Dispatch From Libya: Preparing to Run 125 Miles Through the Desert


By Rebecca Byerly in Ghat, Libya

We made it to Libya. Actually got to cross into Libya in the cockpit of the plane.

The people here seem so happy to see Americans. A lot of other runners were surprised we made it through customs.

The camp looks over miles of sand dunes and the Akakus Mountains. We sleep in mud huts and were pleased to find water and power.

The higher Libyan officials seemed a bit skeptical of us as we went to the old city of Ghat and we were followed closely. I was annoyed at first but realized this is a big deal to be here and that next year it will be more relaxed.

Isabella said that the 1.5 hours she spent interacting with the Tuareg people made the whole trip worthwhile.

This evening I was reminded why I came to Libya. A few runners went up onto the dunes to watch the sun set and take pics. Breathtaking is all I can say. An ocean of golden sand mounds with rippling patterns bordered by the Akakus mountains and the Algerian border.


Training on the eve of the big race photo courtesy Rebecca Byerly

Our Libyan driver, Mohammed, was so happy to hear that I was American. He said he likes American people, and with our new President may like the American government.

We wake up at 6 in the morning and will be driven to the start of the race. Its going to be the toughest thing most of us have ever done, but we are ready.

This dispatch was sent as multiple text messages (150 characters at a time) from a cell phone in the Libyan desert to Washington DC for transcription!

Journalist Rebecca Byerly is a member of the first American team to run the Libyan Challenge, a grueling 125-mile ultramarathon through some of the most inaccessible parts of the Sahara Desert. She will be sending dispatches from Libya as and when she can. For more about the race, read American Runners to Compete in Libya’s Sahara Desert Race.

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn