Following a dramatic finale to a gripping race this weekend (Saturday, 22 September 2018) the overall winners of the Cathedral Peak Challenge series have been announced – with yet more unexpected changes made to the standing leader board. While it was believed impossible to beat the record set by Johardt van Heerden in August (2 hours 19 minutes and 33 second), Teboho Noosi came back and crushed the course, shaving 8 minutes off the record to finish in an incredible 2 hours 11 minutes and 34 seconds. As the overall winner of the series in the men’s category Noosi walks away with R25 000 and a coveted title.
A citizen of Lesotho, the 31 year old professional athlete says he felt strong and found climbing the almost vertical 1 531m ascent easier than coming down. Like most race participants, Buggers Gulley proved to be just that and it was here that his quads took strain – but certainly not enough to have any impact on his performance which can only be described as exemplary. His phenomenal pace, elegant stride and relaxed posture made the 20km race look easy – which of course anyone who has taken up this challenge will tell you “it’s not”.
Noosi took 11 minutes longer when he first ran in the July event but puts that down to inexperience, a baboon encounter on the trail and getting lost during the race. Single-minded in the pursuit of his goal, he committed to returning to beat his original time two months ago and he certainly made good on his promise.
With a field of 82 athletes – the biggest event in the series – these mountains now carry more stories than ever before; stories of elation, pain, personal struggle, strength of character, triumph and victory. For most who participated – they quickly came to realise that the magnitude of the mountain was a leveller and for some it cut them down to size – but for most – it built them, changed them and shaped them in a way they will never forget. The value extrapolated, and lessons learnt from participating in this climb, are indescribable.
Van Heerden, who lost his title and his shot at the prize, finished slower than his original time, ringing the bell in 2 hours 25 minutes and 44 seconds. Speaking about his performance he says, “The mountain will humble you every time. The conditions were perfect today, I was more prepared than last time, pushed harder and yet finished slower. You just never know what your race day will bring. But when all is said and done, Teboho was crazy fast and seriously impressive today. This is a new FKT that will stand for a long time. He has a massive future ahead of him and is a name to watch.”
Adding to this van Heerden said that he would rest his legs ahead of The Otter, while regrouping and doing some serious introspection around his performance. “It was such a privilege to be out there and despite how I finished it was still an awesome day on the mountain.”
The first lady home was an emotional Susan Sloan – a biokineticist from Johannesburg who finished in a time of 3 hours 32 minutes and 20 seconds. Commenting on her race experience, Sloan who took an unexpected fall on the course and came in holding her head said, “I took a tumble down the mountain after I clipped a rock. I had to fight the urge to give up but stayed the course and despite my fall, I am so glad I did it. Yes, it was a tough climb, way tougher than I expected, but the unrivalled alpine beauty made it worth it.
“I have competed in triathlons and have previous adventure racing experience and this definitely compares. I was so relieved to reach the summit and this event has made me realise that I need to spend more time in the mountains, experiencing the outdoors rather than more of the city.”
Sloan’s pace was not fast enough to unseat the current title holder Nicolette Griffioen (2 hours 44 minutes and 27 seconds) who retains her position as the overall female winner in the series and also banks R25 000 in prize money.
The second female to prove her skill and fulfil her dream was Durbanite and mother of four – Debbie Kitto – who finished in 3 hours 58 minutes and 57 seconds. Scared of heights Kitto made a quick summit and began her decent as fast and as safely as possible. Discovering her strength was the uphill climb she says she needs to invest more time in her downhill training and admits that the Cathedral Peak Challenge is the hardest steepest event she has ever participated in.
The first mixed team in was husband and wife duo Jane and Chris Cherry with a combined time of 7 hours, 53 minutes and 5 second win. Despite a sterling effort by other contenders for the mixed team title, top trail runner Karine Bezuidenhout and Arlo van der Heerden were not unseated from first place on the leader board – a position they notched up when they participated in last month’s race, finishing in a spectacular time of 5 hours 42 minutes and 40 seconds. The pair also walks away R25 000 richer.
Commenting on the series, race organiser, Catri Dixon says, “In a race with a route like this – there’s an unexpected reward around each corner. There are amazing drops and equally awesome highs. It’s a race full of surprises and it’s often been described as a “staircase to heaven”. Regardless of whether you summit or not you will be rewarded every step of the way. I have summited Cathedral Peak 11 times and one thing is certain – the mountains will push you to find clarity and to a space where regardless of what you are going through in life, you realise that if you can face this mountain and its challenges, you can face anything.”
For Cathedral Peak Hotel – the series has been an incredible success achieving its objective of bringing people back to experience the majesty and magic of the mountains. About so much more than beating the mountain; the race was an invitation to reconnect with the wilderness in its purest form – an adventure into the great outdoors.
The owner of Cathedral Peak Hotel – William van der Riet says, “By encouraging people to take a digital detox – to get off their devices and to get outdoors – the hotel has successfully reminded people about what it means to be present. To live in the now and to connect with each other and the environment. With 18 trails to choose from, all set in a pristine environment unmatched in its natural beauty – what better way to destress and escape. More than that there is an abundance of birds and plants, as well as some of the worlds’ oldest San rock art in the area. This series reintroduced people to the hidden gem within the Drakensburg in a unique and clever way and the memories that were created at each event will live on way beyond each summit experience.”
In closing, Dixon confirmed that the race will be back next year, saying “We are truly grateful for the incredible support we have had from both elite and everyday athletes and look forward to making this an annual event on the trail running race calendar.”
The final series leader board results can be found here:
Top race images can be found on the Cathedral Peak Hotel Facebook page: