Running Tunisia: A Full-Marathon Day

Apr 23, 2010
Outside Magazine

Today we ran a marathon! Although this morning, we all woke up feeling exhausted, stiff, sore, and needing an ice bath. We left camp around 7:30 A.M. and made our way towards the town of Douz. As we continued forward, our legs began to loosen up and our pace increased. Everyone was starting to feel a little bit better, and we were all very excited to reach our goal of completing a full marathon.

We made it into the dunes, which were incredible. The sand was lose and textured like flour, but absolutely beautiful. It felt like we stopped for photos every few steps. Our guide, Arida, decided to come with us on our run in his long pants, sweater, and cheche (pronounced "sheesh"). While running, he taught us traditional Arabic songs and games and showed us a variety of different animal tracks, including scorpion, scarab, camel, and warthog. It was amazing to hear all his stories and learn more about the nomads of the Sahara.

Camel We had another incredible lunch and after a brief nap--which we took because a local warned us it was going to be too hot to run in the next hour--we continued forward. And sure enough, the next hour was extremely warm, and when we woke up and began running the temperature had cooled down dramatically and the heat was manageable. Over the next 17 kilometers, we came across two beautiful oasses filled with palm trees, lush green shrubs, and even a well. The scenery here is absolutely incredible. As we got closer and closer to the 42.2 kilometer mark, we began feeling better and better. We pushed for the finish and successfully completed a marathon in the desert! We were all very happy, and even happier when our support team had oranges waiting for us--Tunisian oranges are by far the best oranges in the world!

We just finished setting up camp in the sand dunes and will likely sleep very well tonight. Talk around camp is that we might be getting an Arabic flute show later on...It's been another amazing day in the Sahara!

--Andy Dilla, Jill Gilday, Connor Clerke, and Kajsa Heyes

After completing his record run across Lake Baikalwith Kevin Vallely to draw attention to the global clean-drinking-watercrisis, Ray Zahab will return to Tunisia. The first time around, he starredin the documentary Running the Sahara, narrated and executive-produced by Matt Damon.This time, he will lead a group of four young adults--Andy Dilla, JillGilday, Connor Clerke, and Kajsa Heyes--across the desert as part of an i2Pexpedition to help raise funds and awareness for the water crisis inAfrica. The group will traverse 200 to 250 kilometers total, and theyaim tomake it through in about eight days, with the goal of running 25 to 50kilometers per day.

Filed To: Adventure, Nature

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