Running across the African continent | The 20° South Run

June-September 2015

It is not possible to encapsulate in only a few words the full story of this run. There is the 7 year period and planning leading up to the run, the event itself, the 4 countries that were traversed with the many sights and people encountered, the runners and the support team, and the aftermath.

At a certain point in Jon’s life and following a procession of synchronistic events, in June 2008, the dream was born to do something extreme to raise the world’s awareness to elephant conservation, and water sustainability, and the decision to run across the African continent was made. A colleague, Darren, accepted the invitation to run with Jon and to include the expedition as an event being run under the auspices of his company, a charity, The Goodsport Trust. Without the inclusion of Darren and his company, and the dedicated and professional work put in by the support team of Amy, Blake and Julia who accompanied the runners across Africa, this dream would never have converted into reality, which it did starting almost exactly to the day 7 years later and finishing after 2,600km running a marathon every day for 3 months.

The expedition partnered with the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA) and set out with many plans, hopes, aspirations and expectations – too many! The many challenges, mistakes, physical and mental hardships, as well as successes, good times and joys undergone provided a wealth of learning and experience for all.

The expedition faced many challenges. These included travelling back and forth along a dirt road for over 60km looking for a never-to-be-found campsite that was on a map; waking up in the morning to a two inch layer of ice in the water bucket; burning elephant dung to try and help fight off the Mopani flies; mosquitos; the support vehicle battery boiling; the support vehicle breaking down; helping a German traveller dig his vehicle out after he’d walked across the Makgadikgadi pans to ask for help; Mozambique police; running and camping in the rain with no electricity or fire; a variety of leg and foot aches and pains while running; running out of tea bags … and many more! The team also experienced several close-encounters with lions while running and – at these times – the two runners ensured they ran alongside each other with the support vehicle in close attendance.

Jon O’Hanlon