Record field at opening KZNTR Winter Series event at Hilton College


Runners descend into the Hilton College Nature Reserve in the crisp autumn light. Photo

Runners descend into the Hilton College Nature Reserve in the crisp autumn light. Photo credit: Graham Daniel, 369 Communications.

The 2017 edition of the KZNTR Winter Series got off to a chilly start this weekend as a record number of athletes lined up at the start of the Hilton College Trail Run on Sunday morning. The crisp autumn morning was electric and runners reveled in the jovial atmosphere, sipping on a warm cup of coffee and catching up with old friends as they waited for the countdown that would send them off on the scenic trails of Hilton.

The Hilton College Trail Run, with it’s magnificent views, was an ideal way to kick off the popular KZNTR Winter Series, one of the longest standing trail running series in the province that features three events taking place in and around Pietermaritzburg. What makes the Hilton run so special is the fact that the school estate is not open to the public. Through an agreement with Hilton College, KZNTR are able to host events here and allow runners an exclusive opportunity to explore the pristine trails of the estate and nature reserve.

The race featured three distances and saw strong competition in all fields. The 24km course presented some technical and steep climbs and proved to be a test of endurance. In the men’s section, Linda Zondi crossed over the finish in first, ahead of Mdu Zondi and Sabelo Zwane while, in the ladies division, Tracy Zunckel clinched first place (and fourth overall). However, what stood out was the spirited finish of Kim Westbrooke and Zoe Papadakis who, in true trail running fashion, ran the entire race together, crossing the finish line arm in arm with massive smiles on their faces in a tied second/third position.

The 12km men’s category saw an impressive win by U16 athlete, Nicholas de Scally, who finished ahead of Nhlanhla Yende and veteran athlete Michael Ndlovu while, in the women’s division, Jane Miller clinched first place ahead of Kirsty Bomford and Kirsten Evans.

The 7km route saw a wealth of emerging talent and was dominated by junior athletes. Shaun Banks (U16) won first place, with Jono Werth (U12) in second and Leighton Sclanders (U16) in third. Shenne Davies was the first women over the finish line, with Paula Comrie in second and Vyvekah Lumley rounding out the podium.

A unique aspect about the event, and the KZNTR Winter Series in general, is the mix of athletes joining forces to share in their love of the sport. The series initially started out as an entry level series aimed at those starting out in the sport and, while that is still a strong aspect, the series has grown along with the sport, to feature longer courses and a strong field of prominent athletes. Commenting on this, KZNTR’s Andrew Booth said it was exciting to see the direction trail running was taking.

“It is great to see people who took part in their first trail run on the 7km course at this series now lining up for the long 24km at Hilton College. The growth of the sport is a reflection of the growth of the runners as they take on bigger challenges!”

Adding value to the series, KZNTR has partnered with finish-line hydration sponsors Thirsti Water, as well as West Coast Fish & Chips. They have also introduced a Kidzone with experienced child minders and fun activities so that parents can enjoy a run knowing their kids are safe and having fun.

The second installment of the series takes place on Sunday, 11 June, at Pietermaritzburg’s iconic Table Mountain, which is shrouded in local folklore. This promises to be a cultural experience that everyone should take in. Featuring 7km, 12km and 20km routes, runners will finish to the beat of the traditional Zulu drums. The final instalment will be held at Aloe Wildlife Estate in Camperdown, on 2 July. For more information log onto www.kzntrailrunning.co.za or email lauren@kzntrailrunning.co.za.

Trail runners Kim Westbrook, Zoe Papadakis & David van der Veen reveling in the exhilarating trails. Photo credit: Graham Daniel, 369 Communications.

Trail runners Kim Westbrook, Zoe Papadakis & David van der Veen reveling in the exhilarating trails. Photo credit: Graham Daniel, 369 Communications.

Alan Phillips makes his way through the plantations on the estate with the recent snow adding the chill to the morning. Photo credit: Graham Daniel, 369 Communications.

Alan Phillips makes his way through the plantations on the estate with the recent snow adding the chill to the morning. Photo credit: Graham Daniel, 369 Communications.