Living in the Wadi Rum Desert and running in it for 5 days was one of the experiences of my life
13 September 2016 09:22
By: Fergus Scholes
Read more about Fergus here.
Wadi Rum literally means ‘valley of the moon’ and it really is just that, you might expect a guy in a space suit to walk past you any moment. There is no one to see, very little wildlife or vegetation, and the sun beats down very strong all day every day without a cloud in the sky. This was about to be one of the experiences of my life, the next 5 days would be very tough but so very worthwhile in every way.
Day 1 - 50km, 6 hours 8 minutes
Myself and 6 other guys lined up in the start line at 6am, the run just rising, not really having any idea of what lay ahead of us. Laughing and joking, we then trotted off as the cow bell rung signifying the start of this 242km foot race across the desert. None of us had run ultra-marathons before, it was uncharted territory. The first 30km were no problem, as this was a distance frequently covered in training. But the last 30km, how very different these were - the heat and the soft sand made this bear no resemblance to running around Hyde Park after work, which was mostly what training had been comprised of. But after a few kilometres of walking to ensure there was energy in the tank for the following day, I crossed the finish line in one piece - thank goodness, what relief! The rest of the day was spent relaxing and resting up for the next day, albeit slightly apprehensive at running the same distance ageing plus a bonus 20km.
Day 2 - 70km, 9 hours 42 minutes
This Long day started at 3am, with the alarm set for 2am, so we were kinda tired before we had even staggered to the start line, still stiff and sore from the previous day. Each competitor had a glow stick on them so we could be seen, and the race course was marked with a glow stick each 50m so you could see where you were running, as it was pitch black for the first 3 hours. As the sun rose, we were running through a dried up river bed which was cool, then onto the flat plains as the sun started shining on us, and making us sweat and hot. The final 10km were absolute hell, I nicknamed this final valley the ‘Valley of Death’ as it was relentless, never ending, and so so hot!! But eventually crossed the finish line, with some walking, and took a well deserved seat.
Day 3 - 50km, 6 hours 32 mins
My alarm didn’t go off, so I was woken 10 minutes before we were due to start at 5.50am and there was no way I would be ready by 6am. So the others started before me, and I got going around an hour later. This day was all running on very flat and hard ground, baked so so hard by the sun beating down on it relentlessly. It was tough of your joints, as it was so hard, so knees and ankles got very sore. I also had the honour of running 10km of this stage with Salameh Al Aqra, who has won the Marathon Des Sables in 2012 (the Olympics of ultra-marathon desert running!). Despite the cumulative distance run, and the firm ground, I was feeling surprisingly strong, and seemed to be adapting well to this whole thing, I could nearly say I was beginning to enjoy it … maybe.
Day 4 - 42km, 4 hours 20 mins
This day was supposed to be 100km, but because two of the competitors had been taken to hospital in an ambulance because of excess salt loss over the previous days, the race organiser decided the planned 100km was too risky for us and reduced it to a marathon. This ended up being a really great day, with spectacular views, and interesting terrain. This was a marathon distance, and I went for it quite hard as I knew there was only one day to go.
Day 5 - 30km, 2 hours 55 mins
It was so joyous setting out on this day, as I knew we had effectively done it, and no matter what would have happened, I was going to cross the finish line even if it was on hands and knees crawling. Again, the scenery was so beautiful, and I felt so strong and was running fast, trying to soak up this final day and make the most of it.
Crossing the line was quite emotional, and felt such a huge sense of achievement. I was also sad it was over, I didn’t want this amazing experience to end. There were seven of us running in total, 5 of us finished it, and I can say for sure, I have made some amazing new lifelong friends, and learned so much from them, and this amazing experience. I will no doubt draw strength from this experience throughout my life, and refer to it in times of hardship, and the experiences I learned help in all aspects of my life. Doing something like this sets you apart a little, and helps makes you see life from a different perspective and appreciate the small things.
I couldn’t recommend doing something like this so much - get out there and explore and life is better.
If you would like to support Fergus by donating to British Exploring, you can do so on his Virgin Money Giving page.
Image credit: All images are owned by Wadi Rum Ultra team.