Race one of the BOS Sport Mountain Challenge Series, amplified by Jaybird, went down as one of the very best in the proud 9 year history of the JMC. Not just because the racing was fiery; not just because a new 39km champ was crowned,;not just because the weather delivered a sublime running canvass, and not just because the trails of this region are wild and true to big mountain running - but because it all came together in one massive celebration of mountain running and community spirit.
On 18 May, as the first light of morning teased the spires of the alpine like Jonkershoek mountain range, a competitive field of 39km runners set out to test their training against an infamously tough, rewarding course. A few route changes were added to this classic, and those keeping an eye on the FinishTime tracking soon realised that a battle
royal was playing out. Novice JMC elite runner Siviwe “The Lion” Nkombi had said in a pre-race interview that, coming from a traditional road running background, this was his chance to prove his ability on mountain trails against some of the best in the business. With experienced mountain running champions such as Bernard Rukadza, Jono Black and Brendon Lombard, Nkombi would have to push all the way and dance through the technical. Dance he did, smiling through every checkpoint and saving himself for a rapid attack on the downhill finish straight. He broke the tape with one of the best celebratory moves this race has seen in recent years, knowing that his finish time of 3h22min55sec, a full 10 minutes ahead of his closest rival on the day, lands him safely on the list of top performing South African trail & mountain runners. Brendon Lombard had a great race, finishing in 3h32min37sec, with previous winner Bernard Rukadza third in 3h35min16sec.
The first woman across the line was popular Stellies local, and accomplished international runner, Landie Greyling. Just months after welcoming her first baby in to the world, it was great to witness Landie’s return to competitive trail running. Greyling finished in 4h22min47sec. Another Stellies local and regular on the Jonkershoek trails, Chantel Nienaber finished in second place in a time of 4h41min58sec, and Martha Koekemoer rounded out the women’s podium in 4h44min56sec.
The sold-out 24km was also set to be a fiery one. Speedsters such as Lucas Adams, Nicholas Rupanga, Chris Strydom, Hayley Preen, Cana Peek and 2018 winner, Roger Dickson all toed the line. Strydom took an early lead, and locked in for a great first place finish time of 1h54min21sec. Rupanga finished in second place, 9 minutes later, arm in arm with fellow Zimbabwean Bernard Rukadza, as Rukadza completed the 39km. The Zimbabweans proved firm crowd favourites of the morning, arriving to rapturous applause. Grobler Basson smashed third position less than a minute later. First woman across the line was a determined Hayley Preen in 2h5min28sec. Last year’s winner, Cana Peek, crossed the line in 2h19min38sec. Kayleigh Gultig was third in 2h27min39sec.
The brand new 12km course attracted a capacity field. Llewellyn Groeneveld led an unbelievable attack, finishing in just 42min22sec. Admittedly, the finish line crew weren’t quite ready for his speedy arrival. Bianca Tarboton is unstoppable at present, finishing as first woman and second overall in 47min14sec. The men’s podium was made up of Justin Rowels (2nd) and Yashin Raghavjee (3rd). Jamie-Lee Day was 2nd woman, and Carla Whitehead finished 5 seconds off her time in 55min08sec.
As always, the racing was just one element of the event. Cold BOS Sport on the finish line, Saggy Stone beer, live music, hot coffee, food trucks, lucky draw prizes and war stories from the bean bags stretched well into the afternoon, as heroes continued to come in off the mountain. The expected mix of grazed elbows and wide-eyed novices filtered through the finish chute into the arms of waiting friends and family. The photographers and film crew raved about the views almost as enthusiastically as the runners, and social media buzzed with pics of the new biodegradable medals.
With all eyes now on Helderberg Mountain Challenge on 18 August, the BOS Sport Mountain Challenge, amplified by Jaybird looks to be one for the history books. Entries are open for Heldeberg and if you completed JMC, take advantage of the early bird special and book your spot on the start line to complete this three race epic!