Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 139, March 2021 | Page 17


An FKT for a Cause

By Karoline Hanks

Images : Mark Sampson & courtesy Karoline Hanks & Two Oceans Aquarium
Towards the end of October 2020 , I decided to give 13 Peaks another go . I had run it in late August , achieving a time of 21 hours 55 minutes , and for a fleeting few weeks , held the women ’ s record . When my time was beaten by four minutes , I became determined to do a re-run , and try and get it back ! I also felt the need to run with some kind of purpose this time , because if you ’ re going to put yourself through all that pain , bloodshed and relentless elevation gain , why not do it for a cause ?
When I ran the Puffer in 2010 , I raised R25,000 for the conservation of Western Leopard Toads , and now I felt it was once more time to raise money for voiceless threatened wildlife , so one evening in October , I decided that turtles would be my focus this time round . I have always had a huge soft spot for these gentle , magical creatures , and since they are such charismatic ambassadors for the ocean , and much loved by many , I saw this as a great opportunity to raise their profile , and awareness around the challenges they face , notably plastic ingestion and entanglement in fishing gear . What better “ indicator species ” than the turtle !
Enthusiastic Support
I therefore made contact with the wonderful team at the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation Turtle Rescue Programme , and my idea was met with huge enthusiasm and joy by their effervescent and inspiring Chief Executive , Maryke Musson . Their hospital has already rehabilitated and released more than 600 endangered sea turtles . The work they do is phenomenal , and I have always had great respect for the way they take in stranded hatchlings ( and the occasional adult ) and nurse them back to health and ultimate release . Their facilities are world-class , and a visit to their rooftop set-up at the aquarium is a real treat .
The attention and care these precious animals receive is second to none . After a few months ( sometimes years ) of incredibly rigorous veterinary care and close attention , a diet of squid and “ seafood gel ,” they are almost all eventually given a clean bill of health and then released into the big blue . Some of them are fitted with trackers and followed for months , and many of us have followed the successful recovery story of Yoshi , the incredibly adventurous turtle who has made it halfway around the planet since her release ! Aside from this work , their education and awareness efforts are excellent .
My funding target of R60,000 would cover the rehab care for 13 loggerhead turtle hatchlings , including X-rays , ultrasounds , CT scans etc . If I could raise more , we could cover the costs for more turtles . Most of the rescued sea turtles at the hospital present with plastic ingestion , and I decided to use my 13 Peaks run to raise awareness around the impact of plastic pollution on marine animals and to raise funds to cover the rehabilitation costs of 13 turtles . The 13 ‘ patients ’ were thus matched with the 13 peaks , and my supporters ‘ adopted ’ and named these turtles while contributing to their rehabilitation costs .
A few days before my run , I met some of the adopted hatchlings at the Aquarium . What a priceless experience ! I was joined by Anneline Schweitzer of Bonnie Bio , and we had our pictures taken , with Anneline holding Bonnie , who has been adopted by Bonnie Bio , while I was holding Thonga , who has been adopted by the Isibindi Foundation . Despite busy schedules , Maryke and Thalitha Noble took the time out to show us the ropes and introduce us to all their little patients . They were also kind enough to give me a turtle supporter hoodie and a gorgeous turtle mascot , and I said I would take her with me on my run .
Karoline with Thonga
Starting the Journey
I set off at noon from the Signal Hill trig beacon – the official ‘ start ’ of the 13 Peaks Challenge . It felt quite auspicious hearing the Noonday Gun blast us off into action , with Mark Sampson there to capture the moment . An ace sports photographer ( and , it turns out , marine biologist ), he had very sweetly offered to come and take some photos of my attempt . He was incredible at popping up from behind bushes at the base of , and sometimes at the top of , many of the peaks !
This run is a toughie – no bones about it – but to avoid boring readers senseless , I won ’ t go into detail for every peak , just focus on some of the highlights . I reached my first ‘ scheduled ’ milestone in one hour ( Kloof Nek corner ), having bagged Peak # 1 , Lion ’ s Head . Platties was a fairly tough climb , due to the rocks being a little slippery and the fynbos dewy . There was a light , yet chilly drizzle at the top , and very few hikers along the way as a result . Indeed , from the top of Platties all the way to Suikerbossie , I didn ’ t see another soul . It ’ s always a joy having the mountain to oneself !
Maclears , Grootkop and Judas were all bagged , and I actually found myself a little ahead of schedule , which was encouraging . When I was on my own , I took photos of all the peaks with the little wooden turtle I was carrying , for posterity , while on those peaks when I was with someone ( as
Hoody and mascot gift