EIGHT months after becoming the unofficial Guinness World Record holder, local entrepreneur, wildlife warrior and conservationist, Sharon Jessop, is ready to tackle 650 more kilometres for rhino conservation.
The 50-year-old, who will set off on World Rhino Day on September 22, plans to complete her run within 21 days. Jessop became the pride of the metro after she completed 102 consecutive half marathons and became the unofficial Guinness World Record holder on December 31, last year, for the most consecutive half marathon distances run by a female.
She also raised more than R40 000 for the One Land Love It (OLLI) Foundation for rhino conservation and anti-poaching and the Community Chest of the Eastern Cape.
This time, Jessop is also fuelled by the dire state of tourism in the Eastern Cape.
“This is my contribution to the “OLLIMove” OLLI Foundation. The primary aim of this undertaking is to raise awareness and money for those most impacted by the extended lockdown,” Jessop said.
“The people involved with tourism and rhino conservation, have received absolutely no assistance or funding from government despite their livelihoods being on the line.
“No tourists mean that there simply isn’t cash to fund desperately needed conservation efforts. Our rhino were endangered prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and the extended lockdown has ultimately exacerbated an already tenuous situation,” she explained.
With this 650km run that she will be undertaking at her own cost, she wants to remind South Africans that both the tourism industry and rhinos are equally endangered.
“The Eastern Cape is an undiscovered gem that has so much to offer in the way of tourism. By supporting local, South Africans are saving businesses, creating jobs, sustaining entire families and protecting those who can’t speak for themselves: our rhino.”
Jessop mentioned that she will be starting her run from the Mantis Founders Lodge and run through several Eastern Cape game reserves, including Kariega and Sibuya Game Reserves. She will complete her route at Kragga Kamma Game Park.
Jessop initially planned on rounding off her World Record attempt by participating in the main “Run Wild for Rhinos” Expedition, taking place this month.
This would have seen her run from the Mozambique border back to Nelson Mandela Bay, symbolically linking all the reserves containing rhinos.
However, she was worried about further lockdown regulations being imposed and decided to rather keep her efforts centred in the Eastern Cape.
When asked how she prepared for this race both mentally and physically, she answered: “I’m pretty fit all the time as I still compete in races. Plus, I’m always contemplating new adventures. As for mental preparation, I simply don’t have that ‘thing’ in my head that tells me I can’t do it. I always go into these adventures knowing that I’ll succeed.”
Although she is very excited about this next adventure. Jessop said she thinks that the mountains will definitely be her greatest challenge.
“As I’m going all the way to Great Fish Nature Reserve, I’ll definitely be going up and over a couple of mountains!”
However, her previous adventure has taught her that it is important to keep on going.
“It’s about putting one foot in front of the other. Plus, I have realised that the human body is incredibly resilient and an amazing machine. I’m in awe at everything that our bodies are capable of,” she said.
“I’m excited and very optimistic. I’m on a massive mission to raise awareness on rhino conservation, community upliftment and to hopefully do my bit to help resurrect tourism in the Eastern Cape.”
Jessop has started a Crowd-funding campaign that aims at raising not only awareness but also R1 million and at least R100 000 by the time she sets off next week.
All profits will be equally divided between the OLLI Foundation and various game reserves and their foundations, such as the Mantis Collection’s CCFA.