Sizwe Mkhasibe clinched first place at the 2016 Old Mutual Three Cranes Challenge, which ended Sunday 28 February.

Run over three days, Mkhasibe won in an overall time of 8:29:46, just minutes ahead of second place Michael Nzimande who finished in 8:32:20. Mdumiseni  Zondi  finished third in a time of 8:35:56.

The women’s race was won by Jeannie Bomford in a time of 9:44:55. Su Don-Wauchope finished second in 10:04:12, with Wendy Morgan third in 11:22:56.

The Old Mutual Three Cranes Challenge is a tough three-day endurance challenge of 100km in total and raises funds for conservation efforts in and around the Karkloof Nature Reserve.

The course was once again technically challenging, but rewarding for those who stopped to take in the incredible scenery. On day one, runners were also treated to a 45-minute zip line courtesy of Karkloof Canopy Tours, an innovation that was first introduced into the event in 2015.

“This event was on my Christmas wish list and when my husband bought me an entry I was ecstatic,” said winning woman, Jeannie Bomford. “It really is the most beautiful trail. The first climb on day one opened up to views of the most pristine valley and gorge and made me quite emotional. The setting definitely helps with the aches and pains!”

The Old Mutual Wild Series provides runners with unique experiences, but also the opportunity to look after vulnerable flora and fauna.

“The events in the Old Mutual Wild Series continue to provide an essential funding base for our conservation efforts, particularly in supporting work around the smaller protected areas such as the Karkloof Nature Reserve, which will benefit from the Three Cranes Challenge,” said Kevin McCann, Deputy Director of Conservation Space at Wildlands.

“The Three Cranes Challenge has become integral in supporting a fabric of conservation work in the area – supporting Wildlands’ work in managing the Karkloof Nature Reserve, and the resulting improved protection of our three crane species, oribi antelope and the unique grassland and indigenous forest habitats on the reserve.  It further supports the amazing work of the Karkloof Conservancy, who coordinate an array of environmental education and land conservation programmes around the reserve. We encourage runners to come and experience the Karkloof outside of this event – it really is a beautiful piece of our country.”

By participating in the Three Cranes Challenge, runners get to experience the result of this important work, but also very importantly, contribute to the conservation efforts of the region.

“We rely heavily on this funding to carry out our work,” said Charlie MacGillvary of the Karkloof Conservancy. “Partnerships are key to our work and allow us to conserve the biodiversity of the valley including all our three crane species.”

Over and above the portion of entry fee that is allocated to Wildlands’ conservation projects, runners are also encouraged to raise funds through the Old Mutual “More Than Yourself” platform.

There are already runners taking fundraising to the next level – such as Hanno Langhoven who raised R17 200, Theo York and Ryan Cloete, who raised R19 000, and Team Blue Belles, who raised R6 800 by participating in the Three Cranes Challenge.

Karen Thomas, head of brand at Old Mutual said: “One of the core pillars of our sponsorship is endurance as it mirrors our business of encouraging customers to take a long-term view to their investments. It is quite amazing to see all these people out here that are so passionate about their craft, and we believe that passion can be useful in dealing with their finances. Part of our brand vision is to help people to do and achieve great things. It is about having these personal connections and relevance with our customers.”

Dr Andrew Venter, CEO of Wildlands, commented on the unique energy of the event: “Upon arriving here the energy is always electric. A combination of camaraderie, the determination and the friendships, coupled with the beautiful landscape are what make these events unlike anything on the trail calendar.”

“The conservation work we carry out here year after year in this area would not be possible without our other event sponsors  Sunday Tribune, Karkloof Canopy Tours, Powerade and Jonssons,” added race director Andrew Booth.

The next exciting Old Mutual Wild Series event is the Kruger2Canyon Challenge, which takes place from 17 to 19 June.

Enter now to be a part of this unique experience.