With trail running earning its place as one of South Africa’s strongest athletics disciplines, enthusiasts of all ages and abilities will have another chance to compete in the picturesque surrounds of one of the country’s most popular resorts when the annual The Citizen Trail Run at Sun City is held on September 15.
While the discipline was previously utilised predominantly by road runners to supplement their training, specialist trail runners have emerged around the country, proving the code has developed its own unique profile at domestic level.
Some athletes still use trail running as a step towards road running success, as is evident with the likes of elite athlete Danette Smith, who won the SA Long Distance Trail Championship in 2014 and two years later took the SA Marathon Championship title on the road.
The rise of trail specialists has, however, assisted in transforming the image of the discipline.
Lucky Miya, an accomplished road runner who holds a marathon personal best of 2:16:41, has evolved into a world-class trail runner who won the SkyRun 100km race in the Witteberg mountain range last season.
Though it remains a useful cross-training exercise, local trail star Ryan Sandes points out some of the unique benefits offered by the off-road code.
“Trail running is unpredictable and no two runs are the same, whereas I think road running can be quite monotonous,” says Sandes, who finished second in the 2014 Ultra-Trail World Tour.
“It almost feels like you’re playing when you’re out there, and it offers a direct connection to nature, with a chance to experience the wildlife while you’re running.”
The growth of the sport is also evident in the increase in popularity of The Citizen Trail Run.
In 2017, the 21km race and 5km fun run fields both rose by more than 50%, with line-ups of 300 and 770 participants respectively.
The growth of the 10km race has been even more impressive, with the size of the field more than doubling last year to 380 entrants.
A prize purse of R20 000 will be up for grabs to elite runners this year, and amateur participants can soak in the stunning surrounds of the Sun City Resort and the Gary Player Golf Course while chasing their own personal goals.
All entrants will also receive free entry to the Sun City Valley of Waves.
Pre-entries close on September 9 – six days before the race – while late entries and registration will be taken at the Woodmead Retail Park food court on September 13, and at the race venue on September 14 and 15.