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The spotlight will be on the elites as they chase Olympic qualification but one amateur runner will certainly catch the eye at next week’s Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon thanks to his decision to run wearing a full-blown rhinoceros suit.
Running for the foundation Save The Rhino, South African Richard Flamand will don a special 9kg suit and tackle the classic 42.195km distance alongside his ‘zoo keeper’ for the day Justin Twort. And as if the heavy suit wasn’t enough of a challenge, for both men it is their first ever attempt at a marathon.
“There are only twelve suits like this in the world and Save The Rhino lend them out to people to run in events like the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon to raise money for the foundation,” said 35 year-old Dubai-based Flamand, whose father works for the WWF’s Black Rhino Expansion Project in South Africa.
“I’m going to run in Dubai, while my brother Philippe will do the same a week later in Hong Kong, which will be the first time the suits have been seen in those parts of the world. We decided to run for Save The Rhino as we believe it’s time that we raised awareness of the plight of the rhino everywhere but especially in these cities.
“We have set up a fundraising website where people can donate something to the cause. It is very easy and the money goes direct to Save The Rhino.” (see link on our Charities Page to contribute).
While admitting that finishing in anything under six hours will be a bonus, Flamand and Twort will be looking for support along the way on January 27.
“I’m sure the spectators will cheer us on but it is going to be one heck of a challenge and I am just hoping the weather holds good as it can be up to five degrees hotter in the suit. But the cause is worth it as the recent poaching explosion worldwide means many rhino species are nearing extinction and we are literally running out of time.
“At the turn of the 19th century, there were approximately one million rhinos, yet today there are fewer than 25,000 rhinos surviving in the wild. In fact, the last Javan rhino in Vietnam has just gone extinct.”
Staged under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, and under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is expected to see over 15,000 runners in the marathon, the 10km and the 3km Fun Run.
But while many will turn out in fancy dress as pirates, super heroes and aliens, it’s unlikely that any will match Flamand for commitment and spectacle when the races start from outside The Pavilion Downtown Dubai opposite the Burj Khalifa.
“The event will see a great deal of runners taking to the streets of Dubai to raise money for a whole host of worthwhile charities and we wish them all the best of luck,” said Event Director Peter Connerton. “Having the famous rhino suit running in Dubai is a first for us. Hopefully it won’t prove too heavy and we’ll see the guys collect their medals at the finish line.”
The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is supported by The Dubai Sports Council, Dubai Holding, “Official Outfitter” adidas, Emaar, Dubai Eye 103.8 FM, Sport 360, TNT, Fitness First, Plan B and by government departments Dubai Police, RTA, Dubai Municipality DHA and the Dubai Ambulance Services. Runners looking to compete in the Marathon, the 10km or the 3km Fun Run can still register online at this website until January 24.