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COVID-19 Didn't Stop Me Running for Baboons

I’ve always wanted to run a marathon but until recently, I’d never quite had the motivation to actually put in the months of hard work required to run one in a respectable time and without ruining your body!  However, my recent experience at C.A.R.E. changed that.

Orphan Albus has since been adopted into a wild troop.

C.A.R.E. inspired me to help

In September, I volunteered at C.A.R.E for the first time and instantly fell in love with the place.  So much so that I immediately planned my return trip and went back to help them out again in December.  I was hooked; the baboons, the reserve, the staff, the atmosphere, the tasks, all of it. Seeing first-hand the amazing work that gets done, and how big a difference just a small amount of money can make, I was inspired to finally commit to running 26.2 miles, as I wanted to raise money for C.A.R.E.

Planning the Marathon

The opportunity to raise essential funds needed to help the baboons came my way; 2020 Manchester Marathon was six months down the line, giving me more than enough training time. I play football five times a week at university and have run several half marathons, but I knew the step-up would be tough, so I put together a training plan based on building up my long-distance running and general fitness.  At the same time, I set up a JustGiving page to start collecting donations which was actually a walk in the park (the run itself was much more challenging).  I couldn't believe how supportive family and friends were; the funds started to pour in and £1,105 was raised of £1,000 target by 47 supporters.

Keeping Fit Tom Ashley at Oxford City F.C

The first few months went by according to plan, with regular football games keeping me fit and a weekly ‘long run’, going up by a mile each week. It was sometimes pretty hard getting up at 6am on cold Oxford mornings to trundle around the park in my running gear and beanie hat, but the thought of raising money for the orphaned baboons 6,000 miles away kept me going.

After another stay at C.A.R.E over my Christmas break (because who stays away for long, right?), I was even more motivated.

Running into complications

However, the start of the new year brought a few problems. Firstly, I pulled my hamstring in a university football game, which kept me out of action for a few weeks and ground my training programme to a halt. As someone who hates watching from the side-lines, I predictably and stupidly rushed my return back to the pitch and pulled it again. Having learnt my lesson, I waited until the hamstring was fully healed before putting on my running shoes again. By that point though, I’d lost over a month of training and a strange respiratory disease had begun to hit the headlines.

The Manchester Marathon Cancelled due to COVID-19

Not giving up

In the wider scheme of coronavirus effects, the Manchester Marathon being cancelled mattered very little. As frustrating as it was not to be able to take part with tens of thousands of others on a lovely course, I was determined not to waste my training and continue to raise money for C.A.R.E. In actual fact, being stuck at home and only being allowed out once a day to exercise did wonders for my fitness, which has improved massively over the past month.

I did it! Success in times of adversity

On Saturday 4th April, one day before what would have been the race in Manchester, I decided to go for it. The conditions were perfect – a cold, misty start at 8am with cloudy, overcast conditions throughout and no wind. All those hard hours of training had paid off, as my last 6 miles were actually the fastest of the lot.

As strange as it was doing it on my own around my local park, it felt brilliant.

I am very proud to be able to say I’ve run a marathon, but more importantly doing so has raised over £1,000 (20,000 SA RAND) for C.A.R.E. During these uncertain times, those donations are needed more than ever.

After I finish my degree at Oxford, I’ll be heading out there to do what I can to help Stephen, Samantha and the wonderful baboons in their care.

If the miles I ran and the money I raised can make just a small difference to the most wonderful place in the world, then I’m a happy man.

Tom Ashley, March 2020

#fundraising #oxforduniversitystudent #marathon #coronachallenge #lockdownchallenge #lockdownactivities #socialisolation #personalchallenge #success

C.A.R.E. would like to thank Tom and all of his friends, family and supporters which helped him raise £1,105! This smashed his target and is vital for C.A.R.E. to provide care to the baboons.  

Gestures and support like this is much needed during these very difficult times.  COVID-19 has it's grip on the world meaning that our borders are closed and travel bans are in place.  Tom was actually returning to help us, however, his flight was cancelled due to the pandemic.  Whilst the physical hands on the ground are invaluable right now, funds are vital to ensure we can survive 2020. 

Thanks to Tom and his supporters some of the young orphan females at the centre which are beginning to get sexual swellings can get reversible, long-lasting contraceptive implants to ensure no babies are born (we have lots of orphans needing help and so have a no-breeding policy) and we can stock up on peanuts and other dry foods which are easy to store and loved by the baboons (food supplies are insecure & therefore stocking dry food is essential) and Star Troop are in line for renovations. 

Thank you Tom!  

With love and lipsmacks from Stephen, Samantha, all the C.A.R.E. team on behalf of our amazing and deserving baboons. 

  If they could thank you themselves it would be full of happy grunts, 'laughs', lipsmacks, leg-holding, grooms and backflips.

If you didn't manage to support Tom's efforts, it isn't too late, donate via to help us to help the baboons. 

Donate Now

If you have been inspired by Tom and would like to fundraise for C.A.R.E., we would be excited to hear from you, send us an email;


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