Guest blog: Charlotte joins the COCO volunteers

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Hi, I’m Charlotte! I am volunteering with COCO for the next few months and have come all the way from Germany to spend time with the COCO team. Here’s how I found out about COCO and what motivated me to volunteer…

My parents Jutta and Mathias found the thing that makes their lives up – RUNNING! They want to discover the world on its running tracks. After they finished the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon in South Africa they decided to get in touch with the great Comrades Ultra Marathon .

They are used to running many Marathons in a short period of time but this was the longest distance they ever planned to run before. Because they did not know if they would ever do something like this again they wanted to make it really special. As it was the same year that my father turned 50 they decided to connect the two events.

As the two of them just finished their application for Comrades I came back from my two month volunteer work in South Africa and Namibia. The experience I gained as a teacher in a township combined with my father’s interest in charity work led us to find out about COCO. I got in touch with COCO for the first time and we decided to raise money for them to celebrate the two events.

As my father’s birthday came closer he sent a mail to all his family and friends about his birthday plans. He did not want any presents or coupons for his 50thbirthday, but he asked them to set a fixed sum on each kilometre he will manage at Comrades Marathon. If he would finish in under 11 hours the set sum would double. Everyone was  enthusiastic about the idea so it was also a great motivation for Mathias to make the best out of the race.

On the 31st of May 2015 my mother and my father crossed the starting line. They ran an amazing race. It looked and felt like they would finish in under 11 hours but about 20km before the finish my father’s legs stared getting heavy cramps. He had to stop and somephysiotherapists looked after him. After about 15 minutes he could stand on his own feet again and step by step he carried on with the race because he had a goal to reach. He finished the Comrades in 11 hours and 23 minutes and we were all very proud of him finishing. My mother kept that pace from the start and passed the finish line in 10 hours and 36 minutes, which is amazing! Even though my father did not make the 11 hours everyone gave the double sum because of my parents great performance!

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At this time I was in my first semester at the German Sports High School in Cologne in the field of adventure sports. My long-term objective is to somehow connect adventure sports with development assistance. As I got to know COCO I was so thrilled about what they do, especially the charity races and the Kilimanjaro Trek. Because that is exactly the direction I want to go after my studies, I enquired as to whether I could volunteer with COCO. I applied, arranged with my university to get three months off, booked my flights and arranged accommodation; it all happened very fast!

I have just arrived in Newcastle in the COCO office and I am so excited what awaits me here. It is so great to become a part of this fantastic and friendly team and to learn as much as possible about their amazing work. I am looking forward to three fabulous months at Coco!

Charlotte Schmitz

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