Wildcoast Wildrun 2017
Pics Mark Sampson
The Wildcoast Wildrun® takes 80 runners on three-day boutique running holiday along South Africa’s Wild Coast, a slice of unfenced coastal paradise. From footprint-free golden beaches along a warm ocean, to rolling grass headlands and delicate coastal forests teeming with life.
Each year, the event becomes embedded in the hearts of its participants, and the 2017 edition will be no less memorable than previous years. In particular, the perfect weather conditions and competitive jousting at the sharp end set this year apart.
Following a night at Kei Mouth, and against a strikingly pink sunrise, runners were transported by Ferry to the start. Locals filtered down to wish the group well, and after a brief recap on the unmarked route, the 44km journey to Kob Inn began.
The Transkei coastline is the epitome of untouched beauty. Wide stretches of white sand give way to jet black rocky outcrops. This year, recent storms had shifted the coastline somewhat, creating a little more camber in places, and exposing more rock in others. With race director Owen’s final words “just keep the Sea on your right” runners broke up in to smaller groups, with Frenchmen Michel Yannick and Regis Maniora setting the pace, and whippet-fast Pretoria runner, Marelise Retief in hot pursuit. Not to be outdone, 8 times Wildcoast Wildrun® finisher Martin Stewart set off on a hot trot, with fellow Capetonian Erik Westvig at his heels.
As the route traversed between hard-packed sand, grassy headlands and rocky sections, runners were treated to the gentle gaze of local Nguni cows, the encouragement of fishermen and the regular company of a swooping African Fish Eagle. River crossings on Day 1 were knee to waist deep, and the full field of runners arrived to a warm Kob Inn welcome, where their famous lamb stew, cold beers and unbeatable sea view rounded off a great day of running wild. Marelise broke the women’s Day 1 record by 6 minutes, finishing 2nd overall between Yannick and Maniora.
Day 2 dawned with equally perfect weather conditions on the cards, and a staggered start saw the slower runners off first, with the fast pack enjoying a slightly more leisurely morning. By 14km, Marelise had taken the overall lead, leaving the two Frenchmen to battle it out over the 35km route between Kob Inn and The Haven. The magnificent Dwesa reserve forms part of the Day 2 route, where Rhinos once roamed, but the beauty of this area remains staggering. A combination of sand, forest tracks and some fun drops in to, and out of, deep gullies were some of the other highlights. Marelise completed the day in first place, with Capetonian Johan Jansen van Vuuren and Frenchman Regis Maniora not too far off her pace. An unfortunate detour cost Marelise the course record.
The atmosphere at The Haven was once again festive and full of war stories. With real life long forgotten, the runners found themselves fully ensconced in a celebration of one of South Africa’s most beautiful coastlines, and the outright privilege of running through untouched natural beauty. During dinner, special guests from local NGO Ikhaya Loxolo presented the work that they are doing with disabled children in the area. Ikhaya Loxolo is one of the beneficiaries of Wildrunner funding, and recipient of the generous voluntary donations made by Wildcoast Wildrun® participants.
The final day dawned below a temporarily grey sky, which lifted to once again present runners with arguably the best weather that this event has had in its 9 years. A 34km route with more than 1000m of elevation was promised, and it certainly delivered. No shortage of whale spotting, some hammerhead sharks in one of the bays, and reports of two beautiful Cape Cobras filtered through the group. The second half of the course took runners further inland, over and around vast grassy banks with views that seemed never ending. Eventually all cattle tracks lead to a breath-taking finish at the iconic spot, Hole-In-The-Wall. Here, emotional runners were met with medals, finishers’ jackets, cold beer and a feast of food.
In the end, Marelise took first place with a 57 second win over Regis Maniora. Martin Stewart was third on the overall podium, celebrating his personal best time at the end of his 9th Wildcoast Wildrun®.
The dinner, prize giving and celebration at Ocean View in Coffee Bay went on well in to the night, with blisters long forgotten and early transfers to East London airport the last of the joyful group’s worries. As always, there were many tales of triumph and friendship to come out of the 2017 edition of Wildcoast Wildrun®. The reasons for running wild are always varied. From one runner losing 30kg during her training for this event, to the 3 old school friends running to celebrate their respective 50thbirthdays, and all those pushing themselves to a new maximum, the Wildrunner crew was left inspired.
As we shake the last of sand from our shoes and prepare for the 2018 Mapungubwe Transfrontier Wildrun® we leave you with the following gem by Martin Stewart, “You’re never too old to chase your potential.”