Imagine doing the Great North Run every day for more than a year ... through deserts, mountains and tropical rainforests.
That’s the massive challenge a couple from Northumberland has set – to run from one end of South America to the other to raise awareness of its wilderness and wildlife.
David and Katharine Lowrie set off two months ago from Cape Froward – the most southerly tip of the continent - on their epic 5000 Mile Project, which also involves running as close to barefoot as possible, pulling all their gear behind them on a two-wheeled trailer.
They have finally passed into Chile, but only after an epic battle of wills with Argentinian officials who refused to let them cross the border. With their next destination in sight, they were instead forced to take a series of buses on a 1,000km detour, only to bring them back to almost the same point where they started from.
Last Wednesday, David and Katharine arrived in Valle Chacabuco, the area of Patagonia they are raising money for through their charity, Conservacion Patagonica. It has endured more than a century of intensive overgrazing and the effects, they say, are devastating. The intention is to ‘re-wild’ the area, allowing native plants and wildlife to return.
David’s parents, Brian and Anne Lowrie, who live in Longframlington, have been keeping track of their son and daughter-in-law’s progress via their online blog.
Anne said: “It has been very tough for them, as it is currently winter in South America, and they started out running on snow and hard ice. They are now a bit further north, so the temperatures are a bit better – around five degrees – which is still quite cold.
“They remain totally committed, though.”
David, 34, who was a pupil at Swarland First School, Dr Thomlinson Middle School in Rothbury and King Edward VI in Morpeth, has also been keeping in touch by phone twice a week. Anne added: “They have been giving talks to schools in Cochrane, a small town, which really lifted their spirits.
“The young people were aware of the ecological issues facing the area, which they found very encouraging.”
And it’s not just South American schools which can benefit from David and Katharine’s amazing eco-adventure.
Pupils here in Northumberland can access their Big Toe Classroom, which provides resources, worksheets, project materials and even the chance to interact with David and Katharine directly during their journey.
David said: “We believe the pupils will get a lot more insight from this unique project if they run with us, step by step, and get to understand the phenomenal wildlife, wild places and wild cultures we see through the BigToe Classroom – so we are asking you to get in touch.”
Visit www.5000mileproject.org to follow the expedition.