100km races; SkyRun and UltraTrailCT join forces
18 April 2016
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now. We spoke about it last year in the build up to the race and there was a pretty big announcement that was made early in April about South Africa’s most iconic 100km trail races, the SkyRun and Ultra Trail Cape Town respectively. The news is that they’re merging and we’re joined now by Race Director for Ultra Trail Cape Town, Nic Bornman. Nic, welcome onto Old Mutual Live today, thanks for taking the time to chat to us.
Nic Bornman: Hi Brad, thanks for having me.
BB: Nic, big news, tell us a bit about the thinking behind it.
NB: Brad, it started probably last year when Mike and them helped us do live tracking for the event and we built up a fairly good relationship. We were quite obviously like-minded in what we do and the conversation went from there to us merging. Basically because these events are getting quite big and we needed more hands on deck. Sort of this year’s philosophy and what we could be doing together as a group made complete sense in taking the next step.
BB: Let’s talk about the vision and the plan, what’s on the cards?
The vision for the partnership
NB: We’re certainly looking to expand our endurance portfolio of events. I think globally there’s a shift going there where certainly longer distances are becoming more and more appealing. We would definitely be looking at a few more long events. We’ve currently got Ultra Trail Cape Town which is 100km and also SkyRun which is 100km.
These are our two sort of marque events and we would be looking at one or two more of those. We’re still looking at the feasibility and we’ve approached a few people, so we can’t divulge completely. But certainly it will be a bit of that, and then expansion across some other events would also be on the cards.
BB: Nic, you talked about the appetite for long distance trail runs globally. South Africa has always had that appetite for long endurance events. If you think about some of the events that we’ve got here, I think particularly of Comrades and if you look on the cycling front, we’ve got the two largest time cycling events in the world. They’re not the shortest of events, South Africans generally have this love of endurance events. Does that make it easier to try and build a brand like you guys are trying to build here?
NB: Certainly if we look at Comrades, the appetite is there, we’re a country that is definitely open to the endurance thing. On the trail side it’s been a bit slower, but certainly we are looking at that kind of conversation because internationally, if you look at your UTMB’s, they’ve got, on a week, during the week of the UTMB there are 7 500 people partaking in 100 mile odd events. There’s certainly a global appetite and it’s not just South Africans we’re trying to lure to the sport.
But certainly Cape Town as a global destination, we are trying to capture that side of the market. Where we bring the Europeans and Americans down to come race in South Africa with South Africans. Have that shared experience which is really appealing to us.
We certainly are seeing that already with Ultra Trail Cape Town 2015 having had 34 nationalities partake in its second year only. The signs are encouraging and if we look at our entry dates, this year we’re going to exceed that number.
How will the merger impact the races?
BB: Let’s talk about those two races and how this merge does change things. Let’s touch on Ultra Trail Cape Town first. You mentioned the 100km, but there are actually three distances. There’s two slightly, I don’t want to say short ones, slightly shorter, there’s a 65km and 35km. Entries as we record this are going pretty quickly, there aren’t too many left. Does this merger change anything with that race and if anything, what does it do?
NB: Our events are currently capped. If we look at our permitting, because we are running on mountains and it’s also a safety thing. So as we see it, Ultra Trail Cape Town, for example is now at 80% capacity. This year we’ll probably get fairly close to selling it out. SkyRun in itself is already near capacity.
So if we just look at these two events, in future they will be full annually and we would definitely, for that reason, be looking at other events that are also in the 100km distance market to add in. So that South Africans have more opportunity.
It also gives them a reason to conquer different landscapes and try different events, which is generally the way trail running is. Where people would be doing, they call it the Bucket List thing these days. So you want to check off different races, but also conquer different landscapes.
Are we going to see 100 milers?
BB: Nic, you talk about wanting to go slightly longer than 100. Some of the big races, I think particularly in the States you look at the iconic 100 milers, like Western States or Badwater as an example. Do you think we’re going to see more of that here?
South Africa is such an incredible place to come and run, it’s popping up more on the international radar now as well. You mentioned the amount of nationalities you had at Ultra Trail Cape Town last year, are we going to see a 100 miler off road very soon here in South Africa?
NB: We will, I think we’ve got the Addo already, which is 100 miler, they reintroduced it. I think it was this year. It’s not completely within the mountain category. Certainly as our new events tale, which is called Endurance Events, we are looking at 100 miler.
But that’s going to be a slow growing process and certainly we would be pitching it to the international market for your internationals to come down. It’s not too much of a secret there anymore, but Ultra Trail Cape Town has been offered Ultra Trail World Tour status. We’re looking at ways with the authorities this side to make it happen and to ensure that we reach our capacities that they would require.
Getting the races World Tour status
BB: I wanted to ask, what would go into getting that certification and when it does happen? What does that mean for the race and you guys as an organisation?
NB: Okay, so the World Tour status, there’s five criteria, I hope I can mention them all. The one is, it has to be 100km or more. It needs to have 500 participants within the 100km 400-500 as a minimum, more than 20 nationalities, which we already have.
I think the primary criteria for the World Tour status is that it needs to be an iconic destination. If you look at the World Tour events, currently, it’s 12 of the world’s most famous and iconic. In terms of what the landscape has to offer. You’ve got your Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, the Western States Ultra Trail, Mount Fuji and numerous other races. It’s an extremely exciting prospect for us to join this list of esteemed races.
It will be enormous for the city of Cape Town for Table Mountain National Park and just tourism as a whole and putting South Africa’s trail running square on the map. It would do wonders for Cape Town, the country as a whole and our elites also, to have genuine European and American and global elites coming down to do the event annually. Yes, it’s very exciting and we’re looking at ways to make 2017 happen.
BB: I think that would be incredible and it would be amazing to have a race of that stature and calibre on our back doorstep. Not that it, in our minds, isn’t that already because we know how incredible this city is and that route for Ultra Trail Cape Town is just something special.
I want to urge people, entries are going pretty quick on that and you say you’ll hopefully sell out soon. I’ve got a funny feeling that 2016 is going to be the year. Nic, if people want to find out more about Ultra Trail Cape Town and SkyRun and everything you guys are up to, and enter, where can they get more information?
How to find out more about the races
BB: I’ve been threatening for a while to come and run Ultra Trail, we spoke about it last year and then injury put paid to that. But I’m dead keen to possibly come and do, I’m pushing it with the 65, but definitely I’m thinking the shorter one would be well within my limits right now. Hopefully we’ll see you out there on the mountain, it’s an incredible run. I’m sure that race is going to, in the years to come, be one of the Bucket List races globally, not just here in South Africa.
NB: Brad, we would love to have you, you know there are three races, so you could pick your poison, our door is always open, it would be fantastic to have you there on the 10th of December this year.
BB: Just the change of date, it was in October last year, cause funnily enough it was actually on my birthday weekend as well. I see you guys have moved it to early in December, what was the thinking behind that?
NB: The primary reason being the 100km has had some permitting issues with us being, typically a race of its nature would be 24 hours, but we’ve only managed to secure 15 hours. So by moving the date into December, it afforded us two more daylight hours.
Giving you as much daylight as possible
So the 100km guys have now got 17 hours to finish that race, which is fairly significant. You could probably get twice the amount of people through, simply by adding two more hours on. In many ways it sort of unclogs the South African racing calendar. Because you’ve got some of the major events between September and November.
By us just shifting out of that space, it gives everybody a bit more breathing room. I think for the calendar as a whole, it’s going to be good. It’s also the best time of the year for Cape Town. It’s also showing in our entries, more people are willing to fly or travel down to Cape Town for that time.
The only downside may be that it could be a bit hot. But you never know these days. It’s not January or February, so I think we’ll be okay. It’s certainly going to beat last year’s nine-hour rain downpour we had, which was very difficult for everybody.
BB: Never say never Nic, we know what Cape Town weather is like, but it sounds absolutely amazing. If people want to find out more, we’ll put those links into the show notes of this episode as well. Nic Bornman, thanks so much for joining us today, best of luck for the year. I think it’s a fabulous occasion that you guys are merging. I think it’s going to do great things for trail running, particularly long trail running here in South Africa, well done.
NB: Thank you Brad.