Trail RunningKnysna. Entries to the 2015 Otter African Trail Run presented by Salomon and Gu have sold out in under five minutes beating the previous record of nine minutes and reiterating its status as one of the most sought-after experiences in the South African sporting calendar. The instant sell-out status was confirmed by Magnetic South’s Christine Collins who described the increase in demand for entries for next year’s event as both “unprecedented and heart breaking.” She said that whilst it was awesome to be associated with an experience that is in such high demand it is heart-breaking at the same time because of the many kindred spirits that had to be turned away because entries are limited. For environmental reasons entries to the Otter African Trail run are limited to 440 runners over the four days of the event and those 440 places have become the most coveted entries in South African trail running.

Participants who register on the Priority List pay a R100 donation. This year the entry process alone has netted over R50 000 to be donated to NGOs that the event supports. Collins explained that as the event has a strong conservation ethos the Otter has been humbled to be able to make donations to the Natures Valley Trust and the Landmark Foundation in the past. Both organisations vigorously concern themselves with local conservation issues. The Otter also assists the Southern Cape MCSA Wilderness Search and Rescue Team with donations of rescue equipment.

The Otter African Trail Run is the only time in which trail running is permitted on South Africa’s iconic Otter Trail. Normally undertaken as a five day hiking trail in groups limited to five hikers it is one of our world’s revered wilderness experiences. Six years ago SANParks made the decision to allow a once-off trail run on the Otter Trail provided a strict environmental management plan was adhered to. Post evaluation of the event was favourable indicating that the benefits to conservation outweighed the minimal impact that the event had on the trail and the event permit was extended for further years. Today the event is considered a benchmark for sustainable trail running events in South African with the environmental ethos propagated throughout the event finding resonance in the trail running community.

The annual event has attracted the attention of some of the world’s best trail runners including the likes of UK World Champion Ricky Lightfoot, who holds the current record of 04:15, and New Zeeland’s Ruby Muir, who posted the woman’s record of 04:54. The 2014 event has further been nominated in three categories for the prestigious Sports Industry Awards mixing it up with some of South Africa bigger sporting brands like the Sharks and the Red Bull X Fighters. Collins said it was rewarding to see trail running being recognised alongside mainstream sporting codes.