The 2019 WILDSERIES Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge was one for the books that will remain etched in the memory banks for quite some time! Not because records were broken, although it came close! But because new formats were experimented with and the weather gods smiled down on the Royal Natal National Park!
Arriving to set-in rain, runners prepared for the worst when packing their bags, but quietly hoped for the best. A sentiment voiced at Race Briefing by Wildlands representative, Hanno Langenhoven when he said, “If the weather clears, it could be a golden Monties…”.
And golden it was! The field of 200 runners set off in Batches from 5:30am with clouds still hanging around the mountains. These clouds pulled back to reveal clear views and snow on the top of the escarpment – a winter wonderland!
The racing was fierce at the front of the field, with Gijima Trust runners Perfect Dlamini and Kwenza Ngubane pushing each other to the top of the Sentinel, but Dlamini took off from there, claiming the win in 4:34:53, just 12min off the record and 22min ahead of second placed Ngubane (4:56:06). Chris Cherry was close behind, rounding out the podium in 5:03:15.
In the women’s race, Isla Still had a great run maintaining her lead from early on to finish in 5:55:09 and an impressive 12th overall! Helen Buley ran a consistent race in second place, finishing in 6:16:41 with Kirst Roux in third (6:45:41).
Perfect Dlamini and Kwenza Ngubane making their way up the Mahai Valley towards Witsieshoek Hotel
Park manager, Stephen Richert took a break from race logistics and participated for the first time, loving every minute in the mountains.
The extended cut-offs introduced this year took the pressure off the back of the field, making the MAS more accessible than ever. This led to a relaxed atmosphere in the race village at Mahai Campsite, another new introduction to the 2019 event. “It was great to see runners, families and friends enjoying the great offering that Mahai presents” said Event organiser, Andrew Booth of KZN Trail Running. “With a move in trail running towards experiential offerings that can include families, we feel that the new look of Monties will stand it in good stead moving forward”.
For the first time in a 20year association with the race, RNNP Manager, Stephen Richert was on the start line as a participant! Despite knowing these mountains better than most, he was still blown away by the majesty of the area and the challenge that participants undertake in the name of conservation. “Managing this wilderness area is a huge undertaking and the funds raised from the Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge are critical in safeguarding its future” he said, acknowledging the donation made by each participant through their entry.
Although the weekend and personal triumphs are now only a memory, they are memories full of spectacular weather, warm people and of privilege to be able to experience the mountains in all their rawness.
The final event in the WILDSERIES, the Golden Gate Challenge, takes place from 18 – 20 October 2019. Entries are still open for an opportunity to explore the wilderness of another of South Africa’s National Parks! Visit www.wildseries.co.za or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Photograph credits: Phonix Capture