Top South African ultra-trail athlete, Ryan Sandes, plans an attempt this week on his own record for Cape Town’s ‘Thirteen Peaks’ circuit before the lock down on Thursday night. Photo: Stephen Granger
Top South African ultra-trail athlete, Ryan Sandes, plans an attempt this week on his own record for Cape Town’s ‘Thirteen Peaks’ circuit before the lock down on Thursday night. Photo: Stephen Granger

SA ultra-athlete to attempt record-breaking 'binge run'' before coronavirus lockdown

By Stephen Granger Time of article published Mar 24, 2020

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Top South African ultra-trail athlete, Ryan Sandes, plans an attempt this week on his own record for Cape Town’s ‘Thirteen Peaks’ circuit before the lock down on Thursday night. 

The “fastest known time” approach to trail running allows athletes to remain in competitive sport while following safe practices relating to the coronavirus and staying healthy.

The 105km challenge has become the Holy Grail of trail running in Cape Town and takes in thirteen of the toughest, most iconic peaks in the Peninsula.  Some run it in sectors over several days or weeks, but others, like Sandes, opt to “binge-run” and do it all in one go.

Sandes initiated the concept a year ago when he sketched a circuit of mountain peaks he thought would make a logical route and a significant challenge.  

“The route has some really key peaks in there," Sandes explained. "Peaks I’ve spent a lot of time on. Also, the route lets you experience the best of the Cape Peninsula on foot."

The challenge starts at Signal Hill, then follows Lions Head, MacLears Beacon on Table Mountain, Grootkop, Judas Peak, Klein Leeukop, Suther Peak, Chapman’s Peak, Noordhoek Peak, Muizenberg Peak, Constantiaberg, Klassenkop and Devils Peak, finishing again at Signal Hill.

Sandes got the ball rolling early in 2019 when, together with fellow Cape Town athlete Kane Reilly, he set out to run the circuit. They were unable to complete the full course, having under-estimated the time they needed, leaving it to Hout Bay athlete, Linda Doke, to become the first athlete to complete the run solo in under 24 hours in July last year.

But Sandes bounced back after being forced to drop out of the 140km “TDS” at Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in France last August, completing the Thirteen Peaks circuit two weeks later in an impressive 15 hrs 51 min 48 sec, which stands as the fastest known time for the circuit.

Now, without the prospect of racing the Ultra-trail Drakensberg 100 miler at the end of April, as he had planned, and with future races uncertain at best, Sandes remains upbeat about running along familiar trails, which he regards as some of the best on the planet. “It will be amazing to get out for a full day on the mountains ahead of a challenging time of having to stay at home.”

Sandes regards the challenge of running fast along a defined mountain traverse as just as satisfying as competing in a race. “To be honest, I think I’m enjoying this even more,” remarked Sandes after completing the “Six Peaks” challenge in the Outeniqua Mountains above George in less than eight hours last week.

“I don’t think I’m in shape for running 14 hours this week, but let’s see.  I may well go out faster in the beginning just to see if I can have a good day out.  If I feel totally destroyed by half-way, perhaps I’ll just leave it, although I plan to complete the course!  From last time I found that by Constantia Nek (30km) one loses the fun element and then by the time I reach half-way at Silvermine East, it becomes really hard work!

“I’ve looked at the weather between now and Thursday and tomorrow (Wednesday) looks best, so I’m planning on getting an early start sometime after 3am if at all possible, and aiming to complete the circuit before nightfall.”

IOL Sport

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