So far so arduous for Greg, Julian, Sach, Heather and my fiancee Bec in the 72km Wadi Bih run across Oman’s Musandam peninsular. My words of encouragement from behind the wheel of our Nissan Patrol are clearly working.
Having just hit Wadi Bih itself, our team presses on, and as the road narrows I’m having to take increasing care in the Patrol. It’s a seriously large vehicle and the the route ahead is lined with rocks and other vehicles, as well as runners aplenty.
This gradually rising terrain continues for a fair few kilometres, but the climb is relatively small so far. It’s clear that something has to change soon…
And so it does. And how. All of sudden, the track veers sharply towards the sky. Julian is the unlucky man that didn’t check the pace notes properly and suddenly finds himself trying to power up a route that’s steep even in the Patrol. He sets off at pace and as we pass him five minutes later he looks like a cross-country skier, concentration on the face and arms pumping like pistons as he takes short, deliberate steps.
We park up halfway along the stage (I make sure to put the parking on) and wait. And wait. And then we send Greg to go and look for him. After more waiting, Julian finally rounds the corner, being urged on by Greg and looking like Willem Dafoe at the end of Platoon. Every time he tries to run, his legs collapse back into a stagger. Greg offers to take over and Julian flops into the Patrol in relief, but on realising that he’s not actually at the changeover point, he jumps back out, determined to finish. It’s inspiring, a glorious achievement of the human spirit over fatigue, and a triumph that I fully appreciate as I chew on a Galaxy Ripple in my comfortable leather-lined chair.
Ironically, as Julian heroically makes it to the end of his stage and hands over to Heather, the road flattens out and it’s a much more gradual climb to the mountain’s summit.
At the top of the mountain, with 36km done, Heather passes the baton to Greg, who promptly heads back down again. Meanwhile, we grab a souvenir pic. Suitably cheesy, of course.
By the time we’ve taken the shot, piled back into the Patrol and headed back down the mountain, Greg is well on his way. He’s meant to be doing around 3km, retracing our steps, then we’ll pick him up and Bec will skitter down the insanely steep bit that nearly killed Julian. But there’s trouble. At the checkpoint, 1000m above sea level on a remote mountain peak, there’s a traffic jam. The support vehicles for runners coming up and going back down, plus those parked waiting at the changeover, have gridlocked the narrow path. We’re stuck for some minutes, and when we finally get to the changeover, Greg’s already carried on. We’re then delayed even longer as some woman in a Hyundai Tucson, clearly terrified of off-road driving, stops every 20 feet and holds everyone up.
After much swearing and gesticulating, we reach the following checkpoint, already most of the way back down to sea level. Still no Greg. He’s not at the next one either. We start to wonder if he popped behind a bush and we went passed him. But then we spot his yellow top in the distance. He’s some 8km from the summit, having completed more than three times his alloted slot. Understandably, he’s knackered. I consider shouting encouragement and then driving on and leaving him, but instead stop and Bec takes over.
The rest of the race goes relatively smoothly, as the terrain smoothes out and we retrace our steps (well, tracks in my case) back towards the coast. I’ve had the Patrol in its Rock setting for the steep bits, but other than that I’ve not had to touch the various set up options – no need for low ratio here. I have no doubt that it could cope with plenty more than this, even if the runners might struggle.
The big Nissan has proved a hit with the team, with the fridge in the front central armrest supplementing the massive cool bags in the back, jammed full of water, Red Bull and various sporty-looking drinks. The 5.6-litre V8 is more than a match for the climb, there was plenty of space for athletes to stretch and the sound system has been pumping out appropriately encouraging music for the team all the way. The only downside is how dirty it’s gotten over the past six hours.
Finally, after six hours and 19 minutes, the team crosses the finishing line. The time is an impressive one for a novice team, and hearty congratulations are due all round. I feel mildly embarrassed to have done the whole thing using petrol power rather than legwork, and even more so when the crazy fools that ran the whole 72km solo come staggering in (including one woman that did it twice, back to back). But should we do it all again next year, I’ll be badgering Nissan to lend us the Patrol again >>>