Giant’s Cup excitement builds ahead of weekend’s action

Photo - Anthony Grote / Gameplan Media

The fourth edition of the Giant’s Cup will attract a number of the region’s top trail runners when they take on the two-day, 62km journey along the fabled Giant’s Cup hiking trail in the Southern Drakensberg on Friday 19 and Saturday 20 May.

The 2017 edition of the race will not feature the defending champion, Ian Don-Wauchope, who has withdrawn from the event due to illness, however his wife, and women’s defending champion, Su Don-Wauchope will be on the start line this Friday.

Organisers of the event deliberately insist on having a small, intimate field which assists them in giving each runner a one-of-a-kind experience by being able to engage with all of the runners throughout the event.

The Southern Drakensberg received its first taste of winter over this last weekend as the peaks surrounding Lesotho were blanketed with snow, this first fall of the winter might still have an effect on runners this weekend.

The sharp end of the racing field will be an interesting to watch as a number of 2016’s top performers won’t be on the line at the beginning of this year’s event; however one man that will be setting off from Sani Pass Hotel will be Thabo Mdlala.

Mdlala finished the 2016 race in fourth place overall and just in front of ladies winner Don-Wauchope. The Underberg local will be hoping that he can make it a win for the local community when he gets to the finish at Bushman’s Nek Resort on Saturday.

The main beneficiary of The Giant’s Cup is the local, Southern Drakensberg branch of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW), which is based at Cobham Nature Reserve.

Part of each runners entry fee will be dedicated to this cause, set aside for local issues within the Maloti Drakensberg Park. These include alien vegetation, maintenance of the trails, funding of vital equipment for EKZNW staff and assistance with monitoring of critically endangered species such as the Bearded Vulture.

All funds raised will be ring-fenced so that athletes will know that they are making a direct contribution to the environment through which they will be running. EKZNW’s John Crowson will be responsible for overseeing how this money is spent.

After the event, The Giant’s Cup organisers will report back to the runners each year as to how the money has been spent and what effect it has had on the well-being of the park and its inhabitants.

Having proof and evidence of the benefits of their participation in The Giant’s Cup will encourage runners to come back year after year and further develop their interest in the Maloti Drakensberg Park as a whole.

The secondary beneficiary of The Giant’s Cup will be the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT).

The EWT is heavily involved in the protection of Red Data species such as Wattled Cranes and Oribi and have an extremely active local branch in Underberg that is focussed on protecting these types of species as well as their habitats.

EWT will keep all funds raised through the transport of runner’s vehicles from the Start to the end of Day 1 and to the finish at Bushman’s Nek Hotel. Volunteers on behalf of EWT will also assist at registration, the checkpoints, and finishes of Day 1 & 2. The Giant’s Cup will make a donation to the EWT in lieu of this.

The Honorary Wildlife Officers and the Sani Hiking Club are other benefactors from the event and contributions will be made to both these groups in return for their assistance with various logistical issues during the staging of The Giant’s Cup.