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Words: Laura Jones Source and images: Flow Communications
Local ultra-runner and adventurer Rehan Greeff raised a whopping £96 896 (around R2.3 million) towards NGO ForAfrika between 2017 and 2022, and recently broke the UK’s National Three Peaks record for running the entire distance. As the biggest individual fundraiser for his chosen charity, ForAfrika, his inspirational story has not always been easy.
Ultra-runner and adventurer Rehan Greeff has broken the record for the UK’s National Three Peaks on foot. The challenge involves scaling the dizzying heights of Ben Nevis in Scotland (1 344m), Scafell Pike in England (978m) and Mount Snowdon in Wales (1 085m) as well as covering a distance of 700km between the peaks, on foot (running or walking).
Rehan, a chartered accountant at Ernst & Young, London, says, “My goal was to beat the currentrecord- set at eight days, 12 hours and 28 minutes. By Friday afternoon (30 June 2023) after I came down Mount Snowdon we had beat that record by more than a day, finishing in (subject to validation by relevant authorities) seven days, 11 hours, 35 minutes. We have raised just over £5 000 towards ForAfrika so far during this challenge, which is sufficient to feed 59 school children for an entire year, although the end goal is £50 000.”
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though. His wins come after serious injuries. Born in a small town called Burgersdorp the son of a Dutch Reformed minister and teacher, Rehan loved playing rugby at school. “As most boys growing up in South Africa,I dreamed of becoming a Springbok but at 13 I had my first knee operation due to a rugby injury and had to play with metal guards from age 13 to 16. I had a metal screw in my leg which was removed. From there on it escalated and each time I put a foot on the field, I sustained some type of knee injury or other. I had a total of five operations, two on my left knee, and three on my right.”
Regardless of this, Rehan played on until a surgeon warned him about possible knee replacements by age 30. “He asked me to stop rugby. So, I became the first team rugby manager at school, and I never played again.” Instead Rehan continued with athletics and cricket but continued to suffer with shin splints and other injuries in an up and down spiral which continued into university. “After running for three months at the University of the Free State, I was depending on pain medications to cope. I realised I couldn’t run like this, needing an anti-inflammatory just to get out of bed.”
A turning point for him came at the start of 2017 after moving to the UK. “I was in a morning church service in Wimbledon at CRC Church, when our pastor went slightly off topic. He announced that there was a young man in the congregation who needed help with knee injuries. I immediately jumped up and at that moment, felt an intense burning fire in both knees and knew I had received healing. Since that day, I have not stopped running.”
Rehan says he felt he was truly blessed and needed to be active with it and be a blessing to others. So, he began Run Forest Run, named after his well-earned school nickname ‘Forest’ after the film character. Run Forest Run is a running community dedicated to using their talents and love for the great outdoors to raise funds for those less fortunate. Rehan trains his runners with inspirational talks and training and input from nutritional health experts. He believes sport is a powerful tool, “It affects the psychology of a person which begins to spill positively into work, life, and relationships. He adds, “At Run Forest Run we believe in using everyday opportunities to have fun, stay fit, challenge ourselves and most of all, make an impact on the lives of those less fortunate.”
To date, Run Forest Run has raised a whopping £96,896 towards ForAfrika since 2017. ForAfrika is the largest indigenous African NGO working towards a thriving Africa where hunger is the leading cause of child death on the continent.
“Rehan never seems to stop, and we’re really very grateful for that because every challenge he sets himself raises funds that help us ensure that more of our African brothers and sisters have what they need to thrive,” says ForAfrika CEO Isak Pretorius.
Rehan continues to test his healing with different challenges. “In 2017 I did a 100km run.” In 2018 he broke a UK record for the North Downs Way winter race. “Then in 2019, a 100 mile race, and in 2020 I pulled others in and raised £28 000 pounds during the pandemic.” As part of 2021’s Run Forest Run #ExpansionChallenge, Rehan set a new record time on a 300km race around London. Together with more than 60 runners, they raised over £50,000. “The runners were trained to run the furthest they had ever run before – anything between 10km and 100km.”
In 2022, he also undertook the #TriChallenge completing three full Ironman-equivalent triathlons (a 3.8km swim, a 180.2km cycle and a 42.2km run) in three countries, South Africa, Uganda and the UK in just six days.
Rehan lives in the UK with his wife, Liesl-Barbara and two daughters. He shares, “I could not do this without my family’s support, and through God’s grace, I’ve had no serious injuries for more than seven years.” He challenges others to use what they have to improve the lives of others, and is inspired to push beyond his own limits.