Natures Valley South Africa. Ricky Lightfoot and Ruby Muir have emerged the victors in the men’s and woman’s races after a battle of epic proportions played out on South Africa’s beloved Otter Hiking Trail.
From arguably the strongest fields of trail runners yet to square up on African Soil, world champion and Salomon team athlete, Ricky Lightfoot became the first international runner to claim victory in this race, breaking the 04:40:15 record set by Ryan Sandes in a time of 04:15:27. Ricky dominated the race from the beginning, leaving big name locals Iain Don Wauchope, Kane Reilly, AJ Calitz, Michael Bailey, Lucky Mia and Stuart Marais to fight it out for the remaining podium positions. 2012 Retto winner, Ian Don Wauchope, used the penultimate climb to move past Kane Reilly, Lucky Mia, SA Champ Tsabang Madiba and AJ Calitz taking him from 6th position at Andre Hut to claim 2nd overall in a time of 04:24:33. AJ Calitz finished 3rd in a time of 04:27:03. All three podium positions well under the previous course record.
The woman’s race was a more closely contested concern than the results suggested, although New Zealand trail champion, Ruby Muir, lead the woman’s race from early on and finished in a time of 4:55:34. South African favourite Landie Greyling opted for a more conservative start on the technical rocks but was never far off the pace maintaining the gap throughout but failing to find the legs to close down the break in the final minutes. Landie finished 2nd in a time of 04:58:57. Both ladies broke Jeannie Bomford’s previous record of 5:17:12. Nicolette Griffioen was delighted to finish 3rd in a time of 05:24:57.
The Otter Run, organised by Magnetic South and presented by Salomon and Gu, now in its fifth year, has established itself as the benchmark event for marathon distance trail running in South Africa and is on the bucket list of most South African endurance athletes. The fact that the five day hiking trail is off limits to trail runners for 363 days a year gives the event the allure of forbidden fruit and creates a level playing field on which trail athlete can measure themselves. With almost 3000m of vertical ascent and the infamous Bloukrans River mouth crossing, the Grail of Trail is a relentlessly technical race worthy of its reputation.