Otter Trail attracts top athletes

John Harvey

TWO of the world’s premier ultra trail runners have signed up for the fifth staging of the Otter African Trail Run in the Garden Route National Park later this month.

Great Britain’s Ricky Lightfoot, winner of this year’s World Trail Running Championship, and American Krissy Moehl have joined a host of other international stars – including Kenyans Jared Omwoyo Nyakoe and Silas Kipchirchir – for the event, which begins on September 22.

Lightfoot, who won the world title in Wales in July, will attempt to become the first foreign male to win the Southern Cape’s showpiece event.

Last year’s winner, Iain don Wauchope, holds the record for the west to east running of the race with 4hr 23min, while the “Classic” east to west course benchmark of 4hr 40min belongs to another South African, Ryan Sandes.

Moehl, 35, is one of the select few athletes in the world who has made a full-time career out of running races in excess of 160km.

In 2005, she became the youngest woman to complete the ultra “grand slam”, running the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run in the same year.

Last year she became the first foreign woman winner of the Otter African Trail Run with her victory in the Retto.

The 42km trail starts at the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp and ends at the De Vasselot Rest Camp in Nature’s Valley.

Lesley-Ann Meyer, area manager for the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park, explained that the “run is done in opposite directions each year”.

“When run in its original route [Storms River Mouth to De Vasselot], it is called the Otter. When run in the opposite direction from De Vasselot to Storms River Mouth, then it is called the Retto [Otter in reverse],” she said.

Although the route has undergone minor refurbishments, mainly to the huts along the route, athletes who have run the Otter confirm it is like no other in the world.

“Nothing beats running through fynbos in spring, the enchanting smell of wild flowers, coming across different types of buck, crossing the Bloukrans River and, if lucky, spotting whales and dolphins in the oldest marine protected area in Africa,” Meyer said.

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