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Dispatch from Libya 2: The Start of the Race

By Rebecca Byerly in Ghat, Libya On the road to the start of the race! Cold, cold, night with very little sleep. I cannot imagine that we will not sleep again until Friday or late Thursday. Now on the bus going to the start of the race. I am sitting next to Mudar and his...


By Rebecca Byerly in Ghat, Libya

On the road to the start of the race!

Cold, cold, night with very little sleep. I cannot imagine that we will not sleep again until Friday or late Thursday.

Now on the bus going to the start of the race. I am sitting next to Mudar and his advice is to be patient.

When I asked Isabella about not sleeping, she laughed and said “honey, I am a mother of five and a previous lawyer, I am used to not sleeping.” We will see how it works.

Our goal is to make it to Camp 1 at 43 miles or so. Then we will plan from there. It is 30 kilometers to the next first aid station so we have to carry a lot of water — about 2 liters each.

We learned at a meeting yesterday that we have to pay close attention to the road book as every twist and turn and change in geography matters, and if we are not careful could lead us off course. My personal goal is to remain positive and fully supportive of my team. We have worked so hard to get here. We need to enjoy this experience and take it all in. Next year it would be great to have more Americans here.


Don’t forget to check the Libyan Challenge Web site for live updates. Incredibly, I am sending these dispatches via text on my cell phone (AT&T really is everywhere) which is probably going to cost a fortune.

Along the way we will pass some of the rock paintings today. We learned that there is a dispute that the rock paintings may not have been painted by the Tuaregs. We hope to learn more as we proceed.

Rebecca Byerly courtesy Rebecca Byerly 

We are passing what is called the “Cave of Evils.” It is 81 meters of rock and local people believe it is haunted. Get a strange feeling when they climb it. It looks like the Grand Canyon.

We are being driven to the start of the race in a 4×4. Our motto is “Yes we can.” Loaded up and heading out feeling like flying through the desert.

I’m in the back of a pickup truck being driven by a Tuareg driver.

There are runners from France and Italy with us and a French father and son team. The father, Bob, says it is freezing cold in the desert and boasts surviving it — ” bon voyage!” Jean Marc, the race director, is riding with us and says our presence is “miraculous.” He is real happy to have Americans finally come.

Everyone thinks JB and I are nuts carrying video equipment and cameras with us. Can’t believe I have cell phone service in this craziest adventure.

We made it to the start point!!!

Libyan-Challenge-2009 start-picture.jpg

2009 race start line courtesy Libyan Challenge 

Americans at the back of the pack and its getting hotter. Walking through a canyon and about to start the climb down.

Now in shorts and a tee shirts. Passing nomadic houses made of clay and rock low to the ground. Probably housing for one of the few Tuaregs left living in the nomadic lifestyle.

We are so far behind the other runners. All other runners look like pencils in the distance.

OK Libyan Challenge — here we come!

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. 

Rebecca Byerly’s Blog

Libyan Challenge Videos on YouTube

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Meet the Author

Author Photo David Max Braun
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