The Namib Desert Challenge 2014
will take place 21 – 25 July. The 6th running of this five stage, 220 km multiday race caters for all runners from elite to middle/back packers in some of the most remote, diverse, pristine and untouched wilderness on Planet Earth.
The 5 stages (ranging from 28 – 56 km) cover spectacular and varied parts of the desert terrain.
The race begins with a gradual incline across the dry bushveld of game farms around Sesriem. Runners are treated to awesome views of the landscape from the summit of a narrow mountain pass during the 42km run in stage 1.
The 2nd stage covers the spectacular Naukluft National Park and traverses several dry riverbeds. It then heads through scattered vegetation and on to a big open gravel plain – think horizon views! Hereafter, runners will get a taste of running over their first dunes as the trail traverses thick red dune sand.
Day three offers a test of navigation skills. The scenery is magnificent and wildlife is plentiful. Experience all types of terrain in one stage – sandy river-beds, rocky ground and large grasslands of more magnificent Game farms.
The 4th stage heads toward the mighty red dunes, across the Sesriem Canyon. The summit of Dune 45 offers a daunting challenge as competitors head toward the stage finish line.
Stage five is shorter than the rest of the stages. The last 11km will take them right into the mighty red dunes of the “Dead Vlei” and into the world famous “Sossusvlei”.
Argiris Papathanassopoulos wrote about the race after winning the Namib Desert Challenge (NDC) 2013.
I promptly registered for the NDC without any second thoughts. I must admit that the NDC website did not inspire me very much when I first looked at it. Except for a few photos with some stunning backdrops, the website did not give me a complete idea of what kind of different terrains I will be running on and it did not exactly show where I am to camp, how food is going to be served and how the utility facilities are like on the camping ground. In short, it was difficult for me to imagine the set-up of the race from the website alone.
Despite all these shortcomings, my doubts were slowly extinguished when I began exchanging e-mails with the organiser, Kinetic Events. Terence Southam (Terry), the Race Director, was quick to answer my various queries and I was assured through his replies that this is going to be a well-organised race and that the people behind it are trying their very best to make it a good one.
For the entire duration of the race, we camped at the same location, which was a very well maintained camping ground managed by Sossusvlei Lodge. The location of this place was amazing. It offered us sweeping views across the vast horizons of the area with stunning mountains reaching out to the sky. Each competitor was allocated his/her own tent.
We started and finished from/at different locations for all the stages and for each one of them, we were transferred to and fro by the same bus and driver who had taken us from Windhoek. I must say that we were really pampered!! The driver was part of the crew. He camped with the other crew members on the ground next to the runners’ tents at the same Race Village. Every morning, all of us were transferred to the Start Point together and from the Finish Point, the organiser has thoughtfully arranged for the bus to transfer the runners back to the Race Village in batches according to our completion speed, rather than leaving the early ones having to wait for the others at the finish.
A large Communal Tent with big tables and chairs was set up for the runners to sit around and relax after each stage. This was a place where we mingled and tended to our blisters, sore joints, aching muscles etc!! Tubs of safe drinking waters were always available but it often got too hot for my liking after having been exposed to the intense heat all day. The runners were responsible to bring their own food for breakfasts and lunches. Light snacks can be bought from the nearby store at the kiosk. Hot boiling water was available during breakfast time. Dinners were provided by the organiser and let me tell you, they were good! Every evening, the staff from the Lodge would come to the Race Village to set up a long table with a spread of delicious food (salad/pasta/meat/fruits/sweets), to be served buffet-style. A chef will be on hand to cook your game-meat to your choice (rare/medium/well-done??). Sigh!! Instead of losing weight at the end of the 5 stages, I think some of us put on more weight instead.
In a very clever way, the organiser has included the most exciting places and highlights of the area into the race route (not surprising, since the responsible person who started the planning of the race, Nel, has lived and worked there for the past 15 years!!!). By the end of the race, we had run through some very amazing areas which we would not even have the chance to enter even if we pay to do so, as they are located in reserved areas permissible to enter only by special permits.
Another interesting aspect of the race is the organiser’s careful planning in ensuring that the runners are faced with different types of terrains (rocky trails/ dry river beds/sandy paths/ sand dunes/tarmac/canyons) to run on at each stage. I find this to be very important for me at stage races like this one, because by the time I reach the last 2 stages, I am always in need of some inspiration to urge me on, due to the accumulation of tiredness after having clocked so many hours of running. These changes in terrains, landscapes and sceneries certainly served as a big boost for me.
Visit the Namib Desert Challenge website for more details.