Saturday, 3 March 2012

Atacama Crossing 2012, CHILE- Pre-Event

Finally, I find the time to update this Blog and reflect upon my performance at the Atacama Crossing 2012. I have never imagined myself to finish in the third position before the race. I have guessed that I may be able to finish among the top ten. But to finish third? Honestly, no. My overall time of completion was 26:07:50. 2 hours and 25 minutes behind the unbeatable champion from Spain, Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito and about 1 hour behind the equally unbeatable runner-up, David Ruiz Gomez, also from Spain.

The competition among the runners this year was unbelievably high. There were so many strong and fast runners at the race. The determination in each of them stirred me on to a limit I did not even know existed in myself. The sportsmanship and camaraderie among the runners was so admirable. At times when the going got really tough and when my mind failed me, it was the encouragement from my fellow runners which had kept my body going. In a race where competition for the top positions and/or fastest time were involved, to have my fellow runners giving me encouragement and persuading me to keep running instead of just running past me, was something which I had not expected. This race has taught me many things about my body, my limit but most of all, about what classy sportsmanship is all about.

I will reproduce in this Blog the excerpts of my reflection after the completion of each stage of the race, which I have written from the Cybertent set up at each of the base camp for us. The experience I have gone through in this race has been one of the highlights of my life so far... I hope there will be more to come!!

Arrival in San Pedro:
I arrived at the beautiful and quiet town of San Pedro 2 days before the race. Met quite a few runners from my transfer from the small Calama airport to the dusty cowboy-ish town of San Pedro. I checked into my room at La Casa don Tomas and found out that I had the whole room to myself! I slept off my tiredness   accumulated during the past few days of travelling through a total of 6 airports and 4 countries, also the stress of getting all my food for the race through the strict Chilean customs and my luggage to my final destination. My initial hope to do some training before the race in San Pedro was thrown out the hope to acclimatize myself to the desert's surroundings!

On the following day, I met all the other competitors when we attended the briefing and registration for the race. There was a thorough check of our equipment and gear, food and all the mandatory paperwork. All done, we were then transferred to our first base camp, where we were allocated a tent to 10 competitors. I was assigned to Camp number 6 named Copiapo, where I met some of the coolest people from all walks of life, who were to share my pain and agony for the next 7 days!!

I have done a little search on most of them (he!! he!!) before my arrival and was now trying to put their faces to the names : Chris (tall American ex-NYPD cop now working as a private investigator - definitely not someone you want to mess with ;-P. Running for a charity for Autism), Innogen (British competitor working in London. Running her second 4 Deserts event after Gobi in 2011), Kate (an Australian residing in UK, did Sahara in 2010), Matt (American race director running for a charity for Parkinson's), Joel (American anesthetist. First 4 Deserts attempt), Massimo (Italian analyst working in some complicated financial industry in London ;-P. First 4 Deserts attempt), Brett (Canadian who owns a furniture installation company. Completed Gobi in 2010) and Nick (American executive director of a charity. His 6th time at a Racing the Planet/4 Deserts event !!).

We all settled down, got to now one another and mingled with others from neighbouring tents. Our first base camp was situated at 3,300m above sea level and I was already suffering from mild altitude sickness. The atmosphere around the camp was great as the evening approached. All of us gathered around the fire to keep warm and it was just an amazing experience to see so many people from all over the world at one place. Different languages flew through effortlessly among  the competitors and raucous laughter echoed through the vast desert.

The view of the desert from the camp was breathtaking. Here are some of the photos taken by the official photographer, Scott Manthey :

Our Camping ground for the first night
Atacama : The Driest Place in the World, chose to rain on us just before our arrival!! 

There were even llamas there to entertain us :-)
As the night drew near, temperature in the desert began to drop and we all stayed around the fire to keep warm!

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