Matroosberg Trail Challenge, SA's first Skymarathon®

Matroosberg Trail Challenge trophies, sculptured by Red Earth's Eric Tollner
Skyrunning in its official form has arrived in SA!

Saturday saw an exciting milestone for trail running in SA with the staging of the country’s first South African Skyrunning Association (SASA)-sanctioned skyrunning event, the Matroosberg Trail Challenge Skymarathon®. There’s no doubt the skyrunning bug has bitten the trail running community – the race was a huge success, and has set the tone for many more exciting skyrunning events in the pipeline for 2014 and beyond.

Skyrunning requires serious mountains, a good dose of altitude, and bags of attitude. And by attitude, I mean the positive stuff – a happy soul that recognises the privilege of being able, and the determination and grit to ensure that your mind can still spur you on when your legs and lungs feel like they just can’t take any more punishment.

AJ Calitz descending through the mist
Often it’s not only the runners taking on the challenge of skyrunning who have the attitude, it can be the weather too. And Saturday saw just that – from a few km’s into the race, the cloud above the Matroosberg dropped so low that we couldn’t see fellow runners just 20m ahead or behind for the mist and rain. It meant we didn’t score the incredible views we knew to be there, but it added another dimension to the already punishing race. This event was every bit as challenging as a Skymarathon® should be: it was gutwrenching, lungbusting, legburning, adrenalin-pumping, sphincter-clenching stuff. The course was technnical and unforgiving. And as with all skyrunning, with vertical gain comes much pain, but each gruelling minute is worth every grimace.

Queen of the Mountain Robyn Kime
As predicted, the race was won by AJ Calitz (3:43), who also claimed King of the Mountain at the highest point of the route (2215m) in 1:19.

But the most phenomenal performance by far was by ladies' winner Robyn Kime. The North Face SA athlete scooped Queen of the Mountain in 1:29 and finished the race in 4:03, just 20 min after AJ, securing 5th position overall.

Another impressive show was that of Anele Mnukwa, an Elgin Grabouw Athletic Club road runner with a 2:36 marathon best and a rather tidy 3:34 Two Oceans Ultra time. The MTC was Anele’s first long distance trail race! (His only other trail running race was the New Balance Trail Run 10km in Feb, in which he placed 2nd). Looks like this is a man to watch.

Running trail in road shoes didn't phase Anele Mnukwa
Huge congrats to MTC organiser Ghaleed Nortje, and to his team of medics, marshals and volunteers who made this race great. And a massive thank-you to the Matroosberg Nature Reserve – what a brilliant adventure playground you have!

Click on Matroosberg Trail Challenge pics copyright Andrew King/Nikon to check out more pics from the day, courtesy of photo maestro Andrew King.

1st man   -  AJ Calitz  3:43                  1st lady  -  Robyn Kime  4:03
2nd man  -  Anele Mnukwa  3:59            2nd lady -  Annemien Ganzevoort  4:32
3rd man  -  Ake Fagereng  4:02             3rd lady  -  Linda Doke  5:04

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