FINAL DAY – 21km

By Kim van Kets

“Ooh I’m going to MISS camping!” says Emily wistfully as we all sit around the “fire” on or last night.  Really?  Really?  I’m sure we can get Brendes/Rambo (our glorious Camo Camp Kommandant/CCK) to rig up a gazebo for anyone who is keen at the end. But as for me, I am looking really forward to clean white sheets and no bugs and not playing ping pong with a big hairy spider all night (Jane and I kept swatting one from my sleeping bag to hers and back again all night.)  Still, there is a certain nostalgia about the last evening. CCK and his fabulous Henchman arranged an awards ceremony for us last night and were in the process of creating a fire for atmosphere when they were interrupted by a revolt.  The picket was led by Gavin, who was in no mood for mincing words. “Dude! Like, none of us WANT a fire ok? We are dehydrated and have heat stroke and feel as if we are already in the pit of hell.  Could you maybe rather rig up a water feature?”  Our poor Kommandant looked crushed.  He loves making fires.  Its one of his best things.  I tried to negotiate a compromise (just a tiny, cool, fire? Purely for atmosphere, perhaps?). CCK ingeniously came up with the idea of inserting a storm lantern into his artistically arranged kindling.  Sorted!  Richard of course walked away with all the stirrer/loudmouth and similar awards.  Tony was Mr Congeniality. Pierre was commended for his glorious tan (vivid shades of white and crimson).  Saint Estelle was the desert Mermaid.  Our Turkish legends, Bakiya and Bilal, took the “vasbyt” awards for perseverance (richly deserved).  And of course Gazebo 3 won numerous accolades (we decreed the awards ourselves and they were all of our own invention) for being the only intact gazebo and being generally awesome on every level.  The Turks and the unlikely group of desert Rappers (John, Mich and me) then took care of after dinner entertainment before we all settled down in the oven for our last night out.

21km doesn’t usually sound far.  Objectively it isn’t far.  But OMG it felt like a seriaas challenge when we opened our eyes at first light this morning.  Just getting broken feet into torture chambers/running shoes was a test! Also it was already swelteringly hot of course although it was only 6.30.  We all ate the last unappealing scraps in our backpacks with extreme distaste or tried to palm them off on each other.  (“No, no please you have my deliciously nauseating power bar, its irresistible, really!”) Once again there was a very staggered (good choice of word!) start with batches of survivors shuffling out of the camp 30 minutes apart.   I set off with (French) Patrick, Sandra, John and Mich at 9.30.   We had agreed that today was all about survival and camaraderie and that we would neither race each other nor leave a comrade behind.  It was a good plan and we shuffled off in military formation determined to get it done, though anticipating the slowest half marathon time known to (wo)man.  But we got it done, with a lot of help from our friends, the awesome crew.  The crew did gently point out that although they hadn’t really noticed up until that very moment (Ja, right!) we were now becoming noticeably smelly. Despite the blinding, windless heat and the endless river beds and the unforgiving rocks right until the very last minute our mini battalion just kept plodding.  (I mean really Dallas and Estienne…. show a little compassion?  There is a perfectly good road that goes directly to the finish?)  We paused on the top of the dramatically majestic Moon Rock to take in a big view of the ancient place we have journeyed through this week, then negotiated our way through the reeds and finally came to the road.  And just when we thought that it would really never end things began to look familiar and suddenly it was all over.  Just like that.  How utterly surreal to hear music, see the finish line, have a can of ice cold liquid pressed into your hand.  Be handed appetizing food on a platter and have a sparkling swimming pool at one’s disposal.  (It may well have to be drained after incubating our filthy bodies all afternoon.) It was quite overwhelming.  There are always tears of relief and happiness and gratitude to all the folk who make this possible and today was certainly no different.  I don’t even know where to start, so thank-you’s will follow in tomorrow’s reflective blog.

I said a week ago that I was going to have such an awesome race that Morgan Freeman would have to narrate it.  (One should always aim high.) What I meant was that I really hoped to not projectile vomit, to be alive at the end and to meet cool people.  And I didn’t vomit, and I did survive, and I met the best people.  And we really are all more astonishingly alive than usual because that’s exactly what KAEM does for you.   It reminded me of Dawna Markova’s beautiful poem:

“I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire (although there were moments on this race where I feared both!)
I choose to inhabit my days,
To allow my living to open me
to make me less afraid, more accessible,
to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch a promise.
I choose to risk my significance
to live so that which came to me as a seed
goes to the next as a blossom
and that which came to me a blossom
Goes on as a fruit.”

(Now please do not go and ruin this beautiful image by recalling CCK’s many unfortunate references to desert flowers ie. carelessly discarded bits of loo paper.)

It is finished.  I am off for an industrial clean and a sleep in a real bed.  Congratulations to our winners, reflection and thanks to follow tomorrow 🙂