The Year of the Buffalo – Good weather accompanied athletes in Park Marathon

After an absence of two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, the big challenge of running on the “Wild side” in a Big-Five nature reserve once more drew lots of competitors who eagerly awaited the return of this popular marathon and half-marathon, the Powerade Marakele Marathon.

Despite participant numbers being limited by Covid regulations, the turnout was good, with over 700 runners competing on 5 March 2022. Families and friends from Thabazimbi and surrounds joined the 5km fun run (or walk) to enjoy the peaceful bushveld scenery and unfenced great outdoors.

The marathon is fast becoming a firm favourite amongst runners. Often described as “a memorable and scenic run”, runners rave about being able to run through the bushveld and the mountains. The amazing views and stunning scenery make this race unique – with the added excitement of possibly encountering a rhino or lion along the way.

Hosted for the 13th year in Marakele National Park, the Marakele Marathon is organised in partnership with SANParks, the SANParks Honorary Rangers and Coca-Cola Beverages SA, who sponsors the event.

The Powerade Marakele Marathon is dedicated to the big five animals. The 2022 race was dedicated to the buffalo, with race finishers each receiving a buffalo medal, leading up leading to a commemorative medal of all the Big 5 animals at the end of year five.

Runners could choose to complete the full marathon (42.2 km), half marathon (21.1 km) or the 10 km race.  There was also a 5 km fun run for the whole family, popular amongst children and supporters. The marathon is qualifier for the Comrades and Two Oceans Marathons.

The different category winners (first three places) were as follows:

Marakele 42km Men Open:
First: Charles Soza (2:42:26) Nedbank
Second: Rufus Photo (2:48:40) Murray & Roberts
Third: Godfrey Gabatsewe (2:49:34) Lichtenburg
Veteran (60+): Alan Coulter (3:54:09) Run Zone

Marakele 42km Women: Open
Eileen Shannon (3:57:11) RWFL
Beryl Makokha (3:59:42) Nedbank
Thifhelimbilu Mudau (4:06:50) Top Runners
Veteran (50-59): Alison Jordaan (4:20:46) Nedbank

Marakele 21km Men Open
Thato Kekona (77:38) Union
Arnold Murunzi (80:30) Temp
Thambulo Phalamudwa (80:32) Temp
(50-59) Mark Phipson (1:46:37) RAC
(60-69) Charles Pheeha (1:53:53) Eskom

Marakele 21km Women Open
Teneale Holley (1:43:01) Temp
Cornel Geldenhuys (1:44:12) Temp
Mulde van der Wateren (1:47:09) Temp
Fourth open and (40-49) winner: Chantelle Hawkins (1:47:11) Run Zone
(50-59) Hannelie Duvenhage (2:07:06) Affies
(60-69) Adri van Dyk (2:06:01) Blizz

Marakele 10km Men Open
Noah Motimedi (34:53) FFA
Lawrence Mokobane (34:23) Batlase
Lesege Moilwa (37:35) Batlase

Marakele 10km Women Open
Kerri Trollope (48:07) Temp
Amagelang Malotsi (49:54) Batlase
Suzanne Erasmus (59:52) Temp

The sponsored prize money this year was R53 500. The Master of Ceremonies on the day was well known celebrity and sports presenter, Arnold Geerdts, who also presented prizes to category winners during the prize giving.

Many competitors eagerly collected the special edition of Big Five medals before the pandemic and it was a big relieve to be able to add the last Big Five medal, depicting all five animals, to their collection.

Proceeds from the event go towards the SANParks Honorary Rangers (SHR) for conservation projects in the Marakele National Park. The SANParks Honorary Rangers is the official SANParks volunteer organisation. Their contribution ranges from hands-on duties (such as bush clearing or fence mending) to fundraising initiatives such as birding trips, catered bush camps, golf days – and, of course, marathons.

Participating in the Marakele Marathon or fun run therefore affords members of the public an opportunity to contribute to conservation of the Marakele National Park.

As a non-profit, the SHR rely heavily on donations and sponsorships to make this event the success it is. Without the generosity of sponsors and donors, an event of this magnitude, would simply not be possible. Of value, are lucky draw prizes, goody bag items, marketing opportunities and printing costs – but even a simple donation will be put to good use. The easiest way to support the SHR is to participate in the Marakele Marathon. Whether you run 5 km or 42 km, it would be for a good cause.

More information is available on their website  www.sanparksvolunteers.org.

Since the inception of the Marakele Marathon, the local Thabazimbi Marathon Club was heavily involved in establishing this marathon as an internationally acclaimed event. The Thabazimbi Marathon Club, through Maryke Carstens, still plays an instrumental role in providing organizational and logistical support to both SANParks and the SANParks Honorary Rangers. Maryke also plays a pivotal role in organizing the event in promoting the involvement of local runners and running clubs.

One objective of the Marakele Marathon “Fun Day” is to support local communities and, in particular, local school groups. It was mostly the schoolchildren from local schools participating in the event who enjoyed meals and cool drinks enjoyed a fun day out in nature.

A second objective of the Marakele Marathon is to promote the Marakele National Park, a Big 5 Park which is just a stone’s throw away from Thabazimbi, easily accessible for a Sunday drive or camping weekend in the great outdoors. The 5km fun run gives local residents the unique once-a-year opportunity to run or walk through the park, experiencing it up close and personal instead of through a car window.

One objective of the Marakele Marathon “Fun Day” is to support local communities and, in particular, local school groups. This year, Pick ‘n Pay donated meals and cold drinks for several school children enjoy a fun day out. Total Thabazimbi supported Thabang Children’s Home through sponsorship of their fun run entry fees and supplied goodie bags to them, as well as a primary school from the Rooiberg Area.

Lucky draw prizes by local businesses added further flavour to the event, like Pondok Day Spa body massages, a break away to Groot Krokodil Lodge and a lovely hamper from Larney Soap. A big hit on the day was the Ink2Paper “I was @ Marakele Marathon” photo frame, with many “selfies” being shared across personal social media platforms.