The fifth and final race in the 2017 Skyrunner® Series, the Lesotho Ultra Trail (LUT), promises to be even bigger and better than previous years, with stiff local and international competition amongst the full field of 120 skyrunners lining up for the 50km Ultra Skymarathon®.
Saturday’s race is the fifth running of LUT, Africa’s original Ultra Skymarathon® and by far the toughest in the region. Run in the Tsehlanyane National Park in northern Lesotho, the circular route takes in the glory of the Maluti mountains, starting around 1 880m above sea level and cresting at just over 3 200m, clocking up around 2 500m of vertical gain.
The route starts and finishes at the host venue, the 5-star Maliba Lodge, which faces many of the mountains on which the route is run.
Every year LUT attracts regional and international attention, and 2017 is no exception, with elites not only vying for the race’s podium positions, but for the top three places in this year’s Skyrunner® Series.
Runners to watch in the men’s field will include 2015 South African long distance trail champion, and Drakensberg Northern Trail Skymarathon record holder Johardt van Heerden, who’ll be making his comeback after a long-term injury. Van Heerden will have strong competition from Kwenza Ngubane, Nomore Mandigenvarai, and local Lesotho athletes Tsokolo Moakhi and Mpaki Teeke.
Spanish legend ultra-distance trail runner Joel Aubeso and his son Jordi (pictured above) will also be participating.
The podium in the women’s race will be tightly contested, with top trail runner and Xterra champ Carla van Huysteen racing against 2016 South African ultra-trail champion Nicolette Griffieon, and rising star Marzelle van der Merwe. Canadian Merli Drzymala-Bokitch, however, may well give these elites solid competition. At just 18, she is set to be the youngest LUT finisher to date.
Another first this year will see race director Andrew Booth toeing the starting line of his own race, leaving the directorship of the event in the capable hands of Lauren Booth and Canadian media partner Ryne Melcher. Melcher has flown out from Canada for all five Lesotho Ultra Trails.
“We will be awarding about five runners with a special number this year, for having completed all five LUTs,” says Booth.
“We’re excited to welcome our new apparel sponsor Raidlight, and to recognise Metropolitan Lesotho’s continued sponsorship in their fourth year with the event.”
Follow the LUT via the race’s Twitter feed @lesothoultra and Facebook page using the hashtag #LUT2017