The six-race South African Skyrunner® Series concluded on 26 November with the fourth annual Lesotho Ultra Trail (LUT) Ultra SkyMarathon®, staged in the Maluti mountains of northern Lesotho The event turned out to be the most gripping of the series, with just 16 seconds separating the two front runners across the finish line.
South African trail and road speedster Eric Ngubane stormed the winning tape in 5:33:59, moments ahead of Spanish ultra-distance specialist Gerard Morales (5:34:15), after a nail-biting final third of the race.
Ngubane, who led for the first 42km of the race, was passed by Morales during the notorious second big climb, and had dropped almost two minutes behind the Spaniard by the start of the final 7km descent to the finish. With just three kilometres to go, Ngubane’s determination to take the win saw him speed down the twisty single track descent at sub-3½ minute pace, passing Morales and sprinting to the finish. Lucky Miya’s course record of 5:24:42, set in 2015, remains secure.
Another impressive performance was Quinton Honey, who finished in third place in 5:41:04, bettering his previous best course time by more than 30 minutes.
Women’s winner Karine Bezuidenhout dominated the women’s race from about 14km into the course, overtaking initial leader Su don-Wauchope en route to the highest point on the course at 3 200m. Bezuidenhout’s lead grew steadily, seeing her clinch the top spot in 6:57:08, in 9th position overall.
Don-Wauchope finished as second woman (7:13:26) in 10th overall.
Last-minute entry Gia Madoley from the USA finished in third place (7:32:04) – yet another notable result, being just one week after running the 100km Skyrun, in which she finished fourth woman.
This year’s LUT drew the biggest international field yet of any southern African trail race, with 11 countries represented. The race had participants from the USA, Spain, Brazil, Canada, Italy, France, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Japan and the UK.
Ultra-distance trail runner Krissy Moehl (USA), winner of the Ultra-Trail Du Mont Blanc (2009), the Otter Trail Run 2012, and the Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji (2013), finished in fourth position, and described running in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho as heart-achingly beautiful.
“This year’s LUT was the most exciting racing we’ve had in the four years of the event,” says race director Andrew Booth.
“Interest in the Lesotho Ultra Trail is spreading fast across the world – being a skyrunning event puts the race on the international calendar so the word is out there, and every year we have more and more internationals coming to do the race.”
Full results from the Lesotho Ultra Trail can be found at http://www.lesothoultratrail.com/, together with great images from Terence Vrugtman and Emma Gatland.