Last week I mentioned an amazing new long distance foot race that was scheduled to take place over the weekend in the form of the Liberty Health Baviaanskloof Trail Run. The 40km (25 mile) race took place in the Baviaanskloof Nature Preserve, located in South Africa, with runners dealing with challenging trail conditions while on the look out for a host of wild animals as well.
The following is a long, but very well done race report that was sent my way by Darrell Raubenheimer, who was on hand for the race. It will give you a sense of how everything went down, on what looks to be a great new edition to the endurance running world:
Liberty Health Baviaanskloof Trail Run : 12 September 2009
“There is no path, there are no flags; there are lots of animal tracks down the hill; choose one and make your way down to the clearly defined path at the bottom of the hill. Go carefully, it is extremely slippery.”
The inaugural Liberty Health Baviaanskloof Trail Run, hosted by Eastern Cape Parks, was staged in the stunning rugged beauty of the Geelhoutbos area of the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve on Saturday.
There was an early morning chill when, after a detailed pre-race briefing, the 59 starters headed out for their ‘run with legends’. The unspoilt Baviaanskloof proved a perfect setting for South Africa’s newest trail run.
Conditions were ideal and the field soon spread out as they headed onto the trail that took the runners through the wilderness area of a World Heritage Site that is inhabited by black rhino and buffalo as well as other wildlife. The section used for the Liberty Health Trail Run is closed to the public and made for bubbling excitement at the start. The organisers were forced to make last minute route changes to take the runners away from a kloof due to aggressive black rhino. This resulted in the route being approx 38km. A couple from Natal were thrilled to find an Eland up close on the return section while there were reports of kudu and mountain reedbuck spotted en route, as well as numerous baboons.
The route proved to live up to it’s pre-race hype and the pre-race briefing; being rugged, harsh and rough underfoot, challenging, amazingly scenic with spectacular fynbos in bloom, and forcing runners to think and choose suitable animal paths to come down the hillside. Not for the fainthearted.
As a first time run the route caught everyone somewhat by surprise and, as with any activity, some coped better on the day than others.
The closing section, when runners come down from the plateau selecting animal tracks to reach a trail that runs above a kloof, proved to be extremely technical with numerous runners finding this part extremely challenging and taxing. While some may have been temporarily confused in the spekboom no-one was lost as any path down was the correct one. Most of the field were able to ‘read’ the bush and came down with only a few scratches. Others became exasperated as the tracks zigzagged down the hillside, not used to have to find their own way. Some were concerned that different routes were taken – all routes were correct – no-one took a ‘short-cut’, path selection was up to each runner. It seems that those who are not averse to a few thorn strikes and scratches will be back!
Thanks to hosts Eastern Cape Parks, for affording the privilege of experiencing this special area, and to Liberty Health for their support and contribution to the event.
Liberty Health’s commitment to environmentally aware activities, such as the Baviaanskloof Trail Run (and the Rhodes Trail Run), creates a platform for trail runners.
Capetonian Warren Petterson took the lead from the start and by the 27km checkpoint had a clear 18 minute gap on fellow Capetonian, Leo Rust. Petterson extended his lead over the home section to win by 48 minutes.
Port Elizabeth’s SanMari Woithe won the ladies section, with a very impressive 6th position overall, in a time of 4hr 39 min.
The last finisher, Gavin, started with a knee injury and battled gamely, and slowly, over the entire route, linking up with the Sweep Team towards the end and really earned his finisher’s medal.
Most participants finished with numerous scratches from the thorn bushes and one received 11 stitches to his leg having been ‘attacked’ by a common nocturnal Baviaans brown slip-rock – it is well recorded that the nocturnal slip-rocks get rather aggressive if woken during daylight hours! Once on the endangered list, herds of the Baviaans brown slip-rocks were recorded by runners.
Liberty Health CEO, Peter Botha, sent a message part of which said – “As you know this is a unique and challenging endurance race which enables athletes with remarkable talent and sheer dedication to run in almost isolation with nature. Therefore, a special word of congratulations to every sportsman and –woman who tackled this challenge today.
The fact that you are each a serious athlete is the very reason why you are partaking in this event. That is what makes the Baviaanskloof Trail Run such a perfect fit with Liberty Health’s focus: we are equally serious about both healthcare and the environment.”
All the starters finished and were rewarded with a magnificent medal as well as a potted spekboom plant. Runners were unanimous with their praise of the high standard of organisation of the event and thrilled with the generous hand-outs.
Liberty Health have involved themselves with two of the Eastern Capes most extreme events, the Rhodes and Baviaanskloof Trail Runs, both having synergy with the sponsors philosophy of creating environmental awareness while at the same time stimulating wellness through sport.
Both the first man and first lady received unique hand crafted trophies, made by the pupils of the Zaaimanshoek School, as well as their floating trophies, the 20kg bronze Black Rhino sculpture by internationally renowned artist Alan Ainslie. In addition, each received a special spekboom winner’s wreath. Both winners will also receive ‘wild card’ entries to the 2010 run as defending champions.
The organisers sponsored the entry for two Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve Field Rangers and Klaas Kietas (6hr 42 min) and Koos Prince (6hr 54 min) completed in 46th and 50th position respectively.
1- Warren Petterson 3hr 16 min
2- Leo Rust 4hr 3 min
3- Ian Adams 4hr 4 min
1- SanMari Woithe 4hr 39min
2- Nikki Cockroft 4hr 54 min
3- Kylie Hatton 5hr 6 min