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​Zoo Trot turns exercise into a jol

For some it was a walk in the park. For others, it was a walk from hell as they huffed and puffed their way to the finish line.

It was that time of the month – the second Sunday – when hundreds of seasoned health and fitness fanatics, fun and adventure seekers, friends and colleagues descend on the Johannesburg Zoo to take part in the increasingly popular Zoo Trot.

The Trot, a 5km or 10km walk or fun run, is an initiative of the Johannesburg City Parks & Zoo aimed at encouraging residents and City employees to keep their bodies in shape – in the full glare of the zoo's animals. There were those who used the opportunity to spend quality and fun time with their loved ones. Others opted for a picnic instead of taking part in the gruelling event, which marks its 10th anniversary this year.

Those who felt they could not take the trouble of punishing their bodies chose to pay for luxurious ferry rides to watch lions, rhinos, buffaloes and giraffes.

Mothers and fathers strolled around the zoo with their babies in prams or hired “hippo” cars.

Khosi Jonas of Lonehill and her friend, Akona Mlamleli, of Randburg were thrilled. This was the first time they had participated in this “great social event”. Although they struggled going uphill, they enjoyed every minute of it. They said they loved the beautiful environment and peaceful surroundings of the zoo.

“The event was well organised, save for the water restrictions, which we understood were meant to protect the animals. They didnt want the animals to pick up the water bottles left behind. We’re definitely coming back next month,” said Jonas.

Babalwa Keleku of Orlando West, Soweto, and Udo Rypstra, were part of a group of 14 whose insurance company, Innovation Group, paid their entrance fees to encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle. They said they were using the opportunity to warm-up for a 21km race next month.

Nivi Harrilal and Deepak Roopnareng came all the way from Verulam, Durban, to take part in the walk as a part of the Innovation Group. They said the event gave them the opportunity to bond with colleagues.

Nadia Botha of the Hill said it was an“eye-opening experience”.

Mark and Michelle Ragosin of Parkwood were accompanied by their three children, including an 11-week-old baby boy, who was in a pram.

However, they were forced from time to time to stop along the way to feed him. After battling through with their walk, they were rewarded with a medal for having taken part in the event for the third time in a row. “It was a wonderful exercise and good reason to wake up early on a Sunday morning. At some stage I had to carry my baby in my arms for about an hour. But we really enjoyed ourselves,” Mark said.

Dragos and Leanne Dobrescus, who were born in Romania but now live in Emmarentia, celebrated their mother’s 70th birthday at the zoo after the event. “We’ve come here just to enjoy my mother’s birthday and have fun with the kids,” Leanne said.

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Infrastructure and Environment, Matshidiso Mfikoe, said the event was growing in leaps and bounds. “The Zoo Trot aims to turn residents of Johannesburg into health-conscious individuals in a safe and controlled environment. This is a time for families to reconnect, unwind and get fit. It’s a win-win all the way,” she said.

After the event, some of the trotters enjoyed breakfast at the zoo’s Café Fino. Others rolled out their blankets, took out picnic baskets and rewarded themselves with a welcome feast on the zoo lawns.