The South African Ultra Trail Running Championships is one of the highlights on the national calendar and this year's event will be even more special than before because, apart from probably the strongest field ever, it will also be the final and most critical race to be used for the selection of two separate national teams to two international championships in October. This year is of particular importance since the dates for the two international races are only a week apart which means that two different teams will have to be selected since no runner will be able to run both races.
While performances at the SA championship in Hout Bay will carry the most weight for team selection, performances in other trail running races over the past ten months will also be considered. Ultra running is quite demanding on body, mind and personal schedules and requires optimal recovery, rest and limited racing. It is therefore not practical and fair to base selection on a single race and we will use a big enough window for qualification when it comes to ultra races.
Nevertheless, the biggest emphasis should always be on the SA championships and therefore the first two runners over the line (in each gender category) in Hout Bay will gain automatic places in the SA team to the IAU World Championships in Portugal. For the other spots in the two teams, exceptional performances during the qualification period will be considered and will include races like:
- Ultra-Trail Cape Town
- Addo 76 km and 100 miler
- Hobbit 90 km
- High profile international races
1. IAU Ultra Trail World Championships – 29 October 2016 – Braga, Portugal
Selection for the SA team to this event is the biggest honour as runners will represent their country at the highest level of the sport. The best ultra trail runners in the world will be in action, running on a specially designed course over 85 km and about 4,500m of climbing. For all practical purposes the national team to this event will be our “A team”.
In the past we always selected 4 men and 4 women for this team but with the hindsight of experience gained over the past years, it has been decided that henceforth only athletes who the selectors believe can give a good account of themselves at international level, will be selected for a world championship.
We have had a couple of years to find out what international trail running was all about and we feel that enough experience has been gained to adjust and have a more professional approach. While expectations will not be unrealistic it is necessary that we adapt our goals and hopefully achieve better results. In addition, from 2016 onwards, Athletics South Africa are contributing to the traveling costs of trail runners at World championships and it is necessary that we respect the expectations and honour of our country, our sport and all those involved.
As a result of this, the number of athletes selected for these teams may differ from year to year based on the potential to achieve individual and/or team honours.
2. Festival des Templiers – 23 October 2016 – Millau, France (www.festivaldestempliers.com)
This is one of the classic trail running events in Europe and the 76 km main event (Grand Trail des Templiers) includes an annual team competition between France, Europe, USA, Asia and South Africa. The team for this competition is an invitational team and while merit will play a dominant role, the sponsors have the prerogative to select “wild card” members as well.
In the past teams for this competition consist of 5 men and 5 women but due to the fact that the 2016 IAU World Champs is only a week after Templiers, teams for this year will consist of 4 men and 4 women. As indicated earlier, the SA invitational team for Templiers will be selected from those runners not going to the world championships.
Team selection is not an exact science and even more subjective in trail running but the selectors are experienced and knowledgeable people from the local trail running world that has the best interests of our sport at heart.