Grif­fioen, Madiba stop the clocks in the val­ley

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHEN GRANGER

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

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