We are slowly approaching that time of the year when endurance enthusiasts will gather on our shores for the annual Ultra-Trail Cape Town (UTCT).
The event, which takes place between November and December, has in the past drawn top elite runners from South Africa and abroad.
Last year also saw the inaugural 21km event take place the day after the established 35km, 65km and 100km events and it is fast becoming known as a gateway for runners looking to get into longer distances in trail running.
The athletes had different expectations ahead of this year’s competion.
Cape Town’s Bianca Tarboton, who won the women’s race in the 2018 UTCT 21km, says the 21km race is ideal for those looking to progress in their trail running and push themselves to longer distances.
“I absolutely loved the 21km. It incorporates different terrains which is always so much more exciting and challenging. The first part of the route is very runnable jeep track all the way to UCT. I would recommend taking it conservatively, despite its ease. The climb up to the upper Newlands contour from UCT is short but surprisingly tough (especially if you’ve over gunned it in the beginning),” she said.
“The single track through the forest to the start of Newlands Ravine is really beautiful but tough – take it easy, power hike- stop and take in the views as you climb – they’re pretty amazing.
“Once you get to the saddle at the top of Newlands Ravine it’s all super fun technical downhill to Tafelberg Road and then speedy jeep track to the end. Be careful of tripping on the technical sections (especially because your legs will feel like jelly after the climb) and finish strong.”
Meg Mackenzie, also from Cape Town and a professional trail runner and coach, placed 10th in the international Golden Trail Series last year. She ran the inaugural 21km as part of a project where she mentored a 21km first-timer.
“The 21km is a tough route and could definitely be used as a stepping stone in moving up in distances at the various other UTCT races.
“The technical nature of a number of the trails around Table Mountain mean that whatever distance you sign up for you should try and spend some time getting comfortable on technical terrain, both going uphill as well as going downhill,” she said
One of the big attractions around the UTCT events is the atmosphere and support amongst the runners.
“The end of the race is really festive and you’ll be welcomed with heaps of cheers,” says Tarboton.
“I would also really encourage the 21km racers to support Saturday’s races – it is really inspirational watching the 35/65/100km runners come through and it makes you that much more amped and motivated for the 21km,” she says.