Words & Photos: Mark Sampson, Thribe Media
The second year of the Oyster Catcher Trail Run, held on 28 and 29 September, promised to be another exciting event by hosts and organisers Trisport. Boasting an extraordinarily pristine coastal route, it takes place from the mouth of the Gouritz River to Mossel Bay, in the southern Cape.
Following part of the Oystercatcher trail, which is only available to paying hikers, this run has it all, including technical boulder hopping, long white beaches, sheer cliff drop-offs, and colour-infused fynbos. Being a two-day trail run, with distances of 20 km and 16 km respectively, it is not an overly demanding trail run in terms of distance. The options of entering for both days, or simply completing the final day of 16 km, are available. With this allure, the average level of runner is not your hardcore-competitive type, but rather the run, enjoy, and smell the fynbos along the way type. And thus for two days, the trails are filled with smiley, happy faced, thumbs up, chatty runners.
Day one starts at the mouth of the Gouritz River and meanders along the coastline, which has a variety of beach and gnarly, technical rock sections, with a nasty uphill tar section to finish at Boggems Bay, compliments of Race Director Hano Otto.
Day two kicks off from Dana Beach, with a nice and easy beach section before heading over a number of cliffs - Mossel Bay’s version of the white cliffs of Dover - prior to descending along the edge of some breathtaking drop-offs beside the Indian Ocean, to the finish line in Mossel Bay.
Welcomed at the finish line by Sonja Otto and a colourful medal for their efforts, runners enjoyed a complimentary meal prior to prize-giving and a number of lucky-draw handouts. Overall winners after the two days were Cornel De Jongh, with an impressive time of 3 hours and 21 minutes, and Marlize Jelliman, who won the Open Ladies section in a time of 4 hours and 18 minutes.
The take-away thought for competitors is the knowledge that they have had access to trails ordinarily closed to the public! Fred Orban, the founder of the Oystercatcher trail, kindly allows access to this little piece of paradise, to TriSport and the competitors. Part of the initiative of this event is to bring awareness to the plight of the African oystercatcher that is found along the coastline of South Africa. These black birds, with a stark red beak and seemingly naughty disposition, fall into the threatened category due to habitat loss. At registration, Fred welcomed everyone and gave a short speech about the bird and made us aware of its desperate situation.
Apart from bringing awareness to the oystercatchers and region, the race is renowned for its personal touch, thanks to the organisers and husband and wife team of Hano and Sonja Otto. Runners lining up after prize-giving to say goodbye to Hano and Sonja, prior to their departure, was a definite telltale sign of the close relationship they have with their clients.
Next year promises to be even bigger and better, with twitter amongst the Oyster Catcher fraternity about a possible third day to be added to this already sumptuous South African trail running beauty. Numbers are capped due to the fragile ecosystem, so keep a look out for when entries open so as not to lose out on running in the 2014 edition!