Don’t we all want to make the world a little bit better? Unfortunately it tends to be tricky to schedule such frivolities and left-wing hobbies in our time deprived lives in a society where personal success is measured by superficial status, material possession and professional growth. Even worse: we are hindered to great extent by marketing, by social media and sadly mostly by each other to truly get in touch with ourselves, discover our own values, look in our hearts and imagine how we personally can make this world a slightly better place.
My quest for myself, my values and my role in the world has been (and still is) a long and laborious one. It is a journey I would have never made if I hadn’t met my wife Michelle and we hadn’t adopted our first dog – the Podenco Cash – against a lot of unsolicited advice. I’ll save you that story (but if you’d like to be introduced to Cash: read here). This web page is dedicated to a project that will keep me busy for the coming years, fulfilling my desire to contribute to a better world in a way that suits me.
Every project needs a worthy name. And to be contemporary and to get noticed it should self-evidently comprise superlatives and a touch of megalomania, all preferably fortified by a bombastic, epic soundtrack. Behold:
Did you see the Podenco? No? Watch again. In June 2019 the idea for ‘The ULTRA Endeavour’ was conceived (read how in this blog post). Very briefly summarized this is the plan: I will
- train ferociously for long mountain trail runs and share my experiences,
- show that such a feat can be achieved on a predominantly plant based diet,
- travel to and volunteer for animal refuges abroad and share those experiences as well,
- put a spot on the (far) horizon to run a beautiful but demanding 100+ km ultra-trail to raise money to save lives of abused, neglected and discarded animals.
Quite likely this raises questions, many of them starting with ‘why?’ I can understand that. When I started articulating my ambition, the reactions spanned a spectrum ranging from heart-warming endorsements to rather brusque questioning of my mental condition. And therefore the first phase of the project revolves around earning my credibility. I want to convince you that this is not about a one-time only, self-destructive event, but about a journey of sportsmanship, dedication and involvement. Before I ask support of others, I will break a sweat myself. Although I am reasonably sporty and fit, it will take time and discipline to build up to a 100+ kilometer mountain race in a healthy, responsible way and run a competitive time.
One thing should be clear by now: the Podenco is in the spotlight. My thesis is that we can improve our world by caring more about the animals with whom we share it, by treating them with respect and as equals, by protecting them against the harm that is inflicted upon them for human greed and arrogance. Bringing sand to the beach? Maybe. But if many, many people contribute a tiny piece, all those small fragments together can make a substantial whole. If I can inspire someone – even if it’s only one person – to chip in his or her piece, it helps! The anchor of my contribution is the Podenco. With their resilience, the trust they show when opening up to strangers after all they’ve endured, the strength they summon when climbing out of the deepest depths and with their gratefulness when flourishing in a new, loving home these Spanish hunting dogs teach us that every effort to better the world is rewarded. And the vast, international network of volunteers in which the most diverse people congregate to make a joint effort for them shows that there is always hope. Anyone, everyone can make a difference.
This is what The ULTRA Endeavour ultimately is about: making a difference and showing that everybody can. I do so through running, that I embraced due to my own four dogs. They are happy when we share a run through the woods. But when in June the notion arose to run against animal cruelty, running became something greater. On the one hand because of the goal, on the other hand because for the first time I started testing my limits in it. When I run in the tranquility of nature, I am temporarily disconnected from our hectic society. It’s meditative: surrounded by the sounds, scents and sights of forests, hills and mountains I get in touch with myself while battling my own limitations, powering through the discomfort and digging deeper than I thought I could with a smile on my face. Every step brings me closer to my goal and to myself.
By sharing the adventure – and it’s going to take a while – I want to show appreciation for nature by sporting in nature. And by showing that it’s all possible on a healthy diet free from animal cruelty, I hope to contribute to an awareness of it in a positive way. I don’t eat meat or fish (anymore) and only small bits of dairy that we carefully source from a local farm that is transparent about the quality of the life of their cows. And since we got three hens in our own care recently, they supply us with eggs. I won’t ask any of you to do the same. But I do like to show you what’s possible and to break the stigma that animal products are a necessity for building a strong and healthy body. I hope that you’ll follow my endeavour here, and that many others will do the same via you. That my efforts will inspire you to support me, or start your own initiative (or keep doing it!) for a better world. That the stories about Podencos and the shelters I’ll visit will contribute to a better life for any number of dogs. And of course when the time is there, that I’ll raise a proper sum of money with a sports achievement to be proud of and donate it to the network of people that fully voluntarily dedicate their lives for a dignified life for all those animals out there that deserve it.