The Berg River Dam provides the backdrop as runner up Daniel Claassen (right) congratulates Matt Healy on his victory at yesterday’s 50 km Bastille Day Trail Race. Photo: Stephen Granger

Former Sharks Academy scrum half Matt Healy, races to his first major trail victory with an impressive victory in the Bastille Day 50 km Trail Race this morning.

Over 1600 runners completed races over 15, 25, 35 and 50 km on challenging single track trails around the Berg River Dam. 

The 24 year old Healy has shed 15 kg since his rugby days and has shown huge potential since he opted to take ultra-trail running seriously towards the end of last year and completed the challenging route in the mountains surrounding a near-full Berg River Dam in 5 hrs 41 min 20 sec - 16 min clear of Daniel Claasen.

“It was a great race today, although a little short for me as I’m focusing more on 100 km races,” admitted Healy. “The conditions were perfect but it was pretty technical in places.

"I went out with Oriole (Bolus) and Daniel Claassen and the three of us stayed together for the first half. Oriole’s a strong climber and led us to the summit (at 1500 m, above Fortes Nek) and back down on the difficult descent, before he fell behind.

“Then at around 32 km I decided to put down the hammer and Daniel dropped back. I felt good for the rest of the race and delighted with the win.”

Linking up with Brendon Lombard as his coach has done wonders for Healy, whose ambitions, following his recent graduation in Marketing and Management, include racing against international competition at the Ultra-Trail Cape Town 100 km in December and racing in Europe next year.

“Ryan Sandes has been a great inspiration for us youngsters - what he has achieved has been incredible. I’d love to do some of the big international ultras in the future.”  

Claassen held on for second with a severe blister slowing Bolus, who ended fifth. South African elite ultra-athlete, Naomi Brand, continued her run of good form, winning the women’s race, placing 6 th overall in 6:32:56, three minutes behind Bolus.  

Top athletes Chris Strydom and Rory Scheffer underlined their trail pedigrees with emphatic victories in the 35 km and 25 km races respectively, with Marna van Deventer and Bianca Tarboton the respective winners in the women’s competitions.   

The immensely talented Tarboton continued to impress, finishing with Matt Daniel in second overall in a superb 1 hr 57 min 13 sec.

IOL Sport