UTD grow close bond with Drakensberg’s natural heritage

Runners taking part in the 2017 Ultra-Trail® Drakensberg will be greeted by spectacular views and pristine terrain thanks to the relationships that race organisers and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife have established over the years. Image by: Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media

Underberg – As the inaugural Ultra-Trail® Drakensberg (UTD) fast approaches, the race and its organisers have been pro-active in increasing awareness of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) and the Maloti World Heritage Site – the park that plays host to the festival of trail running happening on 29 April 2017.

The founders of Running Man Adventures, the company responsible for organising the Ultra-Trail Drakensberg and many other events that take place in the Southern Drakensberg, Spurgeon Flemington and Matt Goode have had a long-running association with the Drakensberg and the Maloti World Heritage Site.

This relationship gave them the inspiration to share the pristine landscape with athletes.

“Our events wouldn’t be possible without the complete buy in and support of EKZNW as they are the custodians of the Maloti Drakensberg World Heritage Site,” race organiser Flemington mentioned.

“Matt (Goode) and I are both very conservation-minded so rather than simply pay lip service to the Ezemvelo connection we prefer to view it as an opportunity to get closely involved with them.

“Having grown up in the area and spending as much time as we do in the mountains for the events, it’s impossible not to have a deep connection with the Berg and its flora and fauna.”

The Maloti World Heritage Site provides visitors with sprawling hills and sheer cliffs as well as mountain streams and an abundance of wildlife. All these elements influenced Flemington to host events in this pristine part of South Africa.

Growing the awareness and the appeal of this area of South Africa was a large part of why Running Man adventures began to host events in the Drakensberg. Their support of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife also plays a significant role in their personal and commercial consciousness.

“It’s also personally rewarding to be able to see the benefits that the events and trail runners can bring to the Heritage Site.

“But drawing the attention of our runners to the environment through which they run is a key part of our events.

“One of the ways we do this is by giving Ezemvelo representatives a platform at the events from which to talk about the area and the EKZNW projects therein.

“A large portion of each entry goes directly to EKZNW and these funds are ring-fenced and used on projects within the area. The projects can include matters such as the eradication of alien vegetation, the maintenance and upgrade of trails and facilities within the park, monitoring projects and assistance with equipment such as radios for rangers.

“John Crowson, the local EKZNW head, gives us feedback on how the funds are spent and we are able to relay this to our runners,” Flemington added.

The continued, determined funding for EKZNW by Running Man Adventures goes a long way in helping the organisation continue the work that they do maintaining the park for visitors from all over the world.

“We continue to drive support for Ezemvelo and the Park as it is the backyard to our events and without a pristine, functioning environment our events would be immeasurably poorer.

“Another crucial factor is that EKZNW funding is being increasingly curtailed and it’s vital that other income streams become available to EKZNW, particularly from the private sector,” Flemington stressed.

As with all Running Man Adventures events a significant portion of each entry will be donated to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and we are also very pleased to announce that UTD will be partnering with Wildlife Act (www.wildlifeact.com) and assisting them to raise funds and awareness.

More information can be found at www.ultratraildrakensberg.com