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


More Information on and



It is on. Festival Trail Run goes ahead. Despite the challenges posed by the worst natural disaster in the history of the Garden Route, organisers of the Featherbed Trail Run have announced that, thanks to the timely intervention of new headline sponsors, Bayport Financial Services, the Featherbed Trail Run of the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival will go ahead as scheduled. “We’re calling it the Bayport Phoenix Edition,” says event director Mark Collins, “and it will be simply unforgettable.”

With 100% of the well-known Featherbed Trail Run routes affected by the fires, safety and environmental concerns forced the event hosts and organisers, the Featherbed Company and Magnetic South respectively, to abandon the original event course and format. “We always intended to do something really special for the tenth edition of the Featherbed Trail Run,” says Collins. Obviously we could never imagine these circumstances, but this new concept honours the amazing fighting spirit that currently burns stronger than any fire in our town. It is going to be special. Possibly the most incredible event we have ever put on, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world”.

Collins is appealing to trail runners from across South Africa and the world to come and support the Oyster Festival. “Knysna got burned. No one in our town is unaffected by the fires,” he says.

Fortunately, loss is not the only reality. The financial and logistical support for victims has been “nothing short of phenomenal”.

In this same generous spirit, Bayport Financial Services has come forward to ensure that one of the most beloved events of the Oyster Festival goes ahead. Moreover, Bayport’s involvement will ensure that 25% of the entry fees goes 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 compassionSouth 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.”
Collins says that what the community needs most now is to feel normal again. “That is why we are going ahead with this event. We need to see our restaurants and pubs overflowing with festival goers as they always do. We have taken a huge knock but the rebuilding has already started. As much as we are still in shock there is an undercurrent of excitement as new plans, ideas and beginnings beckon.”

The route will change, the timing will change, the logistics will change; but that unique Knysna-feeling the trail run is famous for, will be stronger than ever.

The exact timings and logistics will be made public in the next few days. For more information and entries go to


The Phantom Returns to Knysna.

Its back!! The most hauntingly beautiful experience of the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival, The Simola Phantom makes its ghostly appearance again this year and it promises to be more evocative than ever. This avant-garde blend of Trail Running and Opera music was a runaway success in its inaugural year as more than triple the anticipated entries materialized for the after dark wisp through the forests in 2016.

Hosted out of the cozy luxury of the Simola Hotel, Trail Running wild spirits will be set free at dusk on one of two carefully woven combinations of hand picked single trails, in their preferred distance 6 or 12km courses. En route their souls will be lifted by bewitching tones of the acclaimed Knysna Tenors whose apparitions they will encounter in the forest. This year’s selection of enticing trails reflects course designer John Collins’s aberration for junk miles and promises to leave runners memorized and enthralled. A hot meal, a hot shower and the warm aura of the Golf Club House awaits participants at the finish line. Plan to linger.

The younger runners are included with a slightly less spooky pre-dusk ramble around a specially made adventure trail crafted to enthrall young minds and bodies. The looped course is an achievable 2 or 4 km in length and does not leave the security of the estate. It traverses a series of themed adventure passages before returning to the hotel.

As trail fever grips the Garden Route organizers are encouraging participants to secure entries to avoid disappointment.


Feathers fly as Trail Fanatics Flock to the Featherbed Trail Run

The Featherbed Company is bracing itself for an outbreak of Trail Running Fever as trail fanatics from across the country scramble for entries into one of South Africa’s most popular medium distance trail running events – the Featherbed Trail Run which is celebrating its 10th Anniversary. The family friendly event is the trail running event of the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival and is as famous for its festive atmosphere combined with the famous Ferry Ride across the Knysna Estuary as it is for its spectacular course.

Additionally to the established distances of 11km, well-known as the SEAHORSE run and the 15km distance, known as the Coelacanth Run, organisers have added another longer distance event of 21km which will go into the Featherbed books as the GREAT WHITE.
This race promises to be a tough but exhilarating run. Not only will athletes be able to enjoy those exclusive trails on the privately owned Featherbed Nature Reserve with breath-taking views across the sheer cliffs of the Knysna Heads but they will also descent to the rugged beaches of the Indian Ocean east of Brenton on Sea and along the beautiful Fisherman’s Trail.  This route is certainly one of the most spectacular trail running courses that South Africa has to offer – so if you are a proficient medium distance trail runner – this is the one to do.

The Featherbed Trail Run is also part of the BIG5 Sport Challenge with a strong field of MultiSport athletes who will be competing against Featherbed athletes on the15km Coelacanth course.

The all inclusive experience gained by an entry to the event includes a ferry trip to the Featherbed Nature Reserve, an experience in its own right, a Unimog trip up the mountain (For Seahorse Runners), a choice of one of the three running courses which differ slightly in technical challenge, distance and one beast of a climb, the well-deserved finisher medal and a post-race meal at Knysna’s exclusive Cruise Café. The event is organised into 3 departures; a morning, midday and afternoon run with breakfast, lunch or supper afterwards.

According to Christine Collins from event organisers Magnetic South, the demand for tickets is once again enormous and she is expecting another sell out run. She urged local runners to get their entries in early to avoid disappointment as entries are being snapped up by upcountry athletes. “Entry is stringently limited by the number of places on the ferries,” she said.

A very special mention must also go to the Featherbed Company, who once a year allows the organisers to present this exhilarating event within their pristine protected area. “It is a privilege for us to run here every year”, said Event Director Mark Collins, “and we pride ourselves on instilling an ethos of respect for nature in each of the runners at our event”.

  The Featherbed Trail Run is part of the Trail Town Concept which offers a multitude of trail running events over the Pick n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival and caters for all age groups, fitness levels and one can even choose the perfect time of the day to go out and enjoy the trails!


The 2016 Featherbed Trail Run was held yesterday in near perfect weather and under foot conditions but these factors were not enough to knock Kane Reilly’s record out of the record books as Featherbed legend Stuart Marais failed by a mere 14 seconds to break it.
Marais’s performance was superb and thoroughly dominant and amazingly he has now ran and won the race on four occasions with his time variance between fastest and slowest winning times being only 48 seconds.This was the first time he has dipped below the 55 minute mark for the 14 km event.
In the women’s race, last years winner Andrea Steyn was pushed into second place after a phenomenal performance by newcomer Letitia Jones who ran a very fast time of 1 hr 03 min 51 sec.
Few athletes will argue that the Coelacanth 14 km trail and the Seahorse 11 km trail in the Featherbed Nature Reserve can be matched for its beauty. Nearly 900 runners took part in the events which included a fun five km Blue Duiker trail run for the first time aimed at younger runners
The two courses of different distances are run three times during the day and the overall winners are determined by their respective times.
One of the novel features of the Featherbed Trail Run is that all runners are ferried  to the start on board one of three ferries which cross the Knysna lagoon to the Nature reserve. Running along the coast, through indigenous forest and finally over the railway bridge back to the waterfront, the run is totally unique and continues to be the firm favourite event at the Knysna Oyster Festival.

Full results can be found at

picture by Glenn Murray