By Mark McConville
A BRITISH couple who were the first people to run the length of South America unsupported, a total of 6,504 miles, in just over 14 months have detailed their extraordinary exploits in a new book.
Katharine and David Lowrie (both 39), from Devon and Northumberland respectively, ran from Cabo Forward in Chile, the southernmost tip of the continent, through Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and finally Venezuela to the Carupano and the Caribbean sea.
Stunning pictures from their book show them on their adventure running through the Brazilian Amazon, taking in the breathtaking carretera austral of Chile and stopping at remote schools to give presentations along the way.
The incredible feat of ecologist Katharine and management consultant David is the basis of Katharine’s new book, Running South America, published by Whittles Publishing.
“It was the hardest, most gruelling challenge we’ve ever undertaken,” said Katharine.
“We were constantly told we shouldn’t go any further, that we’d be eaten by jaguars or shot by terrorists.
“But it was the most beautiful, natural and simple existence:- our job was running, putting one foot in front of another every day, making a hole in the forest to sleep and cooking our meal each night. Life was tangible.
“It was so much better for our sanity, then being trapped in a box shunting oneself from an office box, to a house box to a sit in front of ‘Tele’ box. Humans need wild places and green places. They are where we evolved and flourish.
“It was the most extraordinary feeling- to have conquered a continent; something we never thought would be possible.
“Even in the last nine marathons in nine days we still doubted we could do it. Plunging into the warm sea of the Caribbean was like a dream.
“But really neither of us wanted to finish the run. It would have been lovely just to keep going.”
Katharine and David ran for the charities Birdlife and their partner Asociacon Armonia, who are based in central Bolivia and Conservacion Patagonnia who have a reserve in the Chacabuco Valley, Chile. They wanted to tell the story of the on-the-ground conservation work they are doing.
The couple ran barefoot or almost barefoot for the most part except when they had to run with a trailer of supplies and struggled with the challenge most at the start.
“The start was the toughest,” said Katharine.
“Our untrained bodies had to cope with the freezing temperatures and running 20 odd miles per day. Dave’s fingers stuck to a tent peg because it was so cold. We had cramps, sore thighs, knees, so many aches.
“But when we stayed one night in a youth hostel, Dave’s feet swelled up like turnips because what we hadn’t realised was that those freezing temperatures were acting like an old round ice pack.
“Then there were ferocious winds through much of southern Argentina, which was like running against a demon and there were so many tough parts.
“But catching a glimpse of a beautiful bird or mammal or being given drinks and food by complete strangers made it all worthwhile.”
The authors also stopped and gave presentations to remote schools they encountered along their running route.
“When we passed schools we would often stop and knock on their doors,” said Katharine.
“They were usually incredibly remote and had never been visited by their own kinsfolk, let alone a couple of foreigners from distant shores.
“We would talk about the wildlife we’d seen and watched how it functioned in the ecosystem, the jobs it carried out and how amazing it is to run and to follow your dreams.
“It was one of the most wonderful parts of the expedition; we learned so much from the children and teachers and village communities and so enjoyed sharing our journey.”
To buy a signed and dedicated copy of Running South America, by Katharine Lowrie and published by Whittles Publishing visit: http://www.5000mileproject.org/shop/