The Whale of Trail: 53km of testing trail, the first half of it amongst the finest protea-studded Cape fynbos, and the other half along spectacular, jagged Cape coastline. (The whale part was a misnomer on the day, unfortunately, as the sea was so choppy from the howling southeaster… although admittedly, had we been hiking, as do all who pass that way the other 354 days of the year, we’d have had a better chance of spotting them.)
This year’s event was the first of what will hopefully be many Whale of Trails in years to come, and blister by blister, either gruelled, gritted or grimaced, however we did it, we all loved it. The race was everything a decent trail running event should be – excellently organised, routed but not over-marked, marshalled but only at checkpoints, scenic, tough, testing, competitive.
The trail wasn’t overly technical (some may disagree!) and, in parts, allowed for some good open single track running. The course was varied, often challenging, always beautiful.
Race conditions, on the other hand, are never controllable. True to form for the southern Cape, the southeaster strutted its stuff like only it can. Between 34km and 39.5km of the route stretched several sections of beach that tested even the strongest runners. Once that stretch was done, there were still a few more beaches – another 2.3km of soft sand to contend with. Not only was the entire beach section all about sand that was sinkable to, in places, way past ankle-deep, but a head wind that gusted in semi-gale force strength, reducing everyone to a stagger. Even race winner Melikhaya Msizi (who, when asked, admitted even he had “walked the beach”).
|Race winner Melikhaya Mzisi in full focus|
One hundred and sixty runners braved the day. All were challenged. Most completed the course before cut-off. Not everyone saw the spectacular views, particularly along the cliff edge, and many missed spotting the myriad coves and grottos where crashing waves have etched their mark over millions of years.
There were some extremely speedy times, particularly by the top five runners – the fifth being the 1st woman, adventure racer Joanna Williams, visiting from New Zealand.
Congrats to all who braved the day, and to Mountain Runner Events for making this fantastic run happen. Here’s hoping for many more years for the Whale of Trail, another great race for the South African trail running calendar.
|Top 4 men|
Top 3 men
1. Melikhaya Msizi (6:06:39)
2. Ben Brimble & Chad Gordon (tie) (6:08:23)
|Top 3 ladies|
Top 3 women
1. Joanna Williams (6:27:15)
2. Katya Soggot (6:38:27)
3. Linda Doke (7:06:40)
Full results: click on Whale of Trail final results