Lost In The Desert On The FlashBack-Adventures’ Full Moon Desert Marathon …..

What a week end !!!

Jordan is one of my favorite destinations… Friends, fun, adventure, just a fantastic getaway, a home away from home.
Lovely people, locals, bedouins, expats, everyone is just so welcoming and warm, fun and helpful, makes you feel so much at home, you would want to come back for more.
For that week end, I visited Jordan for the Full Moon Desert Marathon and Half Marathon organized in Wadi Rum by FlashBack Adventures http://www.flashback-adventures.com/. FBA: a fantastic team of cool, active, great spirited people and most of all reliable and trustworthy. Couldn’t wish for a better team to be lost in the desert with, in the middle of the night 🙂
I was running the 21K Half -Marathon and on this race, my primary goal was to cross the finish line regardless of my finishing time. I hadn’t run since the New Year’s Pilgrimage Race, four months ago so I knew I was just there for the adventure and testing my legs’ stamina on desert sand… and for that, I sure did.
A light sand storm picked up before the race which made everyone cover up their faces with scarfs, bandanas, goggles etc etc…
We gathered for the briefing… the countdown and at 20:00, the adventure began !!
Main advice during the briefing: Do not run alone and take your mobile phone with you as some desert areas do have reception.

Thankfully the sandy winds calmed down although damage had already been done with some of the trails torches being blown out making the trails a bit tricky.

Mild temperatures and no sand storm, the weather was just perfect for a desert night race.
Between the 5k and the 10k water stops, I lost the trail a couple of times ( blown out torches ) and loosing a trail alone in the desert, at night, is quite paralyzing as looking around everything seems the same until I see a small light in the distance somewhere, assume it’s a torch and start running towards it. If am lucky, it would be the next torch on the trail. Hmmm I wasn’t always lucky.
I was looking behind me every once in a while, no sign of life. Knowing that in the desert at night, you can easily pass someone, who is running in a different direction, without even noticing him/her, I assumed that when I was lost and running around looking for the trail everyone had passed me. But arriving at the 10k water check, I realized that I wasn’t actually the last one, there was still about 10 people behind me. That piece of information refreshed me a bit, I must admit, and gave me a push forward.
From 10 to 15k, still running alone, lost the trail again with no sign of life around until finally reaching the 15k check. Phew!! What a relief.. Happy to have found it yet shocked to realize that I have been running for 2 and half hours. Since I wasn’t running for time, I didn’t check it, but 2 AND A HALF HOURS !!!! Geeeez !!! I knew my pace and I know I have run longer than 15k with all the extensions I have done  but whether I like it or not I am officially still at 15k with 2 and half hours of running.
The 15k water check marshals were actually the only sign of life I came across since the 10k check and the last until I was found more than 2 hrs later.
I headed out again direction the finish line. It must have been around 2 or 3Ks after I took off that I couldn’t see any more torches. While wondering which direction to take, a magical moment hit me…a soft blow of wind skimmed my ears like a touch of magic making me realize where I actually was… in a beautiful desert I was, under the moon light.
Knowing that I was definitely not breaking any records tonight, I allowed myself to stop and enjoy the moment.. Enjoy the beauty around me.. listening to the silence and in the middle of nowhere, suddenly I realized I was actually somewhere.. somewhere gorgeous. Looking up at the moon, a beautiful Full Moon right there bright and high in the middle of the clear dark sky with sprinkles of shining stars around, together overlooking what, just a few hours ago was a red desert and now with the touch of the moonlight shining turned into a one big dark blue beauty. I stood there living the magical moment, nothing was moving, like time stood still and I was the only one breathing. All I could hear and feel was the soft wind skimming my ears, WOW… The beauty of silence, the beauty of nature… How lucky am I to be able to live a magical moment of natural beauty in the midst of an International Race.. A moment that gave me a feeling of indescribable strength to look for the trail again with a fulfilled smile on my face.
Off I went. Took me a few minutes of running around before I noticed 3 lights in the far left distance. They were pretty far off from where I was but they looked like torch lights so there must be a trail there and at that point, any trail was better than no trail. Besides other than the moon, there were no other lights anywhere in the vicinity, so I headed towards them with one thing in mind : the finish line.
Finally made it to the torches, ran around and around for more.. Nothing… weird, 3 little torches all alone in the desert? Not possible! they must be part of some trail that will lead me to the finish. I kept running and running but unfortunately there was nothing. By then, sadly, my knees could not run anymore, my body was giving up… Being a stubborn finisher rather than a quitter my brain was refusing to give up while my body was starting to struggle… I had to be realistic though and admit that I was lost and didn’t know where I was and I needed to contact the organizers otherwise, not only I won’t cross the finish line, but I also will be sleeping in the desert. Well, I might still be sleeping in the desert anyway if my mobile phone doesn’t work.
My mobile phone.. Uh! how precious in situations like that, unfortunately with no reception it’s useless. I texted FBA anyway and started walking hoping my mobile will catch a reception at some point and the message will be sent.. It was midnight by then, one and half hours since the 15k check. My knees were aching and I was thirsty but I needed to keep myself moving until I can make contact with FBA. I wasn’t worried that they will not find me, I trust Flashback Adventures organizers blindly, I knew I was going to be found but I was bummed that I wasn’t going to cross the finish line 🙁
Suddenly *BING* a message… yuppeee… Mobile Reception !!! Got so excited that contact with FBA was made… Checked the message only to see that it was my friend from Beirut asking me something about SKYPE.. My excitement dropped, texted him back with a smiley that I was lost in the desert and I couldn’t think of SKYPE right now. He thought I was joking, took a couple of messages to convince him I was actually lost. Then he panicked and I was still cool. *BING* one more message, YESSSS FBA made contact. We exchanged a couple of messages and to explain my location all I could say was that I had a huge mountain on my left, another huge mountain on my right and a few dunes here and there and most importantly the Full Moon shining thru. For me, I didn’t think it was much of a helpful description, but apparently for G. my communicator at the other end, it was good information as his next and most helpful text said :” OK then keep walking towards the moon between the two mountains, get on a dune, look for a light, the first torch you find sit and wait there.”
A few seconds later *rrrriiiinnnngggg* an officer from the Tourist Police on the line enquiring about my state and location. My state *Cool* My location *Unknown* unfortunately. I hung up and followed FBA instructions walking towards the moon. Sure enough, just as I was starting to loose hope, I found a torch, sat there and waited. Although no mobile reception at that spot to inform anybody of my location, I had no intention of moving anywhere. I have a better chance of being found next to a torch than anywhere else in the desert. Time 1AM… Sitting with my best buddy now, the Torch, and my second best buddy, My Mobile, I started playing Sudoku. I had to make best use of my time and keep my brain fresh until either help comes my way or my battery dies. Half way thru the brain refreshment, I lifted my head up and in the far distance I saw headlights. UH!! a breath of hope ran thru me.. I jumped up and started waving with my arms although I didn’t think they could see me from that far but I could see them driving towards me, following the torch line. Two FlashBack Adventures security cars reached me driven by two guys M & N who greeted me with a smile. I was so happy to see them but they were even happier to have found me. I explained what happened and they were surprised, as it turned out, that by finding the 3 torch lights I had picked up the 42K marathon trail, which they never thought would happen. I said thank you to N, he said with a smile: “don’t thank me thank M he is the one who saw you.” Thank you M, Thank you N, Thank you G, Thank you B.. Thank you all FBA team 🙂
I got in the jeep and we drove back to the Finish where everyone was gathering around the bonfire. I must admit it was disappointing to me to arrive to the finish line in a car 🙁
The police officer called me again about half an hour later and said: “we are still out here looking for you but you need to give us more information about your exact location.” I said: “Then come over to the bonfire, am there, I was picked up by M & N.” Suddenly *silence* call failed… I really don’t know whether the line was cut from bad reception or he actually hung up on me. Either way who cares, thanx to the FBA team I was back on site, alive and kicking. I knew I could trust them.
I started off at 20:00, lost on the trail and found just after 1AM, 5 hrs after the start.. I ran about 4.5 hrs on sand… could have done a marathon !!! I can tell you, the next day my legs were feeling like they had run a marathon.
Would I do it again? Absolutely !!! It was beautiful, exciting, not one bit boring !!!
Adventure and fun that’s what makes life interesting.