The Petra Desert Marathon – 2014 – part 1

 

It was the darkest place I had ever fallen into. I struggled for reason to take another step, everything hurt and I had no energy. Salty, grit chafed my every move. Raising my leg far enough to get my foot off the ground was an effort beyond my capacity and I was still over a kilometer from the top of that hill… which had just gotten steeper. I couldn’t focus, confusion had set in. I felt as if I were on a mental train, speeding past all the stops watching the world go by in a blurry fog. The heat was sweltering, there was no shade, no wind, I was alone in a desert, in the Middle East, 34 kilometers (21 miles) into the Petra Desert Marathon and I was hallucinating.

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“There is nothing in the desert and no man needs nothing.” – Lawrence of Arabia 1962

The idea of running a desert marathon was born two years earlier in a Chicago blizzard so intense, it had shut down O’Hare. I remember on that morning’s run around Soldier Field, the bitter wind off Lake Michigan formed ice in the corners of my eyes, the dirty frozen slush soaked my shoes, and I thought people are crazy to live in this shit. Funny how extremes breed extremes.

Frozen at Soldier Field

Frozen at Soldier Field

I was in Chicago attending the LIVESTRONG Leader Assembly. As I write this, I have been involved with the LIVESTRONG Foundation for 7 years. I started with the purchase of a yellow wrist band and over time I took more and more responsibility until progressing to Senior Leader overseeing Leaders across 5 states. “Leaders” are a group of volunteers who run event booths, hold fund raisers, and advocate politicians to support government funding of programs and organizations which educate, treat and research cures for cancer. I have had the pleasure of meeting with senators, members of congress and heads of state to share my family’s cancer story and lobby their support.

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Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC)

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Senator Tom Harkin (D- IA)

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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

 

LIVESTRONG is an international Foundation, and we have Leaders all over the globe. I work with Leaders from Japan, Denmark, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, South Africa, South America, Mexico and many, many others. Cancer does not care what country you come from, it does not care about your politics, or your religion. Cancer robs you of joy and opportunity. Cancer treatments often make you sicker than cancer does. My Uncle suffered having operation after operation, along with chemo and radiation all of which took its toll on his body. In the end we believe the treatments were what killed him. With proper, continued funding, researchers will be able to find better treatments and hopefully even cures. It is the main reason I work with LIVESTRONG.

2012 Assembly group photo

Often times over the years I have run in other events trying to raise awareness for our cause: The Marine Corps Marathon, The Wrightsville Beach Marathon, The Mount Lemmon Marathon and my annual trip to Florida in late November for the Space Coast Marathon. I joined my friends and fellow Leaders Jacob and Anne in Copenhagen, Denmark earlier this year to take part in the World Half Marathon Championships where Jacob organized over a hundred people who all wore LIVESTRONG Foundation shirts.

World Half Marathon Championships 2014 Copenhagen, Denmark.

World Half Marathon Championships 2014 Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Petra Desert Marathon was Anne’s idea. She announced she was going and asked if anyone else was interested in joining. I jumped at the chance. The entire event was being put on by a Danish company called Albatros Adventure. It was a 7 day event which toured the heart of the Middle East with the Petra Desert Marathon at the apex of the trip. It SEETHED of Adventure! We had some months to prepare for this adventure and we set out to find proper kit and gear for running a marathon in such an extreme place! Both Anne and I have had the pleasure of working with Polar Electro, manufactures of the finest quality heart rate monitors on the plannet. I was planning on using my RC3 GPS and my RCX5 GPS to record the marathon, and Anne has dubious honor of using the newest multisport personal computer from Polar, the V800. These units are all equipped with GPS and will map everything! Now to find other partners!

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Petra is such an awesome place. I remember seeing photos of it in National Geographic growing up. Of course we have all seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy and his father come to Petra looking for the Holy Grail…

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Wise people travel. Smart people ask stupid questions. Intelligence comes from experiencing new things and meeting new people.  Seeing parts of the world outside your normal four walls expands your mind to the consideration of other possibilities. You become smarter by traveling.

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Anne and I met in Heathrow Airport in England, and flew together into Amman. We flew into Amman later in the evening. Flying over, I noticed that almost every street was lit. We discussed it and after a while we figured it might be for sand storms.

IMG_3702Thanks to Google Earth, Google Map and of course the superb Albatros website I knew quite a bit about what to expect about the physical surroundings. The Queen Alia International Airport is a brand new, modern airport which is beautiful.

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We had made arrangements with our hotel, The Amman International Hotel, to have a driver pick us up. He had a sign with our name and he spoke English. Easy. No problems. Got to the hotel, checked in, and I took a shower. A note here about most of the showers in Jordan… they all have a tub/ shower but with no curtain. Instead they all have this half wall that only covers half of the side, and it is mounted on a hinge. I had been traveling either in an airplane, an airport or a taxi for the last 19 hours and was probably so out of it I just was doing it wrong, but water goes everywhere. The whole floor was wet. There was a drain in the floor so I wasn’t worried.

A note here about long distance air travel: sleep on the plane. You will not want to buy the damn little neck pillow, but buy the damn little neck pillow. Otherwise your neck hurts and you drool.

 

Next time we meet our fellow travelers, our guides and we meet the Fast and Furious Taxi Driver!

 

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