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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Olympian leads at THIRSTI AFRICANX Trailrun as roadrunners take on the trails

That a man who graced an Olympic 1500m final leads a team format multi-stage trail race, tells you all you need to know about the current state of running in South Africa. So few are racing opportunities in a world where mass participation sport has become public enemy number one, that both the Nedbank Running Club and Murray & Roberts Running Club decided to enter athletes better known as road runners in the THIRSTI AFRICANX Trailrun. Nedbank's Eric Ngubane and Juan van Deventer (who finished fifth in that final in Beijing 2008) lead after stage 1 thanks to a lightning-fast time of 01 hour 32 minutes 10 seconds yesterday.

Team Nedbank 1’s Juan van Deventer and Eric Ngubane threw down the gauntlet in the Men’s Team Category during Stage 1 of the THIRSTI AFRICANX Trailrun claiming gold after day 1. Photo Credit: Tobias Ginsberg.

Another road running star in action is 2016 Comrades Marathon champion Charne Bosman who saw the world's most iconic ultra marathon canceled and decided to give the country's premier trail running event a go. Bosman could not stop raving about the trails. “ The route, the vibe, the people – THIRSTI AFIRCANX is just something different. I was told not to run too hard during the first stage, so we held back a bit, and ran within ourselves. Tomorrow is actually the big day, so I just wanted to get through today,” said the Murray & Roberts athlete yesterday who also raced as a junior during the World Cross Country Championships in Stellenbosch way back in 1996.

Charne Bosman and Kallie Burger (both over 40 years old) finished second in the Mixed Team Category after day 1 of the THIRSTI AFIRCANX Trailrun. Photo Credit: Tobias Ginsberg.

As road running events have been canceled en masse since the Covid19 lockdown was first put in place exactly a year ago, trail running has grown in leaps and bounds as organisers have shown a willingness to come to grips with the sometimes onerous regulations required to host mass participation sports event in this strange new world. Now in it's 11th year, Michael Meyer of Stillwater Sports believes that they have been able to successfully host another edition of the THIRSTI AFRICANX Trailrun, which has in turn given professional athletes much needed racing opportunities, by simply providing certainty.

"While a lot has changed in the last 14 months, sponsorship is still a critical part of the marketing of brands," said Meyer. "Creating certainty in an uncertain world is what we have to do," said the man who heads up a company that won the 2019 Participation Event of the Year Award for the FNB Run Your City Series, at the Hollard Sport Industry Awards.

And one of the brands who backed this event is an up and coming bottled water company called THIRSTI which started selling spring water in 2015 and has now grown to offer a variety of thirst satisfying products. "They are a very dynamic, proudly South African brand who are not new to the sponsorship environment," Meyer explained. The KwaZulu Natal based company also sponsor the ABSA Cape Epic and the now canceled Comrades Marathon. "It's all about what we can offer and what we can deliver. We've got to prepare for everything," said Meyer. Stage two of the 3-day 75km THIRSTI AFRICANX Trailrun continues through the picturesque Cape mountains and farmland today.

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