Lions surprise runners during marathon
This year's Skukuza Sterling Light Half Marathon produced a surprise for the runners - three lionesses directly in the path of the leading runners. According to Margie Mills of the Kruger Park Marathon Club, this is the first year that lions have featured in the running of the race. Not surprisingly, the leading runner stopped until the lions could be chased off the track by the armed guards who always protect the runners during the race.
The incident rather affected the timekeeping of the men's race for the leaders, but Vincent Kutoane from Powerade won the race. He was followed by Graham Malinga of Harmony and Nthuthuko Maseko of Correctional Services. As the lions were speedily removed from the race, the leading women's timekeeping was unaffected. .
Harmony proved to be a strong club this year, with the top two women Noria Sibanda and Sibongile Rathokoa both representing the club. Third place went to Allison Hay of Nelspruit. This year's route was different from previous routes in order to prevent runner congestion when the leaders catch up with the slower runners pulling up the rear.
The race still travelled in a circuit around the Skukuza staff village, but this year more of the route was surrounded by bush. For many years now the race has been raising money to support conservation projects within South Africa's National Parks. More than a million Rand has been raised for conservation by the runners.
The Northern Plains Research Programme, which has been monitoring the rare roan antelope, has received much ongoing support. Last year money also went to sponsor the cheetah and wild dog census in Kruger. Other national parks have previously received money for such things as cycad microchipping and studies of wild cats in the Kalahari.
Prizes are given to the entrant who raises the most money, with Rob Barrie winning the prize for 2004/2005, raising a total of R12,170. Over the years he has raised in excess of R110,000. Every year a thousand runners take part in the race. Entry for next year's marathon closes in September. The race is so popular that a lucky draw takes place to determine who will fill up the places in the race