A cool overcast morning welcomed the 242 runners who ran the inaugural Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS) Nuweberg Trail Challenge in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve near Grabouw on Sunday November 11.
The 22km event kicked off at 8am, with 126 runners tackling the tough yet engaging course. Mostly on jeep track, the route sports some gnarly hills, but the spectacular views along the way make the hard work worthwhile.
One hundred and six runners tackled the 10km race, which although less than half the distance of the 22km route, still sports some daunting hills, and shares with the 22km event, a short but tricky technical section.
John Smelcer loped home to win the 10km race, in a time of 51:29, followed by Daniel Jubert in 57:35, with the first woman home, Natalia Danilowicz, next across the finish line in 60:15. Third man home, Conrad Meier clocked 61:02 and Jana van der Merwe romped home for second place in the women’s race in 65:31, just beating Antonia de Wet who was right behind her in third place in 65:34.
As the clouds cleared and the sun broke through, the temperature started to climb, and the runners on the 22km route started to feel the heat.
By the time Oriole Bolus crossed the 22km finish line in 1:57:49, the sun was already high in the sky.
Michael Mackintosh was under a minute behind for second place in 1:58:22, followed by Damian Will in 2:02:02 for third place.
Julie Huckle took first in the women’s 22km race in 2:27:40, followed by Jen Brown in second place in 2:29:04 and Erika Holland in 2:32:41 for third place.
A highlight of the 10km race, was 74-year-old Mariame Nelson who finished in an impressive time of 2:10:58.
In the 22km race, Bradely Fryer ran in full VWS personal protective equipment, complete with gloves, goggles and fireline backpack, finishing in 3:46:43.
Bradley, who is not a VWS member, did the run to raise funds for the VWS on the GivenGain platform.
The feedback from runners in both races was uniformly positive, with the views getting rave reviews.
Margi Hoffe of Somerset West, running with husband, Steve, in the 10km race said: “We took the most awesome photos and even ran a bit slower to really take in the nature and the beauty of it all. We are definitely doing the 22km next year.”
After the event, VWS Jonkershoek station manager, Alida Fanfoni, said: “It’s been a great deal of hard work, but as usual, our family of yellows dug deep to make it a success. The final numbers aren’t in yet, but we have done well financially.
“It is an important fund raising initiative for us, since we are entirely donor funded. We will build on this success going forward and make it a regular event on the Western Cape trail running calendar. It’s been months in the planning, and I’d like to thank all our VWS members who have put in the hours and effort to make it a success.
“Many of the team were here until late last night marking the routes and finalising the logistics, and they were back here at 4am this morning for final preparations.
“I’d also like to thank our deployment partner, CapeNature, for hosting us here, and for waiving the event permit fee. Finally, a big thank you to Ryan Larkman of Cape Canopy Tours for making his premises available as a base of operations.”