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  • Writer's pictureMountain Abandon

April Race Recap - Running


A lone runner running along a trail in the mountains. With the sun coming through the clouds.
Photo: Zac Zinn/ Ultra Trail Drakensberg

Starting off with road running, we had the iconic Two Oceans Marathon - also known as the most beautiful road run in the world, and looking at the photos, one can see why!


This year it was all about Gerda Steyn. Steyn became the first athlete to win the Two Oceans 56km Ultra Marathon on four consecutive occasions when she crossed the finish line in an astonishing time of 3:29:06. That’s 36 seconds faster than last year when she broke Frith van der Merwe’s long-standing record and 10 minutes ahead of second-placed Amelework Fikadu Bosho of Ethiopia (3:41:29).

Gerda Steyn female road runner crosses the finish line of the Two Oceans ultra marathon celebrating with arms up in the air and a big smile.
Photo: Peter Heeger/ Gallo Images

Although the trailing pack of racers were within arm’s length of Steyn for the first half of the “the world’s most beautiful marathon”, Steyn pulled ahead toward the end down Chapman’s Peak, the more daunting section of the race.


With a few hundred meters to go, Steyn, almost nonchalantly, made time to high-five her adoring fans as she entered the University of Cape Town’s upper campus grounds.


“I tried to really not think about the record too much because the win was the first and foremost goal,” she said at the finish line.


“I did not want to chase the time and perhaps blow up too early. It was at the 30km mark when I saw the clock and so I knew I was on record pace. That helped calm me down because I knew I just had to maintain the pace. Because my legs were still strong, I knew I could still get the record.”


In the men’s race we saw some stiffer competition, but Zimbabwe’s Givemore Mudzinganyama was the first athlete across the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon finishing line in a time of 3:09:56 to claim the men’s ultramarathon title.


South African duo Dan Matshailwe (3:10:19) and Nkosikhona Mhlakwana (3:10:40) were Mudzinganyama’s nearest competitors finishing less than a minute behind.


This was also Mudzinganyama’s ultramarathon debut event. Everyone was surprised by the Zimbabwean’s win, but he managed to stick with the leading pack throughout the grueling race and timed his ascent to the front of the pack perfectly.


“I’d like to thank my coach Hendrick Ramaala and my club CEO [Zakhele Mkhize],” said Mudzinganyama, who had struggled to secure a professional contract until Entsika signed him.


“Before I joined Entsika, I sat at their conference and I heard it said that if you can catch one big fish in a year, it will be a big boost for your career. I asked myself which big fish I could catch in 2023 — and I decided on Two Oceans. So this is my biggest achievement,” he said.

The six podium athletes of the two oceans ultra marathon standing with their prizes.
Photo: Peter Heeger / Gallo Images

Half Marathon Podium

  1. Emma PALLANT 1:14:17 GBR

  2. Bekelech WARIYO 1:14:22 ETH

  3. MOKULUBETE MAKATASI 1:16:14 LSO


  1. Mbuleli MTHANGA 1:03:58 RSA

  2. Elroy GELANT 1:04:05 RSA

  3. JOBO KHATOANE 1:04:13 LSO

Ultra Marathon Podium

  1. Gerda STEYN 3:29:06 3:29:04 RSA

  2. Amelework Fikadu BOSHO 3:41:29 ETH

  3. Carla Natalia MOLINARO 3:41:38 GBR


  1. Givemore MUDZINGANYAMA 3:09:56 ZIM

  2. Dan MATSHAILWE 3:10:19 RSA

  3. Nkosikhona MHLAKWANA 3:10:40 RSA



A beautiful mountain landscape at sunrise
Photo: Marzelle vd Merwe-Ham / Ultra Trail Drakensberg

Now moving along to trail running and to what could be called the most picturesque trail race in South Africa, with mountain views to rival those of the Alps - Ultra Trail Drakensberg was once again a massive success.


New champions were crowned, dreams fulfilled and hearts broken as the traditional ringing of the cow-bells by our UTD160 finishers signaled the close of the sixth edition of the Ultra-trail Drakensberg at the Premier Resort Sani Pass.


An ecstatic and surprised Ross Lutsch broke the tape in the UTD160 after KZN athlete, Lloyd Sithole, made a navigational error just 11km from home while leading by 34 minutes. “I don’t know how it happened,” said a disappointed Sithole. “It was just one of those things that can occur in trail racing. I was pretty exhausted and for some reason took an overgrown path rather than following the clearly-defined trail. When I realised how far I’d gone wrong, it was a motivational killer and I felt it impossible to get back and chase.”


Lutsch won in 29:28:59 with Sithole 35 minutes behind in second. Third place overall and first woman went to British doctor Hannah Rickman in 31:10:34. Based at Blantyre hospital doing her PhD in tuberculosis research, Rickman was proud to run under a Malawian flag. “Phew – I’ve run a few 100 milers, but that’s definitely the toughest!” said Rickmann at the finish. “But what a race – the views were outstanding.”


Pierre Jordaan and Nadia Jooste were the respective winners of the UTD100 while Mauritian, Simon Desvaux de Marigny raced to victory in the GCU62, with Marissa Groenewald taking the women's title. Stellenbosch athletes, Jacques du Plessis and Landie Greyling, both raced hard in the SDR32 to win their respective competitions.


Johardt van Heerden gave a demonstration of quality trail-racing with a superb victory in the DRJ21, while Nwabisa Mjoi took the women's title with her natural speed and endurance making up for her inexperience on the trails.


A mountain runner running along a ridgeline in the Drakensberg mountains
Photo: Marzelle vd Merwe-Ham / Ultra Trail Drakensberg

UTD has now definitely become one of the top trail events, or rather trail festivals, in South Africa. It offers distances that cater for the whole family and stiff competition show up year after year!


Staying with trail running and incredible destinations we have the Klipspringer Challenge that has become somewhat of a pilgrimage to South African trail runners. Every April/ May desert-loving South Africans make their way to the Augrabies Falls National Park from far and wide for two days of beautiful desert running.


An aid station looking over the Augrabies Falls at the Klipspringer trail run

Day 1 was fast and relatively flat, starting on the northern side of the Orange river from Khamkirri Resort. This made for one of the more luxurious finish lines around, where runners relaxed on the banks with a cold drink and some great food before boarding the ferry to cross back over the mighty Orange. Stuart Marais absolutely blasted Day 1 in a time of 2 hrs 45 mins and 37 sec - pretty good going for a 32 km trail run. In the ladies Kate Mapham came in well ahead of her competitors and also inside of the overall top 10 in a time of 3 hr 32 mins 27 secs.


Day 2, however, was most certainly the day about which the athletes were most excited. Not only does it feature what has become known as "the most scenic aid station in South Africa", but you get to run the full Klipspringer hiking trail in a single day. The need to negotiate a variety of terrain, from loose, rocky scree slopes to thick sand and boulders down in the Orange River gorge, keeps runners on their toes. The day finishes off with a climb over what is known as “moon rock" - a gigantic boulder that literally looks like it fell from the sky. After about 28 kms of running, climbing up and over this giant is bound to make your quads scream.


It was good to see that Stuart Marais had some competition on day 2 in the form of Fabio Gallotta. Perhaps it was the more technical terrain that gave him an advantage, but less than two minutes separated the two athletes as they crossed the line in 3:36:48 (Marais) and 3:38:23 (Gallotta). Kate Mapham was once again in a league of her own, crossing the finish line in 4:43:16, more than 15 minutes ahead of her competition.


This placed Stuart Marais the overall victor in a cumulative time of 6:22:25 and Kate Mapham first in the ladies and top 10 overall in a time of 8:15:43.

Two very happy runners running through the Northern cape desert in South Africa

After two spectacular days of running the true spirit of the Klipspringer Challenge could be seen as runners shared experiences and war stories over a few cold beers and delicious food with the thunder of the mighty Augrabies Falls in the background. This is definitely an “experience” to place on your bucket list!


We then move from the desert to the lush, green indigenous forests of the Amathole Mountains in the Eastern Cape. The Hobbit Trail Runs have become a full weekend of adventure for the whole family. With numerous distances to choose from over the course of 3 days, you can literally design your own stage race with distances to suit you and friends!


A trail runner runs through thick  and green indigenous forest

The main attraction and one of the most iconic trail runs in the country is the 90 km “Journey”. The journey spans over two days, seeing runners complete the entire 5 day Amathole hiking trail and finishing with a climb over the Hog - the mountain that gives the quaint, little town of Hogsback its name. Numbers are limited for the Journey so make sure you get your entry in as soon as 2024 entries open.


The Saturday saw athletes compete in the 42km mountain marathon, 16km forest run or 10km fun run. Sunday offered options of a 21km half marathon, 10km forest run and, of course, another 5km fun run. The Hobbit Trail run and adventure weekend is definitely a reason to go and explore a part of our beautiful country that not too many people ever pass through!


A very happy and smiling female runner runs down a mountain
Photo: Craig Giese/ Hobbit Trail Runs

That’s a wrap for running in April! It was most certainly an exciting month of racing, filled with plenty of adventure and spectacular experiences... Where will you be running next?


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pierrejordaan15
May 07, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Definitely some exciting racing that went down!

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