Rugged mountains, thin air, lung-busting ascents and technical trail is what skyrunners know they score with all skyrunning events. The Matroosberg Skymarathon® on Saturday delivered this and much more, with the bonus of a peak summit and incredible views.
The Matroosberg Skymarathon®, was not only the second of three events in the national Skyrunner Series, but was one of the South African long distance trail champs qualifiers for 2015.
The race attracted a strong men’s field, with race favourite AJ Calitz smashing all contenders to defend his 2013 title of King of the Mountain and take the win in 3:51. In a repeat of last year’s race, 2:30 marathon runner Anele Mnukwa secured 2nd place (4:07), and was followed by Christiaan Greyling in close 3rd (4:08).
The women’s race was won by “trail dassie” Landie Greyling (4:40), with Driekie Black in 2nd (5:14) and Megan Skowno in 3rd (5:17).
Staged in the harsh yet scenic Matroosberg Nature Reserve near Ceres, some two and a half hours from Cape Town, the route of the MTC makes for a blistering challenge, demanding a vertical gain of more than 2 100m over a route that tests the climbing and descending skills of even the most technical competent trail runners.
Race organiser Ghaleed Nortje said all eyes had been on the weather in the week leading up to the race, as thick mist and windy conditions are commonplace in the Matroosberg range because of the altitude.
“The day dawned to show the Matroosberg Peak in cloud, but that soon lifted, promising spectacular views and, most importantly, great running!” said Nortje.
With temperatures considerably higher than last year’s race, the warmer weather added an extra dimension to the overall challenge.
“Although the wind on approach to the peak had an effect on the King of the Mountain time, AJ was still on track to break the record of the original route, but because the weather was clear this year, we allowed runners to summit, which added another 500m of ascent to the route.”
Having raced this year’s Ingeli Skymarathon® in April, Driekie Black’s 2nd place in the Matroosberg Skymarathon® places her in good standing in the national Skyrunner® Series 2014, pushing her into first position in the women’s ranking. She will be competing in the final event in the series the Lesotho Ultra Trail (LUT), a 50km Ultra Skymarathon®, on 29 November.
“As the number of SASA-sanctioned skyrunning events increases, so the national circuit will grow, attracting more and more runners to this thrilling type of trail running,” says SASA chairman James Hallett.
“Skyrunning offers far more than simply running on trails, it’s special. It attracts the trail runner who’s drawn to exploring parts of the country that are extraordinary in their natural beauty, far from the madding crowd. And for those who crave the competitive edge, we offer the national circuit – they can race for points for a national ranking.”
Landie Greyling, who has had the privilege of competing in a couple of skyrunning events in Europe this year, is thrilled about the concept of this specialised form of trail running for South Africa.
“Skyrunning is drawing huge attention worldwide, and it is very exciting that South Africa is now part of this iconic concept with the introduction of our very own national Skyrunner® Series. We definitely have the variety of routes, the mountain ranges and the terrain to host many different skyrunning events,” says Greyling.