42km Across the Desert

Run with your heart and your feet will follow; the emotions of a desert marathon.

We have ambassadors all around the world.. this is Saskia from Switzerland Here is her adventure through her marathon… this one was across the desert in Petra, Jordan. Have a read:

Although my 100k was really successful when considering my finish time, my rank, my overall health, how my stomach held up, my recovery, etc. I ended up being disappointed about the emotional part of the race. I had never doubted that I could do it and knee problems from km 60 onwards had kept me from thinking all other thoughts. The highs and lows were rather average. I felt empty and unsatisfied.

You may have guessed: I run for the thrill of the emotions. For the parts where it starts to hurt and where you get to know the real you. I run to get to know the real me. I run like a girl.
So after that somewhat disappointing 100k in June, I was really looking forward to my trip to Jordan. My little sister – the best travel companion ever – and I left Switzerland towards Vienna and from thereon to Amman in Jordan. It was an organized adventure marathon travel, meaning we had arranged and we were there to enjoy and suck it all in.
After enjoying a floating experience in the Dead Sea, we drove to Petra on Day 2 and met all runners at the briefing. “It will be hot, brutal, long, steep and really demanding” the race director told us. They also warned us about the dogs protecting their goats in the desert and about dehydration. We listened carefully and I loved the idea that this marathon was going to be a real challenge.
Marathon day came and we all met up at the gate of the lost city of Petra, once Capital of the Nabataeans. We all walked the 2.5k down through the Siq, a narrow gorge leading into Petra, to the starting line. Then we were off. Half- and full marathoners together.

The first kilometer was run passed the Theatre and the Royal Tombs, on sandy desert roads. Km 2 to 4 were a long winding uphill on asphalt. I did a run/walk in an 8/8 rhythm, trying to keep pace. Apart from the leading group, almost every one took walking breaks. Around km 7, the road for the marathoners took an extra loop and this is were the fun started. For the next 5km, the sandy hilly desert trails felt like a huge playground and with temperatures still in the 20ies (Celsius that is… must have been between 75-80F), I felt like flying. I enjoyed every step and absolutely LOVED it out here. This is what running is about. The freedom, the joy, the views, the happy moments, the smiles.

Km 13 marked the beginning of an 18k out and back loop on asphalt that got hotter and hotter. Temperatures were soon above 85F and the road was hillier than it had looked on the elevation profile. We ran up and down in the middle of nowhere. I kept myself hydrated with plenty of water and some electrolytes. And I kept my head cool by pouring the remainders of my bottles over my head at every stop. Soon, the leaders started passing me on their way back and I took these moments to wave at everyone and encourage them – and to distract myself really. By this time, I could see some people ahead in the distance and some behind me, but I was running on my own. Less than 2km before turning point, the first female runner passed me on her way back… and I started counting the ladies, just for fun.

Km 22. Turning point down in the valley after a steep, hardly runnable downhill. How mean was that? I drank a coke, poured more water over my head, and started walking the steep uphill for the second part of the race. Turning point in the race and in my strategy too. I had planned to give it my all but not to stress about time or position. But I was in 7th position and all of a sudden, I was so eager to defend that position and finish top 10. Having run only large city marathons before, placing had never been an issue and I wanted to take the opportunity. Km 28. a combination of un-experienced stress, dehydration, overheating and tiredness forced me to take longer and longer walking breaks. A headache was coming up and I had to walk and take longer breaks at the aid station to keep my heart rate below 170bpm – which was way too high. I considered stepping out of the race. But I could still put one foot in front of the other… and everyone around me suffered. I saw a few runners walk too and decided I would not give up until everyone around had given up first.

Km 31. the race staff told me I was looking great! FYI: the more I suffer, the more I smile to cover it… so looking great actually meant I was suffering big time.
From thereon, the course went onto a gruelling long steep uphill. Everyone walked. I walked. And stopped. And walked, and paused again. Walked, kept my head cool with more water, and walked. I have never walked this much in any marathon. But everyone walked. I felt like turning around and giving up. Once again. And exactly at this moment, I knew I was going to continue because I was feeling what I had been searching for: my limits. They were there. At 100F in the burning sun, on a steep uphill in the Jordanian desert… I was reaching my limits.
Km 34. The worst of the uphill was done and the next 4k were told to be only rolling hills. I started to run again but was slowly cramping up. I’ve never experienced cramps before. I tried to stretch but other muscles started to cramp. I was definitely not doing well. So I slowed down but continued to run. As long as I’d run, no one would pass me. By now, my clothes and shoes were completely soaked. Km 36. I saw a female in front of me. That was a confidence boost. I was not doing well, but others were doing worse. Caught up on here, ran with her and then continued my own race.
The cramps were slowly going away and I felt the energy return to my body and mind.

Km 39. All downhill from here. I was so relieved. I took one last picture break – I had to capture the views, they were so stunning! – and caught the girl in 5th position. I felt so strong. From the lowest low to the highest high. I felt invincible. I felt I could conquer anything.

The last kilometer was my fastest in the entire race. I sprinted down the hill towards the finish line, trying to catch 2 girls in front of me, but I couldn’t… they were in such great shape and were able to defend their positions. I jumped through the finish line, celebrating these lasts steps. 5th female, 40 seconds behind 3rd. But time and placing is not what mattered.

I had given it my all, everything I had. I had suffered big time. And that is what made it great. That is what running is about. Redefining your impossible. After that race, it was all about sweaty hugs and great stories, about celebrating and relief. About pushing our limits and being damn proud.

Petra Desert Marathon was the most brutal one so far. And by far the best experience. So take on those challenges and remember; run with your heart and your feet will follow.

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