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JMC 2024 | A perfect day

Samuel Norton on the Twin Traverse, JMC 2024
Samuel Norton on the Twin Traverse, JMC 2024

It was a proverbial Royal Flush of weather on Saturday 18th May for the 13th edition of the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge, in partnership with WWF South Africa. No wind, a light blanket of thin cloud in the morning keeping the warmth in, and beautiful winter sunshine streaming down into the valley. A nicer day in the Jonkershoek Valley you do not get. And a perfect setting for some tight racing.

Around the 18km mark on the 38km Classic in the 2024 JMC
Around the 18km mark on the 38km Classic in the 2024 JMC

'Weather A' was the call for the 38km, and bags were repacked to exclude the compulsory survival gear needed to preserve life at 1300m in a typical Jonkershoek Winter weather day.  Yup, it was shorts and windbreakers as civil twilight emerged as the 38km Classic competitors were released onto the trails. 

This year was a ‘Classic’ year, meaning an anti-clockwise race course as per the original 2010 event. For the 38km this meant a 3km, 600m vertical height gain, climb up Swartboskloof was on the menu; and for the 21km a 5.5km, 400m vert gain climb up the aptly named ‘Never Ending Story’.

Katjiri v Cameron-Smith

At the first timing point in the 38km, at Kurktrekker Saddle, some 17.5km into the race, recent record-breaker in the Noordhoek Superbowl Wano Katjiri had opened up a four-minute lead on second place ultra runner Patrick Cameron-Smith.  

Just 3km later though, at Berg Rivier Nek,  Cameron-Smith was showing his mountain strength, gaining two minutes back on Katjiri’s lead, leaving just two minutes between them with 18km to go. 

Amazingly, at the 27km mark,  Cameron-Smith had hauled in Katjiri even further, leaving the Wildrunner team at the aid station to remark “They are so close, they are in each other's pockets!”.  Game on with 11km to go.

The 38km JMC Champions for 2024, Courtenay Gerber and Wano Katjiri
The 38km JMC Champions for 2024, Courtenay Gerber and Wano Katjiri

The race across the Twin Traverse - the last 3km of the mountain trail section - the two raced within sight of each other.  But no sooner had the downhill section started, than Katjiri put the hammer down.  This pace proved too much for Cameron-Smith, leaving Katjiri uncontested over the last 6km, to romp over the line in 03:46:51.  

Gerber unchallenged

Courtenay Gerber ran relatively unchallenged at the front of the ladies race, winning in a fantastic time of 04:39:12.  At the 17km mark she had a seven and half minute lead over Mia Uys, which she then extended at the 20km mark to nine minutes.  Uys clawed back four minutes at the 27km mark, but Gerber largely maintained this gap to the line.  A few minutes back from Uys was third place Ana Niemann in 04:52:06.

Keeling on fire in the 21km

Fresh off a second place in the Noordhoek Superbowl a few weeks back, Brandon Keeling was in full charge in the 21km JMC Half race. At the 11km mark, Keeling had opened up a minute forty lead on chasing Nicholas Campbell, and extended this to over five minutes at the finish line, breaking the tape in 1:38:33. Jan Smuts claimed the third step on the podium with a 1:47:38.

Ladies 21km race a nailbiter

Master trail runner Julia Walford pushed Anni de Klerk all the way up the climb to the 11km mark, with de Klerk holding a narrow 21 second lead on Walford, who in turn had a 55 second lead on third place Gianna Marais. Jessica Magner was also in touch with the top three, with just a minute and change behind Marais in fourth, with 10km to go.  

But de Klerk clearly had fuel in the tank, smashing the Twin Traverse and downhill, and opening up a two minute twenty second lead on second place at the line, winning in 2:00:47.  Walford paid the price for the pace to the 11km mark, and dropped out of contention for the podium, eventually finishing at a very respectable 5th.  

The big mover however, was Emma van der Merwe. She clocked in 5th at the 11km mark  - some three and half minutes off the leading pace. But from here van der Merwe turned on the afterburners, overtaking both Jessica Magner and Julia Walford to take third on the line,  and just 45 seconds behind eventual second place Gianna Marais.

Buter and Nel triumph in the 12km Aspire 

Vincent Buter totally dominated the 12.5km Aspire race, clocking in 49:10 and over a three and half minute lead on second place Deon Bochnig. Lambert Brink completed the podium in 53:32.

Similarly in the ladies race, Lanah Nel totally stole the show with an incredible 4th overall and a 56:17 finish time. Sarah Heneck and Mariska Thorpe took second and third respectively, with just 21 seconds separating them on the line.  

With the weather so good, and the magnificent HogHouse craft beer flowing, finishers hung around and traded war stories deep into the afternoon. Grand Master Cornelius Jansen was the last runner to cross the line.

Huge thanks to sponsors, partners and the Wildrunner team for making the 13th edition of this Cape Classic one to remember. 

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