Congratulations to Abdullah Zeinab of Melbourne, Australia, who became the first person ever to finish the 2,750-kilometer Rhino Run race across South Africa and Namibia early this morning. Read on to learn more about his record-setting ride and incredible showdown with Kevin Benkenstein, who finished just 17 minutes later…

Words by Jesse Carlsson, photos by Rae Trew-Browne

In a remarkable series of events, Abdullah Zeinab has won the inaugural Rhino Run, rolling into Windhoek in the early hours of Saturday morning. Abdullah completed the tough 2,741-kilometre course across South Africa and Namibia in 7 days, 20 hours, and 4 minutes. Kevin “Benky” Benkenstein finished just 17 minutes later. Both riders dominated the race from the very start, but the final hour was one of the most exciting seen in this style of racing.

Abdullah Zeinab, 2022 Rhino Run

While the route included some of the best of South African off-road riding, including a selection of her famed gravel passes, the last half of the race was characterised by harsh conditions through the remote but spectacular desert plains of Namibia. It is extremely rare for an ultra-endurance race to be decided by a sprint finish, but that’s exactly what happened in the mountains surrounding Windhoek late on Friday night.

  • Abdullah Zeinab, 2022 Rhino Run
  • Abdullah Zeinab, 2022 Rhino Run

Abdullah and Kevin tested each other on the first climb of the race, and the battle didn’t stop until the very end. When one of them established a gap, the other would somehow manage to close it. A close battle to the end is extremely rare in this racing genre, and with daily update videos showing the race unfolding, dot-watchers around the world were captivated by the remarkable rides of the first two finishers.

2022 Rhino Run

Abdullah and Kevin started their final push to the finish from the remote desert outpost of Betta on Thursday evening, 480 kilometres from the finish. The heat was oppressive as they pushed through sandy, rocky, and corrugated roads. Kevin completed the Gamsberg Pass at last light with a stunning glow lighting up a sea of rugged mountains. With 130 kilometres to go, the race tracker reported a 20-kilometre gap. Remarkably, Abdullah was able to close the gap, using Kevin’s flashing rear light as motivation. Dot-watchers around the world were furiously refreshing the tracker trying to work out who was in the lead in the last two hours of racing. When Abdullah finished first, race fans were scratching their heads. How on earth had he done it?

  • 2022 Rhino Run
  • Abdullah Zeinab, 2022 Rhino Run

Abdullah and Kevin put on a remarkable show. They showed extraordinary resilience to maintain a pace that was the fastest seen in an off-road ultra of this type. At the finish line, Abdullah apologised to Kevin for the heartbreaking conclusion. As proud South African, Kevin stated that he was proud of both his and Abdullah’s performance, in this first race of its kind starting in his home country. The next rider on course, Steve Halligan, was 380 kilometres from Windhoek as Kevin and Benky dragged their empty bodies away to search for some food and clean clothes.

Hats off to Abdullah and Kevin. Stay tuned for more updates from the 2022 Rhino Race next week.

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