The five-race South African 2017 Skyrunner® Series drew to a high-class conclusion on Saturday with the setting of a new course record at the Lesotho Ultra Trail Ultra SkyMarathon®.
Drakensberg Northern Trail Skymarathon record holder and 2015 South African long distance trail champ Johardt van Heerden dominated the race and swept across the finish line in 5:22:53, almost two minutes under Lucky Miya’s record set in 2015.
Lesotho local Mositi Monyane took an early lead, followed by chase group of Van Heerden and Gijima Trust development athletes Kwenza Ngubane, Perfect Dlamini and Ayanda Shabalala. Van Heerden pulled ahead on the notorious 8km climb up to Camp Davis (16km), and held the lead for the rest of the race. Ngubane chased hard the whole way and secured 2nd place (5:48:49), a full 26 mins after Van Heerden.
Rising Spanish talent Joel Aubeso overtook Monyane on the gruelling 3km climb back up to Camp Davis (43km) and held on to claim 3rd position in 5:55:41.
The women’s race was more tightly contested. 2016 South African ultra-trail champion Nicolette Griffieon and Xterra champ Carla van Huysteen went head to head for the first 20km, until Griffioen pulled away along the top of the escarpment and maintained a convincing lead to victory (6:37:47).
Van Huyssteen, who later made the decision to downgrade to the 38km at CP5 (36km) due to stomach cramps, was overtaken by Marzelle van der Merwe along the top of the escarpment. Van der Merwe finished in 2nd place (6:46:56), followed by Simone Barrett in 3rd (7:14:16).
The weather on race day threw a slight curveball, said race director Lauren Booth, but as all skyrunners know, changeable weather is very much a part of running in the mountains.
“Despite stormy predictions, the day dawned beautifully clear. By mid morning cloud and thunder had rolled in, bringing rain and snow on the ridgeline by midday. As a result we implemented compulsory kit and medical checks at CP5 to ensure that those heading back up to 2 600m were appropriately equipped. The storms were short-lived, and by the end of the day we had clear skies again to welcome in the back-fielders,” said Booth.
“The vibe this year was even better than ever. Raidlight joining as apparel sponsor has added a great new angle to the race, and permanent numbers were awarded to runners and crew who have participated in all of the five Lesotho Ultra Trails. As the final event in the Skyrunner Series each year, we believe LUT has a unique flair, and this year, the weather was the extra element adding to the runners’ thrill.”
Full results from LUT 2017 can be found at http://www.lesothoultratrail.com/, together with great images from Terence Vrugtman.
Diarise 24 November for LUT 2018!