Thirty-eight year-old copy writer, Ian Metcalfe, wrote his own script for his first Peninsula Ultra-Fun Run (Puffer) today, winning the challenging footrace from Cape Point to Green Point in his first attempt, racing to an emphatic victory in an impressive 7 hrs 18 min.
Two hundred runners started out at 05h15 from Cape Point in windy, but clear conditions, set on completing the oldest trail race in South Africa, run across the Peninsula Mountain Chain between Cape Point and Green Point.
Metcalfe’s first Puffer could also be his last, with SANParks threatening to put an end to one of the most iconic and traditional races in the country, citing their policy of no night-time events in the park – a surprising position, given that the only “night running” takes place along the tarred road within the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.
Metcalfe’s running has been on an upward curve since taking up the sport more seriously four years ago, rising steadily through the ranks and racing to a solid 31st in 13 hrs 43 min at the international Ultra-trail Cape Town 100km last December.
But it was his 19 hrs 46 min time for the gruelling thirteen peaks challenge three weeks ago, together with Johannesburg athlete, Martin Crous - the fastest time to date - which gave an indication of Metcalfe’s form and mountain strength ahead of the Puffer. His coach and mentor, former Puffer winner Nick de Beer, tipped Metcalfe for victory in the Puffer shortly before leaving to the Leadville 100 miler in the USA, also taking place today.
“It was a great race today,” Metcalfe said. “Martin (Jansen) set a good pace from the start, but I was confident of overtaking him in the mountainous second half. He was just ahead of me at the Silvermine Checkpoint and refreshment station, but I left the station just ahead of him and opened a gap from that point on.
“The toughest part was certainly the climb from Constantia Nek to Smuts Track, but I also found the descent down Platteklip Gorge tough – it was really hot and it was quite hard getting through the hordes of people coming up the trail.
“Perhaps the best part was summiting Signal Hill, where the spring flowers are in bloom and looking amazing – I knew I had it in the bag then, so could appreciate the great views.”
Jansen and Metcalfe were locked in a close tussle from the start, with Jana Trojan and Karoline Hanks in a similar tight tussle in the women’s competition.
By the time the runners had completed the first 23km on road to the top of the climb up Red Hill, Jansen had a narrow lead, and he kept a minute clear of Metcalfe as the athletes passed the checkpoint at Black Hill after just over two hours of running.
Leading road running veteran, Trojan, passed the checkpoint in 2 hrs 45 min, just 3 minutes clear of twice former winner, Hanks, who was struggling with tight hamstrings, but looking forward to the more technical sections ahead.
In a departure from the traditional route, runners swung back to the Silvermine entrance gate after reaching the top of the Ou Wapad, with Jansen and Metcalfe neck and neck at the checkpoint at the 42km mark in 3 hrs 10 min.
Veteran Pieter Calitz was 12 minutes behind Metcalfe at the Silvermine gate, clocking 3:23 with Jaques Mouton and Stephen Davis following close behind.
Erika Terblanche was the third woman through in 4:26, some twenty minutes behind Hanks, with Natalie Ferreira and Tracy Forbes completing the top five.
Jansen crossed the line at the Green Point Cricket Club grounds some 32 minutes behind Metcalfe, with veteran Pieter Calitz third, in his third attempt at the race.