Capetonian conservationist and extreme athlete Karoline Hanks completed the gruelling 13 Peaks trail run twice in one go. She also became the first person ever to complete the trail back to back. The trail covers 13 different peaks in the Table Mountain range and the Cape peninsula area over 100km, and Hanks ran this back to back in the name of turtle conservation (her totem animal, she says). She totalled a magnificent distance of 212km and an ascent of 12,000m in 71 hours for a special turtle named Bob.
Bob, an endangered green sea turtle came to the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation in 2014 in very poor condition after ingesting plastic. He survived, was rehabilitated and will hopefully be released into the ocean again.
In an effort to create awareness around the impact of plastic on marine life, and raise money for a state-of-the-art tagging device to track Bob once he is released, Hanks created a donation page called B2B4Bob. Her aim is to raise R70,000.
‘Suffice to say that this past week I took on – and completed – the most brutal challenge of my life. I have never run this far, been on my feet for so long, climbed this many mountains, and been in so much physical pain,’ said Hanks. ‘I knew what I was in for – or thought I did.’
Her journey included non-stop running, except for the odd nap on the ground or in the car of someone from her support team. She ate and changed socks. And then she ran again.
‘The plan was to take on a route I know well and have run twice before in fairly respectable times (sub 24). Both those times are recognised as “one-day badges”. At one stage I held the woman’s record for this course, but not for long. I lost it, ran it again and regained it, then lost it again. The speediest woman has achieved a phenomenal time. Knowing that this 50-year old bod could never run that fast around these mountains, I felt I needed to try something different that still involved these 13 spectacular chunks of rock – all in my familiar backyard,’ she added.
‘The idea of a back to back has been brewing in my mind for well over a year now. Nobody has ever completed it. One person tried, but the weather scuppered his plans. If I could do this, I would be the first person to do it – not just the first woman. That held massive appeal to me. I gave it a go earlier this year but the wheels fell off at the 78km mark and I packed up and went home. The disappointment was agony, but I knew I had to try again – soon.
‘I decided to make it count – so set up a fundraiser to fund a state of the art tracking device for Bob the turtle. Bob represents everything about ocean plastic and why we have to shift gear – drastically!’ she said.
Some parts of her run were joined by others, including the team at the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation. But large parts of the arduous run she did alone.
‘The most I’ve ever run. The most I’ll ever bloody run. We won’t talk about my feet much other than to say they were taken to the doctor and it’s all ok. They weren’t pretty. Crutches and a wheelchair came into the picture. Tears and blood have been shed.
‘I do know that the human body is an extraordinary thing. It is capable of so much more than we think. As is the mind.’
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Pictures: Karoline Hanks