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Running down the Fences

Making the world a wilder, better place

By Jen Stern

, |

Running down the Fences

Making the world a wilder, better place

By Jen Stern

, |

3 min read

Images: ©XavierBriel 2019 Runcation

The inaugural Running down the Fences event is a great opportunity for runners (and even non-runners) from your estate to spend some quality time on a fabulous malaria-free game reserve. So, get out your running shoes and put together a team from your estate to ‘run down the fences’ between Addo and the Great Fish River.

Addo to Great Fish River Corridor

We are fortunate to have some fantastic game reserves and national parks in South Africa, but recent research has shown that these isolated pockets of preservation have their limits. Wild animals are not static, and have always migrated across quite significant distances, so contemporary conservation strategies are focused on creating corridors between existing reserves.

Nestled between the 1,640-square-kilometre Addo Elephant National Park and the 45,000-hectare Great Fish River Nature Reserve are a number of private reserves separated by farmland – and some towns, including Makhanda (previously Grahamstown). The aim of this inaugural annual fundraising marathon is to raise funds for conservation devastated by the tourism shutdown, but also – and perhaps more importantly – to create awareness of the need for biodiversity corridors. It is similar to the well-established Lewa Safari Marathon in Kenya, which has raised about R150 million over the last 20 years. The funds raised in 2021 will contribute to the survival of existing conservation areas, and future events will raise funds for consolidating this whole area into one contiguous conservancy that will allow the free movement of animals.

Running down the Fences

There are four ‘events’ – a standard 42-kilometre marathon for the real hard-core runners, a 21-kilometre half-marathon for serious runners, and a 12-kilometre run for beginner or weekend runners. And then there’s an eight-kilometre walk/run that offers a really accessible option for the not-so-fit. It’s happening on the weekend of 10 to 12 September, which gives you ample time to train if you want to make the 12-kilometre option your debut ‘race’. And, while it is, technically, a trail run because it’s not on the road, it’s a soft entry into trail running, as most of the route is on jeep tracks, so even die-hard road runners shouldn’t suffer too much culture shock. Except, of course, for the fact that there will be no minibus taxis, and no trucks, but there will be big, furry creatures with big teeth, or tusks or horns. Yup, you will be running in Big Five territory – but the reserve staff have all the safety precautions in place.

Most importantly, though, Running down the Fences is not a race – it’s a relaxing weekend safari at a wonderful, secluded, malaria-free game lodge with stylish accommodation, the great food you expect from a luxury game lodge, a fabulous celebratory bush boma dinner, and an optional helicopter flight over some of the planned expansion areas.

But what about Covid?

Here’s where this gets really clever. Game lodges are among the safest accommodation options because each room is – by design – isolated, and most of the public spaces are outdoors, or semi-outdoors. So, the main thing about this event is that it is not a public event. It is an ‘on-reserve activity’ that is open only to guests who are staying for the whole weekend. So as long as the reserves are allowed to operate, it will go ahead – and game lodges were open right through the second wave.

Other safety precautions include the following:

  • Each lodge and each game-viewing vehicle will be a mini bubble if required, and even the finish line area, and the celebratory bush boma evening, can be divided into lodge groups.
  • The field is really small, and – combined with the open air – the run should be very safe. If, however, the organisers feel it is necessary, they will start the run in waves so that accommodation bubbles will start together.
  • And, if the wheels fall off and we end up in Level 5 before September, there is an alternative date of May 2022.

Make it happen

Running down the Fences clashes with the Eden to Addo megahike, which is also seriously worth doing. But Running down the Fences is so much more accessible – financially, fitness-wise and time-wise. So get together a bunch of friends, an extended family, a corporate group, or just a bunch of runners from your estate, and book your place by contacting Lance on lance@runcation.co.za.

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