Ryan Sandes, South Africa’s most famous trail runner, posted the benchmark time en route to victory in the inaugural Mountain Ultra-Trail by UTMB 100-Miler. Starting on Friday 26 May, at 14:00, he crossed the line 21 hours, 46 minutes and 32 seconds later, on Saturday morning. Alongside with Sandes, Sylvie Scherzinger was crowned champion of the women’s 100-Mile race. While Bruce Arnett and Tarrin van Niekerk defended their 100 kilometre race titles with strong showings in muddy conditions.

Sandes set the tempo from the off in the 100-Miler, leading up the brutal first climb which featured nearly 1 500 metres of elevation gain in just 10 kilometres. Grobler Basson and Douglas Pickard were Sandes’ nearest rivals, with Basson keeping the gap to 20 seconds through the first aid station, on Craddock Pass, after 16.5 kilometres. Unfortunately for Basson, and the race as a spectacle, Basson fell twice leading into the Herold Wines aid station. On the first he broke both his trekking poles. On the second he damaged his knee.

Click here to read about Johardt van Heerden, Kim Schreiber and Bianca Tarboton’s record breaking runs in the shorter distances.

Basson patched himself up at the aid station, 44.1 kilometres into the race, and continued on. Sadly his injury forced him to turn around and return to Herold Wines and withdraw from the contest. This left Pickard as Sandes’ closest rival, 45 minutes down. The fact that the man from KwaZulu Natal could then hold that gap to the eventual winner for the next 120 kilometres was a feat in and of itself.

Zoog Haynes clambering up a steep incline during the 100-Miler race. Photo by Simon Pocock

For his part Sandes ran on, unaffected by the drama unfolding behind him. “It was an epic last 21 hours,” he reflected on the finish line. “I’ll take home some amazing memories and some challenging memories too. The course was super-super tough and challenging, with the mud making it really hard. But I’m stoked with how things went. I hit a few lows and felt quite sleepy tired in the early hours of the morning, but once the sun rose this morning I knew I was nearly home.”

Over the final few kilometres Pickard could not quite match Sandes’ pace and conceded a further 20 or so minutes to hand the champion a 1 hour, 8 minute and 18 second margin of victory. Pickard and Sandes were joined on the podium by Gabriel Kriel. The gap between Pickard in second and Kriel in third was also just over an hour.

Ryan Sandes

Ryan Sandes set the time to beat on the 100-Miler course at 21 hours, 46 minutes and 32 seconds. Photo by Craig Gerber.

In the women’s race Scherzinger and Colleen Browne contested a war of attrition which saw Scherzinger draw inexorably further ahead, after the Herold Wines aid station. The first women’s champion’s winning time was 38 hours, 45 minutes and 24 seconds. Browne, the only other women’s finisher in the 100-Miler, finished 3 hours and 47 minutes down.

“That was insane,” Scherzinger grimaced after the race. “I’m not going to lie, I hated that at times. It was a mud bath. At one stage in the final section I even had a shoe sucked off by the mud. It was just a slip and slide at times. But the views were incredible! It was mind-blowingly beautiful the whole way.”

Sylvie Scherzinger was the well-deserved first MUT by UTMB women’s 100-Miler winner. Photo by David Sullivan.

Arnett’s 100-kilometre title defence when a little less smoothly than his 2022 win. At one stage he dropped as low as third overall, but finished strong to remain the champion. “The diesel engine kicked into gear and I could make up places,” Arnett smiled. “It was a lot tougher than last year, with the mud, but it was once again an amazingly scenic run.”

Arnett’s time was 13 hours, 39 minutes and 13 seconds, almost exactly an hour slower than his own course record. He was joined on the podium by Michael Molyneaux and Guido Tagge. Molyneaux received a time penalty, for not having a compulsory gear item in his pack. This did however not affect the placings.

Bruce Arnett reported that the combination of deep mud and his own conditioning meant that he was never in contention to challenge his own course record in the 100km race. Photo by Simon Pocock

Van Niekerk’s run to reclaim her crown was far smoother. The physiotherapist was chased all the way, through the 100-kilometre course, by Kelly Freeth; who finished just 13 minutes and 21 seconds back. Sveta Becker, in third, was only 31 minutes and 54 seconds down on the winner ensuring a closely contested race. Despite the narrow gaps between the top three women, their positions were stable through the second half of the course; allowing Van Niekerk to nurse herself through the muddiest sections.

For the full post-race reflection on Africa’s first UTMB World Series event trail running fans can follow @georgemountainultratrail on Instagram and like the Mountain Ultra-Trail by UTMB Facebook page. There they will find videos and photos from the event. For more details as well as all the results from the 100-Miler, 100 kilometre, 60 kilometre, Marathon, Challenge and Lite races visit mut.utmb.world.

Tarrin van Niekerk refueling en route to defending her 100km title at the MUT by UTMB. Photo by Simon Pocock

2023 MUT by UTMB Results

MUT 100-Miler | Men:

  1. Ryan Sandes (21:46:32 | New Route)
  2. Douglas Pickard (22:54:50 | +1:08:18)
  3. Gabriel Kriel (23:56:07 | +2:09:35)

MUT 100-Miler | Women:

  1. Sylvie Scherzinger (38:45:24 | New Route)
  2. Colleen Browne (42:32:35 | +3:47:11)
  3. N.A.

MUT 100km | Men

  1. Bruce Arnett (13:39:13)
  2. Michael Molyneaux (13:49:40 | +10:27)
  3. Guido Tagge (14:20:40 | +41:27)

MUT 100km | Women:

  1. Tarrin van Niekerk (15:02:39)
  2. Kelly Freeth (15:14:00 | +13:21)
  3. Sveta Becker (15:34:33 | +31:54)
Ryan Sandes

The MUT by UTMB 100-Miler took trail runners from the summit of Craddock Peak, at 1 578 meters above sea level, to the shores of the Indian Ocean, in Wilderness.

60 Kilometre | Men:

  1. Johardt van Heerden (5:55:18 | New Record)
  2. Jeshurun Small (6:15:32 | +20:14)
  3. Mvuyisi Gcogco (7:04:27 | +1:09:09)

60 Kilometre | Women:

  1. Kim Schreiber (7:19:18 | New Record)
  2. Jada Linstrom (8:03:56 | +44:38)
  3. 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:

  1. Bianca Tarboton (4:36:55 | New Record)
  2. Rebecca Kohne (5:16:12 | +39:17)
  3. Sumé van Heerden (5:25:08 | +48:13)
Ryan Sandes

The Outeniqua Mountains provide a world-class staging ground for the MUT by UTMB. Photo by Zac Zinn.

MUT Challenge | Men:

  1. Anderson Ncube (2:01:22)
  2. Christiaan van der Heever (2:05:17 | +3:55)
  3. Ruben Diepu (2:21:33 | +20:11)

MUT Challenge | Women:

  1. Lijan Burger (2:25:57)
  2. Vicky Welham (2:36:20 | +10:23)
  3. Nadine van Driel (2:43:18 | +17:21)

MUT Lite | Men:

  1. Lunga Nolakana (55:03)
  2. Rainart Behrens (55:40 | +37)
  3. Liam Painter (57:21 | +2:18)

MUT Lite | Women:

  1. Bailee Nell (1:05:41)
  2. Neelke Stadler (1:06:35 | +54)
  3. Melandé Stadler (1:15:18 | +9:37)

The deep forests of the Garden Route were particularly muddy during the 2023 MUT by UTMB. Phot by Zac Zinn.