UTD160 to test the most hardened ultra-runner

Photo - Anthony Grote / Gameplan Media

The 2018 Ultra-Trail® Drakensberg Festival of Trail Running will take on a new dimension when it gets underway over the weekend of 28-29 April with the testing UTD160 being named as the latest addition to the event.

Utilising the Maloti World Heritage Site has become a major draw card for the event and with the UTD160, or 100 Miler as they are more commonly known, now starting in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho it adds more appeal.

“There are many elements to the UTD160 that will draw people to it,” race organiser Spurgeon Flemington said.

“The fact that you start at the Highest Pub in Africa, you tag the highest peak in Southern Africa, Thabana Ntlenyana, and you have to cross through the border post from Lesotho to South Africa during the race, to name a few.”

The Ultra-Trail® Drakensberg festival is now in its second year and offers runners of every ability a chance to enjoy the Drakensberg with five different distances to choose from. The UTD160 has become the flagship event with the UTD100, GCU62, SDR30 and the Drakensberg Rockjumper two day race all falling under the ‘Festival of Trail’ banner.

Making the decision to add the 100 Miler to the line-up was an easy one for Flemington and Matt Goode, his partner in Running Man Adventures.

“I think it was the logical progression to create a 100 Miler.

“We have the mountains and the distance so it was definitely the next step.

“Once we had set up the meetings with the relevant parties in Lesotho everything ran smoothly and they were excited by the concept,” Flemington added.

The craze of taking on 100 miles through the mountains is something that is still yet to catch on fully in SA with only two other annual 100 Milers at Addo in the Eastern Cape and at Karkloof in the KZN Midlands. Flemington’s aim is for UTD160 to become a sought after draw card for international athletes in particular.

“All 100 Milers are tough but I think that UTD160 will be particularly challenging due to the large amount of extreme altitude running with the first 70km being between 3000 and 3482m,” he explained. “Our key is to try and tap into the international market and become the 100 Miler destination of choice in Africa.

“There is a fairly limited pool of runners in South Africa for 100 milers so the ambition has to be to tap into the international market where the concept is far more entrenched and widely supported.”

The race takes runners through some of the toughest terrain in Lesotho before joining up with the UTD100 trail. Joining the two and making it flow was a challenge for Flemington and Goode.

“We had to find 70km worth of trail in Lesotho where we could incorporate the Escarpment as well as Thabana Ntlenyana, so it was important that we identified where we wanted to go carefully.

“I have spent a lot of time in Lesotho working out the route and joining it up with the UTD100 but I’m very pleased with how it has come together.

“A lot of existing trail is there which is good for us and now it’s just a matter of joining up the bits in between!”