It was once believed that Table Mountain was the physical manifestation of the Roman god Janus. This guy was considered to be a gatekeeper; one that facilitated new beginnings and transitions. Alternatively, a Xhosa folktale has the powerful god Qamata in conflict with a sea dragon called Nkanyamba and their battle resulting in Qamata’s mother creating four stone giants to watch over the world. Umlindi Wemingizimu (Watcher of the South), more commonly known as Table Mountain, took the southernmost point. A legend of Cape Malay origin describes the Dutch pirate Van Hunks in a smoking contest with the Devil, resulting in the white tablecloth of our much-loved, flat-topped mountain.
There are these legends, and then there are others. In 2014 and 2015 Ultra-Trail Cape Town welcomed some of the biggest trail names to the challenging slopes and summits of Table Mountain and surrounds. Over the 65km and 100km routes, trail legends were born and broken, and a new ultra-event has found a firm spot on the race calendars of many.
In 2016, a date shift will result in an additional 2 hours for the 100km event. On 10 December the legends will return, with a total time allocation of 17 hours, bringing the race closer to the global norm of a 24-hour 100km event.
So word on the new race date went out, and the buzz has grown steadily. Names confirmed for the 100km see a return of Jock Green (2nd), Johnny Young (3rd) and Bennie Roux (4th) from the 2015 line up. 2015 Skyrun champ Bruce Arnett has also put his hand up. 2014 defending champs Eric Ngubane and Nicolette Griffieon will return to battle in 2016. Chantel Nienaber, who took an hour off her 2014 time to finish second lady in 2015, will also be returning to the 100km event. The 2015 champ and ladies’ record holder, Kerry-Ann Marshall, plans to make the UTCT 100km her final race for 2016. With both Kerry-Ann and Eric Ngubane in to defend the course records, 2016 will undoubtedly be a fast-paced event.
One of the questions posed by many is, “Will Gift Kelehe come back to face the mountain that beat him in 2015?” It’s good news, trail fans. Gift is planning a very different approach this year, “Comrades and Ultra-Trail Cape town are my goal races for 2016. I will be in a full trail training programme after Comrades, and will return to that mountain to put some ghosts to rest.” In 2015 Gift lined up as one of the favourites to win, but battled near-hypothermia in challenging weather conditions to come off the mountain as one of the last finishers. He won the hearts of the trail community through his incredible humility and willingness to sign autographs on the finish line.
In the 65km race, first timer Thabang Madiba kicks off the beginnings of another stellar line up and the 2016 Batrun winner, 18 year old Chris Strydom, will be hunting more magic in the new 35km race along with 23 year old Johardt van Heerden; SA Long Distance Trail Champ in 2015.
So whether you believe in Roman mysticism, a sea dragon called Nkanyamba or sharing a hubbly bubbly with a chap called Van Hunks, you better believe that 10 December will see a return of some great legends to Table Mountain and Ultra-Trail Cape Town.