This is not a race to see who can finish first, but to connect with a place of global significance and beauty.

Last weekend, the beach and bush paradise of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park felt the footfalls of 127 trail runners as the first iSimangaliso Trail Challenge took place in the southern parts of the marine and terrestrial World Heritage Site.

Trail Run
A runner traverses a rocky path along the coastline

Hosted by Andrew Booth and his professional team from KZN Trail Running, the magnificent weather and scenery created an unsurpassable setting for the three stage 82km event. Runners started off with a 6km full moon beach run on Friday night, followed by two days of trail through big game country and beach stretches at spring low tide. While a lucky few spotted leopard, elephant and antelope, the beach runs were highlighted by breaching whales and dolphins.

Trail Run
Into the heart of wilderness

An informative and entertaining ‘Dangerous Game’ briefing by Wilderness Leadership School (WLS) guide, Mandla Buthelezi, followed by the sterling support of WLS and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife rangers, ensured that there were no negative encounters with wildlife.

Trail Run
Mdumiseni Zondi – winner of the event

The winner of the event was Pietermaritzburg running star Mdumiseni (Mdu) Zondi (pictured above), followed by Carla van Huyssteen in second place. Mdu was one of six runners sponsored by KZN Trail Running, and iSimangaliso sponsored another three development runners from areas neighbouring the Park.

“The inspiration for the trail run was born more out of a way to give people the opportunity to discover original wild spaces in the most natural way possible – on foot – and less about racing,” says iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis. “Without any white noise, trail runners experienced a completely authentic wilderness adventure – running across the Eastern Shores grasslands, amongst some of the highest vegetated dunes in the world, through lush coastal forest and on to endless stretches of pristine beaches and rock pools. On foot, it is a magnificent and rare way in which to explore iSimangaliso.”

“We thank our great team of organisers, sponsors – Wetland Water, Raidlight South Africa and Impi Security, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Wilderness Leadership School field rangers, and in particular, our participants – whose contributions raised around R125 000 for the iSimangaliso Rare and Endangered Species Fund, which is exclusively dedicated to the conservation of these marine and terrestrial species in the Park. This significantly aids the essential work done together with iSimangaliso’s conservation partner Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.”

Trail Run
Many participants got to meet some of the local wildlife

KZN Trail Running’s Andrew Booth said, “It was an amazing experience to be part of the team that put together the first iSimangaliso Trail Challenge. We aimed to create an incredible outdoor experience in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park that would be unforgettable to its participants, and we feel we did that. The event is a world class offering that should grow from strength to strength in the years to come.”

Runner Con Roux, who travelled with fellow runners from Benoni for the event, said, “That was an experience of a lifetime; I wouldn’t have missed it for anything! If you love the outdoors and would like to make a meaningful contribution to conservation, it’s a must do, especially since it is run in South Africa’s very first World Heritage Site. The organising team did an amazing job putting together a world class event – I loved the detail and surprises along the way”.

More photographs of the event, as well as results, can be found at https://www.facebook.com/iSimangalisoTrailChallenge.

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Andrew Booth
Event Information
7 Jul 2017