RUNNING the marathon is one challenge, running it wearing a heavy, sweat-inducing rhinoceros outfit is quite another.
But Castletown’s Harry Owen is doing just that in London this April to raise funds for Save the Rhino.
‘Don’t ask why,’ he said, in answer to the question: Why the rhino suit?
‘It’s a personal challenge,’ he said. ‘I’m running anyway. It does raise the profile [of the charity] a lot as well. People are more willing to support that because it’s different.’
This is the charity’s biggest fundraiser and this year there will be 70 ‘rhinos’ running the streets of London. All have to raise at least £1,250 to participate in the marathon for Save the Rhino.
The critical plight of rhinos is so intense the charity needs all the publicity and funding it can get. 100-years-ago there were 500,000 rhinos, today there are fewer than 25,000. The problem is escalating, in South Africa 13 were killed in 2007, in 2012 that figure rocketed up to 668 (almost double the 448 killed illegally in 2011).
‘The Chinese want it [the rhino horn] for ornaments and they have weird perceptions about its use for medicines [it is considered a cure for several diseases including cancer].’
After Castle Rushen High School, Harry gained a degree in geography and conservation at Plymouth University, now the 22-year-old is applying to do a masters in environmental studies at King’s College, London.
He graduated last May and since then, has worked at his dad’s pub, the Viking and at a desk job in Douglas.
He worked with the charity in Fiji improving the lives of impoverished people last summer, while ‘a great life experience’ it confirmed his belief that his passion is in animal conservation.
The rhino suits are expensive, and only available on the day of the marathon – April 22 – making preparation difficult so he trains with a 10kg rucksack.
‘They describe it as like running in a sauna,’ he said. ‘It’s thick plastic, there are straps that dig in because of the weight, you cannot train for what you are putting yourself through. It’s just gritting your teeth on the day.’
Rainy weather will not help as it will just make them heavier.
Why, in a world of need, should we care about the rhino? ‘If this carries on, they will not be there any more. They are defenceless animals, people with guns kill them for greed, it is not a necessity, they put it [the horn] on the mantle piece. Sometimes they don’t even kill them before they use a chain saw and have taken half their face away, and they are still walking around. And we are not the only ones on this planet, are we?’
To contribute, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the webpage: www.justgiving.com/harryjfowen