Jennifer Niksch recently undertook – and completed – Expedition Africa, a daunting 500km adventure race to raise funds and awareness for the treatment of clubfoot. She raced with Lunar Chicks, the only all-girls team in a field of 54 teams, mostly made up of three guys and one girl.
We caught up with Jennifer after the race to hear how it went.
Congrats on undertaking such a mammoth journey for STEPS! Tell us how the race went.
Adventure racing is something you can really only understand if you have experienced it. The physical exertion on your body is minor compared to the lack of sleep, the challenge of navigating and the emotional challenges you face. Pressing on through the night and in poor weather conditions puts you in a different zone.
The transition points are surreal with everyone wondering around planning the next leg and packing and unpacking their boxes – organisation is key as you need to ensure that you have food en route and the correct equipment for the next leg.
Some of the legs are really long and the time it took to get from point to point blew my mind. The second night we hiked 60 kilometres and it took us 22 hours! I was blown away by the human spirit and how people continued despite having injuries and the most awful blisters on their feet.
What was the most challenging part?
The navigation. If you do not have a good navigator in your team, you will get lost and it wont be possible to complete the race. You only pick up each route at the previous transition point so you are unable to plan ahead. As the race goes on, the navigator gets more tired and it is easy to make mistakes.
What was the highlight for you?
Crossing the finish line and the first and last days. The support from the Knysna community and friends was incredible and the weather on both days was beautiful and showcased the amazing scenery of our coastline.
What message would you like people to take away from your efforts?
Anything is possible – just remember to breathe and take things one step at a time. You will be amazed at the human spirit.
World Clubfoot Day is 3 June, and Jen’s fundraiser target for STEPS will support the effective treatment of three children born with clubfoot. If you would like to donate to support Jen’s tremendous achievement, you can do so by clicking the link below: