The 6th edition of the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge, and the first of three big races in the Mountain Challenge Series, took place this Sunday in the majestic Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, with its alpine like peaks and valleys. Just over 800 runners steeled themselves for what would be an epic day out in unusually hot conditions.
In the men’s 38km race, defending champion Bernard Rukadza was seen on the start line and was in no mood to let anyone take his title away. He looked in fine form as he and the other favourites set a hot pace from the outset.
Unfortunately there was some malicious tampering of course markers on the route that led to the front runners veering off course in the initial few km’s, but once this was rectified and the climb of Swartboskloof started, the leaders regained control and Rukadza showed his climbing prowess as he pulled away ever so slightly to lead at CP1. He didn’t look back as he powered home to claim back-to-back titles with a time of 03:44:15.
Christiaan Greyling put in another solid performance to run home in 2nd place, crossing under the arch in 03:50:55 and Imran Paya running a terrific inaugural race to claim the final overall podium place by coming home with a time of 03:54:05.
In the ladies race, Katya Soggot was also aiming to win back-to-back 38km JMC titles as she lined up against local hero Robin Owen.
Soggot shot out from the outset and laid down the challenge to both Owen and Taryn King, but proved to be far too strong as she continued to pull away with every step, crossing home in record time of 04:11:26 (breaking her own record set last year of 04:19:35), a superb run by a supreme athlete.
Not to be outdone, Owen herself ran a great race to come home 2nd overall with a time of 04:37:26, with Taryn King claiming the last of the overall podium positions, crossing under the arch in 04:47:01.
Chambers and Balie spar off in the 24km
In the men’s 24km JMC Lite race, it was an epic tussle between speedsters Timothy Chambers and Raydon Balie as they shadowed each other almost every step of the way and motored home as the first Lite runners to cross the finish line.
In an unfortunate and unavoidable series of events, some more malicious tampering of course markers resulted in Balie veering off incorrectly when he was leading. In a show of great sportsmanship, Chambers agreed to share top spot with Balie with a time of 02:03:05, with Niel Swanepoel claiming a well-earned 3rd place with a time of 02:05:42.
In the ladies Lite race, there was a dominant display of trail running as Annemart Laubscher blitzed her way to the win and in the process beat the record set by Liandi van der Westhuyzen by more than three minutes, winning in a time of 02:16:51. So strong was her run that runner up Uta Lehmann trailed her by close to 16 minutes, despite Lehmann placing 22nd overall and running home in an excellent time of 02:32:42.
Third over the line was a tie between the evergreen Caitlin Lewis and Tanya Makay-Davidson, as they crossed under the arch in 02:46:43.
Thikitsha and Leslie put the burners on in the 11km
The 11km JMC Run saw the men’s record fall by a few seconds as Sibu Thikitsha blitzed his way through the 11km course to finish line a time of 45:28, bettering the record set by Ruan Myburgh in 2015 of 45:52 and leaving the rest of the field in his wake.
Second runner home was Matt Lennon in 47:05 with Johannes Scribante rounding out the podium in a time of 47:47.
In the ladies race, Megan Leslie powered her way to back to back titles as she ran home in 51:01 with sister and fellow speedster Kate Leslie coming home in second place overall, with a time of 55:56. Helping herself to third place overall in the ladies race went to Melissa Phelps in a time of 57:34.
A big thanks to our presenting sponsors, BOS Sport, as well as Protea Hotels and La Sportiva for helping us put on this incredible event and to all you runners who conquered the challenge. Also a big shout out to Cape Nature and MTO for their support and kind permission.
We hope to see you in two weeks’ time for the next one! Entries for the Helderberg Mountain Challenge can be found on the website, www.mountainchallenge.co.za #GoAboveandBeyond