Libyan Challenge

Libyan Challenge raceOk, it’s less than five week until I fly to Morocco for the Marathon des Sables, so I’ve got desert racing on the brain pretty much 24/7. Therefore, I was pleased when two friends emailed me about the Libyan Challenge being held in… well, Libya next week. Not only is this the fourth running of a hardcore desert race, it is also the first time that an American team will be competing in the race – a notable event given the quarter century of sometimes stormy relations between the two countries. (What next, the TransCuba Run?) Anyway, read on for more about the race and I ask that you please read about the American team with will be well covered by National Geographic. (skip ahead to read more about the American team)

Some of long time iRunFar readers may remember Martin Gaffuri, as my teammate from the TransRockies Run. Well, now he’s out of school and working at Scott, a sponsor of the Libyan Challenge. Martin also maintains a francophone trail running blog, Trail Running, on which he published a post about the race. Martin was kind enough to provide the following translation of the post:

As an official sponsor, Scott will once again support the Libyan Challenge which will take place from February 22nd to March 1st 2009, in North Africa.

Libyan Challenge startTo those who don’t know about the Libyan Challenge, let’s be honest: this is no regular race! More than 100 ultra runners are about to run 124 miles straight, across the Libyan desert. Yes you got it right! Here we are not talking about a stage race but about a start, a finish line, and all that’s in between is up to the runners who will have to perform this epic race in self-sufficiency! The organization, will only provide the runners with water at control stations along the course – a course that the runners will have to find for themselves via GPS.

Some will call them lunatics, we like to call them extreme adventurers. Jean-Marc Tomasini, the race director, and his 40 member staff ensure the safety of all runners.

Care givers will be at every control station to give massage, heal blisters and irritations mostly caused by the extreme race conditions with sand and high temperatures. Those devoted people will put the runners back on track and give them motivation to get to the end of such an adventure.

And if you wonder why more than a third of the runners come back, don’t think it’s solely masochism. Beyond the physical pain caused on the course, there is stronger draw, something you cannot touch, something you cannot see, something you cannot imagine unless you have experienced it.

As I mentioned earlier, a major highlight of this race is its inclusion of an American team for the first time. The creation of this team as spearheaded by Rebecca Byerly … as she tried to get me to join the team. Here’s Rebecca’s description of how she finds herself participating in the Libyan Challenge.

Last September a Libyan friend told me about the race and put me in touch with the Libyan consul here in Washington, D.C.,” Rebecca recalls. “Not only did the consul assure me that he could get visas for the team but we also began training for the race together. I thought this was a unique opportunity to learn about Libya while engaging in an extreme sport. Though I had no idea how everything was going to come together, I was determined to have an American team in this year’s event.

The other Americans joining Rebecca at the challenge are Bob Lashua, Howard Cohen, Isabella De La Houssaye, and JB Benna. Bob, Isabella, and Rebecca will compete as a team while Howard will compete as an individual. For more information about the American team check out Rebecca’s articles on TrailrunningSoul.com: American team member bios; pre-race update.

Libyan Challenge American TeamThe American team training for the Libyan Challenge

You should definitely check out the National Geographic site for updates before, during, and after the race. While you are there, be sure to leave a comment for the runners – it will mean a lot to them.

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