Drak Gardens – Rory Scheffer and Holly Page celebrated World Rhino Day on Thursday by overcoming treacherous conditions and wind gusts of over 100 kilometres per hour to shatter the records for the Rhino Peak Challenge, setting new male and female Fastest Known Times (FKTs) for the 21km journey from Gooderson Drakensberg Gardens to the top of the iconic Rhino Peak and back.
As part of global World Rhino Day celebrations, the second edition of the novel Southern Drakensberg assignment seeks to raise awareness and funds for the fight against the plight of both the Rhino and the Bearded Vulture – an endangered inhabitant of the Maloti Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site that played host to the event.
As Scheffer and Lucky Miya met each other stride for stride for the majority of the encounter, the pair unknowingly spurred each other to both soar past the previous FKT of 2h45 by eleven minutes, with Scheffer’s late charge earning him the day’s line honours and the new FKT crown.
“This was definitely the shortest races I’ve done in the Berg but one of the tougher ones,” explained Scheffer. “The sheer altitude gain in the first ten kilometres was something quite different and the wind played a big part in things too.”
“It was a howling wind up the top that most people here had never experienced before and definitely played a big part in making the Rhino Peak Challenge tougher and slower than expected.
“It was beautiful though and definitely one of my favourite events, especially as the vibe here at the Rhino Peak Challenge is also quite unique.
“Yes we’re all here to go as quick as we can so that we can raise as much money as we can but everyone is a lot more relaxed than normal and the social side of things was great.
“None of us were really here to outdo each other and the fact that the FKT record was there to be broken was an incentive to push for a faster time in order for us to raise more money, not to try break the record as such.
“The organization of the event was also top notch and I think the event is just going to keep getting better and better,” he added.
After a group of twelve influential people started the challenge at 7am, Scheffer and Miya – joined by eight other top male and female trail runners from throughout South Africa and abroad – followed at 9am and remarkably completed the combined ascent and descent in just two hours and thirty four minutes.
Following Scheffer and Miya across the line were Christiaan Greyling (2h58), Steven Erasmus (3h03) and Nic de Beer (3h14).
Not to be outdone by their male counterparts though, a powerful female quintet of Great Britain’s Page and local lasses Landie Greyling, Robyn Owen, Meg MacKenzie and Tracy Zunckel too made light work of both the challenging weather and the altitude as they charged up and down the mountain in record speed.
So classy was the 2016 women’s field that all five of Page, Greyling, Owen and MacKenzie soared past the women’s previous FKT of 3h30 – set by Zunckel and Su Don-Wauchope last year.
It was however Page who was in a class of her own as she charged home in 2h45, knocking a mammoth 45 minutes off the previous record, finishing third overall and earning herself the unofficial title of ‘Performance of the Day’.
“I was really honoured to receive an invitation to come run here at the Rhino Peak Challenge amongst some fantastic athletes,” said Page.
“It was an amazing opportunity to run up a mountain for such a good cause; normally we’re running up mountains for no apparent reason, so it was great to support such an important cause.
“Obviously we don’t have rhinos nor bearded vultures in the UK so I was pleased to be able to do something to support the country that I’m now living in.
“There can’t be many people who get the chance to run up Rhino Peak on World Rhino Day, so that was obviously very special and definitely one my highlights from my time in South Africa so far.
“This was my second visit to the Drakensberg and it was amazing to see such beautiful views.
“There was a huge amount of wind out there; having grown up in the Northern hills of the UK fortunately I’m used to running in gale forces winds though,” she added.
A little further behind the elite contenders, but no less impressive in their performances, the group of influential people added their support to the event as they too conquered the tall order.
Regular elite trail runner returning from injury, Iain Don-Wauchope clocked the fastest time of the group, finishing in 3h54, Johannesburg based Financial Consultant Wealth Manager, Alexander Babich charged home in sub-4 hours, finishing in 3h59.
Trail Magazine owner and editor Deon Braun (4h00), ‘The People’s Champ’ Mbulelo Thinta (4h03), Ixopo farmer, Glen Haw (4h29) and KZN Trail Running’s Andrew Booth (4h55) all surpassed the five hour mark.
Melissa Berg and Melanie Jacobs (5h51), Sonja Krüger (5h58) and Tanya Smith (6h05) also tackled the challenge successfully.
For more information, visit www.rhinopeakchallenge.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – 2016 RHINO PEAK CHALLENGE
1.Rory Scheffer 02:34:00
2.Lucky Miya 02:34:00
3.Christiaan Greyling 02:58:00
4.Steven Erasmus 03:03:00
5.Nic de Beer 03:14:00
1.Holly Page 02:45:30
2.Landie Greyling 02:47:30
3.Robyn Owen 02:55:00
4.Megan Mackenzie 02:56:00
5.Tracy Zunckel 03:05.00
People of Influence
1.Ian Don Wauchope 03:54.00
2.Alexander Babich 03:59.00
3.Deon Braun 04:00:00
4.Mbulelo Thinta 04:03:00
5.Ryno Griesel 04:05:00
6.Glen Haw 04:29:00
7.Andrew Booth 04:55:00
8.Melissa Berg/Melanie Jacobs 05:51:00
9.Sonja Krueger 05:58:00
10.Tanya Smith 06:05:00