If you’d looked at Camilla Howard’s sporting achievements when the calendar flipped over to 2011, you’d have said they were pretty unremarkable. Then, in the space of four months, she ran the old Mutual Two oceans Half Marathon, rode the Pick n Pay Cape argus Cycle Tour and competed in an ironman 70.3. she’s since completed the 112km Wild Coast Wild run, took part in the 17-day Put Foot rally, walked up Kilimanjaro – barefoot! – and is currently halfway through a seven-month walk around south africa’s coastline.
What happened? “The mind is the most powerful exercise tool,” says the 30-year-old Capetonian. “I was amazed that as soon as I got my mind in the right place, my body just came to the party.”
It was a chance meeting with “some seemingly insane boys” who were planning to walk up Kilimanjaro barefoot that inspired Camilla to become what she calls a “social change adventurer”, putting her body through physical challenges to raise awareness or money for issues close to her heart.
“My dad climbed Kili shortly before he passed away,” Camilla says, “so when they asked me to join their team I was keen – but I wanted to walk with shoes on.” Then, one training session, feeling left out, Camilla took her shoes off. “I wanted to prove that girlie girls (like me) are just as capable and tough as guys and that we can hold our own in a team.”
Her incentive? A cause she believed in. It’s important to support something you’re passionate about, says Camilla – that motivation will drive you when the going gets tough. For her, it was the little ones at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, the benefactor of the Barefoot Kilimanjaro expedition. “They climb mountains higher than Kili every day of their lives just to survive,” she says.
After a successful summit, Camilla started planning Can Do: Trekking For Trash (www. trekkingfortrash.co.za) with her partner in adventure Michael Baretta. They’re currently walking from Alexander Bay to Kosi Bay, picking up litter as they go (the aim: seven tons) and spreading awareness about the environmental damage it can cause. They hope to encourage people to clean up their rubbish and take pride in where they live.
Once she gets to Kosi Bay, you can bet Camilla won’t put her feet up for long. “To achieve a goal, especially one which no one believes is possible, is an amazing feeling,” she says. “Suddenly you feel like there’s nothing you can’t achieve. It’s a serious confidence booster – and the feeling is addictive.”