Going the Distance for Shark Conservation

Posted on February 22, 2013
Written by: Shark Savers

marathon21.jpgWhen Tanya Houppermans decided to tackle a full marathon, she figured she needed as much motivation as she could get, so she decided to use the race as an opportunity to raise money for what she loved most: sharks.

“I have a soft spot in my heart for sharks,” says Tanya, “and Shark Savers not only teaches everyone from kids to adults why sharks are so vital, but makes it easy to get involved in the conservation effort through programs like SharksCount.”

Her love of the oceans led Tanya to get married at an aquarium and spend her honeymoon wreck diving off the Carolina coast with stunning sand tiger sharks.  But when she returned from her trip, posting pictures of her shark dives, she was shocked by the responses she received. 

“People either though I was really crazy, really brave or maybe a little bit of both,” says Tanya.  “I thought that the misconceptions surrounding sharks had been cleared up, so I was surprised that the public still had the notion that all sharks are man-eaters. I wanted to show people that sharks aren’t really like that.”

Tanya started reading up about sharks on the Shark Savers website, and quickly discovered their importance to the marine ecosystem and that over 70 million sharks are killed each year.  Shocked by what she had learned, Tanya started posting  more information online for her friends to read, as well as pictures of her diving with them.   

goldmedal.jpg“Once I realized how dire their circumstances are, there was no question that I would choose to try to help them any way I could,’ says Tanya.  So began a five-month training regime that involved running four days a week, cross-training, swimming and building up mileage to make it the full 26.2 miles for the sharks.  Her training paid off, because she proudly ran the entire distance, even in the Florida heat. 

“The challenge was what I loved,” enthuses Tanya, “Challenging myself to do something I never thought I was capable of, and challenging myself to change the public's image of sharks and why they need our help. It certainly wasn't easy, but there's nothing that quite compares to crossing the finish line of a marathon realizing how much you just accomplished!”

Tanya hopes that her outreach efforts will inspire others to stand up for sharks and encourages others to do something they really love to raise awareness.

“You need to be kind of a 'shark ambassador” explains Tanya.  “Sharks don't have the 'cute and cuddly' factor, so people need to be educated as to why sharks are so important to the ecosystem, the horrible destruction of sharks due to finning and unsustainable fishing practices, and what is being done to try to help them.”

“So many people would tell me, ‘I had no idea this was happening.' Once they understood, they often wanted to help.”


To plan your own shark fundraiser, visit our Fundraising Page here.