Eric Ngubane and Marie-Zanne De Kock have been crowned as the champions of the 2017 Old Mutual Wild Series Golden Gate Challenge.
The three-day trail run, now in its seventh year, was the final Old Mutual Wild Series event of the year, with participants enjoying perfect conditions on all three days of running.
Unique amongst events in South Africa, the Golden Gate Challenge features no prize money, with race fees also going towards conservation efforts in the Golden Gate National Park. The endangered bearded vulture is a worthy beneficiary of the runners’ fundraising efforts.
Also unique to the Golden Gate Challenge – and something that will become standard at Wild Series events – was the use of a ‘soft cup’. To minimise waste and eliminate the proliferation of single use plastic, every entrant was given a cup in their race goodie bag. These cups could be folded up and slipped into a pocket or hydration pack pockets. Participants at the Golden Gate Challenge were unanimously thrilled with the innovation. As part of Old Mutual and the Wild Series’ commitment to #GOGREEN, the cups will soon become a familiar sight at events.
In the racing, Ngubane, the defending champion in the men’s race, ran like a man on a mission for three days, taking almost seven minutes off his 2016 winning time (and event record) to complete the race in an overall time of 6:23:23. Second and third position for the men’s race went to Old Mutual development runners Nomore Mandivengerei and Linda Zondi respectively.
The ladies race was somewhat surprising, with Marie-Zanne De Kock bursting on to the Wild Series scene, taking first position on days one and two. She was closely followed by Old Mutual development running ladies, Nonsikelelo Mbambo and Apiwe Gaga.
“This year’s edition was a great event with fantastic weather all weekend,” said race organiser Andrew Booth. “It’s probably the best weather we’ve ever had at the event, clear and not too hot with a coolish breeze. From the 430am start on the final day, runners were treated to great views before running to a fantastic finish that had lots of buzz. The Wild Series is certainly looking good for 2018.”
On top of the excellent running experience, R95 000 was also raised by runners through an auction at the event, with R20 000 being donated by title sponsor Old Mutual. These funds will go towards the Bearded Vulture Rearing Project as well as the Emergency Transport Fund which has been set up to ensure a more speedy response for injured vultures.
“Once again, the Wildlands team has put on a superb event. The Old Mutual Wild Series has definitely ended the year on a high with the Golden Gate Challenge,” says Old Mutual’s Chief Marketing Officer Vuyo Lee. “We continue to be impressed by the passion and commitment of the Wildlands team, and are thrilled to play a part in their ongoing conservation efforts through our sponsorship and support of the Wild Series events. If you love nature, visiting unspoilt South African parks, and want to do your bit for conservation, then I highly recommend entering the next Wild Series event, the Three Cranes Challenge, in February next year.”
Men’s Winners (overall time)
Eric Ngubane 06:23:23
Nomore Mandivengerei 06:47:47
Linda Zondi 06:49:02
Women’s Winners (overall time)
Marie-Zanne De Kock 08:33:22
Nonsikelelo Mbambo 09:19:52
Apiwe Gaga 09:50:28