This race is pretty absurd. I finished in really good health and with happy feet. I was lucky, or maybe prepared, thanks to teaching, which is more of an endurance sport than running through the Sahara.
But if you do run through the Sahara here’s what might happen, and here’s how teaching is sometimes preparation for the desert:
1. Your feet blister. Most people’s feet were severely blistered by the end of the race. I saw people who literally lost the ENTIRE sole of their feet. Yet, they finished.
2. Your feet swell. You start the race in a shoe that is at least one size to big and by the second day, the shoe fits!
3. Your ankles swell; I needed to cut the calf sleeves off my legs at the end of the race because my ankles were so swollen I couldn’t get them off otherwise.
4.People break bones in their feet, but they kept on running/walking/hobbling. A doctor told a racer “You have a broken ankle, you cannot continue with the race.” The runner said “No, I will finish.” Multiple people I knew had broken bones in their feet. The stress of running on jagged rocks caused most of the breaks.
5. We climbed mountains. It wasn’t all sand dunes. There are mountains in the desert. One person got an IV on a mountain side. How many metaphorical, behavioral, instructional mountains do you surmount everyday as a teacher? There are more teaching mountains per day than there were literal mountains in the Sahara.
6. I need water! But there just isn’t enough, at least not for me. I, however, don’t want to incure the 30 minute time penalty for getting an extra bottle, so I stay thirsty. Enough work days without a lunch is good preparation for this.
7. DUNES. Running on sand is hard, running up mountains of sand for miles at a time is harder. But maintaining the attention of a 6th grade class is even harder. So good work to good teachers!
8. People had to redesign their shoes. Feet were swollen, bruised, broken, and blistered. Many toenails fell off (I finished with all 10 of mine still intact!). The solution to damaged feet was to cut the toe box out of your sneaker, or cut up your sleeping pad and tape parts of it to your sole for extra cushioning.
9. One man did the second half of the race in crocs because his feet were so swollen. One woman finished the race barefoot.
10. It is so hot you can cook your food in the sun.
11. It’s the only race where the start is delayed because “There is a Land Rover stuck in the dunes on the course.” “My mom’s car was stuck in a sand dune” is not an acceptable excuse for being late for school.
12. People had heat stroke, kidney failure, and tissue infections. Legs were swelling because blisters were infected. Many people were on antibiotics by the end. I was fine though. I think teaching must build up your immunity!
13. The amount of laughter and happiness was crazy. I asked my tentmate one morning why he was laughing. He said “I think it’s funny that I’m still alive.” In general, jovial spirits! I was happy the whole race! Now I just need to figure out how to remain calm when the copy machine isn’t working.
14. It was so hot people were passing out waiting in line to write their allotted one email per day.
15. This race was absurd, crazy, challenging, incredible. What is more amazing, is that, to me at least, teaching is much more challenging. Finding the energy, the patience, the creativity to execute and attempt to inspire middle schoolers is harder. The endurance needed to for the school day is typically greater than the endurance I needed to run for 5 to 12 hours through the Sahara. So if you are a teacher sitting at home thinking this race is nuts, please know that you could probably complete this race; teaching is the perfect preparation for the Sahara.