Ryan Sandes headlines the inaugural Mountain Ultra-Trail by UTMB® as he takes on a 100-Miler trail run in George, Western Cape

May 22, 2023

Mountain Ultra-Trail by UTMB® is the first UTMB® World Series race in Africa

  • South Africa’s most famous trail runner, Ryan Sandes, to race in the event’s first ever 100-Miler distance.
  • Mountain Ultra-Trail by UTMB® to welcome local and international runners to the Western Cape of South Africa this week on 26 – 28 May 2023; the event takes place in the Garden city of George.
  • Along with 100-Miler the Mountain Ultra-Trail by UTMB® will also feature a 100-kilometre and 60-kilometre ultra-distance races, as well as a trail Marathon, a 25-kilometre Challenge and a 10-kilometre Lite event.

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GEORGE, South Africa/ 22 May 2023 /ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ The 2023 Mountain Ultra-Trail (MUT) by UTMB® is set to take place from the 26th – 28th of May, in the Outeniqua Mountains above George in South Africa’s Western Cape. Announced in November last year, the MUT by UTMB® was selected as the first ever UTMB World Series race in Africa and is set to welcome over 1 400 runners this weekend.

Famed for their rugged beauty, the peaks above the city of George rise from sea level to over 1 500 metres in elevation blocking rain carrying clouds as they blow inland. This gives the garden city of George its wet microclimate and helps foster the growth of indigenous forests and a plethora of fynbos species. The mountains also make for an exceptional trail running playground and are set to host a 100-Miler for the first time, as part of the fifth edition of the of the trail event which has now become MUT by UTMB.

Fittingly South Africa’s best known trail runner and ultra-running legend, Ryan Sandes (UTMB index 800), headlines the inaugural MUT by UTMB 100-Miler field. Having won ultra-trail events on every continent, including Antarctica, Sandes is a household name in his home nation, an uncommon feat for a trail athlete in a rugby, football and cricket crazed country.

“Ultra Trail Mont Blanc has become the pinnacle trail event globally, over the last five years,” Sandes confirmed. “I’d go as far as to say it’s like the Olympics of trail running! It is a real trail festival. With the newly appointed UTMB World Series it’s really awesome that South Africa has been recognised and that we have an event here. It’s huge for trail running in South Africa; in terms of how the new series works, with being able to qualify for the UTMB World Series Finals at UTMB Mont Blanc by participating in a race on home soil. Currently MUT by UTMB is the only UTMB World Series event in Africa, so it’s really important.”

“I’m also really excited to see how the Mountain Ultra-Trail by UTMB grows in the future,” he continued. “I think it’s going to be massive.”

“I’m looking forward to the 100-Miler,” Sandes added. “I’ve run 95% of the route in the recces I’ve done out in George. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to have run all around the world and do many of the biggest 100-Milers, and the MUT by UTMB 100-Miler course definitely stacks up against some of the toughest events out there. It has a lot of climbing and a real mixture of terrain, including some very technical sections but also a nice variety, from coastal to mountain and then more open running. It has a bit of everything. But at the same time what I’ve noticed from my recces is that there are no free miles! You have to constantly work to cover the ground, so that’s going to make it challenging. It is rewarding too and I’m excited for it. I’ve had a good training block and my excitement is certainly building by the day to line up at the MUT by UTMB 100-Miler.”

Sandes is not the only prominent South African trail runner taking on the MUT by UTMB. Other local favourites for the event include Bruce Arnett (UTMB index 710) participating in the 100-kilometres category; Kerry-Ann Marshall (UTMB Index 687), Johardt van Heerden (UTMB index 836), Brendan Lombard (UTMB index 765), Mvuyisi Gcogco (UTMB index 763) and Robbie Rorich who will be taking part in the 60-kilometre race; as well as Anderson Ncube (UTMB index 767), Lijan Burger [née Van Niekerk] (UTMB Index 689) and Vicky Welham (UTMB index 497) will be racing the MUT Challenge/25-kilometres. The women’s race in the MUT Marathon is likely to be one of the most fiercely contested titles in the entire event. Along with Bianca Tarboton (UTMB index 686) the field also includes George resident Rebecca Kohne (UTMB index 497), Mia Uys (UTMB index 573), Kristen Heath (UTMB index 618) and Sumé van Heerden (UTMB index 687).

Having joined a global trail running team in March 2022, Tarboton’s trail running has gone from strength-to-strength with increased European racing experience. “I’m really excited to race the MUT by UTMB Marathon,” the Chemical Engineering MSc student from Cape Town confessed. “I’ve never raced in George before but I’ve heard so many great things about the trails! I’ve heard the trails are very technical, so I’m expecting a tough race too. My training has been really good for the last few months, so I’m feeling strong going into the race.”

“It’s going to be really good prep as I’m going to Europe to race in June, so it’s a great test to see where my fitness is at,” Tarboton noted.

Local George trail running enthusiast, Rebecca Kohne, added: “Trail running is considered somewhat of a new sport, and it is certainly growing by the minute. Having MUT by UTMB opens up a lot of opportunity for us local trail runners. Qualifying for the UTMB World Series Final in France at the end of the year is almost every keen trail runner’s dream. Having a local race makes it just that much easier to try and live up to our dreams.”

Kohne concluded, “It is quite surreal to have the first UTMB® certified race here in our hometown, George. George is the most beautiful place, and we certainly have the most incredible mountain range. Some would say our trails are very similar to European trails in some sense. I am extremely excited for this event to take place, and for us South Africans to show off our spectacular mountains and trails. I hope every runner will get to enjoy them just as much as I do.”

Useful links:

  • Trail running fans can share in the MUT by UTMB excitement by following the race as it unfolds. Live athlete tracking and updates can be found at live.utmb.world, while regular updates will also be posted to the @georgemountainultratrail Instagram and Mountain Ultra-Trail by UTMB Facebook handles.
  • Click here to view an athlete’s UTMB index.
  • Short interviews and useful race day media content can be found here.
  • For more information and the full schedule of events visit mut.utmb.world.

For any media related inquiries, please email emeapress@ironman.com and for race day media registration, fill in the media credentials form here.


UTMB® World Series

UTMB® World Series is the world’s ultimate trail-running circuit that unites the sport’s biggest stars and passionate runners through the best, leading international events in the most stunning locations.  Built on a passion for the mountains with sustainability at its heart, UTMB® World Series gives all trail runners the chance to experience the UTMB® adventure across the world, with events taking place across Asia, Oceania, Europe, Africa and the Americas. It is the only place where runners can begin their quest to UTMB® Mont-Blanc, France, where the prestigious UTMB® World Series Finals will be held. For more information, visit www.utmb.world.

About UTMB Group

Over the last 18 years, and since the creation of UTMB® Mont-Blanc in 2003 by a group of passionate friends, UTMB Group has been the driving force behind the development of trail running. The UTMB® Mont-Blanc is the sports pinnacle event, and every year, 10,000 runners earn their place on the start line. UTMB Group also pioneered the LiveTrail® technology, an innovative digital service that supports the management of endurance races. Revered by hundreds of thousands of athletes, UTMB® has become a global, premium, and leading brand. In May 2021, UTMB Group partnered with The IRONMAN Group to launch the UTMB® World Series, which brings together many of the best international events on the planet to provide exclusive access to the sport’s pinnacle event, UTMB® Mont-Blanc. The UTMB® World Series is built on the founding principles of UTMB® Mont-Blanc: surpassing oneself; fair-play; respect for people and the environment; and solidarity. Find out more at www.utmb.world.

About The IRONMAN Group

The IRONMAN Group operates a global portfolio of events that includes the IRONMAN® Triathlon Series, the IRONMAN® 70.3® Triathlon Series, 5150™ Triathlon Series, the Rock ‘n’ Roll® Running Series, IRONKIDS®, World Triathlon Championship Series, premier running events including the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon™ and City2Surf®, UTMB® World Series events including the Canyons Endurance Runs, Tarawera Ultra and Ultra-Trail Australia™, Epic Series™ mountain bike races including the Absa Cape Epic®, road cycling events including Haute Route®, and other multisport races. The IRONMAN Group is the largest operator of mass participation sports in the world and provides more than a million participants annually the benefits of endurance sports through the company’s vast offerings. Catering to the full athlete experience, the company portfolio also includes FulGaz® virtual cycling, the most realistic indoor riding experience connected fitness application aimed at preparing athletes for real-world events. Since the inception of the iconic IRONMAN® brand and its first event in 1978, athletes have proven that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE® by crossing finish lines around the world. Beginning as a single race, The IRONMAN Group has grown to become a global sensation with hundreds of events across 55+ countries. The IRONMAN Group is owned by Advance, a private, family-owned business. For more information, visit www.ironman.com/about-ironman-group.