He ran from Namibia to Cape Town to give stray animals a chance

 
 
 

A helipad isn’t the ideal training ground for a duathlon. But it’s all engineer Willie Richards had when working on a support vessel for oil rigs. Aiming to complete 1 700 kilometres on foot and by bicycle, he prepared by consistently running laps on the limited surface. It paid off when Richards completed his 19-day journey from Namibia to Cape Town. More than a vanity project, his extreme efforts contributed to improving the lives of domestic animals.

Richards’ campaign, #WheresWillie, was in support of the NPO African Tails. Their project Mending Mamre seeks to sterilise cats and dogs in Mamre, Western Cape. Sterilisation stops overpopulation and the need for euthanasia, giving animals the chance to lead long, happy lives. “People in the poorer communities haven’t got the money to spend on sterilising or dipping a dog, because the first thing in poor areas is to feed yourself,” Richards says. His battle through extreme heat and powerful winds to raise funds was worth it. So far, the NPO has managed to sterilise 80% of the Mamre breeding population, meaning fewer animals will be subject to abandonment or neglect.

When Richards finished his duathlon, he had travelled over 1 800 kilometres, far above his original goal. He covered most of the distance by running, averaging 97 kilometres a day. It seems unthinkable. But spending so much time at sea, Richards believes he has to make his moments on land count. That’s why he’s committed to a number of local charities. Mamre in particular has benefitted. Pet owners there also learnt about responsible animal care, received food, new kennels, and medical treatment for their cats and dogs. “I think if everybody does something small, it will lead to something great,” Richards says. “Everybody can make a change.”