Skyrun 100km

Malcolm and Ruan ran the Skyrun 100: A Race along the dragon’s back! Check out their riviting race reports below. Ruan managed an impressive 6th place.

Malcolm’s Report:

The Skyrun 100 is a race not to be underestimated…. which is exactly what I did!

This is a race that truly lends itself to making an awesome weekend so Craig Metherell, John and I (Malcolm) met early on Friday morning to start the 8-hour journey to the quaint town of Lady Grey. The journey was pleasant and gave us much time to discuss tactics and plan strategies. Finally, we made our entrance at the Lady Grey country club. The vibe was awesome, a collection of fit, healthy, excited and nervous athletes made for an awesome atmosphere.

The registration was complete with a medical check by the doctors and handing over of race bib and bracelets. After a great meal the race directors gave a passionate race briefing. Well done to Pure Adventures, their passion for this event really came through and as intimidating as the briefing was it certainly stirred excitement. I chose to keep the race as authentic as possible and camp the night before the race. At 03:00 my alarm went off, race day had finally arrived! It was time to put the 1030km running and the 77 hours  (never mind the 123 hours cycling) of training into practice. 03:30 we received our tracker and with nervous excitement gathered under the start line.


At 04:00 the flairs were lit and off we went at an intimidating pace. Soon however as we hit the very first climb we at least slowed down to a fast hike. If you think a fast hike this doesn’t sound like a race, you must remember this race covers 100km with 4200m of climbing and a similar amount of descending, mostly on very narrow trails or no trail at all. It is definitely a race that requires a reserved speed and the need to manage your body right to the end.

I felt good at the start going past check point 1 in good position and time and onto check point 2. We were now able to run again in an easterly direction along the ridge of the mountain with incredible views either side. To North you could see Lesotho and the South was the Eastern Cape. At about 31km I become very nauseous, I hadn’t been able to eat anything and couldn’t keep running because of it. I continued hiking for about 5km and eventually the nausea seemed to wear off. I was now alone and following my GPS for direction. Soon it was the climb to Avoca which is the highest point on the run at 2760m above sea level.  I stopped here to try have something to eat before carrying on. Now running on the “Dragons back” which is a narrow spine of the ridge often requiring to scramble up and down the rocks. There was one more check point before we descended into the Balloch valley. This descent as with the rest, was rather treacherous and in retrospect I probably took it a bit cautiously which I think was not the best tactic.


At Balloch you have a medical check before you are permitted to carry on. The temperature had been wonderful on top of the mountain but in the valley it was hot. I had already completed 58km more than half the distance but was definitely not half way. Leaving Balloch the route heads straight up what is known as Balloch wall. This 450m climb in just 2km was tough and again followed by as steep a downhill into the Wartrail valley. I was bargaining on getting a good 10km under my belt as the route head headed up the valley toward bridal pass on a jeep track but my body was suffering too much. I could only manage an excuse for a run on the flat and downhill sections and walk the uphill’s. It was also very hot which drained what little energy I had. At checkpoint 6, Edghill I linked up with a fellow competitor Johann who had finished the 100 previously, this was a blessing as his experience really pulled us through.


We worked hard to get to and summit Bridal pass and then pushed as hard as we could to get to checkpoint 8 the Turn before it was dark. Although we navigated with GPS moving at night is always going to be slower. We achieved our goal, only just by getting to Turn as the last light faded. It was freezing cold but we enjoyed the warm hospitality and especially the meaty chicken soup. We put on thermals and headed out into the night to complete the last 15km. The magic time of sub 20 hours was within reach but we needed to continue moving fast. Johann and I gave it all and moved at a steady pace. Just before the final check point we heard the cries of a female competitor deep from within a valley below us. It was one of the leading ladies who’s GPS stopped working and she got totally lost. We waited for her and ensured she got back on route. It was now time to really push to get in under 20 hours. After the final check point it was again a narley descent into the Wartrail valley and to the finish line.


Johann and I realising we were so close pushed hard to finally make it to the finish line in 19 hours 52 minutes. It was an incredible feeling and the sense of accomplishment was immense. Thanks again to Keyhealth for the opportunity to race. Well done to my fellow team mates Janneke, Craig and especially Ruan for his amazing time of just over 15 hours. It is a phenomenal event, definitely one for every great adventurer.

By Malcolm Dunkeld


Ruan’s Race Report:

Beginners Luck!

Some seriously technical terrain, a few not so great navigation decisions and high altitude makes for a very interesting and unexpected 6th place at my first SkyRun.

The start of Hell

Taking on SkyRun for the first time… #HellofaRun for sure!

Having been challenged by a fellow adventure racer to take on the iconic SkyRun 100km trail, I thought why the hell not, can’t be that difficult, can it?

After talking to a few of the more seasoned runners I know, I came to a sudden realisation that this might have been a bit harder than I thought and that maybe I should have a look at the previous finishing times to get a better idea of how tough it is. So currently the record is 12:08 (held by Iain Don-Wauchope – a trail legend), which is longer than the cut-off for Comrades.. also the elevation gain is +4500m, which is almost triple that of Comrades.. this was going to be a very long day indeed.

Starting before the Rooster Crows

The race starts in the idyllic little village of Lady Grey at the unholy hour of 4 in the morning. For most people that make full use of the 30 hour cut-off will get to see two sunrises on one run! So after collecting my tracker, and getting in a last few words of encouragement to and from my team mates Craig Metherell, Janneke Leask and Malcolm Dunkeld, the race is off with flares and horns and the whole works, all we needed was cheerleaders.

The first 7km of the race is an uphill, which probably has a really stupid name that I can’t remember, as my vocabulary was reduced to huffs and puffs trying to keep up with Malcolm. As soon as someone gives a hill a name you know it is horrible, and when it is 7km long then you know it is just plain ridiculous. So needless to say, except for the first 500m sprint to get to the front of the queue to get up Mt. Doom or whatever, there is not much running.

Coming Down Halstone

And then there is actually some running.

Understandably one can be tricked to believe that there won’t be a lot of running, as the altitude makes you feel lethargic and you just don’t feel like running when you know there is still 90km left. But alas, you realise that it is probably a good idea to not let everyone get away from you.

Whilst my initial aim was to do this run between 18 and 19 hours, I came to the sudden realisation that I am probably going to run closer to a 17 hour, or perhaps just bomb out and have a sweeper pick me up. Due to the weather being pretty spectacular, we had no compulsory kit check at Snowden, although I still carried all the kit with me, just for in case.

Yes, you actually run during SkyRun…

When I reached Avoca, I was pretty much running by myself, as the group of 30 elites that we started out with all dissolved away into their separate pockets of pain. At this point, I was told that I was lying in 8th position, for which my response was that perhaps the marshal should take a course in basic arithmetic as that wasn’t possible.

Now somewhere between Avoca and Skiddaw you run over the Dragon’s Back, which is an absolute spectacular section of the route as it is basically ridge running at its finest with 360 degree views of the whole Witteberg. Unfortunately, it is also pretty scary and all my attention was focused on not falling to a short and wonderful death.

Heading to Avoca

Sunglasses hide the tears…

At Skiddaw CP Janneke’s parents were manning the station and again they pointed out I was lying in 8th position (mental note to tell Janneke her parents suck at counting).


From Skiddaw it is pretty much downhill to the halfway mark at Balloch caves, which sounds like fun, but it isn’t. It hurts, a lot. Now the halfway mark is at 57km, not 50km as one would think and this is due to the fact that most people take the same amount of time for the last 43km as the first 57km, which is mainly due to you being somewhat tired at this stage and the fact that you know there are another 2 hills with names that fill you with thoughts of warmth and tranquillity.


The Dragons back

The 2nd Half, Sort of.

After having done my mandatory medical check at halfway and being told that I lost 5% of my body weight (which is bad according to them, but 90% of the female population will no doubt disagree), but luckily my blood pressure is better that before the race. I put this down to not having to stress about the race anymore, as I was already halfway through and how bad can it really get?  Also I had my dad there seconding me and he had a whole spread laid out like he was catering for half the Comrades field. I quickly gained back my 5% body weight after that

So after spending a full 6 minutes at Balloch, I left with Nicolette Griffioen and by now I made peace with the fact that I am lying in 7th position and should probably not have judged all those nice people about not being able to count.

Starting with a nice meander down dreamy lane, you head up to The Wall, which isn’t actually so bad even though it takes almost an hour to get up it. The problem exists on the other side with a very technical and unsavoury downhill that is not welcome in the least!

After getting over the disappointing fact that I have just moved 5km in almost 2 hours, I got to the next piece of fun which is named Bridal Pass. Now this is roundabout 70 odd km’s into the race and is really not fun and makes you really doubt ever wanting a bride or anything that rhymes with bride. But luckily getting to this checkpoint I was lying in 6th position, which was still a bit of a shock to the system.

From Bridal Pass, past The Turn and all the way to Halston Peak, it is pretty much runnable and I made up some really good time, also it was great to be able to run again after the 2 crazy climbs.

Halston or Hellstone or just Hell for short.

The last run before the end

At Halston peak my gps watch started acting up a bit, which is understandable, as I was tired as well and I knew what it was going through. So, unfortunately, this resulted in me making a few navigation errors right before the finish as the gps just froze and I couldn’t move for a few minutes while it rebooted, or I kept moving but in the wrong direction.

Uhm.. Sorry.. You want me to go down where?

Also doesn’t help that Halston is the most technical downhill I’ve ever done, as it is essentially running down a cliff face.

From there coming down into Wartrail country club, they have done this nice thing where they make you run around the whole finish area, like a victory lap, except it has no use whatsoever except for making you hate life.

The nice thing about finishing in a time of 15:03, is that I kept my 6th position; I almost beat Jock Green, as he only finished 2 minutes ahead of me ( I never knew I was so close) and also I get to finish in the day time and really appreciate the finish.

Now that I know that SkyRun is actually quite fun and actually not that bad, maybe next year we go for podium?

by Ruan Van Der Merwe on November 30, 2016

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