Marloth Mountain Challenge – stoking the thrill of skyrunning

“It’s brutal trail running in usually cold hostile elements, which I thrive on, and takes place in beautiful, majestic mountains with a close knit trail running tribe…what’s not to love!”  Derrick Baard, Marloth Mountain Challenge participant


As trail runners search for wilder routes, more are heading into the mountains to experience the elemental highs of running ridge lines and navigating extreme, technical trails. South African trail running event specialist and founder of Wildrunner, Owen Middleton, is currently feeding this hunger with the Mountain Challenge Series – offering hardcore trail runners, three challenging, technical races held in the daunting Jonkershoek, Helderberg and Swellendam Mountains of the Western Cape.

“The Mountain Challenge Series culminates with the Marloth Mountain Challenge (MMC) in Swellendam to be held on 24 September this year – As the grand finale of the series it certainly doesn’t disappoint, offering the rare opportunity to run along the route of the historical six-day Swellendam Hiking Trail, which is closed to the public.”

Besides the race being exceptionally beautiful, “It’s a demanding run,” says Middleton. “The extremely rugged nature of the race route epitomises the very essence of ultra skyrunning, testing runners not only on their endurance, strength and stamina. If you like the adventurous blend of unrelenting technical trail, huge climbs and descents whilst feeling like you are in the middle of nowhere, then this is for you.”

The MMC is a one-of-a-kind type of race; it’s tough and has massive climbs, but the beautiful wilderness mountains and spectacular views is something that very few people get to see and experience.

Middleton says that the 55km race is an ultra skymarathon® – an extreme event (3 494m of ascent
and 3 494m of descent) for hardcore mountain runners, which is also a qualifying race for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®. However, he wants the environment to be enjoyed other wilderness runners, so he’s opened the event up with shorter distance options. Runners also have the option of entering the 24,5km lite or the 35km extreme.

“Swellendam Mountains are notorious for being very hot or very cold, and we’ve had two years in a row now with rain. Runners go up to 1200m, so if its 10 degrees in Swellendam, you’re looking at zero degrees on top. On top of that, the terrain is 55km of technical running, with very few free kays.” Unpredictable weather and all, Wildrunner makes it a priority to ensure that the safety of runners are well taken care of. “We have all the safety points in place, and every ten kays there is a radio check point and sweepers, so from that point of view we have control mechanisms in place for safety out on the mountains,” says Middleton. “There is also a compulsory kit check to ensure runners are prepared for all weather.”

Race advice

“The first section I’d caution runners about is the very first climb. You get to a false summit at about the 8 or 9km, and the actual top is only at the 14km mark. Be aware of this so that you aren’t mentally sapped for energy when you realise you’re not quite at the top yet,” says Middleton.

“Don’t overdo things and burn out,” he says. “After 32km you do a short climb and then start a big decent. It’s very technical and slippery and you can really do some damage if you’re not cautious, plus your quads are going to absolutely scream at you.”

Entries for the Marloth Mountain Challenge will close on 22 September 2016. To enter and to find out more about this awesome running experience, please visit:

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