Eight marathons in eight days and we are in the Caribbean Sea after running 6,504 miles across South America
Fifteen months ago, just as the Olympic gun resonated through the streets of London, bracing ourselves against a blizzard at the southerly-most point of continental South America, we began our race to run the length of the continent.
Ever since, we have been pulling our trailer, day-on-day, through ice, snow, hurricane-force winds, over 45°C heat, nearly 100 per cent Amazonian humidity, knee-deep mud, exhausted, vomiting, attacked by swarms of insects, but determined that every step forward will pull us closer to our goal. Now, finally, we have dived into the Caribbean Sea with mighty brown pelicans and magnificent frigatebirds spiralling over our heads and it feels amazing!
It has been tougher than we could ever have imagined. I remember one night at the beginning, leaving Punta Arenas, Chile, in the dark. Cars and lorries were screeching passed covering us in water, wind howled at our side, our feet and knees were screaming with pain. There was no cover for us to pitch our tent. Finally, we spotted the illumination of a house. I plucked up the courage to hobble over and knock on the door, to ask whether we could stay in their garden for the night. They looked at this filthy, saturated figure in the pitch black as if I had two heads and shook their heads. I couldn’t believe it. The reality of what we had taken on was dawning and it wasn’t pleasant.
We are not professional runners, we used to run during the week after work or at the weekends, never usually more than five miles. The longest we ever ran was 45 miles in a Peak District moorland competition. But we both love running, it allows you to move through the countryside simply, quickly, quietly, you never know what you might run into: badger cubs stumbling out of a sett, bats flicking over your head at dusk or a swallow returning to find a mate after its incredible journey from South Africa. Your emotions feel raw and alive.
Ever since I was a little girl, I had always dreamed about doing something to protect our natural world. We felt it was time we paid our rent for living on this extraordinary planet. Around 10, 000 years ago the weight of the human population was 1/10 of 1 per cent of all the earth’s biomass, the rest was made up of wild animals.
Today, humans, our pets and domestic animals make up 96-98 per cent, staggering! We decided to show how we all absolutely depend on the natural world and how amazing it is. That with small steps we can overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles, that time is running out, but it’s not too late protect it. So we started running.
And it’s been really tough, not just the physical conditions: we were turned away from the only area of shelter for more than 20 miles in the howling winds of Argentina Patagonia simply for being British, shown gun and stab wounds by passing motorists, told repeatedly that we would be poisoned by snakes and eaten by jaguars, and that we would be violated both physically and sexually in Venezuela. But we have also been shown immense kindness.
We have been offered food and shelter from the lowliest of night watchmen to one of the largest landowners in the US. A shopkeeper in Argentina wouldn’t let us pay and then asked us to share his lunch with him. People clap as we pass and constantly stop to give us money in Venezuela. While in Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, people would run after us to ply us with drinks or grape fruits. We never expected this.
Then there is spending 24 hours day-on-day with your husband! At times it became too much; even the South American continent wasn’t large enough for us both! We have been physically and emotionally exhausted, with nowhere to hide. But we now know each other completely and it has been the magical moments, such as bathing in cool streams under the Amazon rainforest or watching thousands of fireflies light our way in the Grand Savannah of Venezuela that have got us through and made our relationship stronger than ever.
Now, some 10,000,000 steps, 10 pairs of demolished shoes, 6,504 miles and 15 months later, having presented to over 1,300 school children and raised nearly $10,000 for our conservation charities, we are starting to imagine a life beyond running each day on the 5000mileproject!
The couple will be running through the centre of London to celebrate with a six-mile run followed by a talk about the expedition on Saturday 26 October. To find out more about this event follow their 5000mileproject links.5000mileproject, Adventure Running, amazon, Birdlife, ecology, Marathons, running, South America
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