I am finally sitting on board the plane heading to London and saying goodbye to Cairo. Excitement is still running through me as I take a look back, not just to what was accomplished but also to the people and places that I encountered along the way. Putting into words, at times very difficult for me, can only give you a glimpse into Egypt. To fully comprehend and appreciate this land one must see, feel, smell and touch. So through my words I hope that you can conjure up within your minds eye some of what I experienced.
In previous blogs I had written about my first 4 days in the desert leaving off at the long day. By this time, approximately 95 miles through the Sahara Desert had been run. My clothes were covered in dirt; face had weathered a bit with white circles around my eyes indicating where my glasses had been. I was for all intents and purposes the epitome of an extremely pungent locker room. I awoke around 5:00 am just as the fire was being stoked. After brushing all the evening sand that had blown into the tent off of me I headed out for my ritual one cup of coffee. It’s amazing how quickly this clears my head and I can begin my day, a very long one at that. By 6:30 everything was repacked into my tiny backpack, placed upon my back and I was standing along with all the other anxious competitors at the start line ready to begin. The count down has begun and we’re off. It’s truly amazing but with each day I begin to feel more comfortable and a bit stronger than the days before. I know however, that to start out too quickly would be detrimental but also am cognizant of the fact that I needed to run more while the air was cool. The sites in this part of the desert did not change much. It was miles upon miles of very fine sand flanked by dunes on one side and beautiful sand rocks on the other. If you could imagine yourself on the surface of the moon I believe this would come about as close to that image as one might get. The ripples within the sand at times played tricks on my eyes encouraging me to look up and around versus down to focus…even nature has a way of making us see beyond that which is in front of us.
In order to get to checkpoint 4 we went through the Valley Of The Whales. What a unique and amazing site. To see first hand these ancient whalebones upon the sand one could only stop, look and think about our very existence. This was truly sacred ground with just a fraction of the puzzle uncovered. Lying beneath the sand that we ran through are more wonders to be discovered which could unlock the mysteries surrounding how our existence came to be. I felt so very privileged and honored to be in that place at that very time. But once again I had to move forward so headed out. Somewhere around ¼ mile before I would reach the checkpoint I felt two large pulls…all this sand, day in and day out, had finally taken its toll. Both my hip flexors shouted out in unison STOP, STOP!! In front of me loomed a large sand dune that I needed to navigate up in order to sit down and regroup. I hobbled over to it, tried to raise my feet but they would not cooperate. I planted one pole in the sand above me, shuffled my right foot up, then planted the left pole, and shuffled the left foot all the way to the top. The Grandma Shuffle up a sand dune had been invented!!! So from here I applied Valtoren to the hip flexor area, and back, sat for about 5 minutes and decided to continue on. The next 6 checkpoints were going to be a real test of my fortitude and endurance.
Checkpoints 5 and 6 (approximately 12 miles total) were a lot of the same, very slow moving with small bursts of running when my body would endure it. While at checkpoint 6 I opened one of my noodle packs, ate and took a good 15 minutes to allow my body a bit of time to recuperate. I had only 4 more checkpoints to make it through (about 24 miles); a marathon was in front of me. I could not look at it in those terms however, compartmentalizing was a better option. It was dark; there were others far worse off than me who were continuing on so I did not allow myself to have a pity party. What actually helped me was something that Carlos had told me. Carlos is a wonderful man who was the designer of the course we were running. He said that there were only two ways to run in the dark, one with a full moon where you can see or the other by the stars without a moon. I remember saying to him “I can’t look up because I’ll trip, so I must keep my eyes down.” He said that I would be missing the most amazing vision in the sky, so many stars to guide you…it is absolutely beautiful. I decided to take his advice and look upward. I cannot tell you how comforting that was. Even though I felt very small I also felt very much a part of the universe. When I left checkpoint 9 heading into camp we went through a large canyon that was completely downhill. It was here that I was able to capture my second wind and even in a bit of pain was able to run the entire way down. Exhilaration and the belief that I would finish this journey were evident.
And so, another Desert complete, many friends made and another country visited. I am not sure which portion of these adventures I enjoy most. I love pushing my body further than I believe it can go; I enjoy meeting people from all over the world and learning about other cultures. I guess I have the best of all worlds’….the good fortune to experience it all.