By Kim van Kets
Day 6 – 46km
Bloody Scalding as usual don’t know actual temp
Today began with way too much optimism considering how it ended. Whew. Its never over ‘til its over. I woke up in top spirits. I had an excellent sleep, opened my eyes before dawn and lay watching the fire flies and shooting stars switch off their lights and prepare for bed as the Orange River Alarms began their frantic singing and chirping in the reeds. And felt profoundly grateful for the privilege of being exactly where I am. I love this beautiful desert and I am so grateful for the fact that I am fit and healthy enough to experience it this way. I am so grateful to the crew and organisers who make it possible and to Pete who is keeping the home-fires burning while I am away. I had a bit of a moment, as one does. I gingerly tested my feet and was elated to establish that they had been healed by the Orange Archangels of the Kalahari (aka the medics) and that I was no longer a cripple! It’s a miracle! I began to proclaim to everyone within earshot that day 6 is a magical day of happiness in which all lactic acid miraculously disappears, feet are restored, bodies suddenly accept the new routine we impose on them, the rigors of desert and camp living become our new normal and all is fabulous from this day forth and even for evermore…. Mmmmm Well there is possibly a little truth in some of that and we did all set off at a jaunty pace and maintain our happiness levels for quite far into the day. But I do think I may have been getting a smidgen ahead of myself.
I ran with Steve and Emily for the first bit, which was glorious fun. Anyone can say virtually anything to me in an English accent and I immediately collapse with laughter so I may not be entirely objective about this, but Steve is very funny. He is also very active for his age ;-). Emily, who is only 25, completely blew me away with what she told me as we trotted along (still happily). “So, when did you start running and what interesting races have you done?” I asked conversationally.
“Oh I just started running this year and I’ve done a half marathon :)”
“WHAT??!! OMG, you have got to be kidding? How? How is it even possible to CONTEMPLATE this if you haven’t done a LOT of previous suffering?”
Emily continued to trot along looking unfazed and I was almost immobilised by my admiration for this astonishing young woman. I think perhaps she should rule the world.
At the next checkpoint Mich arrived unexpectedly from behind to report that he, Toosie and Saint Estelle had become lost in a river-bed. They had blown their whistles plaintively and uttered some very un-saintly expletives and then they had become separated and he had been hurrying to catch me up. We trotted on together for the rest of the day (and now that Toosie and I were not chattering non-stop) he was able to get some airtime. Mich is 60, has a job in Civilian Intelligence, has run a silver Comrades in his day, has a Masters degree at the age of 19 and has 2 sets of twins less than 2 years apart (together with his lovely wife who is on the crew). Again I was in the presence of extreme awesomeness. We spent the rest of the day together and were pretty happy other than for 2 prolonged periods, the latter worse than the former. We ran for 5.5km along a stupid fence next to a road (inside an awesome Game Park). And it offended us. Deeply. We hated the fence. We were filled with fence rage. The fence fuelled a creative burst (partly inspired by yesterday’s Dr Seuss rhyme) and we produced the following:
We do not love this silly fence
In fact it makes us feel quite tense
We fear we’ve lost our humour sense
Vir Tjek Punt 4 ons flippin wens!
We long for our gazebo tents
The urge to stop is quite immense!
And then we hooked up with John and refined our verse into a rap and grumpiness dissipated as we became high on our own awesomeness. (We actually said that. Really.) But it was true and we trotted along on a wave of happiness until Richard came up behind us, made his vomiting bear noise as a greeting, and nearly caused John to soil himself.
The final check-point was already visible and the last long day was in the bag, and then the wheels fell off for me. Properly. The last 8km to the finish was much like descending into hell. I don’t think I have ever experienced more intense heat or more complete foot agony. The healing was temporary. My mantra became “Oh Dear God please Make This Stop!” (Said in a marching rhythm over and over and over again). Were it not for Mich marching along stoically beside me, I may have curled up in the fetal position or touched an electric fence on purpose. I think everyone felt much the same as there was (apparently) a designated crying chair at the finish and nobody arrived in camp without cursing. Nobody. Just saying.
But now it’s done and we are beyond relief and are all lying around the camp in the recovery position high-fiving each other when we can work up the energy. Other than me of course, I’m typing. And Dion, the racing snake. Dion is sweeping his tent. As he does:-)). Nobody has the “gees” (energy) to make any comments (and they wouldn’t be for family consumption anyway). Although Belinda has stated that her low point of the day (and there were many) was squeezing a sachet of anti-chafe into her mouth in error after mistaking it for the ginger sweet one of the medics had given her for nausea. Here ends day 6. One more bittersweet sleep to go. Hallelujah! Sob!
There is in fact another poem made up by Jane, my very creative and swift gazebo mate. Clearly suffering is excellent for creativity. We may be onto something here
Day 6 is finally complete,
but what an ordeal in the heat!
The simmering blisters on my feet
Almost made me admit defeat
But to exit on a low
Is surely not my way to go
And I won’t desert my gazebo
For the finish line awaits tomorrow!