year, many prominent names return to defend their titles, with a highly competitive ladies race that sees Griffioen defending her title against prominent names including Holly Page, Sue Chapman, Carla van Huyssteen, Julia Hackland, Robyn Greyling, Zoe Papadakis and Kim Westbrook vying for honours.
While DNT boasts a strong contingent of athletes, the event appeals to racing snakes and social trail runner alike. The section of the Drakensberg in which the event takes place is right on the border between KZN and the Free State and combs sandstone cliffs and basalt rock formations for truly spectacular scenery. Adding to the sweeping views is Sterkfontein Dam, which contributes to the dramatic scenery and sense of place.
Commenting on the event, Booth said that, as with every mountain race, there would be many unknown elements.
“The 2017 race looks like it may be run in wetter and cooler conditions than the 2016 event. This means that the organising team and participants need to be meticulous in their preparations. It’s KZN Trail Running’s first big mountain race of 2017, and we are all very excited to be there are host what should be an epic experience for all.”