Challenge powers through with a brand new event format

2019-02-27 06:00
PHOTOS: suppliedOwen Mutetwa and #46 Barbara Neal make their way to the Benvie Gardens on Day two of the 10th celebration of the Wildseries Three Cranes Challenge.

PHOTOS: suppliedOwen Mutetwa and #46 Barbara Neal make their way to the Benvie Gardens on Day two of the 10th celebration of the Wildseries Three Cranes Challenge.

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RUAN van der Merwe, from Team Nevarest, and Tarryn Lopez, supported by Squirrels Nut Butter, took first place for the men and women respectively at the 2019 Wildseries Three Cranes Challenge, which took place from February 21 to February 24.

With no title sponsor this year, the Wildseries team used the opportunity to run the event under an innovative and exciting new format, powered by KZN Trail Running (KZNTR) with a focus on raising funds for Wildlands, a programme of the Wildtrust and conservation partner, the Karkloof Conservancy.

The Three Cranes Challenge, part of the Wildseries, is a three-day trail run in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands spanning a distance of roughly 100km. It raises funds for conservation efforts in the Karkloof Nature Reserve and the endangered Cranes species, namely the Blue, Crowned and Wattled Crane.

The challenge was won by van der Merwe­ with an overall time of 07:36:10. Second place went to Steven Erasmus, who finished almost an hour behind the winner in a time of 08:25:30. Third place was claimed by previous winner, Nic de Beer, timing in at 08:46:28.

Tarryn Lopez won the women’s race with a cumulative time of 09:26:30. Trude Carstens­ came second in a time of 09:43:19. Marianne Semmelink completed the podium for third with her time of 09:45:57.

The race was staged from the Bushwillow Caravan Park. Each day runners completed distances between that of a half marathon and full marathon across technically challenging terrain. Participants ran on and off-road tracks through forests, grasslands and managed plantations.

It was a mixture of conditions that challenged runners throughout the race.

The weekend started off with cloudy weather. This came after very heavy rains in KwaZulu-Natal.

Day one included the Karkloof Canopy Tour, which was a highlight for many.

Day two, the longest day of the challenge, started off with very windy conditions, with the highpoint being Mbona Nature Reserve and Benvie Botanical Garden where participants enjoyed a time out in this spectacular and unique setting.

For the first time in many years, the final day delivered clear skies and gorgeous views of the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall though the previous day’s heavy rains left mud through the forested and steep sections and fast-flowing streams through the grasslands.

“Despite some big afternoon and evening storms, the weather each day for the runners was ideal and participants really got to see the Karkloof in all it’s glory” said Andrew Booth of KZNTR. “There were big changes to the format of the event and it is exciting to see the trail running community embracing these to make the event more accessible and sustainable.”

Louise Duys, Wildlands’ Executive Director of Partnerships, Marketing and Training, is thrilled about the success of this year’s Three Cranes Challenge. “With the 10th installment of the Wildseries Three Cranes Challenge now behind us, we’d like to acknowledge the team and volunteers who worked tirelessly to pull together another extraordinary event as well as our garment sponsor, Jonsson Workwear.

“We’d also like to thank the participants, who came out in full force in support of the conservation of the beautiful Karkloof, for embracing our new event format. They displayed unbelievable character and camaraderie throughout it all.”

“We feel incredibly proud to have delivered, once again, on our purpose for the Wildseries of being able to showcase one of SA’s most unique and breathtaking regions, in a way that leaves a legacy for future generations.”

By participating in the Three Cranes Challenge, runners help to conserve KZN’s endangered Cranes — a flagship species for SA, through the incredible work of the Karkloof Conservancy. The three Cranes themselves are the Blue, Grey-Crowned and Wattled Cranes. The threat they face is incentive to protect the wetlands and grasslands they call home.

This year, the Karkloof Conservancy turns 20 years old. It is comprised of local landowners who wish to protect biodiversity within the Karkloof area. This has precipitated several community projects to protect the Karkloof, of which the conservancy protects 40 000 hectares. Projects include the Karkloof Conservancy Farm Schools Project and the Adopt a Crane Project.

For more information visit the website or send an e-mail to

Entries for the next Wildseries, the Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge event, are open. As one of SA’s oldest trail runs, taking participants to the top of the Drakensberg, this is another must-do event and we look forward to welcoming new and returning entrants to this epic event. — Supplied.


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