By Kim van Kets

KAEM 2018 Day 1 – David Barnard – Photography: HermienWebb Photography

It is an unspeakable relief to finally close the last zip, realize that it is what it is, decisions are over, there can be no more debate about whether my Woolies Bruschetta will fit in (sadly not).  As usual the relief and excitement of the beautiful start line with the diverse flags (Turkey, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Canada, UK, Czech Republic, Ireland, Spain) is too much for everyone and we all set off faster than we should.  Released at last into the desert that will be our home and our nemeses for the next week. The 2 river crossings in the first few kilometers serve a natural selection function and suddenly everyone has spread out.  I found myself trotting along with John and Ian (Jeepers, I can’t seem to get away from these 2!).

The beautiful purple mountains and the distant river immediately dominated the horizon and very quickly it felt as if we were all alone in the world (um…. except for Ian and John, of course).  The solitude and the space is immediate (or would be…).  Ed commented that when he saw the view he was the happiest he has been in two years.  I think we all know what he means.  In the first few kilometers we spotted a couple of giraffe, some runners barely missed both an ostrich and a couple of springbok sprinting across the road and the requisite skeletons began to appear.  The sheer volume of things that have expired within a km radius is always a bit of a wake up call.  In all the elation of this race one has to remember to respect the Kalahari, anything can happen, a lot of stuff can go pear shaped very fast.

Jeep tracks gave way to sandy river gorges (as they always do, despite Estienne’s promises that this year, as a courtesy to Nadia, river beds would be eliminated. Ja, right!) We were mostly grateful for the strong wind which kept temperatures down, except for Estelle (who weighs virtually nothing and worried about being blown off her feet at one point).  She commented that she was grateful for the first time ever for her backpack which helped keep her featherweight self grounded. Before we knew it we were all sitting around the gazebos dribbling and staring like we always do for the first 30 min after our arrival (although Julie has insisted that we re-brand the dribble/stare as meditating.  It sounds more elegant, apparently.)

This is going too fast!  Day 1 is done already and I can’t help wanting to slow it all down.  Everyone is in camp, everyone is in great spirits.  No issues or injuries (although John’s hamstring is not on top of it’s game.  This may impact on the performance of Team Border which I was hoping would dominate the field) .  This is a first in my experience, there is always someone who drops out on day 1 from the sheer shock to the system if nothing else.

Some comments from the field:

Head up, positive thoughts, open to the journey ahead.  The people, it’s all about the people. Support, the best of human nature.  And nature itself is the provocateur.  Smile.  Keep going.  Mark Curtis

Excellent warm-up day.  Introduced to the sand and decided I don’t like it.  Great atmosphere in camp.  Looking forward to day 2.  Andy Williams

First day fast and hot, heavy backpack, good company!  Enjoy!  Xavi Marina

Good (lekker) starter today,  the wind kept us quite cool.  We got to know a bit of what this could be about. But the truth is that the main course is still to come. Pavel Paloncy, Czech Republic

Easing in slowly to day 1.  Even a nice breeze. Great company, pack a little too heavy, the last mile felt like real desert running, sand and heat.  The best is yet to come.  Fergus Wall, Ireland

Easy running 25 km, not too hot, kept miggies away.  Beautiful scenery as usual.  Hamstring went in first 10 km, old injury so it will be slow and easy this year.  Good tent mates with plenty of Irish humour.  Looking forward to a lekker week. John Williamson RSA

New emotion
New challenge
New textures
New friends
New energy for life

So happy to be at KAEM for the first time.  I have done a lot of adventures but this is the most important one…because it’s the one I’m doing right now.  Albert Bosch, Spain

Day 1 complete, ran with Harry, kept me going listening to the old Bastard.  Love him! It was a good day.  Padraig, Ireland

And my personal favourite quote:

Be more like Kim! Be positive: Lekker day and I still have 2 ankles. Ian