THE OTTER TO HOST WORLD'S TOP 20 MARATHON DISTANCE TRAIL RUNNERS
17 October 2018
This year, all eyes will be on the 10th installment of the Otter African Trail Run (The Otter), as the Golden Trail Series (GTS) top 10 men and women race for the Series crown, while local South African talent give them a run for their money.
Race Director Mark Collins and his team are proud to play host to the prestigious finale and welcome world-class athletes from around the globe to the beautiful Garden Route. “I don't think anything has caused as much excitement in the trail running world as the Golden Trail Run Series, certainly not in marathon distance trail running. We, for one, as host of the final, are certainly very honoured to be a part of it. I feel history is being made,” he said.
The Golden Trail Series is a collection of the five most iconic “short-distance” trail races on the planet, and was created to promote professional trail runners as the world-class athletes that they are, to acknowledge the passionate fans as an essential ingredient in the sport, and to showcase and protect the awe-inspiring nature and environments where the trail running’s most legendary races occur. This year, the Series ends with the Finale at the Otter African Trail Run on Saturday, 20 October. The Otter boasts a 42km undulating, coastal route challenging even the most capable athletes. Typically, a recreational five-day hike, the pristine trail is exclusively booked for Otter entrants once a year over the Otter Trail Run. This year the typical Otter route is run in reverse, from Nature’s Valley to Storm’s River, in what is referred to as the Retto.
The top-10 men and top-10 women who qualified via the inaugural Golden Trail Series represent 11 different nations, including France, Great Britain, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.S.A. and of course, South Africa.
Amongst the top 10 men, trail running superstar, series leader and favourite to win, Kilian Jornet, will toe the start line. The Spaniard has faced several challenges since his incredible win at Glen Coe in Scotland in September, and is unsure of how his body will hold up come Saturday. “Unfortunately I haven’t been able to do any preparation, after Glen Coe I have had some problems and have not been able to run. To keep my fitness I have been skiing and cycling, maybe not the best for a race like Otter Trail, but I have jumped into the water in the fjord…”
2017 defending champion, Christiaan Greyling, will be mixing it up with the GTS top 10. “I plan to run my own race and beat my time from last year, maybe that gives me a top 10, which would make me very content,” says Greyling. “It is going to be a tough race with all the competition and I think about four guys will go below four hours this year.” Robert Rorich (2nd place 2017) and Kane Reilley (3rd place 2017) will be looking to use their local trail knowledge as an advantage on Saturday.
In the women’s race, Golden Trail Series points leader Ruth Croft from New Zealand headlines the star-studded women’s lineup. Croft has been a consistent performer from the outset, and will be battling Sweden’s Ida Nilsson, America’s Megan Kimmel and others for the crown. Megan Mackenzie, South Africa’s literal golden girl due to finishing in the GTS top 10 and 2017 Otter defending champion, has the advantage of local knowledge, which could spice things up come Saturday.
“I always have high hopes, never high expectations! It’s been an amazing, but long year of racing. Otter is the most special race, and I honestly just want to run with my heart and cherish the moments it brings. I'm not putting any emphasis on results or defending my title, I want a strong, happy and celebratory run and if that means another win, awesome. If not, still awesome,” said MacKenzie.
Local Robyn Owen, second across the line last year and 2016 Retto course record holder, will also be amongst the lineup. After her 2nd place win at Trofeo Kima, a technical, 52km SkyRun in Italy earlier this year, Owen could present a real challenge for the internationals. Her skill set favours the reverse direction of the Otter, and she’s been known to be a bit of a wildcard, so the women’s race will be one to watch for sure.
Not only will Saturday crown the 2018 Retto African Trail Run champions, but the Golden Trail Series winners too. The men’s and women’s GTS champions will be determined by each athlete’s top three performances in the first five races of the series, plus his/her result at the Otter Trail on 20 October, while first* over the line claims the 2018 Otter title.
The competition figures to be off the charts this year, and certainly a race worth dialing into. “I would be surprised if we don't see a record. Like any other sport trail running is about getting it right on the day but with the depth of field we have this year more than one of them will be getting it right. Only a tiny handful of people on earth are capable of challenging those records but they are all here!! It’s going to be insane,” says Collins.
*this is subject to athlete finishing the race according to race rules.
“I still don't believe the South African public has quite grasped what a prestigious event our country is hosting and the calibre of athletes who will be shooting it on the trail this weekend. It is like the Tour de France of trail running happening on our doorstep,” says Collins.
With that in mind, LIVEU is coming on board this year as the equipment sponsor of the Otter African Trail Run. As part of the Golden Trail Series strategy, LIVEU, along with Salomon will attempt to bring you live coverage of the leaders on Saturday 20 October. All live broadcasting will be available on Salomon Running channels, while the Otter Trail Run will be keeping spectators up to date on Twitter and Instagram. Alternatively, you can follow athletes SPOT trackers on the website.
The top 10 men and women who have qualified for the Grand Finale in South Africa are:
Spain’s Kilian Jornet (Team Salomon), Norway’s Stian Angermund-Vik (Team Salomon), Switzerland’s Marc Lauenstein (Team Salomon), Spain’s Aritz Egea (Team Salomon), Spain’s Oriol Cardona (Team Dynafit), Switzerland’s Stephan Wenk (Team Scott), France’s Alexis Sevennec (Team Scott), USA’s Sage Canaday (Team Hoka), France’s Thibaut Baronian (Team Salomon) and the Poland’s Bartlomiej Przedwojewski (Team Salomon).
New Zealand’s Ruth Croft (Team Scott), Sweden’s Ida Nilsson (Team Salomon), Spain’s Laura Orgue** (Team Salomon), USA’s Megan Kimmel (Team Salomon), Spain’s Eli Gordon (Team Salomon), Great Britain’s Holly Page (Team Salomon), Spain’s Sheila Aviles Castano (Team Buff), Italy’s Silvia Rampazzo (Team Tornado), Sweden’s Fanny Borgstrom (Team Salomon), South Africa’s Meg Mackenzie (Team Salomon), and France’s Céline Lafaye (Team Merrell).
**Laura Orgue qualified in third place, but will not be racing in the Grand Finale due to injury. France’s Céline Lafaye (Team Merrell) will take her place.
THE RETTO TRAIL RUN
This year marks a decade since SANParks gave the event the green light and hosted the very first Otter African Trail Run. Each year The Otter African Trail Run takes place in an alternating direction. It’s the same route, but with different climbs to conquer and all new spectacular views to look forward to. In 2018 the event will be run from West to East, starting at Nature’s Valley and finishing at Storm’s River Mouth Rest Camp. A capped number of participants have the privilege of trail running on Africa’s more revered hiking trail which traces the shoreline of the Tsitsikamma National Park from one end of the park to the other. This five-day trail is normally preserved for hikers and is off limits to trail running outside of this event. The Otter boasts varying terrain and endless obstacles that challenges even the most capable trail runner. There are 11 significant climbs and descents, 2600 meters of elevation gain including +-7000 steps (ascending on the RETTO) and four river crossings, including the infamous Bloukrans River, which involves a swim.
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