New women’s champion will be crowned in 2023

New women’s champion will be crowned in 2023

Triple defending Euro Steel Run The Rivers champ Kerry Walton has confirmed that she will not be able to make the trip to Underberg to defend her title, leaving the door ajar for a new women’s champion to be crowned at the popular two-day trail run on 28 and 29 January 2023.

The 34-year old doctor from Hilton has been struggling with a leg injury picked up while training for the Otter trail run, and says she has been gifted a chance to rest the injured leg as she takes up the opportunity to serve as a doctor at the Region V Games in Malawi at the end of the year.

“It is basically work and an element of being injured that will keep me away this year,’ said Walton. “It has encouraged me to rather focus on completing my masters in sports medicine in 2023, while allowing my leg to heal properly.”

Walton has been a trail blazer at the event, and sent a strong signal through the elite trail running community by finishing fifth overall last year.

“Woman seem to be able to hold their own much more in trail running compared to road running,” she noted. “ I especially notice it as the distance increases.”

Walton has been part of the evolution of the race, as it’s trail format has changed and the numbers have increased dramatically as the event entrenches itself as one of the most popular trail running events on the national calendar.

“The decision to start and finish at the same place last year was a great improvement,” she pointed out. “The trail also has the perfect mix of everything, from running beside the river to being right in the mountains, and then being in the forests,”

“I enjoy just about everything about the whole weekend. Underberg is one of my favourite places to go,” said Walton.

“The whole weekend is so much fun,” she added. “The three events all taking part on the same weekend brings in a big crowd, and the Underberg community are such a lovely bunch and put together a great event, catering for everything.”

Walton has also been part of the event’s steady move away from physical trail marking to GPS navigation, and says the trail running community supports the move.

“I think most trail runners love and respect the environment and that is why we so enjoy being out there. The less harm that can be done, the better,” she said.

While she is one of the leading elite runners she conceded to having a poor sense of direction, which the use of a GPS watch helps.

“I actually bought myself a watch that can take maps and help me navigate last year as my sense of direction isn’t great and I have a tendency to get lost!”

While she will have to be content to follow this year’s race from a distance, she feels her running ally Anne Burger is now the women to beat this year.

“She is probably one of my favourites,” said Walton. “We both love this event.”

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