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Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge 2020 | The One in The Pandemic

For most of 2020, trail event organisers have had to accept a crushing standstill in operations. There was no safe or legal way to host in-person events throughout the many levels of lockdown. For the past two months, it has been anyone’s guess whether event applications and permits would be signed off. The Covid-19 protocols shifted and changed with frustrating irregularity, and no established authority seemed able to provide the highly anticipated greenlight.

It was with enormous relief, and some trepidation, that round four or five of the 2020 JMC event application was approved, and Wildrunner was able to announce that entries remained open, along with confirmation of the strict criteria that would be followed so as to ensure compliance with the various stipulations.

The 8th of November 2020 will be etched into many memories, for many reasons. In the week leading up to the race, extreme weather warnings added a decidedly unnecessary element of uncertainty to the mix. A crack team of mountain safety experts, along with the highly experienced Wildrunner team, lined up to ensure the safety of all participants. Between the relentless rain, chilly temps and threat of flash floods on the course, the crew was under no illusion that a day of digging deep lay ahead.

By sunrise, a thick grey bank of cloud lingered over the peaks of Jonkershoek. Visibility at the top was near naught, and the 38km route was reduced to 33km, with a chunk of vert gain eliminated. Despite the damp, social distancing requirements, masks and lack of spectators, the start line energy was pulpable. When MC Sean Falconer asked the 33km A Batch who was racing for the fist time since March, almost all put their hands up. Runners accustomed to a bulging racing calendar were heading to battle the elements, and fellow competitors, for the first time in 8 months. As the ribbon dropped for each group of runners in each of the three races (33km, 21.5km, 12km) a sense of returning home emanated.

As the day progressed, no runner, crew member or piece of infrastructure was spared the relentless torrents of rain. River crossings were ankle deep for some, progressing to waist deep challenges for others. The finish line smiles, mud spattered kit and elbow taps each told a story. A BOS Sport PRO was on offer for each finisher, inevitably chased with a hot cup of coffee.

The music played, the crew kept mopping, and the brave teams of soggy marshals and sweeps ensured that every runner made it off the routes unscathed. Participants experienced Jonkershoek in every extreme, from the weather to breath taking swaths of proteas in bloom. Sticky, muddy tracks to ankle- biting rocky outcrops.

There were no post-race beers, or beanbags. No kids crossing the finish line with their folks. The cheering came from the MC and Wildrunner crew alone. The medals were displayed in a help-yourself arrangement, and the prize giving will be conducted virtually. But the personality of the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge remained in play, the mountain delivered in buckets, and the deep joy of participants doing what they loved made it entirely worthwhile.

“Such a great event, had the best, wet morning out – thank you! – Helene Philip Smith, Instagram

“So well organized, Thanks so much to the oraganisers and sponsors.” – Helen White, Instagram

“Thank you for a well organized, epic event and to the crew who were out there in the gnarly weather!!” – Michelle Walton, Instagram

The results tell their own story. Congratulations to the podium finishers, and very runner who battled the elements. There were many wins. Photography by Nick Joubert and Clayten Gouws is a celebration of a truly unique version of JMC. One for the books.

With sincere thanks to BOS Sport, First Ascent, Steenberg and Cape Nature.