Featured Fundraiser: Ultramarathon Runners

Some of us run for the elevator, and some of us… run. Panthera donors Ona Alpert-Josselyn and her husband Todd Josselyn are of the second variety. Recently, they logged an incredible 56 mile journey in the South African Comrades Marathon, and they did it all in the name of lions.

The idea was launched in the fall of 2009, when Ona and Todd were on safari in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. After several awe-inspiring lion sightings, the couple was profoundly saddened to learn of the precarious position of these animals. “We had to do something, and nothing ordinary would do,” says Ona.

Ona and Todd settled on the Comrades Marathon as an extraordinary test of endurance, and Panthera’s lion programs as the lucky beneficiaries of their fundraising efforts. With months of training and an ambitious fundraising goal of $5,000 ahead of them, the first half of 2011 was intense. Reaching out to their extended network via heartfelt letters, emails and postcards, Ona and Todd shared the news of their challenge, and asked for support while they slowly built up their physical strength.

Todd finished his qualifying marathon in late March with a solid 4 hour and 47 minute run and Ona was right behind him at 4 hours and 53 minutes. Their superhuman efforts were met with a generous outpouring of support and donations, and the $5,000 goal was met and surpassed in the busy weeks before the big run.

In May, Ona and Todd departed their home state of Connecticut for South Africa with all the good wishes of the Panthera team. After a tough run, Ona was forced to bow out at mile 36, while Todd finished in 12 hours and 30 minutes. Amazing!

The highlight of the trip for Ona and Todd, however, was tracking a young male leopard at dusk and waiting to see how close he would come to their jeep before he slipped into the tall grass.

Although they didn’t receive any official medals for their race performance, they did receive some very special accolades … Panthera named them our Conservation Champions. We send our deep thanks and sincere admiration to Ona and Todd, and a big roar of support for their dedication to the future of lions.


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