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Merrell Whale of Trail

31-Jul-2021 De Hoop Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa

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Trail Race Race Terrain
53KM / 33Miles
1 Day - 250 Runners

Alternate Distances: 35KM/22M

DIFFICULTY Race Difficulty Intermediate  

Entry From 4300 ZAR

Treat yourself to a premier race event this year

South Africa’s iconic five day Whale Trail hiking route is offered as a challenge to runners capable of embracing all 53km and 1900m elevation as a TRAIL RUNNING ULTRA, packed with spectacular mountain fynbos, technical rocky ridgelines, sandy beach stretches and endless, mind blowing, beautiful vistas all in one day.

It has become a must-do for those who have already tackled the more conventional runs out there and bragging rights on this one are substantial!

The Merrell Whale of Trail event is the only opportunity each year for a limited number of nature loving athletes to run hard on this trail while treading lightly on the earth.

Just a 3 hour drive from Cape Town or George along the Southern Cape coast, close to Cape Agulhas, the route takes runners on a journey from the base of the Potberg mountain to the beach at Koppie Alleen in CapeNature’s flagship De Hoop Nature Reserve. The first half winds up and along fynbos covered peaks, past the Cape Vulture colony, with spectacular views of the Breede River Valley, and then descends to the enchanting Noetsie Bay, turning west and winding along the rocky shores of the Indian Ocean, with a mix of beach and coasteering trails.

If this is just a few steps too far, there’s now also a 35km route starting and ending in the same glorious places, with a well designed cut through that still gives you a taste of everything that the area has to offer. Perfect for those not quite ready for an ultra distance but wanting to be a part of the incredible race atmosphere. 

Chaperoned by Whales
Bang on the peak of whale season, runners are left wondering who is watching who as scores of the annual migratory Southern Right Whales and their calves continually breach out the water, spy hopping and waving their fins at the passers-by, making for the best and most enthusiastic cheerleaders.

Keeping it always pristine and personal
The finish area at Koppie Alleen is a festive affair. Situated right above the beach, spectators may forget to look for their runners while mesmerised by the whales, exploring the dunes and many rock pools packed with prolific life – thanks to the long standing protection offered by the marine reserve – or enjoying the food freshly prepared by the caterers.

Finishers lounge on bean bags, feast on wholesome meals and relive the day’s achievement before hopping aboard the shuttle bus back to the race village.

The historic and picturesque De Hoop Collection, situated alongside the Ramsar wetland vlei offers not only sublime accommodation but also excellent guided birding excursions, nature walks and boat trips, mountain biking trails and a spa for the ultimate indulgence. Traffic in your way on the walk to the Briefing or Prizegiving dinners comes in the form of herds of eland, bontebok and the rare mountain zebra.

In 2018 we introduced the Merrell Whale Journey to tie in with the race event. This is a unique opportunity for just a dozen decadent lovers of life and trail to gallivant along the route over two days; running, exploring and just being. Combined with sumptious eating and drinking and starlit immersive experience at the delightful Noetsie Hut with indulgent evenings before and afterwards at the magnificent De Hoop Collection. The Journey starts the day before the main race covering 28km and finishes the 25km next day to the same warm welcome and sense of accomplishment.

The 2019 offering was cancelled due to the reserve undertaking extensive refurbishment on all the trail huts.

It will be back on offer in 2021.

See all the Race Info

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Event Organiser
Graham Bird

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Beginner

Elevation: Very little change < 500 metres. Benign running terrain, not technical.

Suitable for: First ultra runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running in the last six months.

Intermediate

Elevation: Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed at least one ultra distance race (or similar event) or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.

Advanced

Elevation: Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.

Expert

Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat) and or technical terrain

Suitable for: Experienced runners who have completed at least regular ultra distances in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.

Brutal

Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude) and or technical terrain.

Suitable for: Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Type: An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for: Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Global - Virtual

Type: A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for: For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

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