"INTRIGUING mountains, enchanted forests, running streams and cascading waterfalls – that's The Hobbit Trail Runs in the Amatola Mountains. It is a mystical and magical place that will awaken your imagination and heighten your love for the trails, " say the organisers of the Merrell Hobbit Trail Runs, presented by Nikwax.
The event includes a two-day 100km run and one-day 38km, 16km and 5km distances.
The 100km event took runners on a magical journey along the Amatola hiking trail, with more than 5000m of ascent, making it one of the toughest multi-day trail running events on the calendar.
The overnight at Cata Hut is "rustic" with competitors jostling for space in the limited bunk rooms, while the rest get mattresses are on the floor.
The two days are long, with average finishing times of eight to 12 hours each day, giving the runners plenty of time to reflect on life's subtleties, as they experience the physical, mental and emotional highs and lows that come with covering the extreme route.
At the latest run, 41 runners lined up at the start line at Maden Dam on Friday morning, with only 30 managing to get an official finish at the Arminel Hotel, Hogsback on Saturday afternoon.
Last year's winner, Ryno Griesel, successfully defended his title and describes the race as "the most beautiful race he has done".
Race novice Driekie Black led home the ladies' field.
The breath-taking views, waterfall after waterfall and mountainous wonder did not disappoint. Some finished elated and smiling, some with tears of relief and joy, but all saying there were no words to describe how they felt as they crossed the line. The Merrell Hobbit 100km is a personal journey that is hard to describe.
While the 100km runners were making their journey from the overnight hut on Saturday, more than 220 runners made the trip to the mystical town of Hogsback for the one-day races. The 38km event took the runners on a loop out and over the famous Hogsback Mountain, joining up with the 100km route, while the 16km runners got to do a tough loop in the forests surrounding Hogsback. Both routes wind through the plantations of the Amathole Forestry Company as they head back towards the finish, with more magical views of Hogsback. The runners were treated to a shower from Kettlespout falls, as the route descended back into town.
The 5km loop was far tamer, with families and kids getting a taste of single-track trail running at its best.
The 38km had phenomenal growth over previous editions, with 60 runners heading out on the testing loop, with Hanno Smit leading the men's field home and Candy Boonzaier the ladies. Sim Majiki and Ingrid Webber won the 16km event, while the 5km event was dominated by the juniors from Lilyfontein School, with Jethro Kriel and Eden Morgan tied for first place and Amy Dodd winning the ladies' section and finishing in an impressive 10th place overall.
The Arminel Hotel proved to be a perfect venue, with exhausted, happy runners lazing around the pool while enjoying hamburgers and vitamin water, sharing war stories.
Check out the "MountainRunnerEvents" facebook page and www.mountainrunner.co.za for photos and results.