Three Cranes Challenge kicks off the 2017 Old Mutual Wild Series

A Batch start on Day 2 at the Old Mutual Wild Series 3 Cranes Challenge -credit Em Gatland

A Batch start on Day 2 at the Old Mutual Wild Series 3 Cranes Challenge -credit Em Gatland

Solicitor Manduwa, an Old Mutual runner, took first place at the 2017 Wild Series Three Cranes Challenge, which was brought to a close on Sunday 26 February.

The Three Cranes Challenge, part of the Old Mutual Wild Series, is a three-day trail run in KwaZulu-Natal spanning a distance of roughly 100km. It raises funds for conservation efforts in the Karkloof Nature Reserve and surrounding area.

EmGatland-Ruan Van Der Merwe splashing about at one of the refreshing streams at the Old Mutual Wild Series 3 Cranes Challenge

Lone runner traversing the tranquil forest at the Old Mutual Wild Series 3 Cranes Challenge – credit Em Gatland

The challenge was won by Manduwa with an overall time of 07:53:25. Second place went to Ruan van der Merwe, who finished 18 minutes behind the winner in a time of 08:11:21. Third place was claimed by Nomore Mandivengerei, also an Old Mutual runner, timing in at 08:19:02.

International runner Holly Page won the women’s race with a cumulative time of 08:28:01. Chantel Nienaber came second in a time of 09:41:57. Tracy Zunckel completed the podium for third with her time of 10:32:53. Page was the Old Mutual Wild Series Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge winner in 2016. She is from the United Kingdom and was placed an impressive fifth overall.

The race was staged from a single base camp. 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.

Lone runner traversing the tranquil forest at the Old Mutual Wild Series 3 Cranes Challenge - credit Em Gatland

Lone runner traversing the tranquil forest at the Old Mutual Wild Series 3 Cranes Challenge – credit Em Gatland

It was a mixture of conditions that challenged runners throughout the race. The weekend started off with some fairly good but 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, brought on the heat. The highpoint being Mbona Nature Reserve and Benvie Botanical Garden where participants enjoyed a time out in this spectacular and unique setting.

The final day started with some drizzle, resulting in mud through the forested and steep sections and fast-flowing streams through the grasslands.

Solicitor Manduwa 2017 Old Mutual Wild Series Three Cranes mens’ winner Photo credit Gavin Ryan – Quickpix

Solicitor Manduwa 2017 Old Mutual Wild Series Three Cranes mens’ winner Photo credit Gavin Ryan – Quickpix

Mandwu is immensely happy with his victory, saying, “This is a great experience and I am happy with my results. On the first day I was just putting in a lot of energy and enjoying myself. In terms of my strategy, I knew everybody would be tired on the second day, so I thought if I could open the gap the others behind would not be able to close it.”

On his hopes for a win at the upcoming Old Mutual Wild Series Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge, Manduwa feels, “There is a chance of winning the Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge, but I must train hard.”

Holly Page 2017 Old Mutual Wild Series Three Cranes womens’ winner  Photo credit Gavin Ryan – Quickpix

Holly Page 2017 Old Mutual Wild Series Three Cranes womens’ winner
Photo credit Gavin Ryan – Quickpix

Page humbly stated, “I am really happy. I never expect to win anything, so it always comes as a nice surprise and you can’t take anything for granted. I am just super happy – it’s been a really wonderful three days and I have met some lovely people and seen amazing places – it’s so diverse. In fact, I wouldn’t have come here had it not been for the race so it’s amazing to discover yet another incredible place in South Africa.”

Page’s career doesn’t normally keep her in one place for too long, yet she still has her own hopes for another Mont-Aux-Source win, “If I am still here, I’d love to go all out again for the win at Mont-Aux-Sources Challenge.”

Louise Duys, Wildlands Director of Partnerships, Marketing and Events, is thrilled about the success of this year’s Three Cranes Challenge. “With the 2017 Old Mutual Wild Series Three Cranes Challenge now behind us, we’d like to thank all those involved for their role in making this another extraordinary event. The participants came out in full force in support of the conservation of the beautiful Karkloof. They displayed unbelievable character and camaraderie through wet, muddy and hot conditions – some pushing 11 hour days!

“Our sponsors’ unwavering support continues to show their commitment to Wildlands’ vision towards a sustainable future for all, in turn driving responsible business. We’re truly grateful to our title sponsor Old Mutual, and Jonssons and Time Freight for their on-going support.  An event like this would not have been possible without the team that worked tirelessly to pull it together. We feel incredibly proud to have delivered, once again, on our purpose for the Wild Series of being able to showcase one of South Africa’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 South Africa, 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 19 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.

Karen Thomas, Head of Brand at Old Mutual said “Congratulations to all the runners who challenged themselves and conquered the Karkloof! You are true champions – and we are proud of your efforts to run for more than yourselves and support nature conservation. Like Old Mutual, who have stood the test of time, all the runners inspired us with their endurance to do great things.”

Race Organizer, Andrew Booth had this to say about the event:

“For me, as with all Wild Series Challenges, the Three Cranes Challenge 2017 has been a grueling one to prepare for – a lot of hard work getting everything into place, but once the runners started to arrive and everything began to flow it has been one of the most spectacular Wild Series challenges to date.

“Having the largest record field for this Challenge yet certainly added to the atmosphere, with the race village being full throughout. I think as a Wild Series team who work closely with the Karkloof Conservation Centre, all the volunteers from Ezemvelo, and the Karkloof can be very proud of what we all pulled off here.”

For more information www.wildseries.co.za or email ZandiM@wildlands.co.za