Records tumbled in both the men’s and women’s races at this year’s edition of the Merrell Whale of Trail. Runners traversed the Potberg Mountains, and the coastal paths of the 53km Whale Trail, in near perfect conditions on Saturday. The use of this incredibly diverse trail made possible by the continued support of CapeNature.
What initially looked to be a tough fought battle up front in the men’s field, between previous record holder Kane Reilly and up country runner Johardt van Heerden, turned into a one horse race from check point 4 at Lekkerwater, as van Heerden pulled away from the rest of the field, eventually finishing in a new record time of 4:30:20 and 33 minutes clear of second placed Reilly. AJ Calitz rounded out the men’s podium in a time of 5:10:39.
In the woman’s race, Cape Town local Toni Mccann, fresh off the Golden Trail Series in Europe, flew through the course, not only breaking Nicolette Griffieon’s previous record by some 10 minutes in 5:28:36, but placing an impressive 5thoverall in the field of some 150 runners. 2017 winner Griffieon placed second in a time of 6:11:30, also within the top ten overall finishers, and Gauteng’s Karine Bezuidenhout repeated her 3rdplace position from 2018.
Thanks to PSG Wealth and De Hoop Collection, contributing to one of the biggest prize pots in South African trail running, both runners walked away with significant prize money, for both winning and breaking the course records.
The magic that was delivered at the sharp end of the race was mirrored in the rest of the field, not in terms of speedy race records, but in terms of magical trail moments, with like minded people, which included Southern Right whale sightings, spectacular scenery and all round good vibes. All one hundred and seventy one runners who managed to finish their races including 39 in the 35km course, as well as their supporters and family members, got to be a part of a great weekend of trail inspiration, and really stand at the heart of what this race is all about.