Ever considered running to support something that is your passion in life? Well, Elizabeth did just that and it involved travelling to a different continent for 5 days of running!
In August 2017, I was asked by Save the Rhino if I was interested in a very special run in Kenya to raise money for the charity and the Wildlife Rangers. I jumped at the chance with no idea what I was saying yes to, simply because Rhino are my passion in life! A few weeks later, I realised I had said yes to a 5 day, multi-stage, self-sufficient ultra marathon of 230 km in August 2018, the 'ForRangers Ultra'. It was to be the first race of it's kind; organised by Beyond the Ultimate, Save the Rhino and those involved in training the Rangers...we would run through 5 wildlife conservancies, guarded by Rangers whilst raising awareness and much needed funds.
Training with a weighted rucksack sort of took over my life...taking it away at the weekends and leaving my family for hours at a time...it also took it's toll on my body as my knees got creakier and the sores caused by the rubbing of the rucksack left scars. The weather in the UK in late Spring/early Summer helped no end, perfect hot temperatures to train in. It was hard and I broke down once or twice on a few runs but I knew it would be worth it!
As the race got nearer, I grew more apprehensive and yet, completely excited about the animals that I would see en-route....nobody is ever really allowed to run through these conservancies, from Lewa to Ol Pejeta, so to be able to take part in this was a great privilege. We had to carry enough food to sustain ourselves for 5 days, medical supplies, a sleeping bag and a change of clothes for the evenings in our tents. Knowing we also had to carry around 2 litres of water at all times, I worried about the weight of the rucksack and how I would cope with the terrain, still not really fully aware of what lay ahead.
As we arrived at base camp in Lewa, the evening before the start of the race, it began to dawn on me just what I was taking on. There were 46 runners from all around the world and we would be totally reliant on a team of volunteer doctors, the Exile Medics, the Rangers and Kris King and his team from Beyond the Ultimate to keep us safe. From the start, there was no question that this race was as safe as anything and that the team had organised everything so well. Each day following a safety briefing, we would follow the chalk marks whilst a helicopter and a plane would move animals off the route to safe distances.
Rangers would cheer us on along the route and thank us for what we were doing. Emotional wasn't the word! Each night, we would sleep in army tents, after shovelling down our freeze-dried meals and various treats. The camaraderie of the runners, organisers and medics was great, especially after the running had finished. We'd share running stories, funny things that had happened in the day and really looked out for each other. The nights were very cold, nobody felt that they had slept at all because of the temperatures but with adrenaline on our side and the excitement of what we would see each day, we all managed to keep going.
I saw Zebra, Elephants, a Lion, Water Buffalo, Giraffes and my beloved Rhino...we even got to stroke a baby orphaned Black Rhino Mei-Mei. It broke our hearts, all of us, she was the reason for what we were doing...and she was a survivor, a symbol of hope for the Rhino! Never once did I feel alone, never once did I feel scared, the feelings of discomfort and pain was masked by the need to finish what we had started and get the money in for these Ranger Heroes. At the finish, our medals were given to us by Eliud Kipchoge, described as the greatest marathoner of all time. A true Kenyan legend...how humbling. The ‘icing on the cake’ for me was to see the last 2 Northern White Rhino on this planet, so sad yet a moment that will last a lifetime.
I would urge anyone who holds these magnificent animals, such as Rhino, Elephants and Giraffe close to their hearts, to have a look at this Ultra. It was like nothing I have ever experienced or anything that I will ever again. Such amazing memories, inspirational new friends and new motivation to carry on my fundraising to stop the illegal poaching trade of Rhino horn. #savetherhino
We want to say a huge well done to Elizabeth and the rest of the team that took part in something that is so important to each of them and we look forward to seeing what Elizabeth gets up to next and she continues to raise funds for the charity.
If you'd like more information on Save The Rhino's, you can find out more on their website here and full credit goes to Mikkel Beisner for the incredible photos!
You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter - @Marchlily74