The Merrell Whale of Trail 2016 was won this weekend by Mark Winter in 5hr39min, slicing 11minutes off the previous record, with Tracey Almirall leading in the ladies with 6hr57min.
The majority of the field however, set off on this trail at dawn with the intention not of winning but of finishing the longest, toughest, most diverse and technical trail they have ever attempted. To stumble up the boardwalk with 53km behind them, elated with themselves, is to champion the course.
When the organisers have tears in their eyes greeting every finisher ac ross the line you have to understand that this event is a celebration of everything that is good and honest about trail running.
The Merrell Whale of Trail is normally an exclusive five day hiking route managed by CapeNature, combining fynbos rich mountain climbs and ridges, technical rocky cliff edge traverses, tidal beach stretches and fast flowing paths, flanked on one side by the Potberg mountains and the Breede river and on the other the vast Indian Ocean alive with visiting Southern Right whales and a coastal zone blatantly abundant thanks to the Marine Protected Area.
The race route was unmarked except where absolutely necessary, making sure runners remain immersed in the natural environment all around them. Over the course they were greeted at five strategic checkpoints, with two water tables laden with welcome PVM products and a selection of wholesome fruits, potatos, savoury treats and cakes (and not a polystyrene cup in sight!) Complimentary leg massages, Aquelle waters and a hearty potjiekos meal ladled out from the pot on the fire, along with blankets and beanbags and beer made for a festive affair at the finish where supporters also gathered to cheer runners in and watch the joyful whale displays.
Not only the local service providers in the area but also the children at the nearby farm school benefit from the event as racers generously responded to a call for donations of warm clothing and stationery.
Truly a Whale of a Trail. Long live this event hosted at the glorious De Hoop Collection, put on by Mountain Runner Events, partnered with CapeNature and supported by Merrell, a company and brand synonymous with quality and embracing the active, outdoor lifestyle.
Results are up on the website and incredible photos from start to finish as well as a high impact video produced by Peter Kirk Media are up on Mountain Runner Events facebook page.
Well done and well run to all involved.