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Top Trail Runners for JMC Extreme

Katya Soggot

Katya Soggot

The young sport of trail running comes of age in South Africa in dramatic fashion when 300 of South Africa’s elite trail runners meet on May 5th to do battle in the spectacular natural settings of the Jonkershoek Valley Mountains near Stellenbosch – an area managed by Cape Nature.

In what promises to be a tough and exciting contest, the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge Extreme (JMC Extreme) has drawn some of the best trail runners in the country to tough it out for the ultimate prize of being selected for the first ever national team in this young and growing sport.

The selected team will then take part in the International Long Distance Trail Running Championships that will be held in Poland on August 3.

In February, Athletics South Africa (ASA) gave the nod for the first ever national trail running championship event.  Until now, trail running, which is held largely in natural settings in nature reserves and greenbelts, has been viewed as both an alternative-to and training aid for traditional road and cross country runners, or simply as a way to gain fitness in the outdoors.

Trail runners face not only the challenges of their fellow competitors but also have to deal with huge differences in terrain and weather. No trail running course is ever the same.
Trail running is fast gaining traction around the world as a sporting discipline in its own right.

The chairman of the ASA committee on trail running, Altus Schreuder, said having the best trail runners in the country coming to Jonkershoek will boost the sport in South Africa.
“These runners will bring in their sponsors and the marketing drive will be massive. It will lift the profile of the sport,” he said.

The responsibility of hosting the inaugural national event (the South African Long Distance Trail Running Championship) was awarded to Wildrunner, the specialist trail running company that was a pioneer in establishing the sport in South Africa when it began organising races in Cape Town & Johannesburg in 2007. Wildrunner launched the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge in 2010, so this year will be the third Jonkershoek event and the first Championship event.

Since those early days, Wildrunner has organised over 120 trail running events in South Africa and Lesotho. In 2012 alone, 12 000 runners took part in Wildrunner events.

There will be plenty for spectators to experience at Jonkershoek, besides spectacular scenery, with the trail running event divided into three races of different lengths, involving 950 runners in total.

Of these three races, the flagship event will be the 35km Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge Extreme route from which the first ever national trail running team will be drawn. Top runners taking part include:
•    AJ Calitz (1st 2012 PUFfeR winner & record holder, 1st 2013 Platteklip Gorge Charity & record holder, 1st 2012 3 Peaks Winner & record holder)
•    Landie Greyling (1st African X 2013, 1st 2013 Two Oceans Trail Run & Bay 2 Bay, 1st 100km Skyrun)
•    Annemien Ganzevoort (1st 2013 Bat Run, 1st 2013 Platteklip Gorge Charity run)
•    Kane Reilly (1st 2013 Silvermine Mountain XL, 2nd African X 2013 team)
•    Ben Brimble (1st 2013 African X Open Men’s team)
•    Michael Bailey (1st 2013 African X Open Men’s team)
•    Charl Souma (1st 2013 Bat Run, 3rd 2013 SA Ultra Champs)
•    Katya Soggot (1st 2012 3 Peaks & new record, 1st 2013 Silvermine Mountain XL)
•    Iain and Susan Don Wauchaupe (2nd African X mixed team, current record holders for the Otter trail run)

The runners in this event will not only have to compete against each other, they will also have to contend with the rugged terrain of the Jonkershoek mountains over a 35km long course that boasts a punishing vertical gain of 2064m and dramatic variations of weather.

They will be required to be self-sufficient and carry their own kit to sustain them over the JMC Extreme course.

Another 300 trail runners will take part in the 21km Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge. These runners will tackle a 1171m vertical height gain over a route that is mix of mountain hiking trails and forest jeep tracks. They will also be expected to carry some equipment to help them complete the race successfully.

The easier Jonkershoek Mountain Run over 10 km offers 350 runners a gentler route on mountain bike trails and jeep tracks.

The allure of trail running is that it takes athletes to places of natural beauty and as a result, environmental and conservation concerns are very much part of the organisation of each race. Over the years Wildrunner has contributed over R150 000 to a variety of conservation projects.

As part of this ethos there is a crew of very fit “sweepers” who follow in the wake of the runners to ensure that all the course markers and any stray litter is collected after each event.

The managing director of Wildrunner, Owen Middleton, said the first ever SA Long Distance Trail Running Championships is a milestone in South African trail running and will be a wonderful showcase for spectators to this exciting new sport. “I believe we potentially have some of the best trail runners in the world over this distance and with the right structure, we can see only positive outcomes from creating a passage to international competition.”
The Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge is sponsored by Aca Joe, Red Bull & Mobii.

Spectators need to bring either their Wildcard or R30 entry fee to get into the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve.  There will be coffee, tea & a selection of food available, as well as live results from the mountain.

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