Garden run raises over R9 000 for Darg

Mike van der Merwe ending his fund-raising marathon in the garden of his home.

Covering 42km and an elevation gain nearly twice that of Platteklip Gorge in around seven and a half hours, Mike van der Merwe of Bokkemanskloof in Hout Bay proved that it would take much more than a nationwide lockdown to hold him down.

Earlier this month, Mr Van der Merwe entered the Ultra Backyard Train Challenge, which encouraged runners to complete a marathon within the confines of their properties.

Mr Van der Merwe climbed around 1 700 metres and ran 320 laps around his own garden, raising just over R9 000 for the Domestic Animal Rescue Group (DARG).

“It may be shorter but the continuous steps are a real killer,” he told Sentinel News.

“You can’t get momentum going as you are always changing direction or climbing stairs and the pace is slow.”

Mr Van der Merwe, an animal lover, said he had realised that Darg would struggle to raise funds during lockdown – and this is why he had decided to to take on the backyard marathon challenge.

“It’s mentally challenging on the same short course but knowing I was raising funds for a worthy cause kept me going,” Mr Van der Merwe said.

Last year, Mr Van der Merwe competed the 65km Ultra Trail Cape Town event and said his garden challenge had been “very similar”.

Mr Van der Merwe thanked his sponsors for contributing towards this worthy cause.

Managing director of Darg, Faustina Gardner, said everybody within the organisation was concerned about the animals during the lockdown period.

“It’s so frustrating not being able to continue with everything we normally do with the animals from Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg,” she said.

However, they could not be any more grateful for the donation from Mr Van der Merwe.

“Mike took on a challenge that certainly wasn’t easy but he did it for all the animals at Darg which is incredible,” Ms Gardner said.

She said Darg was feeling from the financial pressures that the lockdown had brought upon so many in the country. Darg receives no government funding and relies heavily on initiatives such as the one taken on by Mr Van der Merwe.

“We are hoping he will pop into Darg in the future so we can thank him personally. It’s amazing that he used this lockdown as a creative opportunity to make an impact where it is critically needed,” Ms Gardner said.

Darg is a pro-life, non-profit organisation that rescues, cares for, sterilises and rehomes previously abused, neglected and abandoned cats and dogs.

For more details about Darg, call 021 790 0383, email or log on to