The Otter African Trail Run is elated to share that we have joined the International Trail Running Association (ITRA), giving local and international participants 2 ITRA points for completing the Otter Race (excluding the Otter Challenge). South African Elite trail runner, Johardt Van Heerden, who has won The Otter African Trail Run multiple times, shares why this is a huge win for our event, and even more so for its participants.
“The ITRA is a body that aims to promote trail running, its strong values, its diversity and the health and safety of runners, both locally and internationally. The ITRA has developed a points system which is assigned to races to help indicate the level of difficulty of the event, and therefore, the level of preparedness necessary in order to participate in the event.
ITRA points range from 0-6 and are largely based on race distances. Races between 25-44 kilometres are typically assigned 1 ITRA point, while races exceeding 210 kilometres are typically assigned 6 ITRA points. All other distances will fall in between this scale. For example, if an athlete completes an ITRA affiliated race which is 65 kilometres, they will accumulate two ITRA points. A 100 kilometre race will give them 3 ITRA points. Furthermore, if they complete both of these races within a 36 month period, they would have a total of 5 ITRA points.
Why is this important? Based on the popularity of many events and the limited number of entries available, events use ITRA points as a metric to determine the preparedness of athletes wanting to participate in their events. For example, it would not be wise to let an absolute beginner participate in a 100-mile event, such as Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB). In order to participate in UTMB, one requires 10 ITRA points which the athlete would have needed to accumulate over 3 or 4 races during the course of the previous 36 months. This system aims to ensure that runners are properly prepared for events, and that entry allocations for extremely popular events are not taken by athletes that have a very low chance of completing the event.
Many of the popular international races are part of the ITRA system and therefore, if we as South Africans would like to participate in these races, we need as many local races as possible to also be part of the ITRA, in order for us to attain these points. This makes it possible for South African athletes to run their dream races.
Apart from ITRA points, there is also the ITRA index score. This index is assigned to athletes based on their performance at an ITRA affiliated event. A higher score indicates a higher level of ability for an athlete. Events generally want a certain number of elite athletes at their race in order to make it as competitive as possible. Therefore, they will offer free entries to athletes who have an ‘elite level’ ITRA index score. Typically, this score is over 850 for males and 750 for females (whereby one is awarded free entry). Considering that many popular races rely on a lottery system, an index score of 750 for males and 650 for females will typically guarantee athletes a spot in the race (however, they will need to pay the entry fee). Although the index score is more geared towards the elite end of the field, it greatly assists South African elite runners to enter and compete on an international stage. I believe this opportunity, provided by joining the ITRA, will grow the sport locally, on both an amateur and elite level.
For local events to attract the best talent, locally and internationally, it is important for them to be a part of the ITRA system. Many runners have goals and ambitions to compete on the international stage too, and for them to reach these goals, they need to accumulate points and build towards a good index score. This is not only limited to the sharp end of the field, and fortunately, the pool of South African races associated with the ITRA is increasing. Otter’s partnership with the ITRA gives everyone participating, whether amateur or elite, the opportunity to work towards the race of their dreams.”
Words by Johardt van Heerden