The Otter African Trail Run is South Africa’s premier marathon distance off-road event. Over the last 14 years it has attracted trail runners from around the world and provided the setting for dramatic performances. In 2022 the presenting sponsors, Easy Equities, and the event organisers, Faces, have put significant prize money on the line in order to boost the local field. On Saturday, 8 October, there will be R50 000 for the winning man and woman, as well as another R100 000 for the first South African man and woman to break the illusive 4 hour and 4 hour 40 minute marks, respectively.
With a potential R150 000 for winning in a record-breaking time it is no surprise that the competition is rearing to go. The 4.1 kilometre Prologue, on Friday 7 October, provided the athletes with an opportunity to lay down a marker for race day. Taking place on the slopes overlooking the Storm’s River Rest Camp the course is technical and challenging, providing a taste of the arduous climbs and tricky descents to come.
In the men’s field the fastest time of the day was set by the defending champion, Johardt Van Heerden. Van Heerden came within 2 minutes and 59 seconds of the mythical 4 hour mark in the previous RETTO edition of the race in 2020. His time of 19 minutes and 48 seconds was 15 seconds quicker than the next best time, set by Kyle Bucklow. Bradley Claase was the third fastest athlete across the Prologue course.
Kane Reilly was fifth quickest, but took a more relaxed approach to the Prologue. “My preparation has been really good for this year’s Otter,” Reilly stated. “This year I focused on 100km races for the first half and then switched to marathon stuff from August. That’s been quite fun. It’s kept me fresh and made my running fun, so I’m really happy with the build-up.”
Despite his status as one of the top trail runners in the country victory has eluded Reilly at the Otter African Trail Run. “People have been saying to me, ‘lucky number 10’” he smiled. “But to be honest every year has been lucky for a different reason at the Otter. I’m just stoked to be running this race. I’m going to give it a full tonk this year!”
“The big prize money is nice. It’s pretty cool,” Reilly laughed. “It’s hard to see that motivation when you’re running. But it would be nice to take the prize money home.”
That sentiment is echoed by the top women in the field too. The defending champion Bianca Tarboton was 5 minutes and 34 seconds off the 4:40 mark, on the slower Classic course, in 2021. While the 2019 and 2020 champion, Toni McCann was just 30 seconds off breaking the barrier on the last running of the RETTO, in 2020.
McCann set the fastest Prologue time, in the women’s race, posting a benchmark of 21 minutes and 49 seconds. Tarboton was second, in 23 minutes and 31 seconds. Sume van Heerden was third quickest, just 26 seconds up on Lijan van Niekerk; who twisted her angle, slowing her run through a course which should have suited her to perfection.
“I took it quite chilled,” Tarboton confessed. “But I felt good and my legs felt ready. It’s going to be super-hot tomorrow, which is fine as I like the heat. There’s a lot of water on the course too, so you’ll have to be clever with filling up and wetting yourself regularly it should be fine.”
For McCann, who started a few minutes after her main rival the goal for the Prologue was not dependant on Tarboton’s performance. “Honestly I had no idea what her time was,” McCann pointed out. “The goal was just to push hard because this terrain is something I’m not really that used to, I haven’t trained for it. So, I wanted to see how my body would respond and I’m happy with the effort. It’s really tough though. Tomorrow will be hard!”
Otter African Trail Run Results:
- Johardt Van Heerden (19:48)
- Kyle Bucklow (20:03)
- Robbie Rorich (20:22)
- Bradley Claase (20:48)
- Kane Reilly (20:55)
- Thabang Madiba (20:59)
- Sinovuyo Ngcobo (20:59)
- Melikhaya Msizi 00:21:01
- Petros Chigomararwa (21:18)
- Kevin Evans (21:21)
- Toni McCann (21:49)
- Bianca Tarboton (23:31)
- Sume van Heerden (24:11)
- Lijan van Niekerk (24:37)
- Marzelle van der Merwe (24:46)
- Nadia Jooste (25:27)
- Kerry-Ann Walton (26:16)
- Rebecca Pretorius (26:18)
- Jada Linstrom (26:30)
- Jacqui Ras (27:27)
For the full results from the 2022 Otter African Trail Run click here.