One hundred and forty-eight trail runners touched the sky this weekend in the 13th running of the Sky Run. But two runners did more than that: Ian Don Wauchope and Tatum “Hobbit” Prins carved their names across the night sky by blitzing the race in true champion style – Ian in 14:56 and Tatum in 20:12. Both were brilliant times for this new course, which was undecidedly nastier than the original route that finished at Tiffendel. Huge congrats to you both!
Sky Run is a unique event in SA – not only is it the most technically challenging trail race in the country but it’s on an unmarked course, requires self-navigation, and is staged in a vast and distinctly remote corner of the Wartrail / New England section of the Eastern Cape.
The race starts at 4am in the little town of Lady Grey and ends 110km and, for some, up to 36 hours, later.
It’s tough, harsh and rugged, peaks at an altitude of more than 2 700m above sea level, has 5 316m of leg-burning ascent, and 5 158m of quad-trembling descent.
If you have guts and love a rough challenge set in the most awe-inspiring surrounds, this race is for you.
This was my second Sky Run. Having messed up rather badly last year by getting lost in the dark when the 20-hour battery life of my Garmin died after just 14 hours (even though I’d deactivated all unnecessary functions, dimmed the screen intensity, etc beforehand), I had unfinished business with this race.
This time I came more prepared. Craig and I got to the New England area a day early to recce Wildfell, which was where all had gone pear-shaped last year for me and my buddy Guy Jennings. What I remembered as nothing more than a confusion of thick bush in the dark of night now made sense in the daylight and I was relieved to finally have that section clear in my mind.
Being self-navigational and often with long sections without any sign of path or trail to follow, this race requires either intimate knowledge of the route (which very few have), or the navigational assistance of maps (provided and mandatory) and/or GPS devices. This, and the fact that the terrain is generally very rough, is what makes this race hard core. The winning times for this event simply cannot be compared to other trail races of similar distances – this course is barely visible!
Two of the many things that make Sky Run extra special are how well organised the race is, and the unbelievable hospitality of the farmers in the area. The amount of planning and preparation that goes into staging a race of this type is immense, and every year Adrian Saffy and his team do a superb job.
A HUGE thank-you must go out to Saffy the Star of Sky Run for organising this great event, and to all the marshals from the 4x4 club in Bloem, who voluntarily spend hours and hours up on the ridges and peaks waiting for us crazies to stagger through.
An equally enormous thanks must go to the local community of the Wartrail/New England area, for sharing their mountains with us, allowing us to run over their land, and then for feeding us the wonderful meals at Balloch and at the finish. You make the checkpoints and the finish line such a pleasure to reach!
Andrew & Janet Viedge of Bidstone Guest Farm, you rock! Your hospitality surpasses all, thank you for everything!
And thanks as always to my sponsor Salomon for the best gear ever. For feet to survive 110km of tough technical trail running without a single blister or hot spot, the shoes must be the best.
Long live S-Labs, they're the BEST!
Labels: Bidstone, New England, Sky Run, Wartrail