The Cape Town Trail Marathon, is more than a trail run. It combines with the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon to create a festival of running in the Mother City. A celebration of the beauty of Table Mountain and the healthy lifestyle the massif at the heart of the city inspires.
As with the road race, which takes place on Sunday, 15 October, the trail run brings runners from around the world to Africa’s southernmost city. Taking place on Saturday, 14 October, the trail running event boast three distances as well as the Vertical Challenge; which on Thursday, 12 October, kicks off the long weekend’s action. Created in partnership with South African ultra-distance trail running legend, Ryan Sandes, the Cape Town Trail Marathon is set to showcase some of Table Mountain National Park’s greatest trails. Trail runners can expect panoramic views over the city and Table Bay, runs through unspoilt fynbos and challenging courses.
The flagship 46 kilometre mountain marathon sees a stacked field of local talent competing for the R175 000 prize purse. With R50 000 up for grabs for the winners, in both the men’s and women’s categories, the stakes are high. Defending Cape Town Trail Marathon champion, Kane Reilly headlines the field, hot off a strong second place finish, in his first race as an adidas TERREX sponsored athlete, at the Otter African Trail Run. Reilly will be up against Iain Peterkin, Brandon Hulley, Kyle Bucklow, Oli Morris, Solicitor Manduwa, Daniel Claassen, Siviwe Nkombi, Hakeem Smith, Collin Kanyimo, Simon Tshabalala, Kennedy Sekhuthe, and Philani Scenge.
Women’s defending champion, Landie Greyling has prioritised the Cape Town Trail Marathon in the latter half of her season, opting not to race the Grail of Trail the week before. She will however be up against fellow fresh runners, as only Kristen Dunn (née Heath) of her closest rivals took part in the Otter African Trail Run the weekend before. Taryn King, Samantha Reilly, Jo Keppler and Jana van Houwelingen are Greyling’s primary rivals for the 2023 edition, though Brazilian ultra-runner Nini Oliveira could surprise the South Africans.
Dubbed the King Protea, the 46 kilometre route takes in 2 200 metres of vertical elevation gain, including a summit of the highest point on Table Mountain, Maclear’s Beacon. Having dropped into Cecelia Forest the second half of the course climbs back to Sea Point via Kirstenbosch Gardens, the contour paths along the slopes of Devil’s Peak and undulates above the city bowl. The tracks back to the Cape Town Stadium ensure a circumnavigation of both Lion’s Head and Signal Hill, before the finish line comes into sight.
The 22 kilometre, Stately Protea, race is still a significant challenge. It features 830 metres of climbing and has attracted German trail running star, Marcel Höche. Having raced to fourth at the Otter African Trail Run and having concluded his last two seasons in South Africa, Höche has become a firm favourite with the local fans. In the half-marathon women’s race Lijan Burger (née Van Niekerk) returns to her preferred distance. The speedy Stellenbosch resident has been dabbling in the odd marathon distance race in 2023, but the 20-to-25-kilometre range remains her preferred course length, for now.
For the less experienced trail runners, of those simply looking for a flat-out effort, the third edition of the event also sees the addition of an 11 kilometre race. It features 390 metres of elevation gain and encircles Signal Hill. Though trail runners should be warned not to underestimate the shortest race, as the climb through the steep streets of upper Sea Point and the ascent of Signal Hill are testing in and of themselves.
Saturday, 14 October, is thus a big day on the trails ahead of Sunday’s Sanlam Cape Town Marathon road race. On Thursday, 12 October, the Vertical Challenge is the first taste of the long weekend’s excitement. 30 men and women – most of them elite athletes personally invited by Sandes, the founder of the Cape Town Trail Marathon, and a handful of qualifiers through a Strava challenge – will take on a ferocious course. Starting at St. Cyprians School, in Vredehoek, the 5 and a bit kilometre route heads straight up Table Mountain gaining 1 000 metres in elevation en route to the Upper Cable Station.
The following day, on Friday at 14:00, the Trail Taxi documentary will premier on the Cape Town Trail Marathon’s platforms. Founded in 2021 by, South African trail running superstar, Toni McCann the charity is a youth development organisation. It provides transportation, in the form of a taxi to the trail head, and resources, in the form of adidas TERREX trail shoes and apparel as well as coaching and mentoring, to children from historically disadvantaged communities. Supported by Faces, adidas, and Kauai; Trail Taxi is driven by Trail Heroes Hakeem Smith and Lovemo Nyaude who use the power of natural spaces to uplift and empower the youth.
Trail running enthusiasts can tune in to share in the excitement throughout the Cape Town Trail Marathon long weekend by liking the Facebook page, Cape Town Trail Marathon, or following @capetowntrailmarathon on Instagram. For more information and the full schedule of events visit www.capetowntrailmarathon.com.