33 Years of Racing History
The Kruger Park Marathon Club (KPMC) was started in 1986 through the initiative of Dr Vossie de Vos, an avid roadrunner who had already completed 8 Comrades Marathons. In the early years the club struggled financially to keep going – as the affiliation and registration fees for the club were heavy and there were no more than 15 runners. The Eastern Transvaal Road Running Association (ETRRA) was obviously not keen for a large number of small clubs to spring up and the support for these clubs was not very encouraging.
The ETRRA stipulated that all affiliated clubs had to hold at least one open race per year. This was overlooked for the first few years because the KPMC was such a small club, but then the ETRRA started putting on the pressure. If the club did not hold a race then it would have to pay the ETRRA the average of a percentage of the income made at all the races held in the Eastern Transvaal. For such a small club that would be impossible.
Vossie and another founder member, Pieter Scholtz, had continuous discussions during their regular runs, on a solution to the problem. Vossie made contact with Arthur Meneke (Chairman of the ETRRA) who was extremely helpful and encouraging. At first it was suggested that a race be held outside the Park from Kruger Gate towards Hazyview. However, in the end it was decided to hold the race within Kruger and permission was granted by the then National Parks Board to hold a half marathon within the confines of the village of Skukuza, as long as the principles of the National Parks Boards towards nature conservation were not violated.
A sponsor had to be found and Vossie, after a lot of searching, was fortunate to make contact with “Sams” meat suppliers, who agreed to support the race – the first being on Saturday 5th August 1989. They remained the wonderful sponsors of the Sams Skukuza Half Marathon for 12 years, each year bringing in 10 top runners, providing excellent medals and badges for the runners, hosting a pasta evening the night before the race and much more. Unfortunately, due to economic reasons they had to withdraw their sponsorship in 2001. Luckily South African Breweries came to the rescue and have been our sponsors (of the Castle Lager Kruger Park Half Marathon with 1500 runners) for the last eighteen years and will be hopefully for many years to come.
The half marathon involves runners from all over the world. There will be water tables and there is a monetary prize for the best water table as well as an interesting trophy – a brass tap mounted on a local piece of wood. The best water table is chosen by questioning a random selection of runners after the race.
The food stalls are run by various organizations, such as church bodies, the creche, the primary school and cricket club. There is also a monetary prize for the best stall, chosen in the same manner as the best water table, and the workers put in a lot of effort and time into doing something extra special for the day.
Those people who are not involved in the above activities help with manning the course, with the activities at the start and finish of the race – and the few Skukuza inhabitants who are left are enthusiastic supporters along the route. It is truly a community affair.
In 1993 the KPMC brought a new dimension to the race and started to use it as a vehicle for raising money for nature conservation projects in our national parks. Each year the KPMC, in conjunction with SAN Parks, select priority projects to support. Runners are then asked to seek sponsorship and so far have raised over R1 000 000. This has become a very important component of the race. Projects in Kruger include the Northern Plains Project (from 1993 and ongoing), the Elephant/Herbivore exclosure project, a baboon project, the building of two bird hides, two wild dog and one cheetah census, alien plants and anti poaching. In the Kgalagadi the fund has supported Kalahari lion project, and an African wildcat project, and in Marekele, Addo and the Richtersveld a cycad and plant microchip project.