The champion, Thabang Madiba, is back to defend his Powertraveller 4 Peaks Mountain Challenge title this week at the stunning Moolmanshoek Private Game Reserve outside Ficksburg.
A year ago, Madiba shattered the record set by the trail-running great, Ryan Sandes, by nearly two minutes to clock a time of 2:40:54 over a gruelling 24km race.
Madiba, who is somewhat of a household name among trail runners in South Africa, edged the local hero, Sampie Makoekoa, who actually works on the farm, by five seconds to claim the honours and record in the first ever reverse run.
Madiba went on to claim the third place at Otter African Trail Run a few weeks later and was only bettered on the day by Switzerland’s Marc Lauenstein and Kane Reilly. Lauenstein won the race in 03:59:29 to become the first man ever to run a sub-4 hour Otter. Madiba crossed the line in 04:38:39
Following him last year, Madiba, told Voice that he has used Makoekoa’s knowledge of the mountains and the route to his advantage.
“I was a bit scared to run away from him (Makoakoe) because I don’t know the route and I was afraid of getting lost. Sampie is a cool guy. I have a name for him – he is Sampie the Navigator, so he just helped me, especially coming down. I just kept asking Sampie, are we going left, are we going right – we just kept hammering, ‘just keep pushing, please don’t stop, let’s go, let’s go!’
“I kept motivating him because he was not feeling well. I did this until we could see the finish line, then I outsprinted him.”
Chabeli Nyedimane, who has been dominating the 2016 Castle Lite Trail League series was the first Bloemfontein runner to cross the finish line in a time of 02:43:42 to complete the podium, while Chris Strydom, who was still at school ran in fourth in 03:04:02 in an impressive run.
The women’s race was another interesting affair with a neck-and-neck race between Georgina Ayre and Jackie Moore right until the end. Ayre took the honours in a time of 04:06:03 to pip Moore by 52 seconds, with Natasja Kask completing the podium in 04:15:07.
Last year heat played a major factor with exceptionally hot weather for this time of the year, however, this year there is much better news on the weather front with temperatures in the low 20s predicted for Saturday. – MORGAN PIEK