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Day 3 – 40km

By Kim van Kets

38’ (but definitely much hotter in the evil microwave gorges!)

We are at the River (thank God!) and I am delirious with heat and exhaustion and urgently need to join the rest of the camp for a hearty whinging session so this may be short.  Today was tough. Someone ramped the discomfort monitor right off the charts.  The first 20 km were exquisitely beautiful with a lot of rock hopping (in fact we nearly hopped all the way down a dry waterfall!) and the temperature was manageable.   But right from the beginning today was all about sand.  Uphill sand, flat sand, downhill sand, deep sand, less deep sand, blistering sand….  I actually quite like sand but this was a bridge too far.  In an effort to find something positive to focus on (in the said sand) I noticed that it was often studded with the most beautiful rose quartz and made me think of a perfect little trail of distracting Turkish Delights.  When that stopped doing the trick I had to sing the Hallelujah Chorus in a Leonard Cohen voice (sort of) to keep my spirits up until people came within earshot and I was forced to quieten down.  And then things just got tougher and hotter all day.

I briefly had a lovely time running with John Williams (we are both from East London although we just met each other this week. So we proclaimed our-selves to be team “Border” and agreed that no-one should underestimate the Frontier Folk).  I don’t recall the context, but at one point he proclaimed that if I was a rugby player like him I would be a prop (or a Hooker. Oh dear).  I’m not entirely certain if that is a compliment but I decided to claim it as one.  I think the main point of the discussion was that there are some incredibly fast roadies doing KAEM but this is more about strength than speed and so we shouldn’t feel utterly intimidated by their gazelle-like shape and swiftness when we are more inclined to be prop-like.  After leaving John I was pretty much on my own all day other than brief interactions as some of the fast starters overtook me.

And then it was pretty much a boiling death march all the way to the river.  I imagined that if we were going to the river it would follow that we would go downhill (through the sand of course).  Despite the obvious laws of physics we, however, seemed to be doing up-hill sand for the last 8 km.  I would have wondered off in the wrong direction down a road after missing a deeply obvious turn.   Had it not been for Mich who suddenly appeared from the wrong direction I would have done a fair amount of extra milegae.  He had missed the turn and his misfortune saved me a long detour along the incorrect route.  We marched along exchanging hardly a word (a first for me) but feeling comforted by the presence and rhythm of another medium rare and deeply suffering body.  Thomas, Richard, Coralie, David, Sandy Marelise and a whole host of other folk apparently made the same error which will probably be reflected in the results tonight.

Some things worth mentioning that didn’t make it into yesterday’s blog because they happened after my deadline:

  • Patrick very sadly left us…gone but not forgotten. As did Kenwynne the day before.  They both remain an inspiration.
  • We agreed that none of us had experience any first world problems since the start of the race. One of the reasons we do this stuff.
  • Zelna arrived in camp looking as if all of her toenails were floating on water beds (actually blisters for the uninitiated who wouldn’t have made that connection). She is very brave.  I would have been weeping while curled up in the fetal position if my feet looked anything like that.
  • Gavin did not have the confidence to make a call about the colour and quantity of his urine without our collective input so decided to void his bladder in front of the entire camp at dinner so as to make sure he had everybody’s input. We agreed that his hydration was satisfactory.
  • Estelle is the camp saint after patiently stitching several pairs of shoes (including mine) with patches fashioned from a sacrificial piece of her gaiter. She has been proclaimed to be the “Kalahari Cobbler / Saint Estelle” and a biography and full length feature film is being planned to document her saintliness.
  • We bade Zelna a very sad farewell this morning. Her report follows:

“I decided not to continue on day 3.  I could blame it on blisters, my sore shoulder, or many other things but this is another race.  It is so beautiful, so ruthless and so soul searching.  The truth is that I was not ready but I learned a lot in 2 days.  I learned that:

  • Weight is everything
  • The beautiful human spirit in runners is alive
  • Humour goes a very long way
  • You need a reason to run
  • Trail runners are tough and 35km in the desert can feel harder than Comrades
  • The simple things are the most important
  • Messages and emails from friends and family matter enormously in the desert

Thank you to all the volunteers who are in fact angels in disguise (agreed!) You matter so very much to the runners.  The race is so well organized.  I will be back with a lighter backpack, gym sessions, more trail experience and hopefully a friend to run with me.  All the best to everyone who is still out there.  You can do this!” Zelna

RUNNERS COMMENTS (very few today as everyone is grumpy, exhausted and in the river):

“When a “moment” occurs one takes a a Percy Pig (British sweet) out, sees his smiley face, eats his smiley face and suddenly all becomes right with the world!” Toosie

“Sand sand and more sand.  White sand, black sand, brown sand, red sand, rocks and sand, powdered sand, growwe (course) sand, fine sand, deep sand, shallow sand, soft sand.. hard sand.  Day 3 is the day you run far enough for your soul to catch up with your body.  Today was sort of like giving birth.  Once you see the river you only remember the reward and none of the gory details in between.

Dancing a perfect tango with dark demons…slain dragons at my feet today.” Saint Estelle the Desert Cobbler

“All considered I had a good day.  No back or shoulder pain and good legs.  I loved running in the riverbed (is she mad??) saw an eland and a giraffe.  My highlight was showering in the vineyard sprinklers and washed my hair in the river.  I have a new swearword: Sand!  I have had enough of that but I imagine there will be more tomorrow.”  Jane

“My KINGDOM for some cold water!”  A bleak but unidentified runner

“Happy birthday Allaoui Nadig from France!  I cant think of a more hardcore thing to do on your birthday!” Kim.