GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - A star-studded field of 200 endurance runners assembled at Storms River Mouth on Friday, September 30, for the third Otter African Trial Run.
Dubbed The Grail of Trail, and sponsored by HI-TEC, the race covers 42km of beaches and sea cliffs from the Storms River mouth to Nature’s Valley.
Perfect weather saw the runners set off along the Otter single track just after sunrise, with the front bunch consisting of big guns Ryan Sandes - fresh from his victory at the prestigious 100 mile Ultra Marathon in the USA, Andre Gie, William Robinson, Bruce Arnett, Greg Goodall, John Collins and development athlete Victor Gugushe, of Plettenberg Bay.
No quarter was given as they blasted along the forested coastline, with Sandes and Arnett moving into a two minute lead by the halfway mark at the Lottering River crossing.
From here, the hard work kicked in, with three major climbs and the treacherous Bloukrans River crossing lying in wait. At Bloukrans Sandes had extended his lead over the chasing Arnett to six minutes with the classy field behind these two strung out along the coastal paths.
In the end, Sandes’ superb class was just too good for the rest of the field. He steamed in across the floating bridge finish in an incredible time of 4hrs 40min, decimating the current record by more than seven minutes. "In the last nine kilometres I was feeling it, but what a stunning route and a privilege to run here. Swimming across Bloukrans River was definitely a first for me in a trail race!" said an elated Sandes at the finish.
A strong ladies’ field saw Su Don-Wauchope triumph over a tenacious Robyn Ferrar, with Landie Visser claiming a well-deserved third place.
All sub-five hours competitors have their names engraved on the ‘Otter Grail’, a trophy especially designed for the event.
Two runnings of the Otter Route are sanctioned by SANParks, which opens the trail to runners only one weekend every year, and under the most stringent of environmental considerations. Numbers are limited to only 200 athletes for both the Race (Friday) and the Ramble (Sunday).
Men: 1. Ryan Sandes 4.40.15; 2. Bruce Arnett 4.51.51; 3. Victor Gugushe 4.53.57.
Women: 1. Su Don-Wauchope 5.39.42; 2. Robyn Ferrar 5.44.52; 3. Landie Visser 5.47.00.
Winner of the ladies’ race, Su Don-Wauchope, receiving her prize.
A victorious Ryan Sandes at the finishing line.