|A winter training day in Santiago (KAEM13 training album).|
The KAEM is a self-sufficiency run of six stages held over seven days in the Kalahari Desert in the Northern Cape of South Africa. The race is organized by Estienne Arndt who ran the Marathon des Sables (MDS) and wanted to host a similar race in South Africa. The KAEM has many similar features to the iconic Moroccan race.
|Quiver trees in the desert (source: Nadia Arndt).|
The route is approximately 250km split over the six legs with the general format being:
- Stage 1: 30km
- Stage 2: 40km
- Stage 3: 30km
- Stage 4: 80km
- Stage 5: 45km
- Stage 6: 25km
I say general format because the route differs every year and is only revealed to competitors at the race briefing the day before the race.This makes it fair for all competitors as no one will have experience of the exact route from running it in previous years. The total distance has varied from 215km (the first edition of the race in 2000) to 256km (in the 2002 race). A key feature of this race, which differs from the Atacama Crossing route, is that the long day is on Stage 4. This means that there is still a significant amount of racing to be done after the long stage which will require careful energy management and focus during the long stage (in the Atacama Crossing the long day is Stage 5 with only a 10km final stage after it).
There are two particular elements of the race that make it especially challenging. The first is the sand. The route runs close to the Orange River and a large part of the race is on soft sand mostly in dry river beds (25% to 70% of the route is sandy depending on the year). The second challenge is the heat. The temperatures during the day are regularly over 40C.
|Typical Kalahari terrain (source: Nadia Arndt).|
More information about the KAEM can be found at:
Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon participant list
Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon facebook group
Augrabies Extreme Marathon youtube page
I have heard good things about this race and the community of organizers and past participants has been very welcoming and fantastic about sharing their experiences of the race. I'm counting down the days until I'll be running in the desert again!