Magnetic South and the OTTER

With The Grail of Trail looming, we thought fit to post an article just giving readers some more information on this epic Trail Run.

The concept of the OTTER African Trail Run was the collective brainchild of brothers John and Mark Collins from the event organising company Magnetic South. Both brothers’ passions lie in adventure sports as well as wildlife conservancy. Together with presenting sponsors Salomon and GU, they set their sights on the impossible dream of a Marathon Distance trail run along the unspoilt wilderness coastline.

Today the Otter African Trail Run – in its 6th year - has grown to become an iconic event on the international trail running calendar and regarded as South Africa’s flagship marathon distance trail event.  Part of the allure of the race is that the Otter Trail itself is off limits to trail runners outside of the event and the opportunity to run on this spectacular and pristine course has seen participants dub it as the “Grail of Trail®”

Initially the question was asked “can the full distance of the OTTER be run in under 5 hours?” Various athletes have proven that it can be done.  Now the finishing times are moving closer to the 4 hour mark and the organisers have set a R 100 000 in prize money for braking the 4 hour.

For the organisers of the Otter African Trail Run the event is about far more than the race however. Race Director Mark Collins says that the event is “a celebration of one of South Africa’s coastal treasures, the Tsitsikamma National Park.” “Wilderness areas across the globe are in alarming decline and this event highlights the efforts of those who stood up for the protection of this section of coastline which stands in stark contrast to the development models followed on other parts of our coast.” That protection extends through the marine protected area which reaches 5km out to sea and is of immeasurable benefit to every single South African.

“Trail running is not a sport, it is a movement. The philosophy is about leaving an area you have been to, better for you having been there, is what we strive to emulate in this event. It all starts with generating awareness.”

Tsitsikamma, July 2015

OTTER Fact Sheets:


  • The Otter takes place once a year in the Tsitsikamma Section of the Garden Route National Park - dubbed by participants as the Grail of Trail®
  • The running on the trail outside of the race is strictly forbidden = fair race for all.
  • Full Marathon Distance: 100% pristine coastal technical single trail; Trail Factor of 2.
  • Vertical Ascent: approx. 2400 meters


  • The Otter is an established event on the international Trail Running Calendar  (2009-2015)
  • Race Date: annual September/October (depending on tidal calendar)
  • The Otter is fully booked in under 5 minutes from opening of entries
    (entry fee: R 3 650/ R3 950)
  • 1 Swim – river crossing Bloukrans
  • Alternating Race Direction: (East to West: CLASSIC;  West to East: RETTO (Otter spelt backwards))
  • 4 km technical prologue - seeding event on day before race day.
  • Top 24 male and top 8 female prologue finshers are grouped as the “Abangeni” and have a “mass start” to compete for Otter podium finish, while all other athletes are started in groups of 4 every 30 seconds.
  • 2 Races of 230 athletes each:
    • Otter RUN (8 hours Cut-off, catering for the elite runners)
    • Otter CHALLENGE (11 hours Cut-off)
  • Coloured Medals (SUB 4, SUB 4.30, SUB 5, SUB 6, SUB 7, SUB 8 and SUB 11 hours)
  • Live Timing along the course.
  • Spectator Package to see athletes cross the infamous Bloukrans River Crossing
  • The OTTER’s little brother: The 10km Dassie Trail Run, catering for friends and family – designed to increase the Hype around the OTTER Finish line.



  • Otter CLASSIC:     
    • World Champ Ricky Lightfoot (UK) 2013:        04:15:27
    • Ruby Muir (NZL) 2013:                                      04:55:48
  • Otter RETTO:                 
    • Iain Don Wauchope (SA) 2015:             04:21:30
    • Landie Greyling (SA) 2015:                   05:11:46