British Columbia couple overcome extreme heat to complete 250-kilometer desert race
âAn extra hour on the course could be the difference between life and death. “
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There were more deadly worries than leopards and scorpions for Jacqueline Windh, 51, and her husband Dave Gilbert during the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon.
The Port Alberni, BC native and her husband battled extreme temperatures, reaching 62 Â° C, on their way to complete the 250-kilometer adventure race in South Africa. The event took place over seven days starting October 13 and had six stages. The race was self-sufficient, which meant that all supplies had to be carried by the competitors. The stages ranged from 28 to 75 kilometers with 70 participants at the start of the race. Many have given up for medical reasons.
âIt was worrying to see athletes collapsing and needing medical attention, especially the ones we got to know in the early days,â said Windh. âStill, we had to stick to our own race plan and stay focused. There was no room for error.
There were medical checkpoints along the course where medics assessed competitors, giving them the option to take a short course or drop out. Two days after the start of the race, 20% of runners had given up. The race has become more about survival than racing to the finish line.
âThe most important part was to stay focused and take fluids at each checkpoint,â Windh noted. “You have to run continuously bloated, absorbing electrolytes, water and food not only to get through the day, but also to keep going the next day.”
Windh almost dropped out of the race on stage three after struggling to keep his body temperature low. She persevered with the help of other ultrarunning competitors. The fourth stage would be the most difficult and the longest, which would then be canceled due to dangerous temperatures.
âIf you lose attention for a few minutes, you can become dizzy and deviate from your course,â Windh said. âIt is vital to stay focused because an extra hour on the course could be the difference between life and death.
With a day off following the cancellation of the previous stage, Windh and Gilbert were able to complete the last two days unscathed.
Windh first became interested in running and then adventure racing, shortly after working at the Patagonia Expedition Race in Chile in the early 2000s.
âI worked as a reporter for the Patagonia Expedition and that’s where I was inspired to start running,â Windh said. “I started running alongside athletes to get better photos and interviews.”
RELATED: Running a Marathon in Patagonia.
The next step for Windh is the Coastal challenge in Costa Rica, a 230-kilometer adventure race in six stages with 10,000 vertical metersration gain. The mid-February race takes place along Costa Rica’s coast before competitors head inland through the country’s rainforests and mountain trails.
Photos: Jacqueline Windh / Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon