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Run across Africa by Jonathan O’Hanlon

Run across Africa by Jonathan O’Hanlon –

”Here’s the story …

On the 12th June 2008 through a series of synchronistic events a dream and an idea were born.  The dream was to do something significant about raising awareness worldwide for the plight of elephants and their ever nearing extinction, whilst at the same time to raise funds for their conservation.  The idea was to do something remarkable and crazy to attract attention to this cause, which resulted in the plan to run across the breadth of Africa.


Throughout the planning and research for the event it became clear that a key component of an elephant’s existence, as well as the sustainability of the planet, was water.  The run then became an event to raise awareness and funds for elephant conservation and water sustainability.

7 years later almost to the day on the 21st June 2015 I (Jon) started the run following the 20 degrees south latitude (the run was called “The 20 Degrees South Run”) from the West coast of Africa at Torra Bay across Namibia, across Botswana, down through South Africa along the African Ivory Route, across The Kruger National Park (although permission was only obtained to run through the Mozambique section of the park), and across Mozambique to the sea at Xai Xai finishing on the 18th September 2015.  A distance of 2,600 km running the equivalent of a marathon every day for 3 months.

I had a support runner with me as well as 3 other support crew in two vehicles.  One vehicle stayed with the runners to provide support whilst the other two support crew in the other vehicle took care of all the necessary, and quite substantial and often difficult, logistical needs of finding camp sites, food, fuel, and the very crucial water, and preparing all the meals.


The expedition faced many challenges. Examples of these include having travelled 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; encounters with Botswana police; running and camping in the rain with no electricity or fire; a variety of leg and foot aches and pains while running; and running out of tea bags!  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.  dscn2930_resized

Although initially disappointed at having so few elephant sightings, and finding only two flowing rivers across two whole countries, I realised that these realities were precisely proving the point of the run and the awareness I was seeking to raise around the need for wildlife conservation and scarce water resources.  But, as the running and the support services required absorbed most of the time and energy, the conservation and education objectives that I’d hoped to achieve did not happen.

In fact it can safely be said that whilst the trip was an immense achievement in that that no-one has completed this run before, as far as achieving my dream is concerned it was a failure.  My experiences pre, during, and post the event have provided me with a huge amount of life lessons, insights about myself, and useful information on what to do and what not to do the next time … yes, there is going to be a next time.

I realised that I had made a commitment to do something about elephants and water, and I had not met this commitment, my dream still needs to be realised.  So I am planning to use all the lessons learned from my previous run and to do it all again, and this time (sigh) it is going to be a distance of almost twice that done previously – which I will be able to confirm once I have done a rough mapping on my new Map Studio map,  I am currently in discussion with The Tusk Trust ( who are interested and have asked me to submit a proposal, and soon I will be meeting with Steppes Travel ( who have also expressed an interest.”


5 pictures for you for now : one of me running ; another being us pouring over a map
planning the route; and one of our 
camp sites, we generally just camped at the side of the road and the last one of me having a rest and some nutrition at about the 26km mark of the day’s run. 






This story is a very brief précis on the run, please feel free to ask for more detail on this and any questions you might have, and if you would like to copy this story please also feel free to edit it if you need, it has become quite a bit longer than I intended.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of me with the map that you custom made for me (with Charles’s help)