FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you can’t find an answer below, please get in touch through our ‘contact us’ page.

 

 

 

Why are you doing this????!!!

South America is an extraordinary wild continent with the largest rainforest on earth, the largest river, driest desert and longest mountain range.

It is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. With the Tropical Andes widely considered to me the most diverse region on the planet, containing one sixth of Earth’s plant life within less than one percent of its land area. The Cerrado woodland-savanna of Brazil, the Chilean Valdivian Forests and the east coast’s richly endemic Atlantic Forest are other vitally diverse biomes found on the continent.

South America’s species and habitats are also greatly threatened by human activity. We don’t want to see them disappear. We want to show people how we can all help them in our everyday actions wherever we are!

We also love running and adventure, so what better way of investigating how humankind are impacting South America’s habitats and what we can do to help than running the continent….?! So hopefully, through our sweat, tears and determination, we’ll open a portal into the last wilds of South America and rekindle people’s passion for our amazing natural world where ever they are. ”

Where did you get this crazy idea from?

The germ of the idea formed in 2009 when we were surveying seabirds in the Caribbean. We wanted to do something- raise awareness about South America’s imperiled natural world and undertake a world first expedition.

We thought about walking from west to east through the Amazon, but then found out that a fellow Brit, Ed Stafford, was in the middle of doing it and doing it very well! We thought about walking the length of the continent and hacking a trail through the Amazon, as well as climbing an ancient tree in every continent, but after a couple of weeks in the Amazon on a unguided expedition, we soon worked out this would take us years not one year. Then there was running. Could our bodies with-stand months on end of pounding roads and trails whilst pulling our own kit? We are starting to find out….

Why the “5000MileProject.org” and not “challenge”?

Well, we think that the “5000MileProject” is more than a challenge. We are running with a purpose: undertaking the world’s longest mega transect of wildlife, involving schools through our exciting “BigToe Classroom” and sharing the stories of the nature conservation projects and communities we meet along the way. We hope to have a lasting impact through our feat (ho ho!). For the aims of the project please click here

What would you like people to know about the current situation in the Amazon?

I think people have become jaded about the Amazon issue, as twenty years on, it is still there, but it still needs people’s help. The sad reality is that millions of hectares have been lost to logging, settlement programmes, agriculture and other development. Much of the forest cover that is there is secondary forest that supports a drastically reduced diversity and abundance of animals and plants.

There is also the insidious effect of roads and settlements carving the forest open to the illegal pet trade of endangered species, hunting of threatened species and introduction of invasive species such as cats, dogs and rats which prey on native wildlife. In addition, patches of extant forest are too small for species to live in and without a forest corridor to migrate through they cannot survive.

What other threatened habitats in South America should people be aware of?

There is more to South America than the Amazon! Other precious habitats are also threatened on the continent, including Andean cloud-forest and savanna in countries such as Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela. Habitats are burnt and cleared for cattle grazing and firewood collection, threatening hundreds of species such as the critically endangered and endemic, blue-throated macaw, endangered palkachupa cotinga bird; near-threatened giant ant-eater, jaguar and maned wolf and vulnerable spectacled bear.

While in Patagonia, in the deep south of the continent, overgrazing by sheep and cattle and extraction of ancient temperate rainforest is threatening magnificent natural grassland steppe habitats and species such as the endemic and critically endangered huemul deer and Andean condor and wonderfully charismatic guanaco and Southern mountain viscacha.

What needs to be done about these threatened habitats in South America?

The 5000mileproject is about reminding everyone that we all rely on and impact South American habitats already! But that we can each, wherever we are and whoever we are, do something to help. Whether ensuring we buy forestry assured timber, buying local food and cutting back on using the car and plastic bags. You could support us through “DO-nation” by officially doing an environmental action and help us raise money for Armonia, BirdLife International and Conservacion Patagonica who are conserving South American wild lands. You could also sign up to our 5000mileproject.org newsletter and find out more as we speak to conservationists and local people about what we can all do to help.

We all benefit from these habitats in so many ways, whether through medicines, pollination, carbon sequestration, and much more (check out out ecosystem services page). They also provide homes for millions of amazing plants and animals, as well as homes for indigenous people.

Why did you choose to raise money for Conservacion Patagonica?

We heard about the founders of the charity, Doug and Kris Tompkins whilst living in Chile. Their incredible commitment to conservation is inspirational. They have succeeded in safeguarding threatened, pristine, wilderness and rehabilitating land in Patagonia, through buying and protecting areas that would otherwise be open to exploitation and turning them into sanctuaries.

We finally met the couple one afternoon, with our first meeting held in a chicken coop!  We felt we were speaking a similar language and on learning more about their latest project to create the Patagonia National Park in the Aysén region of Chile, we became determined to support their goal. Which is, “To donate a fully functional new park to the Chilean state with healthy ecosystems, thriving wildlife populations and outstanding visitor facilities. Our program [sic] to build capacity in conservation workers, educate local schoolchildren and engage neighboring [sic] communities build the base of knowledge and support that will allow the park to flourish in the future”.

Why did you choose to raise money for Armonia and BirdLife International?

During our seabird research and education work in the Eastern Caribbean we grew to know David Wege of Birdlife (BLI) and others in the BLI team and hugely valued their professionalism and ability to make things happen; as the catalysts for their over-sea partners. His advice and knowledge of the area were invaluable and readily available. We could see how BLI was instrumental in achieving solid conservation work on the ground.

Through BLI, we were introduced to their partner, Armonίa, Bolivia, who is achieving fantastic conservation results. Work such as buying, creating and managing the first blue-throated macaw reserve (a critically endangered macaw only found in Bolivia). The reserve, will not only conserve this extremely rare macaw, but also species such as the giant anteater and jaguar.

What do you mean by “unsupported”?

Good question. In simple terms we will be pulling our equipment for the length of the journey without assistance. Given we’ll be passing through areas touched by man, it’s simply impossible to live off the land so, yes, we will be buying cooked food along the way and taking showers where possible! We will carry the kit we need for the latitudes we’re running through, but will have one main kit change along the route where we will change from cold weather gear to warm weather gear and replace warn items. We won’t be giving our bags to someone to carry, or a horse, or seeking advantage through motorised transport.

Are you running every mile or walking as well?

We walk the first mile of every day as a crucial warm-up period (bare in mind we are now starting at 05:30 to avoid the heat of the day). This provides us with a key 15 minute window to stretch out, warm-up our muscles, eat breakfast and perform a vital “early day motion” (!) and brush our teeth on the hoof! To avoid injury, we also walk out the last mile of the (20 mile) day if possible. We run every part of the route that is possible: up and down hills, Andean passes, sinuous roads, earth and gravel tracks, through snow, wind and belting rain. On the very few occasions where it is impossible to run with our c.80kg trailer, we use our GPS watch to record distances walked. All running and walking miles (including warm-ups) are entered daily and summarised openly on our running stats page. For comparison’s sake, the type of running we’re doing is more like “mountain marathon” than “track-and-field”. In this type of extreme sport, it’s very usual to see runners walking over small sections of difficult/unfeasible ground.

Are you running every mile barefoot or wearing shoes as well?

Generally we aim to run 10 miles in “barefoot shoes” and “10 miles in “transition shoes” which have a thin heal. Every three miles we alternate pulling the trailer and with the trailer change, comes a change of shoes. We soon learnt that whoever is pulling the trailer cannot use barefoot shoes or run barefoot, because of the different forces at play. A small percentage of our miles are run with no shoes at all. Unfortunately, opportunities for running without shoes are limited by the types of substrates, their temperatures and the unsuitability of running barefoot with the trailer. Running in barefoot shoes is fantastic; we often forget we’re wearing shoes as they’re so light and pliable and with absolutely no heel.

How much gear do you need and how will you carry it all?

Much of the route takes us to very remote locations, so we need to carry all of our own equipment to be able to cook/clean/camp/survey and connect to the world. We have covered much of the kit budget with the help of our donors, sponsors and friends  but we are still looking for funding to meet the expenses of the second part of the year-long expedition. If you can help, or know somebody that can, please visit our sponsors page or contact us.

David has created a specially designed trailer made from recycled materials and bamboo. The aim is to provide a flexible unit which can be disassembled and transported on our backs for certain sections of the route, distribute the weight as best we can do minimise shock loads and injury and provide greatest flexibility. See Blog for details.

What happens if one of you gets injured?

First, all of our training and in-run routines are all geared around not getting injured in the first place, prevention is much better than cure. We have been working with Jonno Gibbins our running coach who has been teaching us the art of “bare foot” running: running efficiently, more naturally and hopefully lessening the likelihood of injury. Karen Johnson, our yoga coach has provided us with a 15 minute post run routine which we follow daily. We will take advice on any injuries we cannot self-remedy or manage locally and will carry medical supplies in our trailer. Our schedule allows for an amount of time to recuperate. If a serious injury arises we have the option for one person to continue in order to meet the project objectives.

How do you keep in touch along the way?

We will carry sufficient technology along the way to stay connected just about wherever we are. With modern technology there is a fantastic opportunity to connect the people of the world in a more meaningful way than just products extracted from one location and sent to another anonymously. We will use multimedia to update our website / blog / forums / and do on site interviews with sponsor organisations and the general media. We want to make the expedition as interactive as possible so people following at home can feel every footstep, every calf strain and blister. We want to create a voyage so inspiring that people will want to log on daily and will better understand and connect with the world’s resources we all depend upon.

If you have any ideas on how you could showcase  your own technology through this expedition, please contact us on our  contacts page

Isn't it going to be dangerous?

Yes it is. Although the following factors are significant challenges (and lethal if we don’t get it right): dehydration, exposure, malnutrition, poisoness snakes and spiders and jungle born disease are not our most significant threat. Humans are. We are travelling a route though some of the most poverty stricken areas on the planet and will be coming across many people engaged in illegal activities whose encounters with Westerners have not always been positive. We will have to reply on our personable nature to manage human threats and recognize that our health is more important than any item of our equipment if we are forced to choose between them.

The advantage of running is that all we really need to continue is a pair of shoes and maybe not even that! . . . . . .

Where will you stay?

We will spend most of the 364 nights of the journey in our lightweight tent, but we will also carry two Hennessey hammocks in the northern sections, not so friendly!, but likely necessary where the ground is basically swamp or trees extend for as far as the eye can see…

At times, if passing through towns for example, we may be forced to take lodgings but for the most part we’ll be in our little pod.

Do you need a special visa?

As we will not be getting paid, then we are able to visit each country on a Tourist Visa. These vary in length but are typically 3 months in South American countries. Our route has this fact in mind and we aim to pass through each country within 3 months.

Will you ever leave the route?

We do not plan to leave the route. If, in unforeseen circumstances, we are forced to leave the route for whatever reason, we will return to the place we left from in order to resume. No advantage will be sought.

What do you two do the rest of the time when you're not out adventuring?

We love cooking, brewing, pickling or jamming anything from the local field! Watching wildlife, learning Spanish (!), learning about new alternative technology, reading and making the most of every day. We live on an old wooden boat and have been surveying birds and other wildlife during a circumnavigating South America since we left the UK over four years ago. Before that there was riding horses, growing vegetables, long cycle rides and the odd film/play.

What will you do for entertainment when not running?!

We will carry a bird book for the country we’re currently running through, a mammal book and a small Spanish dictionary (that’s all the extra weight we can afford)! So hopefully we’ll become fluent on those three core areas! Otherwise, we shall be updating our 5000mileproject.org; presenting to schools and interest groups about the project and ecosystem services and undertaking the mega transect. In the southern section we shall no doubt  be trying to keep warm and doing a lot of sleeping!