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1 Prospect Court
The Broadway
Farnham Common
Bucks SL2 3QQ
01753 647339
Unit 1, Prospect Court, The Broadway, Farnham Common, Bucks SL2 3QQ - Telephone: 01753 647339

Namibia Desert 5-day Challenge 2012

The Namib Desert Challenge ( is a 5-day multi-terrain running event covering about 220km in the Sossusvlei area of southwest Namibia.

It's quite a new event which has been inspired by the likes of Marathon des Sables and is organised by a South African company, Kinetic Enduro Events. NDC is a much smaller event than MdS, with numbers limited to 80 because of the potential impact on the environment. This year, the 4th running of the event, we had 40 competitors taking part, which gave it a more intimate atmosphere, with everyone knowing each other very quickly.

I'd been recommended it by a friend who did it last year and decided to have a go myself. Having previously done MdS (see previous article), I had a pretty good idea about the sort of thing I was letting myself in for, although some of the features of the event made it a little more pleasant. The two main ones being: 1) At MdS you have to carry all your kit for the week, whereas at NDC you only need to carry a list of mandatory safety kit with some food and water each day. 2) At this year's NDC we stayed at one campsite, which gave us the benefit of proper toilets and a solar-heated shower as well as having a good, hot evening meal provided. We weren't exactly living in luxury but we certainly had something to look forward to at the end of a hard day's running. I very quickly decided that this balance of working hard during the day but having a few comforts in the evening was not such a bad idea, or am I getting soft in my old age?!

I seem to bring unusual weather with me when I do this sort of event and this one was no exception - in the first two days I was in Namibia they had as much rain as they usually get in a year! This made for some alterations in the planned course as things like dried-up river beds were now raging torrents! The guys at Kinetic did a great job in sorting things out so things went smoothly for us.

We covered about a marathon a day for the 5 days, with a long day of about 55km on Day 4. The terrain was a mixture of undulating trails, rocky paths and sand dunes. The scenery was spectacular. The Namib Desert is one of the oldest in the world with giant red sand dunes and unusual rock formations. The route wasn't too demanding technically and only very basic navigation skills were needed. There were certainly some "honest" hills and some big dunes to negotiate but there was enough more gently undulating terrain to let you recover your breath and enjoy the scenery. The first two days were mostly on "bushveld" (grassland with stony trails) in game parks with a few rocky climbs and sand dunes near the end of day 2. Day 3 was a tougher mix of terrain with some rocky climbs, but some great views around Sesriem.
Day 4, the long day, was across the Sesriem Canyon and into the Namib Naukluft National Park, finishing with a climb of Dune 45, which wasn't great for my vertigo but made for a spectacular end to a tough but enjoyable day. That just left us with the final day, Day 5, mostly in amongst the red dunes of Sossusvlei, which didn't seem as short as it was supposed to be! We certainly enjoyed the beer at the finish line.

Our final night was spent at the 5* Sossusvlei Lodge, where we were treated to a really good evening (I won't spoil the surprise with details, in case you decide to go and do it). I'd had a really good time and met some great people, which made the event for me. I think I actually felt fitter at the end of the week and certainly came home feeling mentally refreshed. This type of event is a great adventure.

The guys at the front of the field are elite athletes but the cut-off times are relatively generous, so anyone who's prepared to do a sensible amount of training can have a go at them. If you've done a few marathons before and are looking for a new challenge, I'd certainly recommend the NDC. As long as you manage yourself sensibly and are prepared to keep putting one foot in front of the other, then you'll finish and get a great sense of achievement.

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