Pavel Paloncy is from the Czech Republic and ran KAEM in 2018. He is one guy who can say he knows his way around a desert ultra race. It’s his curiosity and thirst to learn that gets him places, and his wonderful attitude towards friends, challenges, and the environments that are thrown his way. Pavel was recently interviewed by journalist writer, Annabelle Latz from New Zealand and KAEM 2019 participant.
What made you want to do a desert run?
I had two big reasons for doing KAEM. I like to try new things, find new challenges. I have raced in the desert before, I ran the Ultra Gobi 400, but that was a non-stop race. I wanted to try the self-sufficient desert stage race format. And I had friends in South Africa who I had met that year earlier in April on Munga Trail (another non-stop 400 km race). So KAEM was an obvious choice.
Was KAEM what you expected it to be – why/why not?
Every desert is different. It is fascinating how variable they can be. All of them are dramatic, yet they are all called the same – desert. So the environment really surprised me. I expected to learn new things, to meet new people and have fun. This has not surprised me, but the extent to which all these things took place suprised me…a lot I got much more than I could have asked for.
Biggest challenge of KAEM
Definitely the heat. I am big and heavy, in general I have no trouble keeping body temperature in cold environments, but I really suffer in hot environments. Not only getting through the heat and keeping myself cool, but also sensing the heat. 35 or 45 degrees is a massive difference. In 35 you can run, just a bit a slower. At 45 you start melting. For us in Eastern Europe, both of them are “f**king hot!!”
Another challenge was my body. 10 days before the race on a recovery run in the Pyrenees I tore my tendon in my left thumb. So I was doing KAEM with a plaster with a wire protruding from my thumb. This added a challenge of its own, but in the end we got some more fun.
The desert itself. There was much more to see than expected. Animals, plants… the Kalahari desert is actually not that empty.
Stand out moment(s.)
Finish line, unsurprisingly, going over Moon Rock in the final couple of kilometres, and race parties!
Message to others wanting to enter KAEM
If there is one desert stage race to do – it’s this one. Don’t tear your tendon before the race (or even though the race). Whatever is your background, you will learn a lot; about the environment around you as well as about yourself.
Advice on packs, nutrition
Nutrition – have two separate sets of food – one for the time you run and the other for the rest. You actually spend a lot of time not running. Have a few (but lightweight) treats for yourself – coffee here and there, or fizzy tabs can really make a difference.
Advice on footwear and backpacks
Stick to what worked and works for you. Don’t try anything unproven, or something special. You will have to get by with it for a week, so make sure you know your gear. It does not have to be the best one around, it should be the one that has worked the best for you so far.
Funny memories you want to share…
What happens in Kalahari, stays in Kalahari
The race is a journey through the desert. You race each other, but essentially you share the same journey. And this journey takes you away from the outer world and into the race camps which are separated from your reality. There are innumerable stories, deep emotions and moments never to be forgotten. However, these moments make sense within the group who have come through the desert. The only way to share these memories is to become part of the group.
The Kalahari summed up in five words.
Friendship, fun, laughter, stories, heat.