The predators exhibit – a bit intimidating, yet fascinating – was the perfect backdrop for the launch of the OTTER African Trail Run which follows the exact route of the OTTER 5 day Hiking Trail and the coastline of one of South Africa’s major Marine Protected Areas – the Tsitsikamma Section of the Garden Route National Park.
Numerous Media Representatives, trail running role players and athletes attended the launch. The presentation of Race Director Mark Collins and race Meteorologist Derek van Dam created a feeling of excitement and nervous anticipation in the room and even people like Corne Krige, who himself will be at the start line later this year indicated nervousness in his tweet following the evening.
The concept of the OTTER African Trail Run was the collective brainchild of brothers John and Mark Collins from the event organising company Magnetic South. Both brother’s passions lies in adventure sports as well as wildlife conservancy. Together with presenting sponsors Salomon and GU, they set their sights on the impossible dream of a Marathon Distance trail run along the unspoilt wilderness coastline.
Today the Otter African Trail Run – in its 5th year – has grown to become an iconic event on the international trail running calendar and regarded as South Africa’s flagship marathon distance trail event. Part of the allure of the race is that the Otter Trail itself is off limits to trail runners outside of the event and the opportunity to run on this spectacular and pristine course has seen participants dub it as the “Grail of Trail”
Initially the question was asked “can the full distance of the OTTER be run in under 5 hours?” Various athletes have proven that it can be done.
Last year’s event, which was attempted for the first time in an opposite direction, from West to East and therefore called the RETTO (Otter spelt backwards), was finished in a record setting time of 4 hours and 23 minutes by Iain Don Wauchope, closely followed by AJ Calitz – the only 2 people that managed to finish in under 4 hours 30minutes and with this the only owners of a BLACK ribbon medal. (Otter athletes are awarded a coloured medal depending on their finishing time).
2013 follows once again the original route from East to West and the question is “Can the OTTER Classic also be run in under 4hours 30 minutes and the standing OTTER record, held by non-other than Ryan Sandes, be broken?
For the organisers of the Otter African Trail Run the event is about far more than the race however. Race Director Mark Collins says that the event is “a celebration of one of South Africa’s coastal treasures, the Tsitsikamma National Park.” “Wilderness areas across the globe are in alarming decline and this event highlights the efforts of those who stood up for the protection of this section of coastline which stands in stark contrast to the development models followed on other parts of our coast.” That protection extends through the marine protected area which reaches 5km out to sea and is of immeasurable benefit to every single South African.
“Trail running is not a sport, it is a movement. The philosophy is about leaving an area you have been to, better for you having been there, is what we strive to emulate in this event. It all starts with generating awareness.”
The organisers of the event also align themselves with the Landmark Foundation, an organisation committed to the conservation of the Cape’s Leopards. “This is another landmark species needlessly under pressure due to our own indifference to their plight. The situation for leopards is as desperate as that of the rhinos but the reality is that if we care enough we can actually make a difference. We support the Landmarks Foundations efforts to make all of us aware of that.”