The Forbidden Run: The Otter, Africa Trail Run 2012
October 10, 2012 by Charl Souma
A run like no other, crashing waves, indigenous forests, craggy shoreline, sandy trails and seaside cliffs; this is The Otter African Trail Run. Run once a year and only once a year, and the rest of the year it is a world class 42km hiking trail among the top 5 hiking trails in South Africa.
The forbidden run.
We are fortunate to have the pristine coastline and the temperate conditions of the Indian Ocean in which to run free and wild for one day only, to be given that privilege should only be once in a lifetime, because everyone should be allowed to experience such untamed wilderness and beauty.
The VIVOBAREFOOT Team consists of our team principals, and directors of VIVOBAREFOOT South Africa, Stuart ’Doc’ Hutcheson and Dale ‘The Coach’ Turrell who are taking part in the Otter, along with myself, Charl Souma, and Greg Goodall, who was the third place finisher in last year’s Otter race. In addition to the Otter a 10km race has been added to the weekend’s activity line up to cater for support crew and family, who also want a taste of the action. In this event, ‘The Dassie’ we have an all-female team made up of Michelle Du Plessis, Taryn McDonald, and Tarryn Rusteburg.
The Otter for me personally has been a 3 year long wait. Once I discovered trail running I scouted every website I could, searching for that one trail, The Otter was at the top of my list. In 2012 I am privileged enough to be running on this beautiful trail.
While the overwhelming undertone of what I anticipate, describes beauty and a feeling of privilege it must be said, The Otter is as beautiful as it is hard, so much so, that beauty may be lost on me after 30km and I may wish to hand the privilege to another after 7th, 8th, 9th relentless climb and descent.
With 11 significant climbs, 3 of which exceed 100m in total gain, and totalling 2600m gain over a distance of 42km, during which 4 rivers must be traversed, including swimming across the Bloukrans River, which is home to the world’s highest bunji jump further inland, this is a race you prepare for with months of training. Whilst trying to keep all the variables, within my control to a minimum, I'll be lacing up my Neo Trail (or Breatho Trail if it's a bit warmer); the Otter has the perfect terrain to test their unprecedented multi-directional grip whilst still giving me that essential proprioception.
The 2012 running of The Otter has been reversed (west to east) and hence the name the Retto, making it a tactically, strategically, and physically tougher race.
To be eligible for a podium position and to be classed as one of ‘The Abangeni’, runners must complete the Stormsriver Prologue of 4.8km the day before the race, placing within the top 25 and within 4minutes of the fastest time. The Abangeni have a 4 minute head start, after which your prologue time will determine your starting order in 30 second intervals.
2012 has also attracted the strongest field of South African trail athletes in a single race, as well as a few renowned international runners.
The culmination of this field has created quite a buzz as to what will transpire. We have a world class trail accessible for one day only; a never before assembled field of top class trail athletes; top sports teams; add to this the unknown weather and the result should be carnage played out in dramatic fashion, athletes spattered on the pristine African coastline, strung out like flotsam after a shipwreck, all desperately trying to reach the finish before the other.
Another dimension to this perfect storm is the opportunity to compete amongst so many top athletes, to push your limits and break into new territory; it will be anything but easy going for the guys in the front, every position will be hard fought for. This opportunity may not present itself again for years! That alone should indicate, the stakes couldn’t be higher on this one day.