Running to save a species

By Natalie Muller 7 November 2013
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By running from Sydney to Melbourne two men have raised enough cash to protect two plants from extinction.

WHEN CHRIS TURNBULL and Len Gervay arrived at Melbourne’s GPO today, they kissed the sandstone, gave each other a triumphant hug and settled down for a well-deserved beer.

After running 900km from Sydney to Melbourne in 12 days, and raising enough money to save two endangered plant species, they have a lot to be pleased about.
“There wasn’t a trophy or any prize money,” Chris says. “We were just happy to have done what we never thought was possible.”

Chris, 27, and Len, 30, battled sleet, 130km/h winds and sleep deprivation to raise cash for the Save a Species campaign – an initiative of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and the Australian Geographic Society – to preserve the DNA of threatened plants.

Two thousand dollars is enough to pay for the seeds of one plant to be preserved in the NSW Seedbank. But the lads have raised enough to save two: the critically endangered Wee Jasper Grevillea (Grevillea iaspicula) and Kalphake’s Sedge (Carex klaphakei) a tall perennial herb that grows in swamps.

Toughing it

Both guys are engineers based in Sydney, and thought it would be a good idea to use their two weeks of annual leave, as you do, to run 900km and do something for the environment.

“I work full-time designing and building highways, and Len does a similar thing with transport, so we’re both involved in clearing land. This is just to give something back,” says Chris.

He is no stranger to covering large distances. He won the 100km Sydney Oxfam Trailwalker and finished the Coast 2 Kosciusko 240km ultra-marathon, but over the past 12 days he has covered almost four times that distance.

“The run was harder than expected because of the weather, but what kept me going was the knowledge that many people were behind us,” he says.  Locals from regional towns joined them along the way, and one man even jogged alongside them for seven hours.

“It was beautiful, it was like being a wild man out there, with the sun on your back, that’s the best thing about running,” Chris says.

Anyone can raise money for the Save a Species campaign, run by the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust. Just set a goal, find some sponsors and register online.