Sunday, March 18, 2012

I have a lot of respect for those endurance athletes who take on the ultramarathons that make Leadville and Badwater look like a warm-up.  You know the ones: the Marathon des Sables across the Sahara, the Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska, the Race Across America.  These are amazing feats which few runners could imagine completing.

However, running an organized race, on a predetermined course, with crew and support, does not begin to compare with the real-life endurance feat featured in The Way Back.  This movie, based on true events, depicts the daring escape of a scrappy bunch of political prisoners from a Siberian prison camp.  Braving the elements and avoiding any signs of civilization, they trekked over 4000 miles from Siberia to Tibet, crossing the Gobi desert and the Himalayas.
Thousands of miles to go, and not an aid station in sight.
The movie is based on a 1956 book, the veracity of which has been questioned.  However true or elaborated the events in the movie are, there are certainly many similar stories of escapees following a similar route, or else traveling similar distances from Siberia eastward to parts of Europe.  So next time you come to an aid station during your ultramarathon, take a moment to thank the volunteers and to think about what it takes to keep going when your life depends on it.

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