A unique race run in a unique place. The Kruger Park half marathon held in and around the small staff village of Skukuza in the heartland of one of Africa’s greatest wildlife refuges – the Kruger National Park.
Two hours before the start of the race a squad of rangers whose task it is to ensure the safety of all athletes during the race, travel by vehicle and on foot along the course to herd off any big game which would disrupt the race. At the same time the SAN Parks helicopter lifts off on its first flight to ensure that no elephants, rhinos and lions get too close to the route.
Lets run along the two lap course which since 2009 has changed slightly:
A thousand athletes line up at the start on the “village green” and are set off by a recording of a lion roar. Clockwise once around the field and then past the nursery school towards a short, steep climb up “Vossie’s hill” that takes the runners “out into the bush” The runners past the golf club and run up along “Lake Panic” dam wall (so named because immediately upon completion in 1981 the park experienced very heavy rains and the dam started filling up rapidly and the Park Warden began to “panic” that the dam wall might not hold) where hippo, waterbirds and a variety of animals coming down to drink are often seen.
At the end of the embankment the first water table comes as a welcome sight. The course briefly crosses the golf course and then follows its periphery passing through “Bok doodgeslaan groot geskrik vir leeu spruit” (translated “buck killed by ball, big fright from lion stream”), so named because a few years ago one of the Skukuza inhabitants hit a golf ball down the fairway and it stopped an impala dead in its tracks when it hit it on the head. The player walked up to the impala and seeing it was dead walked away to continue his game! After he had gone a short distance something made him look around and he saw a lioness come up to and past the impala in a slightly threatening manner. Fortunately the lioness preferred the impala to the golf player!
After crossing the stream the course goes up “Rhino Hill”, where a few years ago a black rhino was giving golfers more exercise than they bargained for. He had to be captured and relocated to the Lower Sabie area where he could go about his business unhindered by wayward golf balls. The well kept greens fringed by bush is a pleasant sight to runners and “game viewing” along this stretch of the course offers a welcome distraction.
The next 2.5km of undulating road meanders back through the village. Impala, warthog and baboon can be seen staring non-plussed at the “herd of runners”. Exiting onto the village entry road the course drops down towards the starting point. This is a fast part of the course as it is slightly downhill and crowds of spectators line the road urging runners on. At the Nursery School corner runners bear left to start the second and longer lap.
The second lap follows the first lap up “Vossies hill” and at the top of the Nursery road after a short left turn, the runners turn right along a sand road where they follow the fence of the elephant, rhino and buffalo bomas (where animals are held for a period before translocation).
For 6km the route circles both the bomas and on one of the legs of at this stage the runners are running very close to the Sabie river. The two water points manned by the honorary rangers bring relief to the runners during one of the most challenging stages of the race.
The route then goes out on the tourist Nursery road (which is closed to the public for a couple of hours) for about 2km and then turns onto the Kruger Gate/Skukuza tar road at the 13km mark. During this part of the race the runners are running out in the wild and their safety is ensured by rangers on foot and the ever present helicopter having a watchful eye for rhinos and elephants.
A flat 4 km stretch on the tar road towards Skukuza rest camp turns left for another kilometer to meet up with the road that connects the camp with the staff village. There are two water tables just out of sight of the tourists as the runners enter and exit the tar road.
Entering the staff village the road threads its way between the tennis courts, bowling green and swimming pool.Then the road dips down, crossing a small low water bridge and then climbs for about 1km, passing “Loop-en-Val draai” (where Loop-en-Val Motserauteau fell in a sandy patch during the 1989 race but still managed to come second) and on to the last water table run by SAB who also provide a water tunnel to cool the runners.
After a visit at the SAB table most runners run the last uphill with a smile. Turning left at the nursery and this time down with “Vossie’s hill” the field is in sight and the finish banner marks the end of an unforgettable running experience.
Most athletes find the course challenging and are surprised by its undulating nature. There are numerous short but significant climbs and dips and underfoot the course changes between tarmac and graded gravel roads. Temperatures can be expected to be warm but being August there is often a fresh breeze to cool hot, sweaty bodies.
Skukuza Castle Lager Half Marathon – Race Information
Date & Time:
Enclosed is your number for the Skukuza Castle Lager Half Marathon on Saturday 1st August at 8:30. This is the 19th year this race is being sponsored by SA Breweries. We are most grateful for this wonderful support.
Bookings for Day Visitors on the day of the race must be made in advance online on the SANParks Website in one of the following ways:
1. Call Central Reservations 012 429 9111 to make your booking.
2. E-mail Central Reservations on : firstname.lastname@example.org to make your reservation.
3. Visit the SANParks official website on: www.sanparks.org for more information or to make a booking.
Official gate hours are from 06h00 to 18h00.
Race Number Changes:
You may pass on your race number to another runner (IF THEY BELONG TO A CLUB) as long as you notify us before 25th July, giving all the relevant details of the new runner (name, sex, address, date of birth, club, tel no.) and pay a R50 handling fee.
Your provincial number must be worn on your back, and your Castle Lager race number on your front. There will be NO TEMPORARY NUMBERS available on race day. All runners must be affiliated members of a club.
Please fill in the name label attached to the race number – it will be needed to process the results and will be taken from you once you have crossed the finishing line.
ACTION PHOTOS: Photos of everyone will be taken and the runner can decide whether or not they want to buy one.
Forms will be available at the race. A R50 application fee must be with your entry form.
As usual refreshments will be provided at reasonable prices by various Skukuza organizations: charity, sports and the school.
Results will be available on the internet at www.krugerparkmc.co.za.
Rate The Race:
After the race please go to www.runnersworld.co.za and “rate our race” so that we can be part of this competition run by Runners World”.
No Prams, Bicycles Or Walkers will be allowed on the Route.
Finally we request that all runners DO NOT LITTER DURING THE RACE. This has been a problem in the past. Please use the refuge containers along the way.