Guts And Glory

If a half-marathon sounds easy, try doing it in Big Five Territory. This is a race not only for the fit, but for those with "guts", who are brave enough to run where wild animals roam, just to taste the "glory" of participating in this elite event. The Kruger Park/Sterling Light Lager annual half marathon took place at Skukuza on Saturday, 5 August 2006.

Up for yet another challenge, more than 1 000 runners ventured to the start. Kruger's executive director, Dr Bandile Mhkize, officially started the race, but before the shot for the start was fired, runner's adrenalin levels were raised by the loud roar of lions! Suddenly priorities change, from finishing the race, to surviving.

Fortunately this marathon, that covers the area through and around the Skukuza staff village, is manned by armed game rangers, just in case, since this is the world's only professional marathon that takes place in the midst of lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, rhino, and many more wild animals. Logical enough then to find place names en-route like, Lake Panic, Rhino Hill and "Bok-doodgeslaan-groot-geskrik-virleeu-spruit".

This prestigious event attracts visitors from across the country who not only come to participate but also to enjoy the magnificent Kruger Park, the Lowveld climate and the friendliness of the Skukuza residents who provided food and drinks to the supporters.

Lively music filled the air while all waited in anticipation for participants to finish. The winner, Mthetho Goxo, from the Powerade team finished the marathon in 66 min 44sec. The first lady, Michelle Williams, finished in a time of 1hour and 31 minutes. Trophies and prizes were handed over by two South African marathon legends, Bruce Fordyce and Keith Kirsten, who also participated in the race.

"There's been one runner today that ran without shoes. Please, never let this happen to a fellow runner" said Mr. Keith Kirsten and pledged that anybody please sponsor some running shoes for the runner. Another one of life's little lessons.

The Kruger Park Marathon serves as a fund-raiser for various conservation projects. This year's proceeds will go firstly towards the Elephant and Biodiversity project assessing the impact of elephant on the woodlands, trees and other vegetation types. Secondly, proceeds will go towards the Northern Plains Program, supporting the rare antelope research.

This event was sponsored by SABreweries (major sponsor), Coca Cola Fortune, Skukuza Post Office, Barprint, Nampak Redibox, Mondipak, Simbambile Game Lodge, Nottens Bush Camp, Lukimbi Safari Lodge and Steiner Hygiene. Runners enter a year in advance to participate amongst a privileged few. If you would like to enter for next year's marathon, do not hesitate.

Contact Josie Knight at the Kruger Park Marathon Club on 013- 735 4000. A fantastic day that was made possible by all involved and especially the warm hospitality of the world renowned Kruger National Park!v

By Juanita Grobler

Kruger National Park - South African Safari