1st October, 2018
In two months, a group of battered, sun-burnt, but ecstatic runners will be limping their way back to their homes around the world. They’ll have just completed a 250km foot-race across the Namib Desert in 5 days. They’ll have a right to look happy as they strut as best they can through airports in their new race finisher t-shirts, and every reason to be walking a little stiffly.
But why should you come and join them in the Namibian sand? There are other desert races, some are household names, at least in running households, so why come and join BTU in the desert?
Well, maybe you shouldn’t.
There are several reasons why you should keep away from this race and a few of them are explained right here.
There’s too much Wildlife
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Namib is a featureless, barren place which couldn’t support much life. You’d be wrong though.
The first people to disagree with that sentiment would be the local Damara people who still maintain a meagre living by farming on the land around here. The second would most likely be the runners who took part in the race last year and who survived an invasion of elephants at the Stage Three camp. Well, invasion is a strong word. It was more of a polite visit. Nevertheless, last year’s racers had to endure an ordeal, as the sun rose on day four, when a family of elephants strolled along the opposite bank of the dry river bed which housed their camp.
The bugling pachyderms strolled steadily by, forcing the runners to dash to their tents to grab camera phones and to force themselves into photogenic poses, a herculean task after 3 days of ultra-running.
If this weren’t enough, more animals appeared along the trail, mercilessly photobombing their way into our runners’ scenery pictures without any permission. These uninvited spectators included ostriches, giraffes and zebra.
There’s not enough Sand
We can only apologise for this. We realise that when you think of the desert you’re probably thinking of sand dunes stretching off into the horizon. You’re also probably imagining that sand working it’s way into a great many places you would rather it wouldn’t.
We don’t have that. Don’t get us wrong, we do have sand in abundance, but that’s only a part of what our race has in store. Not all deserts are a sea of sand. Some, like the Namib, have more varied terrain. The Desert Ultra is run in the shadow of the Spitzkoppe and Brandberg Mountains, towers of ancient granite rising from the desert floor. This makes for undulating terrain, moving through different eco-systems, and taking in canyons and river beds formed over millennia. Runners are more likely to find themselves galloping over rock-strewn, hard packed trails, than wading through ankle deep sand.
It’s too Tough
There’s no getting around it, this race is hard. Daytime temperatures regularly top 35+°c and there is little to no cloud cover to shield runners from the sun. Plus, whereas some races split their distance out over 6 or more days, we prefer to push our runners a little harder. Call it sadism if you will, but we prefer to think of it as pushing ourselves and our runners to find that extra mile from somewhere. In the end we just really, really want you to feel like you earned that t-shirt and medal.
There’s no Charity Stage
It’s true. We don’t have an individual stage dedicated to fundraising for charity.
Beyond the Ultimate have a long-term policy of partnering with organisations local to our races (or with a presence in the area) to help ensure that our races leave the area better than when we arrived. Our desert race finishes at a rhino sanctuary in Namibia and we are building a relationship with them like the ones we’ve created with Save the Rhino, For Rangers, the Amazon Conservation Association and more, to create a long-term friendship which benefits them and the valuable work they do for Namibia.
Also, through our partnership with Mossy Earth, we now work to offset the carbon created by the flights which bring ourselves and our runners out to our adventures. You can learn more about that here.
So, no charity stage. Instead, we make a point of using our Race Series to do as much good as we can as we travel around the world, in support of all our charity partners.
It will get you into trouble
It’s true we’re afraid. The ballots for entry into our upcoming races have become so busy that we’ve made the Desert Ultra a gateway onto our other races.
If you complete the Desert Ultra, you can get a place on one of our other races without having to go through the ballot. So, you’ll know, as you hobble your way onto your flight home, that you’re going to have to travel to some other beautiful place in the world with another group of awesome people, and do it all over again.
So, there you have it. We’re not exactly sure what it is that keeps compelling people to join us in the Namib. Many of them then go on to talk about how amazing they thought it was. Unbelievable we know. But who are we to talk? It’s clear that we think they’re all crazy.
Maybe you’ll have to listen to the runners themselves by watching these testimonials and then watch the trailer below.