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Diary of a Marathon Ape Man

One of the world's leading great ape conservation experts Ian Redmond will be running in the Flora London Marathon on Sunday April 18th 2004 in aid of the Ape Alliance and Born Free Ape Projects - from Gentil and other chimp orphans at Lwiro Sanctuary in Congo, to the UN Great Apes Survival Project.

Born Free will be monitoring his progress as he juggles his vital conservation work with preparation for the great race and Caribzones is proud to be associated with this worthy cause.

Sunday 8th February 2004

Social running in humans is a bit like social grooming among primates - it serves the obvious function (keeping fit and keeping fur clean, respectively) and the less obvious function of maintaining social bonds between individuals. Which was why I enjoyed my second training run today - this time I had company.

Last Thursday I finally worked out how to send an email to my whole address book (with a bit of help from Born Free) and discovered there were 1,354 addresses, all of whom are now advised of my marathon madness. Some of them have already responded via, but one response included a challenge and the offer of a training partner.

This came from Vassili Papastavrou, a whale biologist who works for IFAW. Although we are old friends and both live in Bristol, I tend to see more of Vas at international conservation meetings around the world, so it was a good excuse to catch up whilst on our home turf (literally - a nice sunny jog across the Downs to the Camera Obscura, and back along the edge of Clifton Gorge, but no sign of the peregrines today). Vassili ran the Bristol half-marathon last year, and not only offered to sponsor me, but said if I could beat him round the Downs, he'd double the amount. I was relieved to find that his pace was a bit slower than mine, but as we settled down for a post-jog cuppa, he pointed out that today was not the race - that would take place nearer the Marathon, when he too had done a bit of training… Hmm, this is getting serious!

Thankfully I felt much better than I'd feared I would this morning. After feeling really good about my first run on Wednesday (4th), I'd gone to bed tired but confident that my body was going to cope well with getting back into shape. But when I rolled out of bed on Thursday morning, umpteen muscles I'd forgotten I had screamed in protest. The sight of me staggering down the stairs oohing and aahing at every ache was comical to say the least, but did not bode well for the next 10 weeks.

Instead of jogging to the office, I rode my bike and was interested to note that none of the aching muscles came into play - which was fortunate because I had to ride across Bristol to the BBC that afternoon. BBC Radio Bristol wanted a follow-up interview about the orangutan conference in Jakarta, and so I slipped in the fact that I was running the marathon for great apes everywhere. We agreed to do occasional interviews from wherever in the world I find myself training, and hopefully, listeners will be inspired to sponsor me.

Friday was still a pretty aching day, but as I was in London to speak at Destinations, the travel show at Earl's Court, there wasn't much chance of a run. The talk was hosted by IFAW, and was to encourage travellers to avoid buying bits of wild animals as souvenirs. This is a topic I feel strongly about, having twice seen individuals I had come to know, killed for body parts that had a commercial value. First with Digit, the young silverback made famous by his friendship with Dian Fossey, and whom I k for the last year of his life. He was speared to death by poachers in 1977, and then was decapitated and had his hands cut off, all because visitors to Rwanda would at that time buy gorilla skulls and hands as gruesome souvenirs. Ten years later in 1987, it happened again when the amazing underground elephants I had been studying on Mt Elgon, Kenya, were hit by ivory poachers - all because somewhere in the world people were buying ivory jewellery and knick-knacks to put on their mantelpiece. The slogan is absolutely true - YOU BUY, THEY DIE.

Much of the rest of this weekend was spent in what I now class as utilitarian cross-training. This included perching up a ladder drilling endless holes in the toughest concrete lintels I've ever come across to put up curtain rails in a flat, sugar soaping and sanding down the paintwork before decorating the kitchen, and sawing up a dead bush that blew over in the gales the other day. It may not be running, and its not very exotic, but I'm hoping it will build up my stamina as well as getting a few chores done before I go to Malaysia next weekend.

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Born Free is increasingly receiving donations from supporters who have run in other national races including the Great North Run, the Great South Run and the Flora Light Marathon for Women - all raising money for wildlife projects.

If you are taking part in any of these events or others no matter how big or small contact if you would like to raise funds for Born Free.


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