Mel Blagden, Finance Assistant at World Land Trust, is undertaking the iconic London Marathon to raise money for Hutan in Borneo.
Mel’s running story began four years ago, taking on the challenge of Race for Life in memory of her Aunt. Rallying her sister and cousins together, it was one of Mel’s friend who suggested that instead of walking the 5k they train to run it instead. Together, they spent nine weeks doing Couch to 5k programme and, with her sister, Mel ran Race for Life, completing her first 5k. Since then her distances have steadily increased, going from the Race for Life 10k to the muddy run, and eventually Norwich Half Marathon. Late last year, when her friend and husband entered the ballot for London Marathon 2020, Mel realised she didn’t want to risk watching them from the sidelines. With a successful ballot entry, her training for the incredible 26.2-mile race is well underway!
Fundraising to protect Borneo’s rainforests
While the thought of walking 26.2 miles is a comfortable one for Mel, running the distance is a different challenge. “I would prefer to go for a 26-mile walk, but I’m quite excited now – although I expect I’ll be nervous on the day,” says Mel.
The decision to fundraise for Hutan, WLT’s partner in Borneo, was easy for Mel as she visited the country in August 2019 with her family. They didn’t have to wait long for their first sighting of Borneo’s most famous animal, the orangutan.
On their very first day, Mel and her husband decided to explore a footpath: “All of a sudden, we heard twigs from the trees and looked up. I could see this orange furball in the trees and it was obvious that they didn’t want us there – he was throwing branches down to block the pathway. I decided he could move a lot faster than we could, so we left him in peace.”
But Mel also experienced firsthand the tragic realities of deforestation.
“I’ve seen the realities of palm oil, even when you expect to see rainforest. Even along the river there are small protected areas and then straight behind them, you can see the oil palm plantations. Going out and seeing it for yourself makes the whole thing real, and was particularly eye-opening for my children. One day we travelled for 5 hours and all we saw were oil palms, My son now questions palm oil in products.”
A warm welcome from Hutan
“It was absolutely amazing, completely out of this world,” she says, “To see the reality of what’s happening there is eye-opening.” All money donated to Mel will go to supporting Hutan’s work, including their tree planting programme, a conservation leading light of female empowerment. “We stayed at a homestay where Hutan’s tree nursery is. Marc from Hutan came to meet us, and we went out on a boat along the river to visit the WLT funded sites. We also met the women tree planting. They showed us what they do, planting up to 1000 trees a day – I planted two!”
To support Mel’s marathon, you can visit her JustGiving page.
WLT has been working with Hutan in Malaysian Borneo since 2014, when our supporters raised £1 million to save the Keruak Corridor, linking Keruak Forest Reserve to part of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.
Hutan’s tree planting project is now supported by our Plant a Tree programme.