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South African steps into world trail running

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MBULELI Mathanga, winner of this year’s Two Oceans Half Marathon, Johardt van Heerden, multiple winner of the Otter, Whale and Cape Town Trail marathons and Siboniso Soldaka, fastest 3000m steeplechaser in the country this year will represent South Africa – and the continent – at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships. They will be joined by world-class, internationally-based athletes, Toni McCann, Naomi Brand and Meg Mackenzie.

While South Africa has participated in both trail and mountain running championships in the past, this will be the country’s first involvement in the newly constituted, combined event. Both disciplines have been formally recognised by World Athletics in recent years and the inaugural combined championship was held in Thailand last November.

“We are proud to send a team from South Africa to these championships,” said ASA president, James Moloi. “Trail running is a new discipline in the ASA fold, but we are giving this venture our full support.

“It is good to see that athletes from track, road and cross country contested the selection races at Ultra-trail Drakensberg against more specialist trail athletes last weekend and some made the team.  That can only be good for the sport of distance running in South Africa.  

“We wish those athletes chosen for the team well for their best possible races in Austria.”

“Combining the ITRA, WMRA and IAU competitions into one increases the impact many times over,” said IAU president, Nadeem Khan. “The increased interest has positive economic implications, and the logistical and organisational challenges are certainly more than offset by the magnitude of the event.”

The athletes will compete in ‘short’ and ‘long’ trail races of 44km and 85km respectively, a vertical kilometre challenge and a 13,7km mountain running classic.

More than 1500 athletes from 70 countries will be competing in the championship in one of the world’s most iconic alpine venues.

“The landscape of Tirol is made for Mountain and Trail Running,” said Tirol Werbunglso CEO Karin Seiler. “The region has a large network of trails on the valley floor and up in the mountains where runners can look forward to fabulous views and challenging terrain.”