Posted by Estie Van Heerden in News, Post Race Review, Running, Trails on July 12, 2016
Image Credits: Sven Musica, Margie Asprey, Richard Asprey, AdventureLife.co.za – Terence Vrugtman
My Road Less Travelled stayed true to their brand and presented us with a tough technical #notrail Day 1 with lots of bundu bashing, ankle twisters and bum slides.
During the weekend of 17-19 June, a group of formidable trail runners gathered at the foot of some of the most spectacular mountains outside of Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga. It was to compete, conquer and test themselves against some of the toughest trail running routes for 2 consecutive days. The inaugural Stage Race presented by MyRoadLessTravelled, has invited and lured the most diverse trail running talent to the Buster Bunny Boven Stage Race.
Race registration on the Friday evening offered an informal setting where the superheroes of trail running, such as Thabang Madiba, Johardt van Heerden, Eddie Sesipi, Nicky Booyens, Maputi Phaka mingled with nervous athletes, answered questions and shared some secret nutrition tactics.
Every entrant received a long sleeve race Tshirt, perfect for a cold night ahead, samples of Bio-Soothe (my favourite recovery gel) and a huge bar of MatsiMela Ginger & Lime hand-cast soap.
Read between the lines, when an organiser hands you a lovely goody bag such as this: “You will need new clothes after, you will be sore and you will be dirty.” What’s not to like?!
We gathered at the starting line for an early route briefing by race organiser, Nina Alexis Furness Durieux. Each runner was briefed to carry enough water, food, strapping and cellphones with emergency numbers. We were also informed that this would be no picnic. It was not a race anymore… it was an adventure.
The Stage 1 route offered a fast and easy 4km of running on district road to the foot of our very steep first climb. The front runners were out in full force but the technical climbing (read baboon style) gave a few strong athletes an advantage that would benefit them well in the rest of the race. The first 16km was an all-sorts terrain feast. Rocky deserts, veldt running, short technical climbs followed by longer climbs, sneaky turns through forest sections and finally some escarpment running till waterpoint 1. Sponsored by Land Rover Nelspruit, this station offered some friendly faces, comfort food and fresh water. Leading men approached water point 1 at the same time and in great spirits, but this is where the real race started.
Tired legs were tested on rock-hopping uphills and unnerving descents down the mountain face onto a dragon’s back, past waterpoint2 and down the valley homeward bound. The last 3km offered some of the most challenging downhills I’ve ever had to scale to get over the finish line. But the leading men made it look like an easy trot down a hill. Eddie Sesipi took the win over Thabang Madiba and Micheal Joubert in third. The ladies race was dominated by Nicky Booyens, with Maputi Phaka breathing down her neck and the ever smiling Marianne Semmelink rounding off in third. Only 44 athletes manage to make it over the finish line in time. A few were cut-off at waterpoint 2 as a safety measure. The most memorable moment of the day was when Donald Young, the last athlete on the course, came into the finish straight with an entourage of sweepers and even race organiser, running by his side in support.
A very challenging 15km route offered a competitive field with a win for Gudu Mabuza in the mens and Mapule Mokgotla in the ladies, but noted was the fresh new talent in the form of Johardt van Heerden’s younger siblings, Andreas and Chandri on the podium. The shorter route proved popular and a large group finished the race, even for older but experienced trail runners and hikers.
Post race refreshments and live entertainment by popular band, Rubber Duck added a relaxed atmosphere before a lot of tired athletes turned to their beds for recovery and much needed rest.
Stage 2 offered some easier running surfaces and took runners on the famous Elangeni hiking trail for a fast 30km to the finish. It offered runners their last view of the valley at the summit of the hiking route. Race briefing noted important route information, although clearly marked. Missing race briefing can cost you a podium position – ask a few top athletes who arrived late and missed a turn on the route.
But as predicted, the finishing times were fast. Runners leaped at the opportunity to stretch their tired legs. Edwin Sesipi took the Stage win in a lightning fast 2.18.47 ahead of Tranquil Gumbo and Thabang Madiba in third. With this result Edwin claimed the crown for the total Stage Race in 6.12.11. In the ladies race Marianne Semmelink welcomed the faster route and stole the Stage win from Nicky Booyens in 2.52.08. Annalize du Plessis, who had a steady overall 2 days of racing, came over the line in third ahead of Maputi Phaka. But in the end Nicky Booyens’ time lead from the previous day secured her the win of the total Stage in 7.46.55 and Queen of the Buster Bunny Boven Stage race.
Mazu Ndandani, who also missed a turn and ended up running the race twice, won the 10km mens race and overall Stage Race and a strong Mapule Mokgotla took the ladies win and also overall Stage Race victory.
One could easily read this report like an adventure novel from an ancient explorer. It felt like one for me and most of my fellow runners. Terrains which have never been run before and mountains that have only had birds and small animals on its majestic summits. It offered many experienced runners a new training ground which sparked new running skills. We conquered mountains.
The Buster Bunny Boven Race was but a glimpse of what the team from MyRoadLessTravelled could offer when given the opportunity and endless landscape terrain. Very few people realise the hard work and hours of planning that is required for such a race, let alone an inaugural Stage Race. True trail running should not be contained. You should be able to set your spirit and your legs free. Thank you to Nina and the MRLT team for giving us an opportunity to do exactly that. We look forward to another great race in 2017.