Can a foreigner tame the SkyRun?

The Nepalese runner, Sangé Sherpa, during the 2017 SkyRun. Last year the French-based runner came second to Lucky Miya during his first attempt at the event. This year with Miya not running he can be considered a favourite to win the gruelling 100-km mountain run. PHOTO: BRUCE VIAENE

The 2018 K-Way SkyRun takes place this weekend in the picturesque Witteberg Mountain range. This year the gruelling mountain run will see new champions being crowned.

The big question is – can the foreign curse be broken? With it being the 22nd edition of the SkyRun, a South African athlete has won the 100-km race on every single occasion, with the legendary Bruce Arnett dominating the title count with a record 13 wins.

The SkyRun has attracted some of the biggest international names over years in the world of ultra-running, and a couple have come close to claiming the title, but none could manage finishing better than second.

The latest of these was the French-based Nepalese runner, Sangé Sherpa, who had to settle for the runner-up spot to Lucky Miya last year. Before him, it was the loveable Canadian running machine, Gary Robbins, who ran in second to Iain Don-Wauchope in 2014, when the South African set the record at 12: 08:15.

This year Sherpa is back in an attempt to go one better, and with Miya not competing, it is safe to say that the Nepalese is the favourite to win the SkyRun, and in doing so, also break the foreign curse.

However, the South African athletes will be standing in Sherpa’s way, and one man that will no doubt stand in his way is AJ Calitz. The K-Way athlete has come close on so many occasions, but he is a man on the mission. Last year, Calitz, suffered a stroke in April, but went on to win the 65-km SkyRun Lite in a time of 9:07:13. Then already Calitz was quoted as saying “I have unfinished business”.

Even though Christiaan Greyling and his wife, Landie, are not competing this year, Calitz, can expect some fierce competition from the stalwarts Hylton Dunn, and Mr SkyRun, Arnett, while last year’s third-place runner, Stewart Chaperon, can also spring a surprise. Recently Chaperon was crowned South African Ultra Trail Running Champion after winning at the Addo Elephant Trail.

The women’s race year this year will also prove to be an interesting affair. Naomi Brand can be considered to be the favourite lady to take the honours this year, however, as is the case with the men’s race, she too will face some stiff competition. The 2016 champion and SkyRun record-holder, Nicolette Griffioen, who also runs for K-Way, owns the benchmark of 16:15:16 and will be running, however, she is expected to treat the race more as training run, and seeing that she will be runner along with her mother, she will almost certainly be out of the reckoning.

The former champion, Su Don-Wauchope, and Tracy Zunkel are expected to pose the biggest threat to Brand, and both are more than capable of claiming the bragging rights.
While the 100-km race is arguably the toughest mountain run in the country, the 65-km Lite event is no joke either and has claimed many victims in its own right. This year the organisers Pure Adventures, have added a new product in the form of a 38-km race.

This race will start and finish at the Wartrail Country Club, and will start as soon as the 100-km men’s winner crosses the finish line. It will see the runners brave the last part of the 100-km SkyRun route, and at night, which will prove to be very interesting indeed. – MORGAN PIEK