Five South African trail runners, including K-Way runner Lucky Miya, competed in Switzerland’s Zermatt Marathon on Saturday. Host to the 2015 WMRA Long Distance Mountain Running Championships, our runners were up against the best runners from 11 other countries.

Lucky Miya after Zermatt Marathon

The Zermatt Marathon begins in a river valley and climbs steadily upwards. “It was an easy race from the start as we mostly ran on tar and I felt good and strong,” says Miya of this first section of the race. At halfway, in the town of Zermatt, a strong group of front runners came through within minutes of each other. Miya and fellow South African Johardt van Heerden were in this group together with Tommaso Vaccina, the Italian runner who

would go on to win the race. Miya, running with Vaccina, were together in 12th place having covered the first 21 kilometres in a fast-paced 1 hour 19 minutes.

From Zermatt, the runners climbed upwards on winding forested single track, which revealed spectacular views of the Matterhorn. On this section they gained another 650 metres of altitude over 11 kilometres. Vaccina dropped both Miya and Van Heerden to move up into fourth place by the Sunnegga checkpoint (32.5km). “After Sunnegga athletes where treated with a brutal climb up the valley to a beautiful dam and probably the only ‘flat’ section on the route, although flat is a very relative word in the Swiss Alps,” says Brett Nattrass. He went over with the team to report on the race and photograph the South African runners.

The final section was gruelling – a climb of 360 metres over the last three kilometres to Riffelberg. “This climb was the sting in the tail,” says Nattrass. “Even the top athletes had to push their hands on their knees to give them an extra boost.”

Miya really felt the heat as he hit the big climb a few kilometres out of Zermatt. “It broke me in pieces and the going was really tough. I had no choice but to drag myself to the finish. This was one of those toughest days of racing but it was worth it at the end to have such an incredible experience,” he says. Miya finished in 46th place overall in a time of  3 hours 38 minutes for the 42 kilometre course.

Johardt van Heerden was the highest placed South African man in 23rd place (3:24:52), while Megan Mackenzie lead the South African woman to finish in 32nd place (4:15:58). Although Vaccina ran a well-paced race to win (3:03:51), he was unable to beat the course record of 2:55:04 (Michieka Maticha). In the women’s race, Martina Strähl (Switzerland) set a new women’s course record of 3:21:38.

Men’s Results

1. Tommaso Vaccina, 3:01.51

2. Andy Wacker, 3:03.51

3. Puppi Francesco 3:04.14

23. Johardt van Heerden, 3:24.52

46. Lucky Miya, 3:38.43,1

75. Thabang Madiba, 4:05.24

Course Record: Men: Michieka Maticha, 2:55:04

Team SA: Pic by Brett Nattras

 

Trail Runner's Guide

Trail Runner's Guide

It wasn’t that long ago that you could list the various trail runs around the country on one hand – o.k. maybe two and a couple of toes but there were very few. The last seven or so years have seen an explosion of trail running shoes hitting South Africa’s treasure trove of mountain paths and coastline and a host of organised events to go with. From 5km fun runs to a range of hardcore ultras up to 100km and beyond for the multi-day events.

Now the first guide book to these organised trail runs has hit the shelves. Its 220 pages of 100+ trail runs across the country. And even with this comprehensive guide many runs still didn’t make the cut. It must have been a tough job for adventure photographer and writer, Jacques Marais to pick and choose the runs to include. So tough he excluded some of my favourites.

That aside he has done a pretty good job with the guide and a quick flick through will get any local trail runner checking their calendar and budget to see which runs he can make. It covers the entire country and has given me some serious trail envy. Of course many runs I already knew about, but many I did not, and have added them to my trail bucket list, which was long enough before the book came out.

A full colour offering, Marais has included plenty of information on each run with comments from well known trail runners to give a personal perspective to each run. There are 50 runs covered in detail with distance, maps & directions to the start, route profile, terrain, event description, expert views and accommodation suggestions – everything you need to know to get your trail feet to these events. There is also a section of 50 runs with less info – but just enough to get you interested, and at the end a general calendar allowing you to choose a month and see what is happening at a glance.

Gripes
Marais is a brilliant photographer and there are many great pics in the book but I somehow got the feeling he left out much of his best work when selecting pics for this guide.

He left out the Three Peaks Challenge, my favourite event, even if it involves a large section of tar in-between scaling Cape Town’s three peaks, (Puffer also has a large tar section). He also left out The Bat Run, an iconic night trail run in Cape Town which has been around a lot longer than most. This is not as commercial as many others and one of the few established night runs on the calendar.

Trail Envy.
The Mnweni marathon has gone to the top of my list, a low key but stunning looking event in the Drakensberg Mountains.

Overall an entirely useful and colourful book for any trail runner who enjoys the organised events. Or even those who don’t but want a look at what trails there are to run in SA. There are plenty.

For sale in book shops around the country. Published by Map Studio

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