No, I haven't discovered a population of gorillas in west Kent.
I am taking part in the Great Gorilla Run on 20th September. It's a 8km run around London... in a massive
sweaty gorilla suit... to raise money for the Gorilla Organisation. You
can find out more about their work here: http://www.gorillas.org/. And you can find out about the run here (in case you want to come and cheer me on...): http://www.greatgorillarun.org/index.html. Aaaaaaaaaand... if you want to sponsor me for this ridiculous venture, the link to my fundraising page is here: https://gorillarun2014.everydayhero.com/uk/marianne
I did this run nine years ago, in its inaugural year. Back then I was a keen (though slow) runner and did lots of races, up to and including marathons. I took my running semi-seriously, followed training plans, wanted to get personal bests and all that... but the Great Gorilla Run was all about fun, and about doing something good for wildlife. And wildlife doesn't get more impressive or more thought-provoking than gorillas, so like us (or like we would be if we were just a bit more gentle by nature), and so desparately close to extinction because of us.
Some might say that conservation efforts should begin at home, and some others might say that gorillas are a lost cause, too far gone and with too little of their habitat left intact to justify the money spent trying to save them. I can see some sense in these arguments. But I also feel, really strongly, that if we allow our planet's most arresting, iconic animals to slip through our fingers, it will be make the battle to convince people to care about all the rest - and about nature in general including the nature on our doorsteps - a great deal more difficult.
My very first book (this one) was about Mountain Gorillas. It was published 10 years ago, and since then the Mountain Gorilla population has risen from 700ish to nearly 900. Which is great, but it's clear that things are still VERY precarious, with poaching, habitat loss and the threat of civil war in some areas making Mountain Gorilla conservation hugely challenging. Lowland gorillas are in even direr straits - their populations are larger but are falling fast, thanks to the spread of the Ebola virus as well as the usual sorry story of hunting and forest clearance, and they are classed as Critically Endangered.
The last race I ran was the London marathon in 2007. After that race it became clear that I had pretty much wrecked my left achilles tendon and ever since I have struggled to re-establish the running habit, for one reason or another. So the Great Gorilla Run will be my first race for seven years. My achilles tendon is STILL not right and I'm much less fit than I was last time, so I'm not exactly expecting a personal best... but I hope to get around in one piece, rediscover the fun side of running, and to raise a few quid for the gorillas. If any of you feel like sponsoring me I'll be incredibly grateful and so will the gorillas. Thanks for reading.