Many of South Africa's leading athletes are making the trip to the Southern Cape this weekend for what promises to be one of the year’s trail highlights. The race takes place along the popular five-day Whale Trail hike from the vulture colony in the mountains at Potberg to the finish at Koppie Alleen along the coastline.
The race has grown in stature with each passing year. The Otter Trail remains SA's premier trail race, but the gap has closed substantially and with the likes of Kane Reilly, Christiaan Greyling, AJ Calitz, Lucky Miya,Thabang Madiba, Naomi Brand, Annelise Scholtz, Toni McCann and Katya Soggot on the starting list, this year’s Whale of Trail will be the best yet.
Mackenzie has been in the form of her life and is currently ranked eighth amongst the world’s best in the current Golden Trail Series rankings and will start as favourite to take line honours in the women’s competition.
But the Cape Town athlete will not have matters all her own way. Fresh from her win in the Hout Bay Trail Challenge last month, Katya Soggot will be looking to repeat her 2015 Whale of Trail win, but the veteran could find the going tough against the likes of Karine Bezuidenbout, Naomi Brand and former Eastern Cape track star, Annelise Scholtz, all of whom have represented SA in world competition in recent years.
Newcomer Toni McCann impressed with a decisive victory in the Bastille 35km and she could also challenge for a podium position.
The depth of quality in the men’s field is impressive, but if Reilly can recapture his record-breaking form at the Hout Bay Trail Challenge, he will be tough to beat.
The Cape Town athlete’s speed and climbing strength set him apart, but a question mark about his consistency and ability over ultra-marathon distances provides an element of unpredictability.
And the rest of the elites will be hoping for such a chink in Reilly’s armour next week. Stellenbosch-based Greyling has improved significantly over the past year, and now grabs headlines in his own right, not simply as the "other half" of a formidable husband and wife team with spouse Landie, who is expecting their first child next month.