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SOS Rhino : In the News : Zebra, rhinos spice up marathon

Zebra, rhinos spice up marathon


By Doug Moe
July 4, 2003

THIS DOESN'T happen at every marathon.

" One of our runners had to dodge a herd of zebra," Jean Anderson was saying Thursday. "Another one had a run-in with a rhino and her baby. There was a helicopter keeping watch and it swooped in."

Anderson, 37, is director of development/research at the UW Foundation. She's just back from an extraordinary trip to Africa, where she ran a 26.2-mile marathon to support the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, a 55,000-acre preserve 140 miles from Nairobi.

Anderson didn't just run in support of the conservancy, she ran in the conservancy - 26 miles of dirt roads and hot sun that added up to an experience she'll never forget.

Originally from Darlington, Anderson has been in Madison since 1998. She has been long distance running for four years and last year she heard about a Boston-based company, Marathon Tours, that coordinates trips and races worldwide. Last year was the first trip to the conservancy in Kenya. Anderson signed up for this year's trip last July.

A total of 50 runners - 44 Americans and 6 Mexicans - left June 21. "The day they closed the U.S. embassy in Nairobi," Anderson said. That was due to security concerns, and Anderson said that once they were in Kenya, it was clear the country's tourism economy has taken a severe hit. "We never felt unsafe," Anderson said, adding that wherever they went, Kenyans told them to go home and spread the word that "Kenya is safe."

The group visited museums and markets in Nairobi, though Anderson said it did not have the feel of a city of more than 3 million people. They stayed at a safari camp on the conservancy grounds and went on game viewing expeditions where they saw rhinos, elephants, giraffes and zebras in their natural habitat.

Each of the runners was asked to raise money in pledges for the Tusk Trust, which helps preserve the endangered species as well as support schools and a medical clinic in the Lewa area. Anderson was the event's first runner ever from Wisconsin, and she raised the most money of any American individual - $1,950. All told the group contributed $25,000.

The race itself was June 28. Of the 400 participants, 300 ran a half marathon. Anderson did the full 26.2 miles and was pleased with her performance at high altitude. Afterward the runners high-fived and drank an African beer called Tusker.

Back in Madison, she was happy to find the beer at an east African restaurant on State Street. Did she order one?

" Not here," Anderson said. "I had plenty over there." ...

Copyright 2002 The Capital Times

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