A Noordhoek endurance athlete has become the first person to run the 13 Peaks Challenge back to back, racking up 212km. And Karoline Hanks did it all for a turtle named Bob.
Bob the Turtle is an endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and a plastic-ingestion survivor.
He is one of the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation’s long-term patients. Bob arrived at the Two Oceans Aquarium in 2014 weighing just 16kg, suffering from plastic ingestion and fractures to the underside of his shell, or plastron, that led to encephalitis.
Despite some decent recovery, Bob was left with mild-brain damage which means some of his natural behaviours are compromised.
Karoline says the rehab team has started Bob on an intense enrichment programme so that he can eventually be released into his natural habitat.
“The enrichment programme has shown promising results. I am raising R70k towards a state-of-the-art tagging device, which will be a vital element in Bob’s eventual release into his big, blue ocean home,” said Karoline.
“Bob is an incredible ambassador around the crisis of ocean plastic – an issue very close to my heart.”
The 13 Peaks Challenge was created by South African trail runner South African runner Ryan Sandes and it includes Signal Hill, Lion’s Head, Maclear’s Beacon, Grootkop, Judas Peak, Klein Leeu Kop, Suther Peak, Chapman’s Peak, Noordhoek Peak, Muizenberg Peak, Constantiaberg, Klassenkop and Devil’s Peak.
Karoline set off from Signal Hill at 11am on Tuesday November 30, on an epic trail-running adventure and personal challenge.
This was not a timed effort, it was just about completing the back-to-back trail challenge in one go. The 212 km route involved tagging 26 peaks and had a cumulative height of 13 000 metres.
“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,” she said afterwards.“
The idea of the back-to-back run had been all the more appealing because she would be the first person to do it – not just the first woman.
The memories of the run are a smorgasbord: meeting a Himalayan Tahr on Llandudno Ravine, shovelling sushi into her mouth at the start of the Chappies trail, cappuccinos and hot tea brought to her by friends, and running with friends and her son, Tim, at different stages.
At four different times during the run, the aquarium team showed up – four women all in turtle outfits cheering her on, holding up posters of Bob, walking some of the way with her and then reappearing at the very end with a big celebratory banner.
It was also gruelling in many parts, and Karoline described her foot pain as feeling as though she had splashed acid onto her feet and ground course salt into the skin.
A nursing friend told Karoline at one point she had looked and sounded delirious and her ankles had been very swollen.
But the venture was also full of beauty, as she shared one of the night runs with a friend who delighted in the smells, spider webs, toads, sounds, stars and orange sickle moon.
In total, Karoline ran 212 kilometres, and she ran for 71 hours and 16 minutes.
“The most I’ve ever run. The most I’ll ever bloody run,” she laughed. But, she did it. For Bob. “We won’t talk about my feet much other than to say they were taken to the doctor and it’s all okay. They weren’t pretty. Crutches and a wheelchair came into the picture. Tears and blood have been shed.“
Her greatest thanks went to friends and supporters, Filippo Faralla, Nicolette Hadden, Chantal Benade and Linda Doke.
“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,” she said.
The B2B4Bob fund-raiser will continue into January, and Karoline hopes to reach her target of R70 000. So far she is three quarters of the way there with R54 000. Visit Quicket to donate.