Seen here (from left to right): Bernard Rukadza and AJ Calitz in action at the 2018 event.
Photo Credit: Tobias Ginsberg
“Let Nature Give You A Run For Your Money”
Set to take the Houw Hoek Hotel (Western Cape) by storm this coming weekend (26 – 28 March), the 11th edition of the THIRSTI AFRICANX Trailrun has attracted an impressive list of top contenders.
The race is on in the Open Men’s Team Category with defending champions, AJ Calitz (Melkbosstrand) and Bernard Rukadza (Harare, Zimbabwe) eager to secure their fourth victory. Calitz and Rukadza have proven to be a formidable force having claimed gold at AFRICANX three times already (2014, 2015 and 2018).
“We are very fortunate to have been able to run and win,” says Calitz. “We have become such good friends in the process, and that is what it’s all about! AFRICANX is such a festive event. We wouldn’t miss it for the world. The routes are quite flat and fast particularly on Day One. It pushes me out of my comfort zone, but the climbing on Day Two and Three makes up for it. I’ve heard that quite a few roadies have entered. This definitely makes me nervous as they are super quick, but let’s hope that they are not used to multi day running and climbing.”
“I am really proud to be able to say that we’ve claimed gold at AFRICANX three times already,” says Rukadza. “It motivates me to work harder as I want to keep the title. I am happy to hear that more road runners are starting to enter AFRICANX. Trail races are very different to road races though. I would definitely recommend AFRICANX to other trail runners. My advice is to run your own race at your own pace. Aim to finish, enjoy nature and have fun.”
No stranger to the event, Thabang Madiba (Ga-Rankuwa, Gauteng) will team up with AFRICANX newcomer, Renier Grobler (Willows, Pretoria). “AFRICANX is 100% a teambuilding event,” says Madiba. “I really enjoy the atmosphere and the joy that is shared amongst runners. I am very happy to hear that the event will take place at the Houw Hoek Hotel again this year. That is where everything started. AFRICANX is not just about winning, it’s about enjoying the routes and working together with your teammate. It’s about enjoying what you love.”
According to Grobler, as an ultra-road runner he wanted to venture into trail running at some stage. “AFRICANX is the perfect stepping-stone,” says Grobler. “Running in a team with Thabang, who is such a prolific trail runner, will surely teach me a lot about the trails. As a team we have a good mix of endurance and speed. My advice to other entrants is to go out and enjoy every second, that’s what I am going to do as a first-timer!”
Well-known SA triathlete Vicky van der Merwe (Stellenbosch) and runner (road and trail) Danette Walley (Somerset West) will be strong contenders in the Open Women’s Team Category.
“AFRICANX has always been on my bucket list,” says van der Merwe. “In the past the date had clashed with that of a triathlon that I had entered. I can’t wait to explore new stunning trails with one of my best friends and training partner. We have always wanted to do a race together and I can’t think of a better event. My strength is speed, while Danette’s strength is endurance. She has finished in the Top 10 at Comrades. As a team I think that our strengths will complement each other. We are also both mentally tough. Our goal is to podium.”
Walley is no stranger to AFRICANX having competed five times already. “There have been many moments where I have been in awe of the beauty that surrounded us and times when our teams had to dig deep. We’ve also shared many laughs in the race village,” says Wally. “Every year I have walked away feeling inspired by the amazing people that I got to share these moments with. The toughest part of AFRICANX is to find the balance between pushing yourself every day and pacing yourself in such a way that you are able to run well for three days. Vicky likes running fast and I like running far, so we will need to meet each other in the middle. It would be amazing to podium at AFRICANX, but more importantly we want to fully appreciate the opportunity to race again. We also just want to have lots of fun.”
Green Point residents Daneil Feldmann and Davide Del Fante will be back to defend their title in the Open Mixed Team Category.
“We had such a fantastic experience in 2018,” says Feldmann. “At AFRICANX the trails, the food, the facilities – every detail is well organised and thought-out. I’m excited that the event will return to the Houw Hoek Hotel this year. I can’t wait to explore new trails as my first AFRICANX was in 2018 when the venue was in Franschhoek. Our goal is to take in the whole experience while enjoying being able to take part in events again. AFRICANX is more than just running, it’s an experience.”
“Having the chance to go out and share some amazing trails and positive energy with the trail community is just what we need after the last twelve months,” says Del Fante. “When I think about a trail running stage race, I think about AFRICANX. With so many years under its belt, AFRICANX definitely has the recipe to put on a good show. The trails, logistics and social atmosphere – this race offers it all. Our goal is to soak up the positive energy while having a fun weekend on the trails with mates.”
Pretoria based husband and wife duo, Natalie and Nico Sterk will make their THIRSTI AFRICANX debut in 2021. Strong trail runners that are extremely competitive by nature, this team is sure to give the defending champions a run for their money.
“AFRICANX has been on my bucket list for quite some time now,” admits Natalie. “The event is known for its challenging but magnificent trails. The teamwork aspect and its reputation as one of South Africa’s premier races makes it a must do event for every runner. Our goal is to finish in a competitive position, but I guess it all depends on the competition come race day. Either way we will be there to have a good run and enjoy everything the event has to offer.”
According to Nico, AFRICANX is the benchmark trail running stage race in the country. “I am so happy to see it back on the calendar in 2021. I’m excited to team up with Natalie. We will probably be racing each other though as the verdict is out on who is the best runner between the two of us.”
Other Mixed Teams that should not be underestimated will be Comrades Marathon Champion (2016) Charne Bosman with Karel Burger, and well-known trail runner Chantel Nienaber with Chris Visser.
ROADIES JOIN THE MIX:
The THIRSTI AFRICANX Trailrun has attracted the attention of twelve elite runners from the Nedbank Running Club. These runners are Eric Ngubane (KwaXimba, Cato Ridge, KZN) with Juan van Deventer (Johannesburg), Ludwick Mamabolo (Polokwane) with Collin Kanyimo (Bashewa, Pretoria East), Phillimon Mathiba (Thembisa, Gauteng) with Malusi Dlomo (Pretoria), Siyabonga Sakwe (Cape Town) with Lindikhaya Mthangayi (Khayelitsha), Etienne Plaatjies (Oudtshoorn) with Lloyd Bosman (George) and Deanné Horn (Lichtenburg, North West) with Chrizell Roberts (Standerton, Mpumalanga).
Combined the twelve athletes boast a long list of impressive achievements including: 6th in the 1500m at the 2008 Olympics, 1st at Om die Dam 50km in 2020, 1st at Om die Dam Ultra in 2017, 1st at Comrades Marathon in 2012, 7 consecutive gold medallist at Comrades Marathon, ASA u/23 800m Champion, u/23 X-Country Champion, numerous top finishers at Two Oceans, 1st at the Oxpecker Trail Run 32km 2-Day Stage Race in 2018, 1st at the Mauritius 2-Day Stage Race in 2019, 1st at the Sky Run 65km in 2020 (and record holder) to mention just a few.
To say that the THIRSTI AFRICANX Trailrun is going to be fast would be an understatement!
2021 Event Information: THIRSTI AFRICANX Trailrun
Teams of two trail running enthusiasts (male/female/mixed) will be seen battling it out on a route varying in distances each day. Each stage will feature a different route that is guaranteed to keep things exciting while leaving runners in awe.
|Date:||Friday 26 March 2021 – Sunday 28 March 2021|
|Format:||Three-day stage race / teams of two (male/female/mixed)|
|Festival Village:||On the grounds of the Houw Hoek Hotel (Bot River, Overberg Region / Western Cape)|
|Distance:||Day 1: +- 24km|
|Day 2: +- 32km|
|Day 3: +- 18km|
Iconic to the THIRSTI AFRICANX Trailrun, ALL entrants will receive an event hoodie and an exclusive finisher’s t-shirt, amongst other exciting sponsor gifts!
PLEASE NOTE: The event organisers will at all times adhere to Government Regulations regarding COVID-19.
Hashtag: #MyAFRICANX #RunTheAFRICANX
Who is THIRSTI?
THIRSTI is more than just Natural Spring Water; THIRSTI is a way of life. THIRSTI attracts a young, vibrant market with a thirst for life and authentic experiences.
THIRSTI started production at the end of 2015 with their iconic Still and Sparkling ranges. 2019 saw the release of the ultimate sports drink, ISOFIT+, and a bold THIRSTI Flavours range was added in 2020.
With its unique taste, attractive design, and a pH level of 8, THIRSTI has made massive strides in its relatively short time in the market with listings in all major retailers throughout South Africa.
THIRSTI has a strong focus on event sponsorships across multiple sporting codes and, in 2019, they became the hydration partner to both the Comrades Marathon as well as The Sharks rugby team. Adding to this, was the 2021 announcement of the ASBA Cape Epic official water partnership.
For more information about THIRSTI, please visit www.thirsti.co.za