The question most of my friends have is: have you been training?
It's a sore subject, one I try to turn to laughter – but inside I know I’m in for it.
Yes, I’ve been training – as much as I possibly could while devoting more energy than I thought I had to Whale Like Me. In other words – I haven’t been training nearly enough. Probably just enough to maintain a basic level of fitness, but each run shows me my abilities do not extend far enough to imagine I might be able to complete the Sahara race.
What I don’t tell my friends, because it would defeat the need to laugh it off, is that the longest run I have completed so far is 10 kilometers, with about half the weight I’ll have on my back at the start of the real thing. On a couple of occasions those 10 k runs have resulted in injury. Makes 35 kms per day, for seven days, seem unreasonable. And then there is the glaring fact that I have never covered 35 kilometers in a single day, walking or running.
But here is where I find strength. I plan to walk the first day. Perhaps even the second day. To get a feel of what 35 kilometers are. To get a feel for this desert - its terrain, heat, and character. Danger of serious injury, I am hoping, is greatest on the first couple of days, should I rush into things. On day three, I can start sprinkling in some runs and hopefully build upon them as the pack gets lighter.
My mind is strong – I have tested it in the wilderness before, digging deeper and deeper for resources and focus in times of great exhaustion and solitude.
My body, though unfit by marathon standards, has responded well to the training I have been able to complete. I’ve lost 6kg (that much less to drag around the desert) since I started training in March. My tendons and muscles feel healthy – certainly far healthier than they have been during the 14 years I’ve spent seated in dark rooms, working on computer generated imagery.
Most of all, there is the X factor. The whales. The Sperm whales of my dream 5 years ago. The Baird’s Beaked whales of the Sea of Japan: the sight of their death still seared in my mind. The humpback whales of the Cook Islands and how time stood still as we contemplated each other for over three hours. And the whales I will be running towards: 40 million year old whales whose bones attracted me to the Sahara in the first place.
The Valley of the Whales in front of me, the dream whales, hunted whales and Cooks whales behind me – I have a thread leading my way. I may lack in fitness compared to all the other competitors, but I know why I am there and it is for something greater than myself. If I can nudge us closer to the historic moment where we grant rights to whales and recognize them as non-human persons, I’ll marshal all the energy and resilience at my disposal to get to the Valley which lies 5 days into the race… and perhaps beyond, to the finish line.
In any event, there is no turning back. I’m somewhere over the Indian Ocean. The hollow rush of wind over the fuselage and the drone of the engines: that's the sound of the Sahara rushing towards me at 800 kph.
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