Commitment

TRA

This is a copy of an article I wrote for  The Trailrunner.

 

 

I  was leafing through a book and being seduced by vivid pictures and vibrant descriptions when I was suddenly brought back to the straight and narrow by an entry on page 426. The book was ‘World’s Ultimate Running Races’ and the entry on page 426 was about the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon – my true love. I am sorry that for a few moments in my thoughts I was unfaithful to her. Some people say to think a sin is as bad as to commit one.

 
I love entering different events, seeing new places and having unique experiences. However, there is much to be gained from a long-term and deep relationship. Every time I complete the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM) I learn something new about the desert and a lot more about me. I can say the same about the Comrades marathon, except the desert bit; it has taught me a lot and in many ways shaped my life. The severe conditions of the Kalahari and the very intimate relationships you have with the competitors, crew and race organisers mean that the lessons learnt during the KAEM are much richer and deeper.

 

The first time I ran the KAEM I learnt a big lesson. When I completed the Marathon des Sables in 2003 I said I would never do anything as stupid as that again. We are not very good at remembering pain and time makes what little memory we have fade. Still I was a little surprised to find myself on the start line of the 2007 KAEM. The first day was only about 25km so it should have been fairly easy. I went out too fast and was quickly slapped down hard by the Kalahari. I was too hot and dehydrated and close to pulling out of the race. I found some shade, sat down, put some rehydration salts into my bottle and took little sips until I felt better. I made my peace with the Kalahari. That day 5 of the competitors did not finish. Lesson number one – you have to court the Kalahari very, very gently. If you rush it, you will get a very big slap.

 
Over the next 6 days the Kalahari enchanted me with stunning scenery and exciting views of wild animals; giraffe, ostrich, kudu, zebra and springbok. I fell in love and she embraced me with a fierce, fiery passion.

 
I wasn’t sure if I was in love or just infatuated so I went back in 2008 to find out. It was love, but the Kalahari was playing hard to get. It was a tough race and I almost didn’t make it. I think she was playing hard to get and also making it quite clear that she expected to be treated like a princess.

 
When I went back in 2009 she had heard about my dalliance with the 6633ultra in the Arctic. The Kalahari did all she could to win back my heart and succeeded. There were wonderful wide panoramic views to be contrasted with tiny little vibrant coloured flowers, somehow existing in barren sandy river beds. She roasted me in the sun at midday and then when I was almost collapsing, she cooled me with the gentlest of breezes. At night she put on a dazzling displays, first with fantastic sunsets and then a massive array of stars before the big, bright moon rose. That year she totally won my heart and I am completely committed.

 
Now I am committed to her, I will run other races and enjoy them, but the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon need have no fear, I will always be faithful to her. She has been wonderful to me, tolerating my absences, welcoming me back, entertaining the friends I bring with me and most important of all nurturing my soul. This year we will celebrate out 10th anniversary.

 

The Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon is a 250km self-sufficiency run over six stages in seven days with set distances for each day, ranging from 28km to 75km.  Held in the beautiful and contrasting landscape of the “Green Kalahari” in the Northern Cape, South Africa, with temperatures varying from mid-40 degrees Celsius during the day to single figures in the evenings. Participants must carry all their supplies, clothes and compulsory safety/survival equipment for the duration of the event.  Overnight shelter in camps, and water, which is strictly controlled and distributed during the race, is supplied.  The event goes way beyond merely covering 250 kilometers in extreme conditions; it is a challenge to get past what normal people would regard as crazy, and achieve one’s personal goals.
www.kaem.co.za
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