The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Big Fish in Ultra Marathon

THIS weekend, 28 super-fit runners from Sweden, Namibia, the United Kingdom and South Africa will try and set a new record in the Windhoek Lager Fish River Canyon 100km hiking trail.

The mega race - already regarded as one of the toughest in the world - has a cut-off time of 24 hours.

The Namibian Ai-Ais Team is led by 30 year-old Frans Amunyela, who won the inaugural event when he completed the technical and demanding 86km course in 9 hours, 36 minutes and 56 seconds.

Along with teammates Alpheus Haushona (32)and Manja Stimata (22) they will be hoping to take top honours, although they face strong competition from Team Merrell Adventure Addicts.

They are the current top South African adventure racing team and definitely the team to watch out for. The teams from the UK and Sweden are completely unknown factors, and only Saturday will show their mettle.

Lisa de Speville of South Africa was the first women's winner after 11 hours 39 minutes and 27 seconds, with Namibia's Johanna Ashimbange second.

Ryan Sandes, one of the foremost international ultra-distances runners and winner of extreme marathons around the globe, also jetted into Namibia this week to join event coordinator Tinus Hansen of African Extreme Promotions (AEP) at the Fish River Canyon.

Sandes will be scouting the trail and do some sweeping during the event to familiarise himself with the route. He will launch a solo attempt on October 1 and has promised to break the current record time that was set some nine years ago by another four Namibians.

The quest to run the Fish River hiking trail in record time dates back to 2003 when Russell Pashke, Coenraad Pool, Tommy van Wyk and Charlie du Toit completed the trial in 10:54 minutes. Their record stood until last year when Amunyela launched his own version of history.

Speaking from the edge of the Fish River Canyon yesterday, Hansen said conditions looked favourable for this Saturday's big race.

"Wind is not really a factor down in the canyon, but the route is very tough and demanding and it will take everything out of the competitors. We are looking forward to the best yet Windhoek Lager Fish River Ultra Marathon. Ryan Sandes is all geared up to deliver his attempt on 1 October, and I think his participating will be a huge boost for Namibia as an adventure sport destination," he concluded.

Namibia has been shortlisted to host the 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit. Ian Stevenson, marketing manager of Namibia Breweries, this week said that Namibian Breweries will continue to sponsor events like the Fish River Ultra Marathon and the annual Namib Quest MTB Challenge to help put Namibia on the map in terms of tourism and the international fraternity for extreme sports.

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