KZN runners come endangered Rhino & Bearded Vultures’ aid

Photo - Huck Orban / Gameplan Media

A group of KwaZulu-Natal’s top trail running talent have bandied together ahead of the 2016 Rhino Peak Challenge on Thursday 22 September to raise much needed funds for and awareness of the plight of two highly endangered wildlife species.

As both the Rhino and the Bearded Vulture – an inhabitant of Rhino Peak itself – face grave times, Su and Iain Don-Wauchope, Tracy Zunckle and Steven Erasmus hope their participation in this unique conservation-driven trail run can make a much needed difference.

“Conservation is something that is very close to my heart and being part of this whole experience is all about the animals, not us as individuals or runners,” explains Bergville mom of three, Tracy Zunckle.

“People often become desensitized to ‘another environmental crisis’,” adds Winterton’s Su Don-Wauchope. “The Rhino Peak Challenge though is such a fun way of tackling what is a very serious problem, so it’s great to be part of this very unique event!”

“I studied Environmental Management and consider myself an environmentalist,” says Don-Wauchope’s husband, Iain. “Any time we’re able to support a good cause – especially when it’s something that is so close to home like the Rhino and Bearded Vulture – Su and I are in.”

With the added motivation of the animals relying on runners’ pledgers’ financial support, the contingent of local athletes are eager to put their best foot forward come this year’s challenge despite the short, sharp course.

“The Rhino Peak Challenge is quite a short run that’s not too technical, so it’s pretty much a sprint to the top and back down again,” says Racefood’s Zunckle.

“It’s very steep though – some parts just too steep to even run.

“I’m the gran of the group, but hopefully I can get to the top as quickly as I can.

“If it was up to me, I’d then tuck into a cold beer and take in the incredible view from up there but the animals and my pledgers will be driving me to keep pushing all the way back down again.”

Despite their running prowess, the event may well take on a slightly more scenic perspective for the North Face/Mountain Splendour Don-Wauchope couple as injury and illness threaten to limit their efforts.

“I’m coming back from an ankle injury,” explains Su. “I am running well again on the flats, but am still battling a bit in the mountains so I think the real ‘race’ will be between Landie (Greyling), Tracy (Zunckle) and Megs (MacKenzie).”

“I was meant to run this year but I’ve been struggling with burnout and haven’t run since June,” adds Iain.

“Having grown up in the Central Drakensberg, the Berg is a special place for me and the event supports such a great cause, so I wanted to still be involved.

“I’ll now be joining the ‘influential people’ towards the back.

“It should be lovely at the top of the Peak at this time of the year with clear skies and hopefully not too much wind so I’m sure we’ll all have a great time while contributing as best we can too.”

The 2016 Rhino Peak Challenge takes place on World Rhino Day on Thursday 22 September. Participation is by invitation only however pledges can be submitted and more information found at www.rhinopeakchallenge.co.za.