THE home of the big five, Marakele National Park, hosted the 2023 Powerade Marakele Marathon on Saturday, 4 March.
Lindsay van Aswegan (54) and Lebogang Khonkhobe (34) were crowned winners after running the 45km race.
Their drive to finish the race despite the challenging uphills and hot temperatures saw them win R5 000 each and qualify for the Comrades Marathon and Two Oceans Marathon.
"I didn't expect that I would win. This is a great start to my year and I can now start preparing for the comrades, " said Lebogang from North West.
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He said the race was tough and the thought of being in contact with the animals in the nature reserve scared him.
"At the beginning, I was scared of the animals, but after I passed 4km and found myself leading the race, I started to focus because I knew people were watching us. I could even see the helicopter on top," he said.
Lebogang, who has been racing for years, said the intensity of the race at Marakele reminded him of the great Kolomela Iron Road Race in 2022.
"Kolomela in Postmasburg was tough because it was filled with gravel road and the weather was hot just like here. But I knew my trainer Peter Gaebetse trained me well and so I expected good results. That's when I got third place", he said.
Lindsay, who is from Gauteng, said she was still in shock.
"I must be honest with you, I am very surprised. I didn't expect it. I was hoping to win the masters category seeing that I am 50 plus but I never expected an overall win. I am excited and grateful," she said.
She said her biggest challenges were the uphills.
"Coming back you would expect everything to be all down hill but it's not. There was a lot of hills and the heat got really bad, but spectators, watering points and fellow runners were supportive," she said.
Even though this was Lindsay's first time participating in the Marakele Marathon, she like Lebogang, has a good racing track record.
"I have been running for 15 or 16 years for the Comrades Marathon with three golds. I also went to the world championships and came third overall. But that was many years ago. Now I run for fun and would love to do it again," said Lindsay.
The idea of racing for fun was something many other runners who participated had in common with Lindsay.
A 39-year-old Limpopo mine rescuer participated in the 5km run after his boss encouraged him to do it.
"It was our boss who suggested that we come here to keep us fit as mine rescuers. The race was very easy, but I wanted the 10km, especially because our work requires us to be fit," said the mine rescuer.
Pontsho Molemi (40) from North West said running the 10km was rough in the beginning but coming back was easier.
Pontsho, who recruited fellow runner Xoliswa Magoqo from Eastern Cape, said she found it very interesting and fun.