With just two days to go before the second edition of “Africa’s first Ultra SkyMarathon®”, the Lesotho Ultra Trail (LUT), some 180 trail runners are making their way to the Tse’hlanyane National Park in the heart of Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains to take on the tough 50km skyrunning challenge.
After the success of the inaugural LUT in 2013, the race has not only doubled in size, but has attracted entries from all around the world, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, Belgium, the UK, Catalonia, Portugal and the USA.
Presented by The North Face, supported by Metropolitan Lesotho and Race Food, and hosted by the 5-star Maliba Mountain Lodge, this year’s LUT will see some of South Africa’s best trail runners battling it out on the high altitude course, facing more than 2 500m of ascent, and peaking at 3 148m above sea level.
Race organiser Andrew Booth of KZN Trailrunning says both the men’s and women’s fields look strong this year.
“Leading the charge is likely to be Lucky Miya, much like last year, but he will have to fend off defending champ Andrew Hagan and Mark Michell. Scott Jaime from the USA, a multiple-time Hardrock 100 podium finisher, brings the strongest of the international competitors,” says Booth.
Four Lesotho runners from nearby villages will be in the mix – by all reports they have been training hard, and with the advantage of being used to high altitude running, they could well be amongst the top 20 finishers.
Iain Don Wauchope, fresh from his record-setting win at this past weekend’s Skyrun, will also be running the race, but has said he will not be racing but rather enjoying it from a mid-field perspective.
In the women’s race, last year’s winner Tracy Zunckel will need to be in top form to beat Trish Bahlmann, winner of this year’s 50km Mont-aux-Sources Challenge. Su Don Wauchope will also be one to watch, although her battle with an ongoing virus could cost her a top spot. International contenders for the podium include Sarah Ridgway (Wales) and Kristen Ohm Pendersen (Canada), both bringing a combined pedigree of high performances from around the world.
Being the final event in the inaugural South Africa Skyrunner® Series 2014, there’s a great deal riding on the LUT for Lucky Miya, winner at the season opening Ingeli SkyMarathon® in April, as a top three finish at LUT would more than secure him the overall series victory.
Current leader in the women’s ranking is Driekie Black, whose 4th placing at the Ingeli Skymarathon® in April and 2nd place at the Matroosberg Skymarathon® in October earned her 160 points. With a good performance on Saturday, Driekie looks to secure top spot in the series but will be challenged by either Su Don Wauchope or Tracey Zunckel whose 1st and 2nd place finishes respectively at Ingeli means that podium finishes for them above Driekie could swing the women’s Skyrunner® Series result.
“This year’s course remains similar to last year’s, apart from a few minor adjustments to the traverse along the ridgeline at the top. We have also adapted our route marking method with the use of day-glow flags to guide runners effectively, even through thick mist,” says Booth.
“Maliba Lodge has been completely renovated after the fire that gutted several of the main buildings in early November 2013, and it’s looking amazing. This area has to be one of the most incredible skyrunning areas in the world!”
On race day the LUT can be followed via the race’s Twitter feed @lesothoultra and Facebook page using the hashtag #LUT2014.