ULTRA TRAIL: Descending the 615m Suther Peak overlooking Hout Bay.
ULTRA TRAIL: Descending the 615m Suther Peak overlooking Hout Bay.
ON THE EDGE: The Ultra-trail Cape Town offers spectacular views of the Mother City.
ON THE EDGE: The Ultra-trail Cape Town offers spectacular views of the Mother City.
OPTIONS: The 17km Urban-trail, which loops the iconic landmarks of the city and the
lower slopes of Table Mountain, has a cut off time of 7 hours. So it can be run, or
walked, at a leisurely pace.
OPTIONS: The 17km Urban-trail, which loops the iconic landmarks of the city and the lower slopes of Table Mountain, has a cut off time of 7 hours. So it can be run, or walked, at a leisurely pace.
CHOPS: The Ultra-trail requires both technical expertise and a good level of fitness.
CHOPS: The Ultra-trail requires both technical expertise and a good level of fitness.
TAG: Both the Ultra-trail and the 62km Mountain-trail traverse Table Mountain.
TAG: Both the Ultra-trail and the 62km Mountain-trail traverse Table Mountain.
Getting high on the Cape Town Ultra-trail.
Getting high on the Cape Town Ultra-trail.

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, October 25 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 Devils’ 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 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 4 000m of vertical gain.

The mastermind of the UTCT 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. 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 Ultra-Trail covers Lion’s Head, Signal Hill, Table Mountain, Hout Bay, Llandudno, the Constantia Winelands, Newlands Forest and Devil’s Peak. With a 4 200m gain and a demanding cut-off time of 15 hours, this is not for sissies. Only very fit, advanced to elite runners need apply.

At 62km the mountain-trail race is also aimed at fit and experienced runners. The route has a 2 900m gain and covers the same route as the ultra-trail, excluding the Hout Bay/Llandudno loop.

But if those sound intimidating, fear not. The urban trail race, through the Company’s Garden, Greenmarket Square, Bo-Kaap, Signal Hill, Lion’s Head and the lower contours of Table Mountain is more manageable – a mere 17km.

“Over 20 percent of the entries are from outside the Western Cape. We’re delighted, but expected a large travelling contingent because ultra distances require training commitment. Cape Town is the world’s most popular city and the chance to run on Table Mountain, one of the Natural Seven Wonders of the World, makes it a hard destination to beat.

A new era is dawning for southern Africa’s ultra scene.

l See www.ultratrailcape town.com and www.nightjartravel. com/trail-running for more on South Africa’s trail running scene.