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    The Windhoek Light ™
    Fish River Canyon
    Ultra (Trail)
    ... The Fish River Challenge is a non-stop self-supporting race
    whereby runners will be expected to complete the course in 24 hours

The Fish River Challenge is a non-stop self-supporting race whereby runners will be expected to complete the course in 24 hours


The Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world, surpassed only by the famous Grand Canyon in Colorado, USA. The Canyon is stark, rugged, magnificently desolate and harshly unforgiving.

On the 13th of July 1990, two South Africans, Bruce Mathews and Ronnie Muhl attempted to run the Fish River Canyon hiking trail in under a day. They managed to achieve their goal, eventually finishing in a total time of 11hrs 42min.

On the 16th of August 2003, four Namibians decided to better this record. They were Russell Paschke, Charlie du Toit, Coenraad Pool and Tommy van Wyk. They succeeded in their quest, finally finishing in a total time of 10hrs 54min (Fish River Record Summary).

On the 1st August 2012, the world renowned Ultra Trail athlete, Ryan Sandes, made his second attempt at this record. In 2011 he had to abandon his attempt as heavy rains resulted in dangerously high river levels and the threat of flash flooding. Ryan showed his class by smashing the previous record in a time of 6hrs 57min, shedding an amazing 4 hours off the previous time.

The Fish River Challenge is a non-stop self-supporting race whereby runners will be expected to complete the course in 24 hours. Water will be supplied at designated checkpoints that will also serve to monitor progress of the various athletes and provide updates to the organizers. The race will commence at the top of the world famous Fish River Canyon where the race village for the first evening will be positioned on the edge with magnificent views. From there, competitors will follow animal tracks and paths heading cross-country until they reach the point where they will descend into the Canyon. Once down in the Canyon, they will follow the river, with an occasional detour across wide meandering bends in the river, and will eventually finish at the wonderfully soothing hot springs resort of Ai-Ais.

Race Format:

The race format will change in 2013, with an additional “Lite” version being added, thereby providing for a 65km option and the Full 100km option. Both versions will be a unsupported (except for water) foot race whereby competitors will be expected to cover the distance in the designated cut-off time. Competitors will be expected to carry along certain basic essential equipment (see race rules).

It must be noted that distances can vary due to environmental factors as well as the fact that the hiking trail consists of various trails along its course of following the Fish river. At places there is the availability of short cuts, these are shown on race routes, however it is the up to the individual participant to navigate their own way through the course. It is for this reason that this event is seen as a adventure challenge rather than a official distance Ultra.

The full 96km distance must only be undertaken by seasoned ultra distance runners, with experience in crossing, in parts, extremely difficult terrain as well as the likelihood of completing the course after dark. Event date is considered to coincide with full moons, nonetheless the canyon can be an imposing place after dark and requires athletes with sound judgement. Sweepers experienced in the lie of the canyon do back up behind the last athletes.

Dates: 2017 dates

The race will start on - 10th June 2017. Competitors requiring transport to the event will meet in the capital city Windhoek on Friday, 9th june 2017, from where they will be transported by bus to the Race Village. A race briefing will be held at the Race Village on the Friday after arrival and the race will start early the Saturday morning, 1 hour prior to sunrise.

Entry Fees: Entries open 25th Oct'16

The entry fee is N$ 4000.00 per person and is payable upon entry. The entries will open on the 25th October 2016 and will close when 150 competitors have registered and paid. A competitor will only be “officially” registered once they have followed the online entry procedure AND paid their registration fee. Once the organizers have received the necessary registration information as well as confirmation of payment, the competitor will be notified via e-mail of their entry and will receive regular updates pertaining to the event.

Entry fees will be payable upon entry as per the following date lines:

Normal Entries – N$ 4 000.00 per single entry.

Late Entries (1st April 2017 to close of entries) – N$ 4 400.00 per single entry.

NB: Team entries are limited to a max of 4 members.

A teams official event position will be determined by the time of the last team member to cross the line. All team members need to finish for the team to again receive a official event position.

Members of a team cannot qualify for overall individual standings.

Entries will open on 25th October 2016 and will close when 150 entries have registered and paid. You will receive an e-mail confirmation of your entry once the online registration process and credit card or EFT payment has been processed. Once registered, riders will receive regular updates pertaining to the event.

Entries received after the 30 April will not be eligible for the official event shirt…


Supporters Packages – a limited amount of Supporters Packages will be available (x20) whereby a team supporter plus vehicle will be allowed to follow the event. Cost of this package is N$ 2 000.00 per person and includes all accommodation, meals and race village facilities as what a event participant would receive, except the actual run. Booking for this needs to be made early as there is limited space!

Shuttle Transfers – Transfer back to Whk can be booked – cost determined by number of pax.

Registration and Race Briefing:

Registration of the competitors will commence on Friday the 9th June at the race village on the canyon edge at 2pm. All competitors will be expected to check in at the various control points at this stage where their basic essential equipment will undergo inspection, their medical forms will be checked and signed and their personal information and entry details will be confirmed. They will then receive their official race packages that will include amongst others, their race numbers, latest race updates and any additional important race information.

The official race briefing will take place at the Race Village after arrival on the Friday, the time to be confirmed on arrival, and is compulsory for all competitors.

Race Start:

The race will officially start on Saturday June from the race villages, 1 hour before sunrise (for the Full 96km option) followed the by “Lite” version 1 hour later.


Accommodation will be available prior to the race at The Klein Windhoek Guesthouse in Windhoek. It remains the competitors’ own responsibility to organize and book their own accommodation. The organizers will do their best to assist where possible.

The accommodation at the Race Village the night before the event is included in the race entry fee and will be in the form of tents. The race ends at the hot springs resort Ai-Ais and accommodation will be provided yet again in the form of tents. Should competitors want more formal accommodation, there are limited rooms available that can be booked on a first come basis. The cost of this will be for the competitor’s personal account.

Event difficulty / Preparation:

Take time to study the route distances and profiles available under EVENTS – RACE ROUTE.

Often the question is asked – How difficult is the route and at what level of fitness must one be to be able to complete this Ultra? This is normally a difficult question to answer as all people have different levels of ability , endurance etc, also each athlete will have a different perspective of what a difficult day on the trail would entail. We will try to provide some perspective of what to expect, based on our own experience and feed back received from previous participants.

It must be stated from the outset that this Ultra, be it the full 100km or the Lite 65km is a challenging trail ultra requiring well above average levels of fitness and endurance. Previous experience in unsupported ultra distance events is highly recommended. As most of the field will be finishing after dark, this must be also be factored into preparation in terms of equipment and mind set. The canyon can become a intimidating place after dark! It is with this in mind that the event is planned taking advantage of the full moon.

Availability of GPS (Required as compulsory equipment item…) and the ability to navigate will also be of great use. One follows the course of the Fish river throughout the route to the end at Ais Ais, however it is useful to know distances covered, specific location on route at any time and the comfort in knowing that you are on track. At some points the canyon has side canyons branching off and due to the width of the canyon in places it may be a little confusing following the main channel. To optimize your route i.e. run the shortest distance down the canyon, will entail one to “cut the corners” or run the shortest distance from one bend in the canyon to the next. The canyon follows a very distinctive “S” shaped pattern therefore important to run the shortest distances between the bends.

Should one accidentally take a side canyon, this is not a major factor as rather quickly you will see you cannot progress any further and will have to turn back. The biggest set back to this is the frustration and “hassle” factor at having to retrace your footsteps. Mostly the best path to follow is the game paths at the edge of the canyon, mostly some distance from the main river channel. As one is following the shortest distance between bends this means that one will have to cross the main stream at least once (depending on height of river level) between each bend, resulting in a varied terrain being experienced, from soft beach sand, to boulder hopping to water crossings..in wet years! Water will be available throughout the route from either the flowing Fish river, or dryer times from rock pools. In a nutshell one will experience every different type of terrain to run on that you can imagine. For both lengths of the event, there will be a time in the begging of the event whereby you will have to descend into the canyon. At both points for the 100km or the 65km this would mean a extremely technical, steep descent which should be undertaken with the greatest caution. Failure to take this seriously can lead to severe injury even death! Having said that, this will also be one of the most breathtaking times you will experience on any trail run anywhere.


All finishers will receive an official “Finishers” medal. All athletes who enter will also receive automatic entry into the following years event (subject to them accepting and paying for such entry), and preferential entry onto the waiting list for any future events should they not be able to take part in the following years event.

All competitors requiring transportation will be transported back to Windhoek on Sunday 19th June from around 10:00 onwards. Competitors should note that they will only be back in Windhoek at around 18:00 and should therefore take this into account when making return travel arrangements

All questions regarding the event and any details pertaining thereto can be directed to the organizers via the website and we will be happy to get back to you and assist where possible.


Race Rules


The Fish River Challenge is a 100km self-sufficient foot race where competitors will only have access to water along the course. The following rules and regulations have been set to ensure maximum competitor safety, respect and conservation of the environment and fair play amongst all competitors.


The minimum age for entry will be 18 years and will be taken as at the day of the race itself.

Each competitor will be required to be totally self-sufficient for the duration of the event and will be expected to have sufficient nutrients as well as the stipulated mandatory gear (click here for list). Water will be provided at controlled points along the route.

The controlled points will also serve as check points to determine progress as well as monitor the competitor’s condition. All checkpoints will have access to medical backup should the situation warrant it. Medics will be available for various emergencies and a race doctor will be on call if needed. The race doctor and medics on the course will have the final say as to whether a competitor may continue along the course or not due to medical issues. In the case of an emergency that requires the evacuation of a competitor to a medical facility, there will be an emergency backup service that will deal with this situation and all competitors will be insured accordingly in their entry fees. This will allow for and include all emergency evacuation procedures up to the point of the closest appropriate medical facility. Once that person has been delivered to such a facility and is officially in their care, the medical liability will be that of the competitors and you are therefore encouraged to ensure that you are covered accordingly by your medical aid and / or have sufficient medical insurance.

A sweeper group will be following the race from behind at all times. The group will have full time access to the race organizers via satellite phones should there be any issues or emergencies that need to be dealt with.

All competitors will be expected to complete the entire course, passing through all checkpoints along the way to be declared as official finishers. No competitor may leave the course without informing a race official as soon as possible of intending to, or having done so. Where a competitor leaves the course without informing an official due to circumstances, it is their responsibility to do so as soon as possible. Should a search and rescue operation be put into being due to a competitor having left the course without informing an official, any expenses incurred in such S&R will be entirely for the account of the competitor in question. Competitors will be expected to sign for liability as such in their entry documentation.

Competitors will be required to be of a suitable physical and mental fitness so as to be able to complete the event. Each competitor will be required to undergo a compulsory medical inspection and return the results thereof together with the medical questionnaire to the race organizers on or before the date stipulated on such form. These forms will be made available to all competitors upon entry.


The race will be passing through the pristine Gondwana Nature Park as well as the Ai-Ais National Park and no littering of any kind will be tolerated. All waste carried in will need to be carried out to the end of the race. The only exception will be that of human waste, which needs to be buried properly.

Competitors need to be aware that they will be passing through Parks where there will be areas that people are not generally allowed access to. They will have the privilege of running along animal paths that have never had people on before and as such are expected to respect their surroundings. Competitors will not be allowed to stray off these paths for any reason whatsoever and will be subject to immediate disqualification should they do so. The only exceptions are:
  • In the case of an emergency
  • For the purposes of relieving themselves
In these instances, common sense should prevail and they will be expected to use good judgment in their actions.

Course, Timing & Cut-offs:

The course will be clearly marked with markers where ever the organizers deem it necessary in order to avoid competitors getting lost. These markers and points will be clearly communicated to all competitors prior to the race by way of newsletters, the website and the race briefing. Competitors need to be aware at all times that they are passing through harsh terrain and need to be vigilant at all times.

A record of each competitor’s time will be kept from the start up until when they cross the official finish line at Ai-Ais. Intermediate splits will also be recorded at certain pre-determined points. These points will be made known to the competitors prior to the race and will be used by the organizers to assist in monitoring each competitor’s progress. Any competitor that does not pass through such a timing point will be regarded as having pulled out of the race and will be listed as a non finisher. Should the organizers not have confirmation of such a competitor having withdrawn officially by notifying an official, a search & rescue operation will be launched as detailed above.

The organizers will also impose certain cut-off points where competitors will be expected to have passed through at pre-determined cut-off times. Any competitor failing to reach such point on or before the cut-off time will be automatically pulled from the course. This measure is solely for the safety of all competitors concerned in order to ensure that no one is left lagging behind the field.

The official race cut-off will be 24 hours.

Mandatory Equipment:

The following list of equipment is mandatory and competitors will undergo an equipment inspection at registration. Competitors will under no circumstances be allowed to start the race if they are not signed out at registration as having the equipment listed below:

  1. GPS (with loaded track)
  2. Head torch (Preferably with flashing light option)
  3. Water purification tablets / equipment
  4. Sun Screen (High PF)
  5. Min 3lit water capacity
  6. Basic medical aid kit
  7. Hat / head protection against sun
  8. Matches / fire lighter
  9. Whistle
  10. Thermal protection (Space blanket)
NB: A final equipment check will be done at the race end point, should the participant be without any of the above equipment, they will forfeit their right to a finishers medal as well as an official race time.

Each athlete is required to carry some form of thermo protection in the case of getting injured and having to wait for assistance / extraction from the canyon, ideally this would be in the form of “Space Blanket”. Temperatures can vary from hot day time temperatures to freezing night time conditions. In addition to this some form of rehydrate is considered to be an essential part of the athletes equipment.




Competitors will be accommodated at the Race Village on the evening before the event in tents. The event ends at the hot spring resort of Ai-Ais and competitors will once again be accommodated here on tents. Competitors who would prefer to check into rooms at the resort are welcome to do so, but will need to arrange this themselves and the cost will be for their own account.


Each competitor will receive a packed lunch to take with on the bus trip to the Race Village on the Friday. Supper on the Friday evening and breakfast on the Saturday morning before the race starts will be supplied by the race organization. Competitors will be responsible for their own nutrition during the race and the race organizers will supply only water where necessary. Competitors will also be responsible for carrying all their nutritional requirements with them during the race and this will form part of their mandatory equipment (see Mandatory Equipment in the rules). Meals at Ai-Ais will be available on a cash basis after the event.


There will be no formal ablutions along the route and competitors will be expected to behave in an appropriate manner should they need to relieve themselves during the race. All human waste is to be appropriately buried and any paper used is to be burnt before being buried.

Proper ablution facilities, including showers, will be available at the Race Village as well as at Ai-Ais at the end of the race.


There will be race doctor on call throughout the event. Paramedics will be present to deal with any immediate emergencies and will be in continuous contact with the race organizers and officials at the various checkpoints.

The will be massage facilities at the end of the race for those competitors who need to freshen up the legs.


Refreshments will be available at the end of the race in Ai-Ais. This will be from the shop as well as bar facilities at the resort itself and will be for the competitor’s own account.

Personal Effects

Competitors will be allowed to take one tog bag each and a small rucksack / handbag for on the bus. These bags will be locked in the luggage compartment of the bus on the morning before the race starts, and will be available again when the competitors get to the finish line in Ai-Ais. All personal items of value such as cell phones, wallets, etc need to be checked in and registered with the organizers prior to the start of the race on the Saturday morning. Any item left in the bags and not checked in, will be the sole responsibility of the competitor.


Due to the remote location of the event, there is no anticipated security threat along the course. There is also no threat from wildlife and the only precautions competitors would need to take would be the normal possibilities of twisting ankles, sunstroke and the very remote possibility of seeing a snake.


Race Route


2013 Will see a change in the format of the Windhoek Lager Fish River Canyon Ultra Challenge. For the first time there will be two course options or distances to choose from, a 60km “Lite” version and the full 100km route. The 60km route has been added to accommodate the runners preferring a shorter course. This by no means suggests that this is a much easier option, this is still rated as a highly challenging route. Essentially the two course options only differ in the first section of the route. Both routes start off at the race village which we build on the edge of the canyon just south of the Sulphur Springs emergency exit point. From the start the 60km route follows the road directly to the Sulphur Springs look out point, here the runners descend into the canyon via the emergency exit. Once at the bottom, the route joins the 100km option, following the Fish river all the way through to the Ais Ais hot water springs and Spa. For the 100km participants, they also commence their challenge from the race village, the difference being that they follow the edge of the canyon all the way to the hikers descent and view point (approx. 10km). At this point they will descend into the canyon, again at the bottom they will follow the Fish river all the way through to Ais Ais. It must be mentioned that the 100km option is an extremely demanding course, especially as the first 16km from the bottom of the descent to where the 100km meets the 60km route is extremely challenging and slow going. Much of the terrain is made up of clambering over large boulders, crossing the river over loose boulders and patches of dune sands.

Participants at the first night race village, situated at the edge of the canyon, are treated to one of the most majestic views in the world, standing on the edge of the plateau they get to see the Fish River Canyon in all its splendor.

Once down in the Canyon, they participants will follow the natural course of the river, occasional cutting away to negotiate their way across the vast bends that tend to get wider as they get further down stream. Depending on the amount of rain during the previous season and the water level in the river, competitors may be required to wade through water up to waist height at times. This will more than likely be an exception however and the general anticipated depth at any crossing should not be more than ankle deep.

When in the Canyon, competitors will be exposed to terrain varying from thick, soft river sand, to harder animal tracks in places and then the ever-present boulder fields that seem to go on forever. The memories of these boulder fields will however erode very quickly once Ai-Ais is reached and competitors get the chance to relax in the soothing water of the natural hot springs.

Hereunder is a general overview of the intended route for the race.

Maps of the 60km & 100km route's

(Maps of route’s downloadable in PDF format at bottom of page)

Maps Accreditation - Tracks 4 Africa


FRU Participants

2015 Fish River Canyon Ultra - Entry List

RACE NR Name & Surname 65km
65-1 Alexander Dierks *
65-2 Elsali Gehm *


100-3 Ulf Anderson
100-4 Drieke Black
65-5 Alet Greeff *
100-6 Clive O Bergh
100-7 Jan Wibbelink
100-8 Andrew Erasmus


100-9 Hendrik du Plessis
100-10 Monique du Plessis
100-11 Rudie Nel
65-12 Marelize de Jongh *
100-13 Cornel de Jongh
65-14 James Pieters *
65-15 Lizanne Pieters *
65-16 Eira Telka *
100-17 F Lotz
65-18 Erna Theron *
100-19 K Nyathi

K Nyathi - suppporter

100-20 Andre Oelofsen
100-21 Juan Manuel Magdalena Vera
65-22 Jessica Mooney *
65-23 Pieter Smit *
65-24 Christina Smit *
65-25 Johan Gerrit Wibbelink *
100-26 Mareli Boman
65-27 Georgina Ayre *
100-28 Malcolm Keyser
100-29 Andrew Jansen Van Rensburg

AJ Van Rensburg - supporter

100-30 Athol Holmes
100-31 Philip Malherbe
100-32 Kim Sarkin
100-33 David Weber
100-34 Russel York
100-35 Hans-Jurie Human
100-36 Charmain Salvage
65-37 Corne Verwey *
100-38 Tobie Verwey
100-39 Henk Mulder
100-40 Fanus Coetzee
100-41 Luc Steens
100-42 Jaco Swart
100-43 Japie Mostert
100-44 Frans Anderson
100-45 Susara Karsten
65-46 Nicolene Karsten *
65-47 Ingrim van Heerden *
100-48 Mark Strathern
65-49 Aldo Strappazon *
65-50 Abedinego Aminga *
100-51 AJ Calitz

AJ Supporter

65-52 Mekondjo Angula *
65-53 Athanasius Muronga *

Christof Zitsmann
65-54 Morne Blaauw *


Fish Ultra Results

2015 FRU Results:

2014 Results:

2013 Results:

Final Results for Windhoek Lager Fish River Ultra Challenge 2011:

  1. Frans Amunyela – 9.36.56
  2. Hentie Hough – 9.37.04
  3. Elpheus Haushona – 10.33.14
  4. Manya Simata – 10.33.16
  5. Lisa de Speville – 11.39.27
  6. Jan Jacobs – 12.17.22
  7. Roelf Vorster – 12.17.22
  8. Johanna Ashimbanga – 12.36.16
  9. Clive Bergh – 15.37.10

Final Results for Windhoek Lager Fish River Ultra Challenge 2012:

Windhoek Light Fish River Canyon Ultra

Friday the 26th August 2011 saw a few of the athletes together with the event crew and organizers depart from Klein Windhoek Guest House in Windhoek, for the Fish River Canyon, to partake in the inaugural Fish River Canyon Ultra marathon. After a brief stop at the Canon Roadhouse Lodge (Part of the Gondwana collection and located in the Gondwana conservation area) to collect lunch packs and freshen up, the convoy departed for the last leg of the journey to the location of the first night race village.

A spectacular scene greeted the participants as they arrived at the race village, with it being situated on top of and virtually on the edge of the Canyon, providing views and scenery that few people have had the privilege to experience. Namibia Breweries and their Windhoek Lager special functions crew together with AEP had built a village in the middle of nowhere, providing a dining area, individual tented accommodation and VIP ablution facilities. Officials from the Ministry of Environment & Tourism gave special permission to AEP to locate the race village here, obviously on condition that the strictest environmental considerations were adhered to. At around 6pm, once all participants had arrived from various destinations, the registration process was taken care of. This was followed by the official race briefing that was held with the canyon as the backdrop together with a typical Namibian awe inspiring sunset

Gondwana group through their Canon Lodge provided a fantastic three course meal which was a prelude to a much needed good nights sleep for the participants. After all, the morning would provide a challenge few dared to undertake! At 4:30am the race village once again came to life. After a hearty breakfast, once again provided for by Canon Lodge, the participants made their way to the start of the challenge, located at the canyon view-point, used by most as the start of the world famous hiking trail. Shortly after 6am the athletes set off, making their way along the edge of the canyon to the Sulphur Springs decent point where they began the challenging decent to the bottom of the canyon. At the bottom of the decent, the first (of three) check points was reached. Frans Amunyela, a first time ultra athlete was the first to reach the checkpoint, followed closely by Hentie Hough fresh from his Comrades run. Within 46 minutes all athletes were accounted for and past the checkpoint. Weather conditions were perfect throughout the day, with the canyon being hot enough to ensure that the participants took regular dips into the crystal clear Fish River. Very little water had to be carried by the athlete’s as they simply had to fill their supply directly from the river. After many grueling hours of boulder hoping, river crossings, thick sand and hiking trails the first athlete reached the 3rd and last checkpoint at 12:30pm. Once again it was Frans leading the pack with Hentie hot on his heals. At 13:13pm Elpheus Haushona and Manya Stimata were the next to sign in, both being employees of NWR at Ai-Ais. Elpheus fills the role of head chef at the resort and is a seasoned ultra runner. The first lady into the last check-point at 14:18pm was Lisa de Speville, well-known adventure racer and columnist for Go Multi magazine based in SA. Roelf Vorster and Jonnie Jacobs decided to keep each other company, with Roelf doing a back to back Fish river hike / run, having only completed the hike a day before. Jonnie a medical doctor from Keetmanshoop was easily the most recognizable participant with his day glow orange running top. Taking up the position at the rear of the pack was Clive Bergh, a Namibian currently flying for Air Korea, ensuring that everyone was safe and sound ahead of him. Another 25km or so to the end….

Coming into Ai-Ais to the cheer of a mixture of local supporters, tourists and crew, together with some local drummers, was Frans Amunyela hotly pursued by Hentie Hough. Frans managed to find another surge of energy, after spending most of the day conquering all that the canyon could throw at him, pipping Hentie to the post in an official time of 9hrs 36min and 56 secs. Hentie finished just behind him in 9hr:37:04. Lisa de Speville was the first lady home in 11hr:39:27. Much to the joy of the local community, Johanna Ashimbanga, also an employee of NWR in Ai-Ais, was the second lady to finish in 12hr:36:16. Finally the last competitor, Clive Bergh finished in a time of 15hr:37:58, much to the joy and relief of his son Tim. After a hearty goulash served by the NWR Ai-Ais staff and plentiful malt refreshments from the main sponsors Windhoek Lager, the athletes settled down to a well-earned nights rest. Prize giving was held on Sunday morning at 11am, with many individuals displaying a fair bit of difficulty in moving around comfortably. All in all, the event was a huge success and each contestant was full of praise for the route and organization. Most importantly all the participants came out of the canyon largely unscathed, promising to return next year. A 30min production of the event will appear on DSTV Super Sport, the details and times of which will be displayed in due course. Without the support of the following sponsors the event would not have been possible, and we would like to convey our heartfelt appreciation to them.

Title sponsors - Namibia Breweries Limited through their Windhoek Lager brand.
Novel Ford Motor Company – Providing vehicle support for the event.


Record Attempt

Fish River Canyon Record Attempt 2003

fter last year’s heavy rains which put an end to Russell Paschke and Charlie Du Toit’s record breaking plans, they decided to return with a vengeance in 2003.

On the 16 August 2003, four Namibians, Russell Paschke, Charlie du Toit, Coenraad Pool and Tommy van Wyk set out in an attempt to break the record for completing the above 84km trail. The existing record was 11hrs 42min and was set up on 13 July 1990 by two South Africans, Bruce Matthews and Ronnie Muhl. Bruce had at that stage completed 16 Comrades Marathons finishing in the top 20 positions 6 times. He had also finished the London to Brighton Marathon in 7th place in 1989 and received a gold medal in the Two Oceans Marathon in 1984. Ronnie was a veteran of 7 Comrades Marathons and 9 Two Oceans Marathons.

The Canyon is stark, rugged, magnificently desolate and harshly unforgiving. Added to this is the lack of water currently in the canyon. This has meant that all hiking activities have been suspended and special permission was required to allow this attempt to take place. The lack of water meant that each athlete had to carry a backpack with approximately 5 litres of water. This together with the energy supplements and emergency gear meant that each athlete had to carry an additional 7kg in weight.

At 5:45 on the morning of the 16th, all four set off from the start of the hiking trail and descended into the darkness of the canyon with torches to assist them until first light. Having reached the bottom in 30 minutes, they set off for the first check point at Sulphur Springs at approximately 16km. This first stretch was extremely demanding due to large boulders and thick sand and was reached in 2hrs 30min. Here the support crew who had climbed down into the canyon via the emergency escape route at that point to re-supply the water met them. The next section was a stretch of 43km to the only section of the entire canyon where vehicles can get access to the river. Here they were given a re-supply of water having all run out approximately 8km before this point. At this point, Tommy was forced to stop due to an injury that he was battling with over the previous 6km. It is impossible to explain to someone that has never experienced it, the disappointment of having to have to withdraw from something like this due to injury when the mind is still willing to go on.

The remaining three set off on the final 18km stretch to Ai-Ais with new determination knowing that the record attempt was still on. By now they were truly sick and tired of the continuous stretches of thick sand and river boulders. Exhaustion had crept in long ago and it was only their mental strength as well as the targeted record time that kept them moving forward as fast as possible. It was with great relief that they rounded the final bend in the river to see the pump station some 400m from Ai-Ais. At this point the realisation dawned on them that they were not only going to break the existing record,butthat they could come in under 11hrs. With sudden renewed energy they made a final dash for the finish line in front of the offices at Ai-Ais finishing in a new official record time of 10hrs 54min overall

Charlie du Toit, a veteran of 4 Comrades Marathons and who has a sub 7hr 30min silver medal finish to his credit, summed up this achievement by announcing that in his opinion it was harder than anything he had done before. “This canyon is not for the faint hearted and an attempt to run it should not be taken light heartedly”.


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2016 Windhoek Light Namib Quest - Update No.317 May 2016

Dear Quest Riders,Looking forward to greeting old and new faces on Sunday! It would appear that we will have a dry Quest this year, up till now we have been dealt the odd downpour during past events. At this stage rain is not predicted. Do take note to pack some...
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