The 2014 Otter African Trail Run (presented by Salomon and GU) delivered a world-class showcase of trail running along the pristine coastline of the Tsitsikamma National Park.
Now in its sixth year, the Otter African Trail Run has established itself as the premier trail running event on the African continent. South Africa’s leading trail athletes descended on race headquarters at Storm’s River Mouth just north of Plettenberg Bay for registration and a technical 4.5km prologue the day before the 42km race.
The setting would prove to be a beautiful finish to the reverse Otter trail, which would begin at Nature’s Valley, 42km west of the finishing point, the next morning.
Called the Retto (Otter spelled backwards), the west-to-east run and opposite of the typical Otter Trail route, it’s a race that alternates in direction every year. Even years are the arguably tougher Retto course.
On the morning of 22 September, conditions for a fast paced race could not have been better. The sun rose on a wind-calm beach and conditions were pleasantly fresh.
The Abangeni (the top 24 men and top eight women, those of whom finished top of the prologue the day before) set off first, followed in batches of four by 200 elite trail runners, all running on the hallowed ground of what is popularly referred to as ‘The Grail of Trail’.
Both the men’s and women’s races quickly turned into three-horse affairs.
In the men’s section, two-time winner Iain Don-Wauchope, SA Cross Country champion Thabang Madiba (winner of the prologue), and AJ Calitz broke away to battle it out for the podium placings.
In the women’s race, international trail star and overwhelming pre-race favourite Landie Greyling, as well as previous winner Su Don-Wauchope and prologue winner Nicolette Griffioen raced ahead early on.
Both leading groups set blistering paces along the way and looked on course for the R100,000 bonus that the race organisers had put on offer for a sub 4-hour (men’s) and sub 4h30min (women’s) finish. Their hopes of achieving those bonuses were scuppered when about halfway into the race, a strong headwind developed and slowed the pace down considerably.
A close battle to the end
The final kilometres of the men’s race proved to be one of the most exciting finishes to date, with Madiba breaking away with 4km to go. He was caught by Don-Wauchope on the rocks with 2km to go. Once going past Madiba, the wily Don-Wauchope was not going to be caught, and raced home to beat his previous Retto record in 4h21min30sec. Madiba was a close second at 4h24min27sec, followed by Calitz in 4h31min17.
In the ladies race, Greyling managed to break away from her competitors, admittedly later than she expected, to race home in 5h11min46sec. Griffioen followed in second (5h14min32sec), and Don-Wauchope completed the podium, coming home in 5h17min35sec.
How tough is the Otter really?
In addition to the main race, ex-Protea cricketer Mark Boucher and trail running ultra legend Ryan Sandes led a team of four runners over the trail to raise awareness for the Castle Lager Boucher Legacy, a foundation created to fight rhino poaching. With an eight-hour cutoff, the team left themselves very little margin, coming home with just seven minutes to spare. Speaking after the finish, Boucher commented that the Otter was “the hardest thing he has ever done”, it reveals that the event is up there with the toughest single day tests of physical ability the country has to offer.
More at theotter.co.za
Results Retto Race (188 finishers)
Results Retto Challenge (215 finishers)
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