Underberg – Capetonian trail runner Kane Reilly made a statement in support of World Rhino Day on Friday by demolishing the record for the Rhino Peak Challenge on his debut at the tough 21km outing in the Southern Drakensberg mountains.

The run is limited to a dozen elite trail runners and twelve celebrities and ‘people of influence’, each of whom secures pledges and donations based on the time they expect to complete the arduous outing from the Ezemvelo Wildlife campsite above the Gooderson Drakensberg Gardens hotel, to the summit of the Rhino Peak in the Maloti Drakensberg World Heritage site and back.

After having followed the event from a distance for a few years, 25 year old Reilly set his sights on lowering the Fastest Known Time (FKT) set last year by fellow Capetonian Rory Scheffer, and after a blisteringly quick start he quickly put space between himself and the defending champion.

Running in hot, dry conditions with occasional winds blowing down the fabled Mashai Pass, Reilly (Salomon/Fresh Foods) was always on track to setting a new record, and when he got to the summit and checked his stopwatch, he opted not to take a few minutes to enjoy the views, as allowed by the rules, but turned immediately for the return leg.

“I like to go out hard from the start,” the Vredehoek resident said. “The first five kays were tough, because as someone who trains at sea level, I find it always take a while to get into running hard at altitude.

“Once we started going up the pass I started to feel really good. At the top I just decided not to take time off and turned back because I was worried the legs wouldn’t hold out!

“I have been watching the event from a distance. I don’t actually travel outside the Cape much because there are so many good events there, but the Rhino Peak Challenge was one that I definitely wanted to do,” he said.

He said that chance to help rhino conservation on World Rhino Day was an easy decision for him to make.

“Being an outdoors athlete and involved in the trail running industry, it was incredibly easy to agree to do something that I love doing anyway, and being able to make a difference to the Rhino Conservation issue at the same time.

“It is an amazing event and initiative and cool to be part of it,” he concluded.

Scheffer was content to see his record bettered by Reilly.

“He was just a machine today, and fully deserves to hold the FKT,” Scheffer conceded graciously.

Third quickest on the day was Nelspruit-based SA long course champion Johardt van Heerden, followed home by Change-A-Life academy star Mthobisi Mzolo.

Tracy Zunckel was the quickest of the elite women taking in the event.

Each of the elite athletes was effectively racing against themselves, having set a target time to complete the tough 21km outing, each minute they raced inside their projected time would impact on the amount they would earn for rhino conservation from their friends and supporters that pledged to back them.

The group of twelve celebs started two hours before the elite runners, giving them a head start on the tough ascent, and the best of the weather conditions before the temperature soared into the mid-thirties.

Springbok World Cup winning skipper John Smit tackled the challenge with gusto, having just completed a running marathon in the build-up to the event.

Ten times canoeing world champ Hank McGregor ran and hiked with his wife Pippa, a very competent and competitive trail runner and road runner who has just completed the Cape Town Marathon. They gave plenty of support to a familiar Dusi adversary Sbonelo Khwela when he met up with them, when the elite trail runners field caught up to them.

The celeb and POI field included a number of prominent conservation figures, including the super fit Zama Ncube, a rhino tracker from the Somkhanda community in Northern KZN, local Bearded Vulture conservation champion Sonja Kruger, 71 year old Jacques Flam and, the WWF black rhino range expansion project manager for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Eskom’s environmental manager Diedre Herbst.

Rhino Peak Challenge 2017
1.Kane Reilly 140 minutes
2.Rory Scheffer 152 minutes
3.Johardt van Heerden 155 minutes
4.Mthobisi Mzolo 162 minutes
5.Sbonelo Khwela 195 minutes
6.Tracy Zunckel 211 minutes
7. Tarryn Lopez and Steven Erasmus 217 minutes

Kane Reilly set a new Fastest Known Time (FKT) at the Rhino Peak Challenge on World Rhino Day on 22 September. Photo Credit: Dave Macleod/
Gameplan Media

Former Springbok skipper John Smit (right) celebrates reaching the summit of the Rhino Peak with event organiser Spurg Flemington at the Rhino Peak Challenge on World Rhino Day on 22 September. Photo Credit: Dave Macleod/Gameplan Media

More information can be found at www.rhinopeakchallenge.co.za