Book Review – Running South America with my Husband and other animals by Katharine Lowrie

RUNNING SOUTH AMERICA with my Husband and other animals is written by Katharine Lowrie, who ran, unsupported, the full length – 6477 miles – of South America with her husband, David. The pair ran for 332 days, with 113 days of rest and giving presentations. They shared the pulling of a home-made cart with their provisions, which weighed between 60 and 140 kilos. Their average running day was 20 miles and they went through ten pairs of shoes each, even though they ran part of the distance barefoot.

This was a remarkable achievement, especially considering Venezuela is one of the most violent countries in the world and the pair were in real danger of being shot; part of the Brazilian rain forest is controlled by indigenous people who let no-one on foot through their part of the jungle; and they were discriminated against in Argentina because they were English, causing them to pretend they were Scots.

Most nights Katharine and David camped outside, enduring stings and bites from termites, mosquitoes, flies, wasps and ants, including painful bites from fire ants. When they did get hotel accommodation it was often so dirty that the only obvious advantage was that it was dry. When they were running they endured extreme temperatures ranging from arctic conditions in Patagonia to extreme heat and excruciating humidity in Argentina, with shortage of water one of their main concerns. In Argentina they also ran through a hurricane and were pelted with sand and grit.

Their days were lightened by the variety and volume of wildlife that they encountered. Both being ecologists, they recorded 453 bird species and many unusual mammals. Their list included guanacos, rheas, macaws, capybara, king vultures, Amazon river dolphins, hoatzin, snakes, Darwin’s frog, humming birds, toucans and giant anteaters. One of the highlights was when a wild parrot landed on Katharine’s shoulder.

Katharine and David were amazed at the beauty of the Andes and the friendliness of many folks they encountered, especially in Patagonia. On the negative side they were aghast at the devastation caused to the rainforest by ‘improvement’ of land for farming, tourism and road building.

There will be few authors with so many talents. Katharine relates the story of their run in fascinating detail and with frankness and humour. She is also an athlete, a naturalist (having formerly worked with RSPB) and a quality artist, which is demonstrated in the beautiful sketches of wildlife throughout the book.

Running South America is an enthralling book and without doubt one of the best I have read.

(Whittles Publishing, Dunbeath, Caithness, KW6 6EG, Scotland.  £19.99)

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