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Cape Town Ultra-trail Run

Cape Town Ultra-trail Run

Oct 2014

Words Fiona McIntosh 

Cape Town has had plenty to brag about of late. The World Design Capital 2014 was ranked by British newspaper The Guardian as ‘Number One Holiday Hotspot for 2014’, having previously been lauded The Telegraph’s ‘Favourite City for 2013’. The Americans concur with the Mother City topping The New York Times list of ‘52 places to go in 2014’. Oh, and it was also ranked in the Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 Top Cities.

So it’s no coincidence that the city is home to some of the world’s premier sporting events, which take full advantage of the famous brand. The Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour, the largest and most famous road race in the world, was officially renamed the Cape Town Cycle Tour in September. Need I say more?

Saturday 25 October sees the launch of another major event on the Cape Town extreme sport’s stage, the Ultra-trail Cape Town (UTCT), designed to rival well-established international events such as France’s Ultra-trail Mont-Blanc and Japan’s Ultra-trail Mount Fuji. Consisting of two ultra distance routes, 100km and 62km, as well as a shorter 17km course for those wanting to experience the thrill of running in the shadows of peaks like Lion’s Head and Devil's Peak, the inaugural event has attracted the big names on the local trail running scene including Iain Don Wauchope, Andrew Hagan, Nic de Beer, Tracy Zuknel, Chantal Nienaber, Sue Don Wauchope and Linda Doke.

But the starting line-up will also include some world-class ultra road runners and triathletes. 

Raynard Tissink, holder of eight IRONMAN titles worldwide, could not resist. ‘I can tell you honestly that I had absolutely no intention of doing it. Just the thought of running 100km is crazy, let alone 100km off road which takes twice as long, if not longer,’ he responded when asked about entering the UTCT and what he expects from race day. 

‘But I've always been one to take up a challenge, so I figured “what the hell, I'll never get the opportunity again, I may as well give it a bash.” I have no doubt it will be the hardest thing I've ever attempted, but if I finish, everything else will seem so much easier. I've managed to put in some big training weeks, nowhere near enough to feel confident, but I also don't want to risk going overboard at this late stage and getting an injury. So my game plan will revolve more around a well-planned fuelling strategy.’

Seasoned roadie Eric Ngubane, who placed 16th in the 2013 Comrades Marathon with a sub six-hour time, (an average of four minutes per kilometre!) is also on the list. The big question is whether his road racing ultra-pedigree can put him into contention in an ultra-trail with a myriad of technical trail challenges and more than 4000m of vertical gain. 

The mastermind of the Ultra-trail Cape Town is Summit Events founder and ultra-trail runner Nic Bornman, who, while living in Hong Kong, and witnessed the massive growth in the city’s ultra-trail running scene.

‘Cape Town is one of those unique cities where you cannot divorce the natural landscape from the urban environment,’ he explains. ‘The route therefore weaves together Cape Town’s cultural, social and natural heritage. With the challenge of overcoming obstacles made up of the fabric of Cape Town’s iconic landscape, the stage is set for one of the world’s premier ultra-trails.’

The routes certainly showcase the Mother City and surrounding peaks. The biggie, the 100km Ultra-trail, covers the iconic landmarks of Lion’s Head, Signal Hill, Table Mountain, Hout Bay, Llandudno, the Constantia Winelands, Newlands Forest and Devil’s Peak, while the 17km Urban-trail race takes in some of Cape Town’s best cityscapes as it meanders through the Company Gardens, Greenmarket Square, Bo-Kaap, Signal Hill, Lion’s Head and the lower contours of Table Mountain.

‘Over 20% of the entries are from outside the Western Cape and from overseas,’ concludes Bornman. ‘We’re delighted, but expected a large travelling contingent because ultra distances require training commitment. People ultimately want to be rewarded by racing in iconic destinations, so we expect that figure to dramatically increase going forward. Cape Town is the world’s most popular city and the chance to run on Table Mountain, one of the new Natural Seven Wonders of the World, makes it a hard destination to beat.’

Even if you’re not up to entering (this year), Saturday’s inaugural event is certainly going to be one worth watching.

Nightjar Travel