Brandberg Backyard Ultra 2022: Race Recap

This past weekend saw a very successful inaugural Brandberg Backyard Ultra take place in Uis. André Ross, the 50-year-old Swakopmunder, completed 20 laps and 134 km and was crowned the last person standing after Frans Amakali (41) conceded by 19 laps. Kirsty Brits (42) was the last lady to clock out after she completed 8 laps (54 km).

In a backyard ultra race, athletes need to complete a lap of 6.706 km course every hour, starting on top of the hour. Should they make it back before the hour is up, they use the remaining time to rest before the next lap starts exactly on top of the following hour. As the backyard ultra rules dictate, runners who fail to complete a lap within an hour is disqualified. The aim of the race is to have only one person remaining to complete a final solo lap. This person is then crowned the winner and the race ends. Since there is no predetermined end distance or time, the winner is technically the only finisher, while the rest who conceded all receive a DNF (did not finish) on the scoreboard next to their names.  

A total of 48 runners took part in the event, the very first backyard ultra in Namibia. Of these, 23 were signed up for the Ultra (they were free to run an unlimited number of laps), with 12 in the Challenge category (up to six laps), and 13 for the Fun Run (one lap only). The race started at 10 am from the Brandberg Rest Camp in Uis, and early on it was clear that the day was going to get hot. Some athletes reported temperatures of up to 37 degrees C, but came the next hour, they lined up to head out on the trails for one more loop.

By 5 pm in the afternoon, Kirsty Brits (42) was the only lady left among the remaining 5 gentlemen after new mom, speedy Risa Burger (33) who was still going strong, pulled out to attend to her family. After completing 8 laps (54 km), Kirsty, who is currently training for the upcoming Comrades ultra marathon, also called it a day. As last lady standing she later received the trophy for the female course record.

At six pm the out-and-back day route was exchanged for a flatter, smoother out-and-back night route. Runners were relieved for the drop in temperature as the sun started to set. Harmen Potgieter (29) laid down his sword after 12 laps (80 km), having almost doubled his previous furthest run distance. After two more laps, the ultra-veteran from Windhoek, Hannes Smit (49) called it a day at 14 laps and 94.6 km completed.

The 100 km mark was crossed during the 15th lap, and just before 1 am supporters took to the street in front of the Rest Camp to welcome the remaining three runners with sparklers and huge cheers. This also marked the point where Johan Bronkhorst (54) literally drew a line in the sand and handed over his race number. That left only two very strong-looking men, Swakop Striders member André Ross (50) and Frans Amakali (41), a Windhoek Harrier.

As many runners headed to their tents for some much-needed rest, others kept the fires burning and remained to welcome the duo back after every lap. André’s pace was steady, and the crew soon learned to start looking out for him by 40 minutes past the hour. Frans usually followed shortly after, with ten to fifteen minutes to spare before the next lap. By lap 18, Frans’ pace suddenly dropped and he completed the lap in more than 50 minutes. It was clear that Frans was taking strain, and he mentioned having trouble with his hips.

At 4 am the duo headed out for what would be their final lap together, as Frans called it quits after completing this, his 19th lap of the Brandberg Backyard Ultra course. While supporters welcomed and pampered Frans, André headed out for his solo lap among loud and joyful cheers.

It was now 5 am and a commotion broke loose in the Rest Camp. Sleepy runners emerged from their tents to share in the action and to cheer the winner in.  And sure enough, right on pace, with Chariots of Fire blazing over the speakers and supporters cheering their lungs out, André Ross finished his 20th and final lap. He ran a total of just over 134 km. It was 5:40 am and the race was done.

The high-quality books and accommodation packages from esteemed Namibian lodges that were auctioned off in aid of Save the Rhino Trust income exceeded N$40 000, and the organisers are beyond grateful for the contribution of each and every donor and bidder involved in this regard.

Rand Merchant Bank Namibia (RMB), which was the presenting partner of the Brandberg Backyard Ultra, is acknowledged with much gratitude for putting their name behind the event, a new race concept in Namibia but clearly one to stay and become popular on the yearly running calendar.

And finally, to each and every person who contributed to the event in some way or another, from sponsors to runners, volunteers to supporters, all donors, the venue-, medics-, photography- and media teams, the organisers would like to express a big thank you for making this event a wonderful success. They will reflect with only fond memories of a weekend when history was made in Uis and Namibia as the bar was set high for backyard ultras in Namibia to come.  

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