The 2017 Old Mutual Wild Series Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge was yet another cracking trail run through the Royal Natal Park, part of the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg World Heritage Site. Runners set off in batches from 5h30 am, with the first man home just before 10h30 am. The winner in the men’s race was debutant Quintin Honey, who took first place in a time of 4:42:26.
The ladies winner was Tracy Zunkel in a time of 5:51:16; Zunkel is a long-time supporter of the Wild Series and is on something of a hot streak in the series, having won the Golden Gate in 2016 and the Three Cranes Challenge earlier in 2017. Second and third in the ladies category went to Jodi Marcus and Fran Diesel respectively.
The 50km trail run was a hotly contested affair in the men’s category in temperatures that continued to rise as the day went on. Just 33 seconds separated Honey and second placed Kwenza Ngubane (an Old Mutual development runner), who eventually came home in a time of 4:42:59. In third place it was Andrea Biffi, another “Monties” newcomer. Biffi was also hot on the heels of Honey and Ngubane, finishing in 4:43:29.
Honey, who has entered the Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge twice before, but never made it to the start line, was thrilled to finally start the race, let alone win it. “It was great to just get here,” said Honey after his victory. “The race was tough, a real thinking race. You had to strategise the entire time and I needed to time everything properly. It was a beautiful route, and a very competitive run. We pushed each other in the front, which made it tough, but fun.”
Although the front runners were done before midday, they still had to contend with high heat, particularly in the final 10km of the race. In that regard, conditions for the 2017 “Monties” were the complete opposite of last year’s icy adventure that had runners wrapped up against the cold.
“This year it was about the heat; it was a very hot day for everyone,” said Andrew Booth, Wild Series event organiser. “The longer the runners were out there, the hotter it was. Heat aside, it was another successful, exciting event. From an organiser’s perspective, everything went smoothly, while the men’s race was great, with the top three dicing all the way to the finish.”
Title sponsor of the Wild Series, Old Mutual, was happy to play a small part in an event that is about more than just trail running. “Once again the Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge and the Wildlands teams have delivered another truly world class event,” says Vuyo Lee, Old Mutual’s Chief Marketing Officer.
“For 25 years now ‘Monties’ has set the bar incredibly high for trail runs in South Africa, and every year the organisers pull of an incredible event – the fact that the Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge sells out every year is testimony to their hard work put in at the event.”
“Old Mutual is proud to be a partner of such an iconic trail run, not just because it runs so smoothly and gives so many runners joy, but also because of the conservation efforts made by Wildlands. Every runner, simply by entering, has contributed towards ongoing conservation efforts towards the endangered bearded vulture. It’s vital we preserve our wild life and heritage for future generations, and through the Wild Series and Wildlands’ efforts we are making important progress in that regard.”
photos: Sven Musica