The Challenge event’s Prologue kicked off the Otter African Trail Run; on Wednesday 5 October 2022. Hosted in the Storm’s River Mouth Rest Camp, of the Tsitsikamma National Park, the 4.1 kilometre prologue time trial served to provide the seeding for the following day’s start groups. With 42 kilometres of technical coastal and forest footpaths ahead, achieving a good time was essential to the fastest athletes in the field.

“It was hard!” Rob Pearse, of the presenting sponsor Easy Equities, confessed. “You shouldn’t underestimate it. I definitely went too hard in the beginning. But then managed to consolidate. I think I’m in second.”

Pearse was in second when he crossed the line, but once the later starters had completed their runs he dropped down to eighth. “The guy who ran under 24 minutes must have been a rock dassie or something!”, Pearse joked.

Justin and Rob (right) Pearse ahead of the 2022 Otter African Trail Run Challenge. Photo by Caleb Bjergfelt.

While he had put in the hours of training, in order to secure the best possible result, some trail runners returned to the Tsitsikamma less prepared. “I’m ready, it should go well today but we’ll see how it goes tomorrow” Clement Ramokoka grinned. “I didn’t really put in enough training, but it’s my seventh one, so I know what to expect from the route. My favourite part is the rocky seaside stretch right here at Storm’s River. It’s technical which is what I really like.”

Though it is too late for any training advice for this year’s Challenge or Race runners, those watching from home should take heed of the advice Ramokoka provided, but did not follow himself. “Train hard,” he emphasised. “And run lots of stairs!”

The pristine indigenous forests of the Tsitsikamma National Park make the race the one of the most iconic trail runs in the world. Photo by David Sullivan.

The Challenge is the more relaxed of the Otter African Trail Run’s two events. Where the Race, which takes place on Friday and Saturday the 7th and 8th of October, features an imposing 9 hour cut-off, the Challenge has a more manageable 11 hour cut-off. The elite runners take to the course during the Race, but the women’s favourite, Toni McCann is already in the race village. A highly personable athlete she was happy to dispense advice to any fellow trail runner who required it.

“The best thing to do is to go out and absolutely have the best time,” the 2019 and 2020 champion advised. “The route is spectacular! So, go out and enjoy it. Run your stride, look up, take in the views and revel in being in the Tsitsikamma National Park”

McCann missed the 4 hour 40 minute mark by 26 agonising seconds in 2020. If she can shave 30 seconds off her time, from two years ago, she will walk away R100 000 richer. Easy Equities and Faces Africa, the event’s holding company, are each putting R50 000 on the line, for the first South African woman to break the 4:40 barrier and for the first local man to dip below 4 hours.

Toni MacCann, the 2020 RETTO Champion is back and ready to shave the 26 seconds which separated her from a sub 4 hours 40 minute time on the last occasion that the race was run from Nature’s Valley to Storm’s River. Photo by Marzelle van der Merwe.

“The plan is to go hard and hopefully not blow,” she said, casting forward to Saturday. “I’d really like to beat my personal best and get under 4:40, take off 30 seconds somewhere. But mostly just to go out and have fun. It’s such a treat to be able to run on home soils, so I’m really excited to be here and to be surrounded by this amazing community.”

To watch as the Challenge unfolds tomorrow follow @otterafricantrailrun and or like the Otter African Trail Run Facebook page.

Photo by Caleb Bjergfelt.

Otter African Trail Run Results – Challenge Prologue:

Men’s Top 10:

  1. Antoine Van Heerden (23:29)
  2. Adriaan Louw (23:35)
  3. Christiaan Van Den Heever (24:05)
  4. Mark Bullivant (24:11)
  5. Johann Olivier (24:18)
  6. Roger Boniface (24:51)
  7. Ross O’Donoghue (25:07)
  8. Robert Pearse (25:28)
  9. Simon Dougall (25:45)
  10. Bradley Leather (25:58)

Photo by David Sullivan.

Women’s Top 10:

  1. Kerri Langton (28:11)
  2. Orla Du Toit (28:24)
  3. Lindy-Lee Folscher (28:56)
  4. Mariska Thorpe (29:38)
  5. Laura O’Donoghue (29:46)
  6. Zani Smith (29:49)
  7. Famke Boonzaaier (30:25)
  8. Melanie Pieterse (30:29)
  9. Helen Van Niekerk (30:53)
  10. Laura Kempe (31:25)