Underberg – As organisers start to gear towards final touches on the various routes for the first installment of the Ultra-Trail® Drakensberg (UTD) at the end of April, preparing a race that traverses a World Heritage Site will provide runners with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but comes with its own unique challenges.
As entries continue to stream in for what is the first edition of this race on 29 April, organisers have had their own fair share of challenges in preparing for the race. However Spurgeon Flemington believes that the challenges are worth the reward.
“Accessibility is always a challenge, especially with regard to trail preparation and medical support during the event, but these are easy pills to swallow when you consider how privileged we are to have access to such a pristine and unique habitat,” Flemington mentioned.
“We are also not permitted to start any type of event within the pristine areas of the Maloti-Drakensberg Park and this can be frustrating when you look at the potential but it is the right policy and we support it wholeheartedly.
“The codes of conduct and behaviour that govern a World Heritage Site of this nature mimic the core values we embrace in our events so we don’t find these restrictive or challenging,” he added.
Having access to such a sublime part of the Drakensberg gives the Ultra-Trail® Drakensberg an added attraction to an already appealing adventure and with such a limited impact on the region the race can continue to help in supporting and contributing to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
“The Maloti Drakensberg Park is truly an underappreciated part of Southern Africa and the diversity and significance of its natural and cultural history deserve far more recognition.
“To play a small part in spreading its message is extremely gratifying,” a passionate Flemington commented.
“We only use existing trails for our events as we are not allowed to build new trails in the Park.
“Having said that, many of the trails are overgrown and semi-abandoned and we put quite a bit of work into clearing and rehabilitating them.
“A large portion of the funds that we raise for EKZNW through the events is channelled back into the trails.
“Meshing the existing trails to form viable courses is challenging but also one of the most fun parts of the whole enterprise,” he said.
With over five years of experience in hosting events of the nature of Ultra-Trail® Drakenberg, Flemington and his team are well equipped to handle to issues that come with an event with a varying degree of logistical challenges.
“For an event like UTD100 in particular, weather and safety will always be the most challenging logistical factors.
“The Drakensberg is a dynamic and unforgiving environment and things can turn bad very quickly, so managing those factors while still ensuring that the event runs smoothly is the biggest challenge,” a wary Flemington explained.
Flemington’s Running Man Adventures has hosted a wide variety of events in the Drakensberg with one of the most recent being the Rhino Peak Challenge, an event that took runners and walkers to the top of the Rhino Horn in the Southern Drakensberg.
The event played a slight part in Flemington’s preparation for the UTD 100km event as it all forms part of the great trail network that runs through the Maloti-Drakensberg Park.
“The Rhino Peak Challenge was just a fundraiser and didn’t have a direct influence on the 100km course but all things feed off each other.
“The input from the Elite athletes at RPC was useful when we started looking at the UTD100 course,” Flemington added.
Having had the Ultra-Trail® Cape Town in December 2016, the Drakensberg edition will want to establish its own identity amongst the Ultra-Trail® event worldwide, something that Flemington believes is possible.
“The lads at UTCT have set the bar really high in the Southern African context and we aim to emulate that quality.
“We are also strongly aware of the responsibility the Ultra-Trail brand carries from an international perspective and we intend to establish UTD as a fully-fledged member of that community,” he concluded.
As with all Running Man Adventures events a significant portion of each entry will be donated to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and we are also very pleased to announce that UTD will be partnering with Wildlife Act (www.wildlifeact.com) and assisting them to raise funds and awareness.
More information can be found at www.ultratraildrakensberg.com