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By Kim van Kets

What a relief to set off at last from the start line under the many national flags at the beautiful Augrabies Falls National Park.  As usual, the excitement causes everyone to explode out of their starting blocks (one of them in a SUIT!! Raising funds for Cystic Fibrosis) and very soon everyone had disappeared.  By the time my brain had settled sufficiently to take note of my surroundings I found myself running with Gavin who told me an amazing success story about a Sinenjongo school in Joe Slovo which he is running to raise funds for (www.sinenjongo.com). We spent some moments of mutual congratulation for the fact that neither of us are actual lawyers despite our training, before, to my surprise, we crossed a stream flowing over the road (I clearly wasn’t concentrating when Estienne mentioned it in some detail).  When I looked up again Gavin had disappeared and I was running with Tony!  Tony is hilarious, gloriously upbeat, super inspirational (he is running with a complex health issue).  He is also very clearly an agent of extreme chaos.   I made a mental note that, if they were ever to meet, he and Peter (my husband and chaos agent number 1!) should not under any circumstances be left alone without mature adult supervision…

It was an extreme highlight to be treated to a massive gang (the real collective noun escapes me) of giraffe, at least 10 of them (including 2 babies!) lurking majestically just out of reach.  Apparently they had retreated to a safe distance after being frightened by Richard (of course!) and Jane and as a result bolting across the road directly in front of them.  (The giraffe were bolting…not Richard or Jane.  Just saying.)

Shortly after our Aquelle water stop we encountered the first river bed which went on endlessly in true Estienne style.  (Clearly he has influenced Dallas to incorporate them at every opportunity.)  I was delighted by the sand as it had already become evident to me that I had made a poor shoe choice for the hard terrain.  So much of the track was way rockier and harsher than I remember and my feet were already beginning to feel tender…And then suddenly were on the banks of the exquisitely beautiful Orange River and minor details like sore feet were immediately forgotten.  The contrast between the blue sky, the glorious desert, the intensely green vegetation on its banks and the turquoise river are achingly beautiful.  There was no way I could resist a super swift plunge into a particularly inviting looking pool. It was SO the right thing to do, my joy monitor immediately skyrocketed and my speed increased to the point that I felt as if I was doing Tigger Bounces along the rocky bank.  I came across a French runner who had missed a few markers, gone astray briefly and done some extra mileage.  On the spectrum of happiness he appeared to be the opposite of me so I thought I would tell him about my happiness inducing cupcake meditation technique (its quite simple you think about cupcakes so intensely that you can almost taste them).  He seemed reluctant to try it so I suggested he replace the image of a cupcake with for eg  an éclair? Still no enthusiasm.  Maybe he didn’t understand me?  I spotted Morgan not to far ahead and was pleased to catch him in time to witness his complicated and painful passage under a fence.  I imagine it was a bit like being born.  Morgan was definitely breached and I briefly considered helping him through by giving the fence an episiotomy with my Swiss Army knife…..

For the last 6 or 7km I trotted along with John who distracted me with tales of all his exciting multi stage races until we came over a hill and suddenly we spotted the finish.  25km’s done and dusted. The highlight of the day for me was the discovery that my Gazebo (No.3 comprising Sandra, Jane, Belinda and me) were in fact the winners of the imaginary team prize (invented by us), ie we were the first full Gazebo of the day! Whoop whoop!

1 stage down, 6 to go

RUNNERS COMMENTS

“Great to get going, weather pretty good for the Kalahari.  Lovely stage through the rocks and boulders along the river. Remains of animal bones and skin…Hope it was an animal!?” Annie

“At last we have begun!  How amazing to run alongside 4 giraffe only a few Km’s into our journey! Amazing views and a quick dip in the Orange River were huge highlights.  Lesson learned is “never underestimate 25km at the KAEM. “ True!  Ended the run with my first experience of  camp life.  Second lesson: “What happens @ camp stays @ camp!”  Sandra

“Beautiful first day: giraffe, sandy river beds, Orange River, crawling under a fence, steep hills!  Everything was there!”  Coralie

“Better than day 1 in 2011….but I’m still never doing it again!”  Richard S

“My mate Richard didn’t do the game drive and was really jealous that we saw giraffe.  So after we ran past loads of the tall horses today, I sped up to join him and said: “so you happened to see the giraffe after all?” What giraffe he says??  He still thinks I’m taking the piss!” Steve and Richard

“Nice cool day!  We swam in the river and stayed cool all the way to the end! “ Alwyn and Maretha

“Its nice to lie down!” Patrick

“Resting at camp 1 after an incredible day out.   The chirping is flowing  – the delight of surviving the first day.  Its awe inspiring being out in God’s country again surrounded by vast skies, harsh dry land, and a spaciousness that keeps giving .  Spotted a family of giraffes early on loved the cool water of the first river crossing and the rhythm of running feet across the plains.  So grateful to be here, happy to have day 1 under the belt and now eating lots and chilling.  So wonderful to be on the KAEM journey again!” Gavin

“Great day out! Tough in places and tricky in others but never the same.  Should have had a swim in the river, it would have been cool!  Looking forward to tomorrow!”  Ken