For the last 13 years Lewa Wildlife Conservancy has played host to Lewa Safaricom Marathon – one of the only marathons in the world to be run in a wildlife conservancy, ’One of the top ten races to run in your life’ according to Runner’s World magazine.
The marathon is unique in a number of ways, firstly it’s in a wildlife conservancy (home to the big 5 – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard) with no physical barrier between runners and the wildlife, secondly it is run on dirt track with quite a few hills and last but by no means least it is at altitude – averaging about 5500 ft. A real challenge and not for the faint hearted – but all for a worthy cause. This year’s winner was Philemon Baaru who came in at a time of 2hrs and 19 mins.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy has a goal – to use wildlife conservation as a catalyst to alleviate poverty, reduce conflict, and improve education and livelihoods in rural areas rich in biodiversity. Since the very first one in 2000 the marathon has raised over US$ 3.25 million for a range of education, community development, health and wildlife conservation projects across Kenya (for more info please see here – http://www.lewa.org/support-lewa/safaricom-marathon/). This includes Lewa’s game scout operations to protect the conservancy’s 100+ rhino, including the anti-poaching tracker dog teams (who you can help train as an activity at Lewa House).
In June this year (2012) Lewa House hosted the Artemis Investment marathon team from the UK. Some of the team had run the marathon before and knew the course well whilst for others it was a first time. Each team member put their heart and soul into the race and every member completed the run they set out to do, be it the half marathon or the full a marathon – a great team effort all round.
One of the water points (at the 15km mark) for the runners is located just below Lewa House – so we nipped down with Sophie’s parents to support our runners. It was amazing to see how chatty and upbeat everyone was – even the Artemis team who, heart breakingly, had to run past their own bedrooms having been up since 5am! As the last runners (or walkers!) went past we started to pack up only to notice a very nice set of lion tracks in the dust of the road. They must have walked past the house and along this stretch of the marathon route the night before the race! As the marathon tag line goes – “Running Wild for the Wild”!
All credit goes to Safaricom, Tusk Trust and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy for setting it all up – a quite astounding logistical effort. A number of our friends were also running and as they passed us asked “why aren’t you doing this?” – the pressure is on …… Next Year?
13 July 2012 by Sophie Macfarlane