Cape Town trail athlete Kane Reilly defended his title on Friday at the Old Mutual Two Oceans 24km Trail Race, run in wet, misty conditions on the slopes of Devils Peak and Table Mountain.
Reilly improved his time last year by 27 seconds to set a course record of 1hr 55min 41sec (1:55.41) – almost four minutes clear of Johannesburg athlete Givemore Mudzinganyama, with fellow Gauteng athlete Tranquil Gumbo third.
In the absence of last year’s winner Annamart Laubscher, Cape Town special-needs educator Megan Mackenzie was in a class of her own, feeling completely at home in the slippery conditions and racing home in 2:23:27, just 1.14 seconds outside Laubscher’s time last year.
A thousand runners took part in the 24km and 12km races in conditions widely welcomed by parched Capetonians and generally perfect for trail running, although visibility was down to just a couple of metres in the elevated parts of the course near the Saddle between Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain.
The race proved absorbing, with African X champion Mudzinganyama pushing Reilly through the more runnable first half through Newlands Forest before Reilly’s impressive climbing strength and ability over technical terrain decided the race in the final 9km.
“I’m pretty stoked with the run – really enjoyed the conditions today,” Reilly said. “It was a perfect warm-up race for the start of the Salomon Golden Trail Series in Zegama, Spain in May, which is my primary focus for the year.
“I struggled a bit in the first half with the faster road guys setting a fast pace, but I felt more at home once we started to climb.
“I pushed it on the zig-zag up to the Saddle, and that’s where Givemore fell behind.”
The conditions were not to Mudzinganyama’s liking. “Phew, it was slippery on the rocky sections and I felt I was not quite at home,” the visitor admitted.
“Kane is a strong athlete, especially on the hills and on the techncial sections and I could not stay with him.
“Once I knew I was running for second I slowed and was more careful and controlled, especially on the rocky descent to King’s Blockhouse.”
Veteran Michael Davison and former triathlete surprised with his early speed, leading the field through the first 3km, closely pursued by Gumbo and Mudzinganyama.
Reilly moved up to the leaders and held a narrow lead over Mudzinganyama at 9km as the athletes headed from Newlands Forest towards Plum Pudding Beacon.
The two were in close contact as the runners crossed Tafelberg Road at 14km, before Reilly finally took control around Oppleskop and the climb to the Saddle to race away to his second successive victory.
Like Reilly, Mackenzie was looking for a strong pre-Zegama outing with a view to a successful start to the Golden Trail Series, and she was well pleased with her outing.
“I ran with Dom (Wills) for a bit, but was on my own for most of the race,” reflected Mackenzie. “I enjoyed the run and feel in good shape.”
Kane Reilly’s sister Samantha placed second, 15 minutes back, with Mia Uys third.
Poloko Sekhuthe won the 12km Trail Race, with Johannesburg athlete Takalani Ndadani returning after a three-year injury to win the women’s race ahead of Linda Detering and four-time 24km trail winner Landie Greyling, also recently back following injury.