With little more than a month until we hit the road to Swellendam for the grand finale of the Bos Sport Mountain Challenge Series, Amplified by Jaybird, it is time to cast our collective gaze towards the brutally beautiful event that lies ahead. The Marloth Mountain Challenge takes place on 7 October 2018, on the hallowed wilderness trails of the former Swellendam Hiking Trail. If you like an adventurous blend of unrelenting technical trail, huge climbs, and descents whilst feeling like you are running in the middle of nowhere in particular, then this is for you. Not for the inexperienced mountain runner.
The Swellendam Hiking Trail, situated in the Marloth Nature Reserve, covers a large swathe of the Langeberg. The route winds its way through kloofs, vast fynbos-covered valleys and arresting mountainous terrain.
The routes remain unchanged in 2018, offering the fast end an opportunity to aim for course records. Last year, Jonathan Black Black set a new course record of 2h 47min and 59sec in the 24km event. Wesley Sweetnam set a new record in the 35km in 2018, taking it home in 4h 09min. The third record of the day was achieved by AJ Calitz who achieved the event’s first sub-7, setting the 55km route’s new record at 6H 54min and 37sec. The 2018 edition was a day for the memory bank as Carla van Huysteen sliced 21 minutes off the 55km women’s course record, narrowly missing her sub-8 hour goal.
87% of the grueling 55km MMC is on remote mountain hiking trail and, with 3 494m of vertical height gain over the entire distance, it remains one of the toughest single day trail events in South Africa. A badge of honour in terms of trail achievement, and thus carries strict qualification criteria.
The 35km MMC Extreme is no Park Run either. With 1 675m of ascent and 2 243m of descent over relentlessly technical terrain, it is a long day out for many. A day spent surrounded by impressive fynbos displays and unrivaled views, but tough day all the same!
The 24km MMC Lite packs a relative punch with 1 668m of ascent 987m of descent. With the same 6 am start as the 55km, this event allows participants to return to the festive start/finish zone to welcome the weary warriors in throughout the rest of the day.
Managed by Cape Nature, the Marloth Reserve is home to many small mammals, including the grey rhebok, klipspringer, common duiker, baboon, caracal, mongoose, porcupine, dassie, and hare. Marloth also has leopard, but they are rarely seen. The area is rich in birdlife, with 114 species recorded, including the African fish eagle, black eagle, wood owl, red-winged francolin, tambourine dove, and four different species of woodpecker. Those out on the route late in to the day can expect to see displays of fynbos that include several species of protea and more than 25 varieties of erica. Patches of afromontane forest are also existent in the valleys and gorges of the reserve.
But, with strictly applied cut off times, the Insta photography will need to be fairly swift, as the finish line Saggy Stone beers, live music and festive atmosphere awaits, along with prize giving for MMC, and the full Bos Sport Mountain Challenge Series, Amplified by Jaybird.