Griffioen, Madiba stop the clocks in the valley
THE Otter African Trail Run got underway from Nature’s Valley this morning with South Africa’s leading athletes determined to take the fight to the international stars.
While the clash of the titans between Swiss Marc Lauenstein and local Kane Reilly will provide the interest up front, the seventh running of the race is likely to be remembered for the women’s event, where the depth of talent is unsurpassed.
With the notable exception of Landie Greyling and Sue Don-Wauchope, the country’s leading athletes are competing with American superstar, Stevie Kremer, and England’s Tish Jones.
A freak injury during the 4.8km prologue at Storms River left Kerry- Ann Marshall’s Otter Run dreams in tatters. Marshall severely damaged knee ligaments as she sped to one of the day’s fastest times.
The prologue is a compulsory event, with athletes’ times for the shorter distance determining the starting sequence for the main race.
“I don’t even know how it happened,” reflected a disappointed Marshall.
“It was not even that painful, but all of a sudden my knee collapsed and I just could not support myself. I kept on getting up, trying to run and falling again and was eventually pulled off by the medics.”
Nicolette Griffioen set the fastest prologue time of 22:53, with Robyn Owen finishing second in 23: 26, using her technical ability to good effect.
“I’m feeling strong, and looking forward to being part of what should be a great race,” said Owen.
“The first part is quite fast and I’m not sure I’ll have the speed to stay the pace with some of the speedsters out there.
“But I’m geared to going out hard from the beginning and will hope I can at least stay in contact before the technical sections in the second half, which will suit me better.”
Kremer stopped the clocks at 24:13 for the fourth-fastest time of the day behind Meg Mackenzie (23:56).
“I’m terrified at the technical nature of the route – I’ll die out there!” exclaimed Kremer.
“I ran out along the last few kilometres of the course in a training run with Kane Reilly on Thursday, and could hardly believe how tough it’s going to be on Saturday.”
Thabang Madiba, the 2015 African Ultra Trail Champion, was the only athlete under 20 minutes, recording an impressive 18:56 to steal a potential psychological advantage over his rivals.
Lauenstein and Reilly were content to leave the big racing for today as they took second and third positions in 20:09 and 20:31 respectively.
In spite of a favourable weather forecast, the 200 runners could expect an epic adventure this morning.
“This will be the hardest run of your life,” said race director Mark Collins.
“Don’t expect an easy run along the coast – there are not many in the world who could complete the race within the cut-off time of eight hours.”
ROBYN OWEN: Technical ability