Conquering the Merrell Outeniqua Traverse

Words: Mark Sampson & Tatum Prins ǀ Photos: Mark Sampson from Thribe Media

With clear sunny skies, big looming mountains, and friendly faces, the Merrell Outeniqua Traverse, presented by Nikwax, was a great success. But the day was not about winning or losing, it was about getting out and running in the spectacular mountains, meeting up with old friends, and making new acquaintances. Entrants from far and wide made the trip to be a part of this day, illustrating the appeal of the event.

Held on Saturday, 3 August 2013, 222 runners arrived to test their mettle, and with only four withdraws, almost all the entrants achieved what they set out to do. They came, they conquered, and if you glanced at the finish, you could see happy but exhausted runners strewn all over the grass and hear cheerful banter as runners regaled their stories. This is exactly what you can expect when you enter the Merrell Outeniqua Traverse.

The 38-kilometre distance was won in a brilliant 4 hours 22 minutes by Charl Souma (VOB), and the first lady in was Chantel Nienaber in 5 hours and 16 minutes. Jacques Mouton won the 25-kilometre race in 2 hours 21 minutes, and Lisl Grobler was the first lady home in a time of 2 hours 59 minutes. JC Visser smashed the 10 kilometre distance in 41 minutes 25 seconds, and Kaye Bester won the ladies section in 54 minutes 16 seconds.

The event, starting and finishing from the George Botanical Gardens, offered three different routes to accommodate all levels of fitness. The 10 km discipline gave beginners a taste of what trail running is about on a fun and easy route, with around 200 m of ascent. The route saw the runners weave their way through and across various forest jeep tracks and single tracks at the base of the George Mountains.

The 25 km discipline offered a great run along trails and paths that ran next to the railway line, at the base of the mountains, and ended up at the upper reaches of George Dam. From there, the route climbed up to the Tierkop hut, before joining the 38 km route for the final 12 km, and then snaked through the spectacular natural forests. It is a beautiful run, with great views over the town of George and 700 m of ascent.

The 38 km discipline took runners along the forest tracks, at the base of the George Mountain, before it turned onto the hiking trails, which headed around the mountain. The trail then climbed 700 m, offering competitors an incredible view, descended to the backside of the mountain, and then climbed back over the side to descend back into the forests. The final few kilometres of the trail were through a stunning section of natural forest. Overall, it was a tough but very achievable day out with 2,000 m of ascent.

The Merrell Outeniqua Traverse is tough but doable and a MUST for every trail runner's bucket list. See you next year!

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