Athletes from all corners of the globe have arrived in South Africa to take part in the continent’s premier trail event, the RMB Ultra-trail Cape Town, which brings the traditional end to the global trail running season next weekend.
Established in 2014, RMB UTCT has hosted runners from over 65 countries from all continents and has become a firm favourite with many athletes who enjoy returning to the Mother City to integrate with the trail community, race hard and enjoy the ‘apres-trail’ hospitality to the full.
The event, where runners traverse Table Mountain and the entire Peninsula, has evolved from year one, when only 16 athletes finished in the 100 km, to over 2000 runners taking part this year in one of the five races on offer over distances ranging from 23km to 100 miles.
The highs and lows of trail running in Cape Town have seldom been as evident as in the past 48 hours, when the celebratory atmosphere from an adidas TERREX-sponsored event involving a number of elite athletes on Friday evening was soured by the news the next day that the race favourite for the 100km title, Tom Evans, had withdrawn from the race following a mugging on Table Mountain while on a training run.
Leading trail athlete, Tom Evans, has withdrawn from next weekend’s race following a mugging incident while training. Photo – Instagram
Evans served eight years in the British army before joining the adidas TERREX team as a professional trail athlete and won the prestigious Western States 100 miler in the USA in June. He was strongly tipped to win next weekend, felt he was no longer able to give his best for the race, after falling victim to two robbers who rugby-tackled him on a trail near King’s Blockhouse.
“I’ve decided not to race UTCT on the weekend,” Evans said on his Instagram site. “I was out on the trails yesterday and was mugged, beaten up, attacked and held at knife point and everything that I had with me was taken.
“I’ve decided it’s best not to race next weekend. Physically my body’s okay but mentally it’s tough getting over something like this – doing something you love, so unexpected and it happened so quickly.
“For those running next weekend I wish you best of luck for the race, but most importantly look after yourselves and those around you because your safety must come first. I’m incredibly gutted not to be racing this year.”
Reacting to the news, Race Director Stuart McConnachie expressed his concern over the incident. “We are extremely saddened and concerned by what happened to Tom Evans and have reached out to him to offer our support and access to counselling,” said McConnachie. “We were excited to have him race at this year’s RMB Ultra-trail Cape Town but respect his decision to return to the UK.”
McConnachie hoped that the incident could spark a determined and concerted effort by authorities – in particular the City of Cape Town, SANParks and South Africa Police – to work to ensure the safety of hikers and trail runners on the mountain trails.
“The natural beauty of Cape Town and Table Mountain is our greatest asset,” McConnachie stressed. “And perhaps this incident is the catalyst needed for everyone to pull together to find workable solutions to protect this asset that brings so many visitors to our shores.
“We are welcoming over 400 international runners to Cape Town this week and over 2000 runners will take to the trails next Friday, Saturday and Sunday. With respect to safety concern for runners, I can confirm we have substantial security deployments in place around the entire route.”
McConnachie emphasised that athletes on the trails during the event next weekend will be safeguarded. “We have the assurance of SANParks, the City of Cape Town, SAPS and Metro Police that strong measures are in place for safety on the trails. We continue to work with them to communicate concerns for runners and hikers, so we can all enjoy the incredible natural beauty we have on our doorstep.”
Remarkably, Evans had appeared upbeat at a panel discussion at the Friday evening event, just hours after the incident, before making his decision the next morning.
“I think my military background does help with my discipline as a professional athlete,” said Evans in answer to a question. “Right now, I’ve had a good training block for next week’s race and I’m now in my taper. You always want to feel your best leading up to a race, but as a professional, you sometimes need to be at your best when feeling your worst.”
Asked whether he might attempt to take on Jim Walmsley’s impressive race 100km record, set in 2021, Evans replied in jest “Who’s Jim?! It’s a slightly different course this year, but Jim’s time is really next level. But he’s only human, isn’t he?”