It took parts of two years but David Pennington, co-founder of the Friendly Drifter Foundation, has finished his run from the U.S.-Mexico border to Vancouver.
The Duncan resident had aimed to run the 2,155 kilometres in one attempt, to raise awareness and funds for a waste management facility and program in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, an exceptionally biodiverse coastal group of islands dealing with massive plastic waste problems.
Instead, due to health issues, he ran it in two stages, beginning on April 18, 2016.
“The first part was tough because I had malaria three months prior to starting so my body wasn’t ready to do that, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway,” he said.
Pennington made it all the way to Oregon before a staph infection in his foot sidelined him.
“It’s the first time I’ve done a long distance run like that,” he noted. “I’ve only been running about a year and a half.”
Pennington picked up his ‘Ocean Rescue Run’ again on June 3 of this year and finished the second leg of his trek in just 12 days.
“This time I was in much better shape,” he admitted.
He used some lessons he learned from the first stage to help him in the second.
“On the first part it was tough because you’re starting something where you’re not a local. In California it was tough to get publicity because it wasn’t a story there yet,” he explained. “We ended up getting a pretty good following past California and into Oregon. This time to raise more awareness I dressed as Poseidon (Greek god of the Sea) and carried a trident with me and that got a lot more attention.”
It was much harder to run with a trident but it was worth the extra effort, he noted, saying he managed to get some attention on the American television news networks.
“It did the job,” he said with a laugh.
Pennington averaged 60 kilometres a day in the second stage, finishing in Vancouver on June 14, 2017.
He said he was grateful for the support from Mark’s Instant Sign Shop, FabricLand and the Hospital Auxiliary Store in Duncan in preparing for his run.
Friendly Drifter originally arose out of Pennington’s travels to Indonesia and seeing the waste problem.
“When I first travelled there I realized the need for it and I met people with the same kind of concerns I had; one person in particular is a local guide called Ranny,” Pennington explained of his Friendly Drifter co-founder Ranny Tumundo. “When you go to any beach at high tide it brings all this plastic in on the beach and it just sits there. And every tide it gets washed away and new stuff comes up,” he added.
The town of Waisai, where Pennington plans to build the facility, has a population of approximately 20,000 and further land and population lies in Raja Ampat’s extended archipelago area. The town is a two-and-a-half-hour boat ride from the nearest major city of Sorong. Pennington said Raja Ampat residents dispose of waste through streams and rivers that then find their way into the ocean, and with his run he hopes to fundraise enough to build a waste facility to run garbage collection services, recycle all the plastic and run on energy from incineration of non-plastics.
“We want to do pickups weekly or on a regular basis throughout the islands on a barge that we want to buy as well,” Pennington said. “The waste management facility will recycle all plastic and then the non-plastic we will incinerate and then we’ll use that incineration process to power the facility itself.”
Pennington plans to return to Indonesia in October and distribute a children’s book he’s helped create.
“That’s our main focus this year,” he said, noting that the larger project will take time.
“We are making progress and our hopes with this next trip are to make more progress,” he said.
The children’s book is available at Volume One in Duncan and at the Maple Bay Marina.
“All proceeds of the book go towards making other books and further educational material for the kids,” he said.
For more information on Friendly Drifter and supporting Pennington’s cause visit www.friendlydrifter.com
— With files from Paul Brian