I’m biased, so sue me. The SALOMON Featherbed Trail Run, presented by GU, is without a doubt my favourite event at the annual Pick ‘n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival. Nothing quite matches up to it as far as scenery, natural grandeur and exhilaration go … Imagine a ferry ride across the estuary at dawn, with a monster climb up the Knysna Heads, followed by a tumultuous ridge descent and a blast to the finish line across a rusted bridge. It does not get much more exhilarating than that, except if you now imagine experiencing this THREE times in a single day. The dawn Run saw a duel to the near-death between Thabang Elias Madiba and Stuart Marais, with the latter proving unbeatable over the 15km Coelecanth Route, shattering his own record with a time of 55min 36sec to beat Madiba by more than a minute. Marais’ blitzkrieg, however, lasted a mere three hours before the second running of Kane Reilly. The young SALOMON athlete went out hard and fast from the start, completely dropping the field of the 13h00 run as he powered his way along the fynbos ridges high above the scenic Knysna estuary. With a kilometre to go it became clear that the young speedster had a fantastic chance to shatter the Featherbed record for the 2nd time in one day, and a jubilant crowd cheered him across the finish line. His time? An absolutely astounding 54min 39sec, highliighting the class and skill of an athlete who certainly now rates as one of SA’s top trail runners.The two womens’ races were dominated by Candice Davison and Carla van Huyssteen, with both athletes running well clear of their closest competitors, and Van Huyssteen scorching home in 1hr 05min 29sec for the fastest time of the day. Right now, the Featherbed Nature Reserve is lit up as hundreds of athletes negotiate the trail with the help of their headtorches, but it is highly unlikely that any of the days records will fall in the dark and slippery conditions out there. Kudos to Magnetic South for once again presenting a world-class event with the assistance of two of South Africa’s key sporting brands – SALOMON and GU – it is assistance like this that has seen the sport of trail running booming over the past ten years. A very special mention must also go to the Featherbed Company, who once a year allow the organisers to present this exhilarating event within their pristine protected area.
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