At the KALAHARI AUGRABIES EXTREME MARATHON (KAEM)
Edited by Kim van Kets
Photography by Hermien Burger Webb
By definition an extreme sporting event is a recreational activity that involves a high degree of risk. These activities involve speed, height or an extreme level of physical exertion and most often require specialised equipment of some sort.
What does “extreme” mean in the context of KAEM? This 250km desert foot race is modeled on the legendary Moroccan Marathon Des Sables, and is certainly not for the faint hearted. It takes place annually in the rugged and contrasting landscape of the Northern Cape’s “Green Kalahari”. The race however is a self-sufficiency event held over six legs in seven days, with set distances for each day ranging from 21km to 74km that includes one day/night stage. It is this that makes KAEM “extreme” in every sense of the word. Participants are obliged to carry on their backs everything they plan to use or consume for the duration of the event: food, sleeping bag and mat, cooking pots, toiletries, clothes and compulsory safety and survival equipment. Most participants carry 20-30 litre backpacks with starting dry weights ranging from 7-12kg (excluding an additional 2kg of water). Only overnight shelter in rudimentary camps and water, which is strictly controlled and distributed during the race, is supplied. The route is wonderfully diverse and extremely challenging with landscapes ranging from green vineyards along the Orange River to steep rocky outcrops, sweltering gorges, endless sandy riverbeds and those vast open stretches of remote nothingness, which are characteristic of the Kalahari Desert. Temperatures vary from mid 30’s up to as high as 50 (degrees Celsius) during the day to single figures at night.
An additional and significant extreme element and risk factor is that of getting lost in the vast open space of the Kalahari Desert. One of the attractions of the event is the remoteness of its location. But this remoteness goes hand in hand with a complete absence of infrastructure supporting mobile communication. Although the route is clearly marked, every 300 to 400 meters, it is quite possible to become disorientated and lost when one is dehydrated, exhausted and/or running at night. “KEEPING YOU SAFE” is the number one priority, and for this purpose KAEM has partnered with the very best: Saab Grintek Defence is an obvious choice of safety partner with all the expert technology, experience and skills to do the job.
In the Kalahari Desert, Saab’s situational awareness and world-class command and control capability through its C2TS Land and Maritime unit becomes indispensable. Saab supports KAEM in providing totally reliable information and a “global” visibility in terms of the location of vehicles, participants and support crew. Partnering with KAEM allows Saab Grintek Defence to test new and innovative solutions in an extreme environment, enabling them to remain at the cutting edge of their industry and guaranteeing the company’s vision of “KEEPING YOU SAFE”.