Kiwi Jacqueline Manson wins inaugural For Rangers ultra in Kenya
An outstanding performance in hot and dry conditions across the Laikipia Plains in Kenya has seen endurance athlete Jacqueline Manson prove she is one to watch, finishing as the first female and an extremely credible 7th overall at the inaugural For Rangers Ultra in Kenya.
Photo credit: For Rangers / Mikkel Beisner
Broken into five stages, the race covered 220 kilometres in total, with athletes weaving their way over five conservancies, spotting plenty of wildlife along the route including elephants, buffalo, zebra, impala and giraffe, and the main reason behind the race, the black rhino.
The Hawea-based athlete went out hard from the start, finishing the first day in second place, a mere three minutes behind the leading female Elizabeth Winton who finished in a time of 5hrs 14mins. Relentless heat, undulating terrain and 2,000m above sea level meant Manson had to have her wits about her right from the start.
Starting at 7am on Day 2 to beat the heat, she took the lead early on and never looked back, building on her time over the following four days. She crossed the finish line on Day 5 an impressive 28 hours 29 minutes later, securing the women’s title.
A tough final day with some steep inclines and the temperature sitting around 34 degrees for most of the day pushed her to the limit. “I was just red-lining the whole way. All I could think was one foot in front of the other and to focus on the finish.” She credits Scott Waterman, a good friend who is based north of Kaikoura, as instrumental in helping her get through the final stage. “I just sat on his feet the whole way. I would have been at least half an hour longer if it wasn’t for him,” Manson says.
Rangers followed every runner throughout the race and helicopters in the air meant threats from wildlife were never an issue, with Manson feeling completely safe the whole way. “Being so close to the rangers who were stationed along the route ensuring the runners a safe passage, while still being able to enjoy being right beside the wildlife, made it a magical experience,” she says.
Not a stranger to endurance events, having competed in the famous Marathon des Sables in Morocco’s Sahara desert and the Jungle Ultra in Peru, Manson puts this one at the top of her list. “This is the best race I’ve ever competed in. It was a great atmosphere with incredible views across the plains full of game in the heart of wildlife conservancies.” She said she had to pinch herself more than once as she was running through Africa with animals all around her.
Run by Beyond the Ultimate, in partnership with For Rangers and Save the Rhino, the race raises much-needed funds for the welfare of rangers who risk their lives daily to protect Africa’s endangered species. Over the last 15 years, 1,000 rangers have been killed in the line of duty. Shockingly, a higher number than the British Army losses over Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The extermination of elephants and rhinos is happening in our lifetime, and this race is doing all it can to ensure we are not the generation that lets these animals disappear from the face of the earth.
Manson described the event as one for the ‘bucket list’, and she doesn’t use that term lightly. “The sunrises and sunsets were amazing. We slept in army tents at night and listened to the lions and hyena.” She said the experience was truly unique. “The whole event was extremely well run from start to finish, with added extras such as Eliud Kipchoge [2016 Olympic marathon gold medallist] awarding medals at the finish line and meeting an orphaned baby rhino while out on course. Unforgettable!”
The second For Rangers ultra is planned to take place in September 2019. With the interest they have had already, it will no doubt sell out quickly.