Attention adventurers, sports enthusiasts, and those with an itching wanderlust: Life is just tons better with the inaugural Mountain Ultra-Trail (MUT) by UTMB® taking place right in our own backyard from 26-28 May 2023. How great would that be to witness and experience history in the making during this event; the first and only of its kind to be presented on the African continent?
In November last year, it was announced that the MUT by UTMB® (the new name of the former George MUT) has been chosen by the UTMB® World Series organisers to serve as the African qualifier for the holy grail of trail runs, the annual UTMB® Mont-Blanc in France. This race is known as the most mythical trail race in the world and forms the final of the World Series circuit. Participating in it is the dream of any serious trail runner, no matter what nationality. For 2023, there will be only 36 events across 22 countries and six continents leading up to this epic event in France, and the MUT by UTMB® will be one of them. This means that local athletes will get the chance to partake in a qualifier on their own soil.
Traditionally, the MUT sports five race categories, namely the MUT 100 (100 km), MUT 60 (59 km), MUT Marathon (41,8 km), the MUT Challenge (24,5 km), and the MUT Lite (9,5 km). This year, however, a new category has been included: The MUT Miler, a whopper of 165 km taking participants to the George and Cradock Peaks. “This is not for the faint-hearted, and the trail runners will need a certain degree of experience to tackle it successfully,” Zane Schmahle, race director, said. It features steep climbs with elevations of up to 2 000 m, crossing rivers like the Kaaimans, running on the Wilderness Beach, and technical down hills.
Depending on their race category, trail runners will make their way up and down rocky mountain trails, through forests and our famed fynbos landscapes, and even parts of the arid Klein Karoo. And they will always be surrounded by spectacular scenery encompassing panoramic ocean and mountain views. Many trail runners regard the routes as the closest thing to European trails one will encounter in Africa.
Other race nuggets include navigating a long-lost mountain hiking trail, specifically re-opened to take runners into the true mountain wilderness, and the Vertical Kilometre Challenge. The latter means that trail runners have to climb 1 000 metres covering a distance of less than 5 km. In the MUT’s case, the 100 mile-participants will run 4,2 km to George Peak.
Entries for all categories are now closed, and the scene is set for an event that will become the stuff of legends.
The MUT is a very special race with a strong community spirit. Spectatorship is encouraged and to this end, there will be two main spectator points. One is at the well-known cross on the Outeniqua Mountain for more “active” spectators, as it involves a bit of hiking to get there. The other one is at Herold Wines, where people can get acquainted with the superb products of this little gem of a winery. This spot is one of the water points and 830 athletes will pass there; it’s thus a good place to see the runners in action. The Montagu Pass is closed at the moment, but cross the Outeniqua Pass and follow the route from there to reach Herold Wines. Spectators can also cheer the runners on from the Wilderness Commonage and Oakhurst Farm Cottages.
In step with its community spirit and to be really part of the history-making MUT, why not join the social run with the Garden Route Trail Running Club on Thursday 25 May? It starts at 17:00 from Camphersdrift Street and anyone is welcome. Park at the Ground Zero Trail Park and come jog along.
The race village and prize-giving ceremony will be at the Witfontein Forestry Station in the Garden Route National Park. The podium top three – men and women – in all categories (except the MUT Lite) will receive automatic entry for the World Series Finals. All finishers will receive medals and earn so-called running stones. A running stone gives runners more opportunities to qualify for the World Series Finals. Depending on their category, runners can earn from one to four running stones.
Everything race-related happens at the race village and a festive atmosphere is sure to prevail. According to Zane, there will be loads of food stalls, a bar, and an expo with interesting products. Make sure to pop in and immerse yourself in trail-running fever.
That this is an extraordinary event attracting big names in the trail-running world is not debatable. It’s been confirmed that top-field international trail runners, mostly from France and America, but also as far afield as China, Peru, and Japan will take part. A big name to look out for is Omar El Sawy from Egypt. Then, of course, most of our national trail-running heroes, including celebrity Red Bull-sponsored trail runner Ryan Sandes and Asics-sponsored Rebecca Köhne, will also be there as part of their up-march to the World Series Final.
The fact that the MUT by UTMB® managed to secure inclusion in the 2023 UTMB® World Series is no small feat, and shovels of dedication and hard work have been put in behind the scenes to achieve this spectacular achievement which will bring the world to our doorstep. According to Joan Shaw, manager of George, Wilderness and Uniondale Tourism, it is a huge honour to be included in this elite group of trail-running events taking place at the world’s most iconic places. “The Garden Route is such an amazing place, and it’s important to make people across the world aware of all its treasures,” she said. “Being associated with a huge international event and globally-known brand, this is the perfect opportunity for international networking and marketing. It will put us right out there in front of the world’s eyes to flaunt all we have to offer.”
Thus, whether you are a local resident, outdoor enthusiast, or traveller who happens to find yourself in our neighbourhood or planning a visit within the next week or two, don’t miss out on the hype and excitement surrounding the MUT by UTMB®. If you are an out-of-towner looking for accommodation, click here for access to a wide range of lodgings perfect for every preference and budget.
See the MUT by UTMB® event listing.