Rhino Boy Hits His Century
In 1997, we went on our first trip to Africa. We saw loads of fascinating things for the first time, but we didn't do too well with rhinoceros. From our diary:
Eventually get our best rhino sighting – a fair way off, but better than the two distant black blobs we’ve yet seen. Just about every vehicle in the crater converges on this one rhino, but shortly after we arrive, he decides he’s had enough and flops down in the grass. Still, there are so few rhino left in the wild (Ngorongoro has a total of 13!) that we can’t complain too much.
At that time, Tanzania's government had only recently woken up to the fact that rhinos had all but been wiped out and finally started to offer some protection. Since then, African numbers have slowly recovered, especially for the Southern White Rhino, but the Sumatran and Javanese species are still critically endangered at probably fewer than 80 individuals each!
We've visited several other parts of Africa in more recent years, but mostly not places where rhino would be found. Etosha National Park in Namibia was a definite prospect, but we weren't lucky.
So we need rhinos to thrive and grow in numbers to the point that we can actually see some close up!
All this is by way of introduction to what we're all doing to support "Rhino Boy", aka Chris Green, who's been raising money for SaveTheRhino.org by running marathons. Well, he started by 'just' running marathons, but now mostly does them wearing a rhinoceros outfit! After what was apparently a bit of a slow start, he put on a more of a charge in recent years, and blimey: this is going to be his hundredth!
The Ngorongoro crater and other such venues being a bit tricky on logistical grounds, it will be along the Thames towpath in the exotic lands of Walton and West Molesey.
Amanda and Merilyn will be running, and this not being one of the rare exceptions to the natural order of things, I shall be on my bicycle and taking pictures.
So... Let's get bloggy with it...
Remember, this is not just some random bunch of pictures to illustrate some random bunch of runners doing some random bunch of runnings, this is Art, darlings; so we'd better start with an arty shot.
Now I was going to get all poncy and use some fancy Greek words here, but there's a problem: the Greeks didn't really distinguish between what we today call 'art' and 'craft'. The same word, τέχνη (ok, 'techne' for you English-only types) was used for both those concepts. Today, of course, we derive words like "technical" and "technology" from that Greek origin, and as anybody in such a field will tell you, it is half art, half craft (and also half mathematics, but that's for another day).
It's not that surprising if our categories today don't equate directly to the categories of people who lived in a different world thousands of years ago, but it makes life difficult if you're trying to be amusingly pretentious in a blog. Instead, I have to offer you serious links to really interesting articles, like https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/episteme-techne/
This is a major reason why some of these blogs get a little delayed in the writing: the Interwebs suck me in to a black hole of acquisition of knowlege that will undoubtedly never be financially or morally beneficial, but that's not the point...!
So, yes, arty picture of Amanda and Merilyn framed by the sculpture thingy outside the Excel Centre.
Aha! Rhino without Rhino Boy!
Not sure where he is right now, but the secondary evidence of his presence is clearly strong. That said, one of the main ways that animal trackers infer the presence of unseen animals nearby is by observing fresh poo on the ground. The absence of rhino dung is, we very much hope, not merely a concession to Home Counties sensitivities.
But let us pose!
We are: RHINO SQUAD!
Unlike the custom shirts we've made on some occasions, these T-shirts are an existing design we found online. They're cotton, not tech fabric, but nobody is really planning to push so hard that this will be a serious problem. (And we're going to make sure that Merilyn doesn't get too carried away and pushes too hard, because she's supposed to be building up to Boston, not going for broke. It may be hard, but we will be violent with her if necessary.)
Oh, this doesn't look like a particularly difficult picture to take. Obviously if I'm going to be in it I can't take it, but everyone is very friendly here, nobody will mind if I ask them to use my camera....
Well... the first chap doesn't mind, but he's sorry, he hasn't got his glasses on and he can't really see the controls clearly.
Second chap? Well again presbyopia has struck. I explain that he can use the viewfinder instead of the screen (which is my preference anyway), but it's still a bit too complex and he regretfully demurs.
Looking around, I turn to a 20-something girl whose eyesight is surely up to it and beg her assistance. Fortunately, the idea of looking at a screen and pressing a button is not beyond her, even though my camera is nothing like a phone -- and quite possibly nothing else she's ever used. I tell you, I despair of the older generation sometimes.
IT'S THE MAN!!!
And he's putting the rhino costume on. It weighs 13kg, which doesn't sound a huge amount to carry – well, not for a couple of hundred metres, but it's going to be a lot when you're running 26.2 miles!
He's got his rhino on, and the girls are ready to rock!
It's definitely a touch chilly, and there's a bit of a nasty wind, but in the pictures it looks terribly pretty.
The route is towards Hampton Court and back, so the (in)famous Blue Bridge will not feature in this event. Phoenix regulars definitely have a love/hate relationship with that bridge, but what's hard to fathom sometimes is why it's not a simple 'hate'. If you're lucky, it's a short sharp hill you didn't need, thanks, but if you're not, it's a maelstrom of casual walkers, bikers, and quite possibly people trying to do their own morning run in the opposite direction to you. I think it must be a form of Stockholm Syndrome.
To our slight surprise, the route doesn't turn around at the Hampton Court end of the towpath, but well before.
When we ask, Rik will later explain that the idea is to make a shorter lap so that people have more options for their choice of distance. While the general majority of running events are specific distances, Phoenix generally take a more flexible and inclusive position: "This is the lap: run one or more laps to get the goodies and the kudos, but the actual distance is up to you".
Yes, they're cutting the turnaround corner!
Thought you could get away with it, did you? Thought I wasn't looking? Huh! Rumbled!
Rhino boy is on his way out as they're on their way back.
My thanks to the lady in the black top, for it was she who alone rose to the challenge of taking a picture with my camera earlier.
[Right, I'm off to Surbiton Farmers' Market now to buy some provisions. Talk amongst yourselves until I return.]
[I'm back. Did you miss me?]
Perhaps because this turnaround is in full view of everyone, they don't cheat here.
Amanda's now done her half-marathon distance, so she'll end it here, but Merilyn wants to get some more distance in as she's in training for the Boston Marathon. No, not that one in the colonies, the original Boston in Lincolnshire . A full marathon is probably too much, but another couple of laps will get her to the 20-mile mark or thereabouts.
Rik gives Amanda her rhino medal.
Rhino Boy hasn't finished but he tends to get waylaid for selfies every time he returns to base. The picture, incidentally, is a painting of the medal design.
Right, she's had her fun, now she has to do her duty and check out some not very interesting family WhatsApp messages. I shall go off and give Merilyn some support.
I find her at Teddington Lock.
Oops - almost forgets to pick up her lap wristband!
Another photo stop. I think they've both blown any chance of a PB.
Bling. But more importantly...
Another fine cake for later, but we will have to be gone by the time this one is cut.
Well, if it isn't a woman in a White Star "Dark Side of the Moo" shirt! I was wearing my own one of those just the other day. Hi Carole!
But that's it. We have to go to visit Amanda's mother so we can't hang around for Rhino Boy to finish, but our best wishes to him and congratulations in advance.
Love to all,