This race has been on my ‘Bucket List’ since I started running and it was worth waiting for.
The field is limited to 1000 runners and entry is done on a lucky draw basis. My dad and I entered last August and a couple months later I was accepted and he wasn’t. Fortunately for us, in mid-June this year, another runner got injured (I am sorry for him) and we could substitute Alan in his place.
We also booked a week away at Kruger Park Lodge. Mom, Dad, my youngest daughter and I came thru’ on Wednesday (Oldest daughter and husband followed on Friday when school closed). We did 2 game drives in the Kruger Park and saw a good selection of game. The park is very dry and alot of the southern part has been burnt.
Saturday saw us driving thru’ to The Paul Kruger Gate, Kruger National Park, at 6am and then the slow 50km/hour, 12km drive to the start on the rugby field in the Skukuza Staff village. I had no idea there is such a large community within the park.
Ian, Alex and Zoe
There were a lot more people than I expected and it was a bigger event than I expected – club tents, conservation displays, food and coffee stands (including pancakes and koeksisters). It was a very vibey start and there a lot of people that I recognised from Jo’burg.
It was a colder start than they have ever had – 15 degrees C and cloudy. The previous 2 days had been 26 and 29 degrees. Alan and I lined up at the start together (doesn’t happen often, he is usually up front while I am at the back).
Apparently a pride of lion had killed a buffalo on the route, at the 15km mark at around 5.30am. The hyena were around too and the kill had to be removed, for obvious reasons. The helicopter circled the vicinity a few times to clear other game out of the area and then the race was started.
We ran around the field on the grass then onto tar within the village. We ran past the golf course and went onto dirt road.
We past the ‘quarantine’ area which had plenty rhino in the cages. We joined the main road where the cars had to wait for us – there were many strange looks from the passengers.
The only game I saw en-route was a warthog on the return into the staff village.
I ran the first half of the race with Shaun, a runner from Jo’burg that I met at Sudwala, and we had a wonderful conversation about a number of ‘out-of-town’ races that he has done and recommends. I now have a number of new races to add to my ‘Bucket List’ and loads of saving to do to get there.
I stopped to take a picture of one of our armed marshals/game-warden and couldn’t catch up with Shaun again and proceeded to run the rest of the race on my own.
I loved the silence and the feel of the earth. It’s hard to explain but just hearing my footsteps on the dirt road, knowing that elephant and lion had been there before me and would be there again made me feel part of a much bigger whole and such a small part at that. I loved the idea of running thru’ the park, along the roads that just the day before I had been driving on.
It seemed surreal to have lively watering points in the bush and I am very grateful to all the volunteers. Unfortunately there seemed to be a lot of littering – water sachets been thrown onto the ground nowhere near the bins. I hope the they managed to clear it all up and maybe in future, the organisers will limit the plastic sachets to self help water points.
The route was somewhat challenging, certainly not flat and I could feel that I hadn’t trained for a 21km. I was very happy with my time of 2:22 ish considering this was the furthest distance that I had run since Comrades. In fact I was very relieved that I had run the whole race, bar walking thru’ the watering points and stopping to take pictures because I was quite concerned that I didn’t have the fitness since I had only run one 15km race.
The finish was a welcome relief and for the first time ever, I got a beer instead of a coke at the finish and I drank it straight it from tin.
This was really an AWESOME race and I already have my entry in for 2012.