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Media Release: Five hours for the Otter Run?

Date: 27th March 2009

Can South Africa's iconic 5 day hiking trail; the Otter Trail be run in under 5 hours? We think it can. The current record stands at 5 hours 12 minutes.

Can South Africa's iconic 5 day hiking trail; the Otter Trail be run in under 5 hours? We think it can. The current record stands at 5 hours 12 minutes.

This challenging time was achieved by John Collins, from Knysna based event organizers, Magnetic South, during a test run done in conjunction with SANParks management in the Tsitsikamma Section of the Garden Route National Park (GRNP). Collins is pretty confident that come September 2009, the sub 5 hour record can be achieved.

SANParks, having taken very careful consideration of the environmental concerns, have given Magnetic South permission to organise "The Otter" African Trail Run as Stage One of the Multi Stage, 6 Day, Mountain Biking/Trail Running Duathlon to be known as “The Southern Storm”. The event starts at Storms River in the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park on 19 September and ends on 24 September at the Touw River in the Wilderness section.

Participants will cover a total of 100km of trail running and ride 250km, traversing the entire length of the newly proclaimed Garden Route National Park. This could literally be a once in a life time opportunity as SANParks has agreed, at this stage, to allow a once-off running of the Otter Trail. The subsequent staging of "The Otter" will depend on the results of a holistic post-event assessment, including another environmental impact study.

Still, it stands as a testament to the progressive- minded management of the custodians of our National Parks that they are recognising the tremendous growth of adventure activities worldwide, including trail running, and the potential of low impact sporting activities within the conserved areas.

Access to trail will be temporarily suspended

As part of the very strict management plan in place for this event, SANParks will only allow the same number of people who would normally be accommodated on the trail as hikers, over a certain period, to be allowed to participate in the running of The Otter. To achieve these "foot credits", access to the trail will be temporarily suspended for a number of days either side of the event to allow a staggered clearing and reintroduction of hikers, plus afford time for SANParks to perform routine maintenance. This is the reason for The Otter being restricted to 200 participants.

"The cut off time for the marathon distance trail run is set at 9 hours but with technical rock and forest sections, river crossings and more than 2 000 meters of elevation gain, we expect athletes to take between 70% to 100% longer to complete the distance than they would achieve in a road running event. Participants need to be totally self sufficient as there are no water tables provided with the plastic sachets that are common place in most road running or cycling events. Very tight controls have been planned with event staff strategically placed across the entire length of the route to keep a watch on athletes’ safety and progress, plus sweep the back of the field ensuring absolutely no litter has been left behind" said Collins.

National Geographic's 2007 Adventurer of the Year, Andrew Skurka, who had been invited to hike The Otter Trail by SA Tourism in May 2008, achieved the full distance in 12 hours - so the next frontier of the sub 5 hour Otter is a very special and privileged quest to aspire to.

Please note that trail running along the Otter Trail is completely forbidden and you have only ONE chance to enjoy this offer; on 20 September 2009. Anyone found illegally on the route will receive a life ban plus the current fine imposed by SANParks. Please respect this opportunity. See www.magneticsouth.net for entry details.

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