Van Heerden and Heath Victorious at the 2021 Hout Bay Trail Challenge

Early overcast conditions cleared as the day progressed making for a perfect day for trail running. Photo by Peter Kirk Media.

Pre-dawn showers blew over to provide the Hout Bay Trail Challenge runners with a near perfect day in the mountains which encircle the Cape Town suburb; on Saturday, 4 September. Johardt van Heerden and Kristen Heath proved the fastest solo runners, on the day, as they claimed the 2021 titles ahead of Joshua Chigome and Landie Greyling respectively. The team categories were won by Southern Suburbs Speed, Team Easier Said than Run and the Cederbergies. 

Starting before sunrise; the Hout Bay Trail Challenge had to be postponed by 10 minutes, due to the gloom caused by low hanging rain clouds. Once the trail runners set off, from the Hout Bay Yacht Club, they were soon climbing into the clouds. Leg 1 of the route took in the Karbonkelberg, to the north west of Hout Bay. The summit was entirely hidden by low hanging cloud and the fresh breeze made for cold and challenging conditions for the opening kilometres of the 40-kilometre route. 

Van Heerden went out relatively fast, matching the pace set by Southern Suburbs Speed and PhytoPro Trail Team’s first relay runners; Jarryd Dunn and Kyle Bucklow. From the 14-kilometre mark, at Check Point 1 on Suikerbossie, the clouds began to clear and conditions improved for running. Across, Leg 2, the Table Mountain segment of the route, Llewellyn Groeneveld pulled away from the solo leader and the PhytoPro Trail Team runner, Matthew Kane. Groeneveld, Dunn and their anchor leg runner, Jonathan Black were chasing the course record. 

The solo men’s leader had to be more conservative in his approach. As did Heath who had managed to establish an 8-minute lead over the chasing women’s field, led by Annalise Scholtz. The route featured a sapping 2 500-metres of climbing and could punish anyone who went out too hard. Despite that, by the time the men’s and women’s race front runners had reached Check Point 2, at Constantia Nek, after 28.5-kilometres their victories were nearly secured. 

Both held comfortable advantages and had only to avoid mishaps on the final 11.5-kilomters of the race, as they climbed Vlakkenberg and descended back to Hout Bay. Van Heerden’s winning time was 4 hours, 17 minutes and 28 seconds; 16 minutes and 42 seconds faster than the time posted by Chigome. Mark Winter rounded out the solo men’s podium. Heath, a Hout Bay local, crossed the finish line in a time of 5 hours, 10 minutes and 57 seconds; 17 minutes and 14 seconds faster than her coach, Greyling. Jade Bucklow, having spent 38-kilomtres racing head-to-head with Greyling, finished third. 

In the team’s race Jonathan Black started the final leg, for Southern Suburbs Speed, knowing he had it all to do if they were to break the course record. Black emptied the tank and finished well ahead of the rest of the field, but it was not enough to break Velocity Sport’s Lab Salomon’s record from 2010. The historic course record remains then; at 3 hours, 39 minutes and 19 seconds. Though Southern Suburb Speed got close, posting a time of 3 hours, 43 minutes and 24; just 5 minutes and 5 seconds off the time set by Ryan Sands and Co. 

The mixed team category was won by the Cederbergies. Simon Pocock, Marc Osstyn and Pip Dickson combined to great effect. They crossed the line sixth overall, in a time of 4 hours, 35 minutes and 47 seconds. Team Easier Said than Run were the only women’s team in the race. Leanne Mitchell, Lisa Pennell and Michelle Von Heynitz completed the course in 6 hours, 54 minutes and 43 seconds. 

“What a great event the Hout Bay Trail Challenge was this year” the men’s champion, Van Heerden, praised after the race. “I’d like to say congratulations to the organisers for making it happen. We all know events aren’t exactly happening as they usually would in these times. And today was a really great day!” 

“The pace was really fast on Karbonkelberg this morning” Van Heerden continued. “Going up Llandudno Ravine and on the Table Mountain segment the trails were so wet! There were streams coming down the mountain and it was pretty cold in the wind. Then, from Constantia Nek, the climb up Vlakkenberg is always an interesting one. I last ran the Hout Bay Trail Challenge two years ago and today definitely went better than that day back in 2019. So, I’m really happy with both the result and my performance.” 

While Van Heerden, Heath and the leading teams had completed the 40-kilometre route by mid-morning the majority of the field spent far more time on the trails. For them the gradually rising temperatures provided a near perfect day in the mountains. Never getting hot, but warming from the chilly morning to a comfortable temperature for 8 to 10 hours of trail running. 

Trail running fans can recap on the 2021 Hout Bay Trail Challenge on the race’s social media handles. Like Hout Bay Trail Challenge on Facebook, or follow @houtbaytc on Instagram and @HoutBayTC on Twitter. For more information visit www.houtbaychallenge.co.za.

2021 Hout Bay Trail Challenge Results:

Men’s:

1. Johardt van Heerden (4:17:28)

2. Joshua Chigome (4:33:10)

3. Mark Winter (4:37:29) 

Women’s:

1. Kristen Heath (5:10:57)

2. Landie Greyling (5:28:11)

3. Jade Bucklow (5:29:06)

Men’s Teams:

1. Southern Suburbs Speed: Jarryd Dunn, Llewellyn Groeneveld & Jonathan Black (3:43:24) 

2. Alpafit Bergskaap: Christiaan Greyling, Grobler Basson & Gabriel Kriel (4:04:39)

3. PhytoPro Trail Team: Kyle Bucklow, Matthew Kane & Simon Muller (4:13:14) 

Women’s Team:

1. Team Easier Said than Run: Leanne Mitchell, Lisa Pennell & Michelle Von Heynitz (6:54:43)

Mixed Teams:

1. Cederbergies: Simon Pocock, Marc Osstyn & Pip Dickson (4:35:47)

2. Fast and Fynbos: Matthew de Haast, Robert Henning & Meghan West (5:13:41)

3. No ‘Pein’ No Gain: Greg Lubner, Sarah Pein & Rebecca Pein (5:24:53) 

Full results: www.houtbaychallenge.co.za.