One of South Africa’s top endurance trail running events, the Baviaanskloof Trail Run, is scheduled to take place on Sept. 18th in the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve along the Eastern Cape. Last year, in its inaugural run, the race earned a reputation for being an incredibly tough test for adventure athletes, who not only have to contend with a trail that is already legendary for its challenging terrain, but also a wide variety of weather conditions as well. Race organizers warn the runners that “temperatures could be in excess of 40°C (104ºF) or it could snow”
The course is 40km (24.8 miles) in length and covers some of the most challenging backcountry in all of South Africa. There is one feeding station along the route, but otherwise the runners are expected to be completely self sufficient while on the trail, where they’ll have to contend with plenty of rocky terrain, elevation changes, and tough trail conditions.
As if dealing with a rugged and remote trail, and the elements, wasn’t enough, the reserve, which happens to be a World Heritage Site, is also home to some very formidable animals. Cape Buffalo are in abundance, and Black Rhinos roam the region too, and the race website warns that Cape Cobras are amongst the dangers as well. Last year, the runners had to take a slight detour around a baby rhino that decided to camp out right on the trail, and while he wasn’t much of a threat, his overprotective mother could have been.
A recent race update sent out to the more than 100 competitors informed them that this year they have a whole new creature to keep their eyes peeled. Apparently a rather large male leopard has been spotted in the area, and like all cats, he doesn’t mind chasing his prey before he has dinner. Live traps have been set up to capture him before the day of the race, but at this point it is just one more obstacle to keep the runners moving. (I’ll take this opportunity to once again remind the competitors that they don’t have to out run the leopard, they just need to out run their closest competition on the trail!)
Now in its second year, the Baviaanskloof Trail Run is already looking like quite the yearly event. The setting, with its remoteness and rough trails, is perfect, and the element of the the amazing animals just adds to the adventure. I’d love to attend a future edition and cover it first hand, as it looks like quite the event.
And yes, the below photo is an actual image of the leopard that has been spotted on the course.