Rhino Runner to Storm the Comrades

Greater one-horned rhino in the grass.

Rhino Runner to storm the Comrades

Newton PR, South Africa 04 June 2013

What do you do if you see a rhino running the Comrades?

a. Call animal control
b. Scream for mercy and run in the opposite direction
c. Cheer it on and make a donation to Save the Rhino?

The correct answer is of course C, because chances are it probably won’t be a real rhino but the next best thing — Rhino Runner Vincent O’ Neill, who will attempt the impossible by completing the Comrades within the 12 hour cut off time, wearing his full and now famous rhino costume.

In the ultimate test of endurance O’Neill will for the first time join the iconic 87km stampede in the world’s most legendary ultra-marathon. O’Neill represents UK-based conservation charity, Save the Rhino International, and competes most of his races in a life-sized rhinoceros outfit that weighs over 8kgs.

While rhino costumes have been used before, in marathons and ultra-marathons, O’ Neill will be the first to complete an ultra-marathon solo.

Last year, 668 rhinos were butchered by poachers in South Africa, according to figures released by the Department of Environmental Affairs. This year more than 350 have been lost to the scourge and O’ Neill is determined to make a difference.

“I hope to raise awareness of the efforts of the Save the Rhino charity, in all that they do to protect and nurture rhino populations, and I have set myself a difficult personal challenge; I’m up for testing myself,” said O’ Neill who arrives in Durban on Thursday.

“I hope that South Africans know that the rhino poaching crisis affects us all over the world; running the Comrades in rhino costume is my way of showing that I care and that I want to help. The money I’m raising goes into direct, practical support for anti-poaching efforts in key rhino areas like Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.”

The Rhino Runner, who usually completes a marathon in under three hours without the suit and in under 4:20 in the suit, is well aware of the gargantuan task at hand, especially as Comrades is the “ultimate human race”.

“I expect to take between 11 and 12 hours to complete the course in the costume, which of course makes running more difficult because of the heat inside the cloaked suit, the lack of visibility one has a runner, and the fact that you have to hold your arms out in front of your body to control the rhino head all the time.

“The extra effort, the hill climbs and the heat will all make this a very significant challenge for me. I think I will need to have a very good day to complete it!”

He believes that with dedication, commitment, and belief you can be more. Reflecting on his inspiration behind taking on the Rhino Runner challenge, O’Neill said; “I wanted a bigger challenge. I’ve competed in a number of marathons all round the world; however I wanted to push myself further.  See what nspires the Rhino Runner to ‘Better Your Best’: http://www.youtube.com/asicsvideo?x=eu-en_sports_469_4

The Rhino Runner has supported Save the Rhino since 2005, when he completed a team rhino costume challenge with a relay run-swim-cycle from London to Paris.

Interview requests

O’Neill will be available for interviews on Friday May 31 at the ASICS South Africa exhibit at the Comrades Expo which takes place from May 30 to June 1 at the International Convention Centre in Durban. Donations to Save the Rhino International can be made at the exhibit. For media interviews please contact Trevor Neethling on 0117823224 / 0842428668 / neethling@newtonagency.co.za


Note to editors:

About Save the Rhino International
Save the Rhino International works to conserve viable populations of critically endangered rhinos in Africa and Asia. We recognise that the future of wildlife is inextricably linked to the communities that share its habitat. By funding field projects and through education, our goal is to deliver material, long-lasting and widespread benefits to rhinos and other endangered species, ecosystems and to the people living in these areas. Visit us at www.savetherhino.org

Visit O’Neill’s fundraising page: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ VinnyComrades2013  

Photo credit: Jessica Frei

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