A town rallies together to make memorable trail running experiences

It was a trail running experience none of the 600 participating athletes will ever forget. The 4km of pristine unspoilt beach between the villages of Buffalo Bay and Brenton on Sea are one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world and it was never more spectacularly displayed than it was on Tuesday morning as the assembled participants gazed out across the beautiful blue waters of the bay and tried to envisage the scene of terror from just 34 days earlier. Cut off from the rest of the world by a wall of flames, the residents of Brenton on Sea had abandoned their homes and fled along that same beach towards refuge at Buffalo Bay, in the dark, with their pets and only what they could carry in their arms. Two days later the incredible scene was reversed as the avaricious inferno laid siege to the hamlet of Buffalo Bay and it was the turn for those residents to run back along the beach to the safety of Brenton.

In the serene sparkling stillness of Tuesday morning such scenes were almost unimaginable and the mood among those gathered on the beach was different. Many of those same assembled runners had lost their homes and just about everything they owned to the fires and their lives are still far from normal. Many were still in shock. But the fear was gone and in its place was an undeniable feeling of renewal, new beginnings and even joy. Against that background one of the most emotionally charged countdowns to the start of a trail run took place and the beach was the scene of joyous energy as hundreds of runners struck out in the direction of Knysna absolutely revelling in the breath-taking beauty.

The Featherbed Trail Run is the official Trail Run of the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival and over the last nine years it has etched itself into the hearts of trail runners and festival attendees nation-wide. On the eve of its tenth birthday it suddenly looked as if this bucket list event was not to be. With 90% of the beloved trails affected by the fires and significant environmental, infrastructural and safety concerns, the organisers were forced to consider cancelling the whole event.  It was the timely intervention of Bayport Financial Services, which enabled Magnetic South to reroute the entire course and yet still preserve its uniquely Knysna flavour and essential bond to the Featherbed Company.  Named the Featherbed Trail Run Bayport Phoenix edition it was a one of a kind trail run and it turned out to be one of the most memorable ever.

Three routes of different distances were enjoyed, an 11km, a 15km and the brand new 21km distance. All the courses started in Buffalo Bay and finished in the Cruise Café. Participants were taxied from the Cruise Café venue hub to the start. Although the three routes took different meanders towards the finish line they each treated participants to spectacular sweeping vistas of the bay and the lagoon whilst traversing sobering sights of the ruins of burnt houses and scorched forest areas. Despite the destruction the scenes were still dominated by the areas of natural beauty and many participants hailed the event as the best ever. “It certainly was the most meaningful trail run we have ever done.”

At the prize giving COO of Bayport, John White, explained that Bayport’s involvement was to be a part of the stimulation of regrowth essential to the people of Knysna, fiscally but also mentally and spiritually. “Our business is one of enablement and that is why this event, at this time, resonated with us as it aligns with our core business ethos of changing lives.” Bayport’s involvement in the Featherbed Trail Run Phoenix Edition enabled the event to raise R65 000 which will go to fire related charities.

The 11km men’s race was won by Jarryd Cook in 44:44 closely followed by Aviwe Kinana and Nathan McCabe.  Lauren Cannon claimed the woman’s race in 52:22 just a minute ahead of Cana Peek who beat Handri Dalton for 2nd.  The more technically challenging 15km race was claimed in 1:11:49 by Big 5 Athlete Keegan Cook who put just 37 seconds into Ross Welsh, himself having his hands full in holding of Michael Cannon, also of the Big 5, by 13 seconds. Vicky van der Merwe mixed it up with the top men of the 15km race seizing 5th overall in 1:19:46 ahead of fellow Big 5 contenders Kate Dodds and Fienie Barnard who crossed the line in 1:23 and 1:26 respectively.  The very tough inaugural 21km Great White Shark race was won by non-other than Knynsa’s own Melikhaya Msizi who ran 8 minutes clear of Shaun Gregory. Gregory posted 1:48:55 with the other place on the podium going to local hard man Marsel Roos in 1:52:03. Michelle van Zyl was in a class of her own in the woman’s 21km despite great runs by Tammy Stark and Nicky Mills. Van Zyl’s winning time was 2:07:25 while Stark and Mills followed in 2:25:01 and 2:25:11.

The Simola Phantom – A sell-out Event

As the full moon performed its lunar showcase, close to 400 adventurous trail runners and trail walkers – equipped with their headlamps – went out into the Simola forests to meet the Phantom.

The Phantom made its ghostly appearance in form of local opera singers – the Knysna Afroquartez Quartet – performing live opera music, while runners followed a 6 or 12km trail made of blazing torches under the full moon.

This avant-garde blend of Trail Running and Opera music – the Simola Phantom Night Run presented by Ledlenser took place Saturday on a beautiful warm, full moon lit night as part of the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival.

Participants agreed that this race is a bucket-list unique run in which even the most familiar forest trails in Knysna’s backyard are taking on a new look, feel and essence.

Course designer John Collins from Magnetic South carefully chose a combination of the area’s most enticing trails on which even some of the locals were left in the dark and were grateful for the reflective marking that led the way back to the warmth and the cozy luxury of the Simola Hotel.

While many of the participants chose to walk and enjoy this experience with all their senses, some hardened trail runners fought it out in the front. No other than local runner Melikhaya Msizi took the podium for the 12km run in a time of 44 minutes and 04 seconds followed by Matthew Bosman and Henri Knobel. In the ladies field Brenda Ferrar dominated and finished in 1 hour 2 minutes 55 sec ahead of Zoe Henn and Marla Prinsloo.

The 6km Run showed a lot of young talent. Brothers Billy and Wernandt Human took 1st and 2nd in the male category with local youngster John Tanner coming 3rd. The ladies race was dominated by 12 year old Knysna local Andrea Collins with Kim Rennie and Leslee Salzmann completing the podium.

The race also catered for the younger generation with a slightly less spooky pre-dusk ramble around a specially made adventure trail crafted to enthrall young minds and bodies traversing a series of themed adventure passages followed by some fun entertainment in the safety of the hotel while parents had their turn to unwind.

Results can be found on

Knysna Rises

Knysna has experienced devastating fires in the last weeks, by which the Featherbed Trail Run has been directly affected. Please read below email to be informed on changes on your race schedule.


On June 7th the greater Knysna and Plettenberg Bay areas were hit by an unprecedented firestorm. The worst drought in 113 years conspired with the wind gale of the decade to cause what has been described as the most severe natural disaster in the history of our country. It was terrifying and shocking. Everyone here is affected. Still in the grip of the crippling drought and reeling from the loss of property and infrastructure, this disaster is far from over, but if anyone, for a minute, thought Knysna was down and out, they are very mistaken. Knysna is the scene of something absolutely remarkable.


Burring more intensely than the 30 meter wave of flames that preceded it, this town was hit by a torrent of firefighting, logistical and humanitarian assistance from all over our country and overseas so generous of spirit, so brave and so assiduous and so remarkable that it made global headlines. It overwhelmed us. Hardened cynics choked up. The spirit with which South Africans from all walks of life rolled up their sleeves and stood shoulder to shoulder to fight their common adversary was something no one here will ever forget.


Two weeks on and things are far from normal. Lives have been turned upside down and the challenges ahead for our town loom large. But just as the tiny green shoots are already emerging from the scorched ashes so too is that undeniable spirit of anticipation of all the possibilities that lie ahead. The regrowth has begun. What Knysna needs more than ever to do now is to do what we always do, and that is giving our visitors an unforgettable experience. Tourism is the lifeblood of our economy and we need to see our world class restaurants and pubs overflow with enthralled festival goers.

I urge you to come and experience this infectious spirit in our town for yourself. Come do our events, drink our beers and be a part of this new beginning.


The beloved routes of the Featherbed Trail Run are almost 100% affected by the fire. Safety and environmental concerns make the staging of this event on the original route impossible. At one stage we felt we had no option but to cancel this year’s event. This, it turns out, was unacceptable for Knysna folk and Trail Runners far and wide who are gripped by the inescapable can-do attitude want this event to take place more than ever. We were humbled when we grasped just how much this event means to the Festival and the town.
It became clear that we actually have no option but to somehow make it happen.


Just like the mythological bird – the phoenix – Knysna re-emerges from its own ashes –  reborn, renewed, and very much alive.

With a fantastic generous spirit, Bayport Financial Services has come forward to ensure that one of the most beloved events of the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival goes ahead. Moreover, Bayport’s involvement and generous support from the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival will ensure that 25% of the entry fees go to alleviate the suffering of those directly affected by the fires.

Stuart Stone, Chief Executive Officer at Bayport, says that the company was both devastated by the tragedy but at the same time inspired by the care and compassion South Africans showed their fellow citizens affected by the fire. “We have witnessed a national relief effort from all sectors of society and in that spirit we at Bayport feel compelled to support the run and ensure that Knysna and surrounding towns benefit from a successful Oyster Festival that no doubt is an important contributor to the local economy.”



We are thrilled to hereby inform you that the official Trail Run of the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival will indeed take place on the Tuesday of the Festival as scheduled. What’s more, it is likely to be the most memorable event yet.

THE FEATHERBED TRAIL RUN 2017  will go into the history books as the


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