Records tumbled in the 2023 Mountain Ultra-Trail (MUT) by UTMB® on Saturday 27 May. Heavy rains leading up to the race and muddy conditions in the Outeniqua Mountains did not however prevent Johardt van Heerden, Kim Schreiber and Bianca Tarboton from setting new course records. The trio were thus the first record setters in the next chapter in the evolution of the race as it became Africa’s first UTMB World Series event.
During registration on Thursday the heavens opened once more, adding more water to already swollen streams and ensuring that the trails through the Outeniqua Mountains would be a muddy slog in places. Particularly in the deep indigenous forests Friday’s sunshine did little to harden the surfaces. The already technical trails were thus made more difficult, with many a competitor reporting that the conditions underfoot were among the most difficult they had encountered during a trail race.
Click here to read all about how Ryan Sandes won the inaugural MUT by UTMB 100-Miler.
This did not unduly slow Van Heerden, Schreiber and Tarboton though. Van Heerden posted a new 60 kilometre course record of 5 hours, 55 minutes and 18 seconds; which is 16 minutes and 4 seconds quicker than Kane Reilly’s 2022 time of 6 hours, 11 minutes and 22 seconds. Fellow 60 kilometre champion, Schreiber ran home in 7 hours, 19 minutes and 18 seconds to better the women’s best time by 18 minutes and 24 seconds. Tarboton’s effort was arguably the most impressive of the day, reducing Landie Greyling’s 2022 Marathon benchmark to 4 hours, 36 minutes and 55 seconds. This time was good enough to secure third place overall in the 42 kilometre race, only 5 minutes and 55 seconds behind the men’s co-champions Iain Peterkin and Jacques Buys. The difference between Greyling’s old record and Tarboton’s time is 32 minutes and 42 seconds.
Van Heerden, Schreiber and their fellow 60 kilometre campaigners set out two hours before sunrise, alongside the 100 kilometre competitors, at 05:00. The early kilometre were ran in the cold and dark nonetheless the eventual men’s winner found that having company there helped him along. “It was really slippery and wet on the first uphill. And I knew the first 15 kays are quite front loaded, so I knew it was going to be difficult,” he confessed. “I ran with Jeshurun Small and we just worked together there. I didn’t feel like we were pushing too hard. Then on the far side of the mountain, where it was really cold, I focused on trying to take in some calories. Usually, you forget to eat when it’s so cold. I think that then helped me make a gap on Dizzy Heights [35 kilometres in].”
“Then I knew it was slippery and technical,” Van Heerden continued, understating the magnitude of his achievement. “I really like that technical stuff so I kept something in the bank for the last ten kays and just cruised through.” The victor’s partner from the first half of the run, Small, came home second; 20 minutes and 14 seconds down. Mvuyisi Gcogco, a fan favourite at the MUT by UTMB, completed the men’s 60 kilometre race podium.
In the women’s race Schreiber established an early lead and never looked back. The German did however find the conditions exceptionally tough. “I’m so happy to be finished,” she grimaced on the finish line, unconcerned by her record-breaking effort. “That was the toughest race I’ve ever done. It was so muddy. So slippery. So technical, and beautiful. I’m just overwhelmed. I’m so happy to be here and so happy to finish first too.”
Schreiber’s margin of victory was the largest of the four shorter distances in the MUT by UTMB races. She crossed the 60 kilometre finish line 44 minutes and 38 seconds ahead of Jada Linstrom. Samantha Reilly was the third woman home, just 5 minutes and 8 seconds after Linstrom.
The MUT Marathon’s new women’s course record holder had arrived in George unsure if she would be able to contest the 42 kilometre race. Tarboton was nursing a bruised foot and contemplated downgrading to the 25 kilometre Challenge as a result. Fortunately, she did not do so however, as she flew through the muddy trails. “It was amazing, but tough!” Tarboton exclaimed. “The downhills were muddy and slow, but I loved it because it was so beautiful. Outside of the mud the conditions were actually perfect.”
“The 42 kilometre route is relentless,” she warned. “The first climb in particular is brutal, though I must say I enjoyed it.” That climb allowed Tarboton to put significant distance between herself and the chasing women’s pack, which she extended throughout the remainder of the race. George local, Rebecca Kohne made the step up to marathon distance successfully placing second to Tarboton. She finished nearly 9 minutes ahead of Sumé van Heerden in third.
In the men’s Marathon Iain Peterkin and Jacques Buys could not shake each other over the first 40 kilometres. After distancing the rest of the field, they race each other relentlessly until 2 kilometres to go. “We said if we got to two kays to go, we’d share it,” Peterkin explained. Which is exactly what they did, crossing the finish arm-in-arm. Rikus Saayman rounded out the podium places.
The Challenge men’s and women’s races were won by Anderson Ncube and Lijan Burger [née Van Niekerk]. Lunga Nolakana and Bailee Nell were the MUT Lite, 10 kilometre, champions. Ncube and Burger were comfortable winners, but Nolakana and Nell had to battle to the final kilometre to claim their titles. Rainart Behrens pushed the men’s 10 kilometre winner to within 37 seconds. While Neelke Stadler was just 54 seconds slower than Nell.
Trail running fans can relive the MUT by UTMB excitement on the @georgemountainultratrail Instagram and Mountain Ultra-Trail by UTMB Facebook handles. Further information on the event and all the distances can be found at mut.utmb.world. Those wishing to follow the 100 kilometre and 100-Mile racers still out on course can do so by tuning in to live.utmb.world.
2023 MUT by UTMB Results
60 Kilometre | Men:
- Johardt van Heerden (5:55:18 | New Record)
- Jeshurun Small (6:15:32 | +20:14)
- Mvuyisi Gcogco (7:04:27 | +1:09:09)
60 Kilometre | Women:
- Kim Schreiber (7:19:18 | New Record)
- Jada Linstrom (8:03:56 | +44:38)
- Samantha Reilly (8:09:04 | +49:46)
MUT Marathon | Men:
- =1. Iain Peterkin (4:31:00)
- =1. Jacques Buys (Same Time)
- 3. Rikus Saayman (4:43:32 | +12:32)
MUT Marathon | Women:
- Bianca Tarboton (4:36:55 | New Record)
- Rebecca Kohne (5:16:12 | +39:17)
- Sumé van Heerden (5:25:08 | +48:13)
MUT Challenge | Men:
- Anderson Ncube (2:01:22)
- Christiaan van der Heever (2:05:17 | +3:55)
- Ruben Diepu (2:21:33 | +20:11)
MUT Challenge | Women:
- Lijan Burger (2:25:57)
- Vicky Welham (2:36:20 | +10:23)
- Nadine van Driel (2:43:18 | +17:21)
MUT Lite | Men:
- Lunga Nolakana (55:03)
- Rainart Behrens (55:40 | +37)
- Liam Painter (57:21 | +2:18)
MUT Lite | Women:
- Bailee Nell (1:05:41)
- Neelke Stadler (1:06:35 | +54)
- Melandé Stadler (1:15:18 | +9:37)