Picture by Deds Photography: 100km MUT winner Bruce Arnett proud to be the first on the race’s victory board! 

Rondevlei runner Bruce Arnett won the inaugural George Mountain Ultra Trail 100km on Saturday, finishing the gruelling course in 12 hours and 41 minutes.

The route, which takes runners over the toughest terrain and 4500m of ascent, includes rocky climbs of the Outeniqua Mountain peaks (Cradock included!), slippery, loose-rocked downhills steep enough to scare a mountain goat, and the heat of the Klein Karoo. But this suited the 51-year-old 13-time winner of the Sky Run right down to the ground.

“When (race organiser) Zane Schmahl decided to include a 100km race in the MUT, I was definitely stoked to have my kind of distance added to the event. I had run the 60km twice before, but it is hard to race youngsters over the shorter distances at my age, so for me, the 100k was actually a sweet respite,” he said.

The race started at 5 am, so the athletes began with two hours of running in the dark.
“I started out at a steady brisk pace that I felt I could mostly maintain for the whole distance,” said Bruce, “I settled into position as the 9th runner in the combined 100km and 60km field and picked up another four places by the summit of Cradock pass. First light was gained at the Sputnik Outeniqua Pass CP, where I landed up pacing with runners near the front of the 25km who joined the route from the Sputnik for the Camferskloof section.”

After leaving the 25s, the route swings onto the Dizzy heights and Tierkop spine ridge section, which Bruce says is one of his favourite parts of the run. “Soon, I was lost in gratitude to be able to do what I do and enjoy this sublime mountain trail.”

But then, he says, his carefree joie de vivre was somewhat broken. Coming into Tierkop hut at 40km, he heard the news that Robbie Rorich was hot on his heels, just a minute or two behind. Bruce had no choice but to engage serious ‘race-mode’. After a quick refuel at Tierkop aid station, he went down the Godfather plunge into the Kaaimans river ravine and up the other side. He could see Robbie pursuing him and maintained the burn up the climb to Groenkop.

“From Groenkop, it is a lot of downhill and easier faster running. Not my favourite, but I had trained on it a bit, so I felt I could hold a reasonable pace on the flats,” he told us.

At the Groeneweide aid station (55km), Bruce felt good but had no idea how close his competitors were until a race official drove around and told him that Robbie was 15 minutes behind and Brandon 21.
“That settled the nerves a bit as the last 10 flat kilometres had not been my sort of terrain, but I had nevertheless still gained a cushion.”

It was more flat into and out of the Garden Route Dam checkpoint, and Bruce says he was grateful to get onto the climb back up to Tierkop. “Up at Tierkop, I learned that I was possibly taking command of the race with Brandon now past Robbie in second, but now up to 25 minutes behind me with the last 20 km being my more favoured mountain terrain.”

“I predicted Tonnelbos would be hard with 90 km in my legs, but it was worse. All that mud, narrow off-camber trail, gnarled roots and rocks to clamber over. Boy was I happy to get to the last checkpoint at the cross,” he said. After that, he had just two technical kilometres down and the final forestry road sprint home to the finish line.
“I was most proud to set the inaugural bar for the 100k as a local. Full congratulations go to Zane and team for a first-class event that has already grown substantially and attracted many top runners from beyond the Garden route as well.”

A number of Sedgefield runners took part in the shorter distances on the day, with Michael Rorke completing the 60km, Ben Adam and Chris de Jager the 42km, and Nicolette Brouwer, Zelda Delport, Danielle de Jager, Michelle and Ben Olivier, Matty Smith, Leatitia du Toit, Ida and Hans van der Wetering, Linda Whittal and Bomber Webb all running the 25km.