Athletes braved winds, biting cold, and waist-high snow-covered mountains with very tricky terrain and severe up and down mountain climbs to complete what is considered the toughest Trail Run in South Africa.
The event has three distances, the SkyRun Marathon – a 42km marked route with a 7-hour time cap; the SkyRun 65km and the SkyRun 100km are both self-support and self-navigation races across remote terrain at an average altitude of between 2200m and 2500m above sea level.
Top South African trail runner and 2016 SkyRun winner, Christiaan Greyling (Jeep Team SA/ Salomon/ Garmin), along with 192 other competitors took on the extreme challenge of completing the 100km trail from Lady Grey to the Wartrail Country Club.
From the start, the race route climbs dramatically reaching an altitude of 2419m at the first check-point, just 12km into the race. The route continues to climb, culminating in a rough, steep climb to its highest point, Avoca peak, at 2756m. From then on, runners traverse ‘Dragonback’, a 3m wide ridge line, before a technical descent into the valley.
At 55km into the race, runners reach the compulsory stop, Balloch Cave. Here, athletes complete a medical and are given the all-clear to continue the race. The route again ascends, gaining over 500m in just 3km over Balloch Wall. Runners must then navigate their entrance to Bridal Pass to reach the ridge line before doubling back for the final 13km of the race.
Pushing himself to the limit, Greyling held on to take a third-place finish in 14:33:59 behind first-place finisher South African Sky Running legend, Lucky Miya, in 12:58:38, and Nepalese runner, Sange Sherpa, in second with a time of 13:56:20.
Says Greyling following his podium finish, “There is always a curveball at SkyRun. Last year it was the heat and dehydration, and this year it was the cold and snow.
I’m finishing 2017 on a happy note. I’m grateful I could hang in onto third place after the snow-cave detour. Our bodies are amazing, but have limits, and I’ve tested mine. I am thankful to have finished this race without injury after a BIG year. Although it was not my BEST day, I was motivated to keep going by each runner who was going to be out there for hours longer than I was. A big thank you to an incredible world-class organisation, the farmers, supporters and seconds, and AJ Calitz for the 65km of camaraderie.”
Results – SkyRun 100
1. Lucky Miya 12:58:38
2. Sange Sherpa 13:56:20
3. Christiaan Greyling 14:33:59
4. Stewart Chaperon 14:45:00
5. Hylton Dunn 14:48:12
6. Gabriel Kriel 16:57:32
1. Tracey Campbell 19:26:58
2. Misty Weyers 20:52:20
3. Kate Swarbreck 21:54:49
4. Sophia Ndlovu 22:58:09
5. Karen Behrens 24:24:04
6. Wendy Arnott 26:40:26