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SURVIVING THE TOUGHEST RACE ON EARTH by Martin Dugard

SURVIVING THE TOUGHEST RACE ON EARTH

By Martin Dugard

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-07-018129-2
Publisher: McGraw-Hill

 In the true spirit of a participant/observer's way to knowledge, sports journalist Dugard tackles the vigorously insane sport of adventure racing. Any way you slice it, the Raid Gauloises is an extreme sport. Usually about a week long, the event requires teams of five (each with at least one woman, and all team members must finish) to get from point A to point B by a variety of hellacious means: sea kayaking among sharks, parachuting into remote forest clearings, full-spate whitewater rafting, claustrophobic spelunking, cruel marches, ice climbing. All this--plus an entire zoology text's litany of evil creatures, from vicious microbes to disturbed crocodiles, since the Raid is held in venues like Madagascar and Borneo--for a pitiful $35,000 prize. Dugard covered a few of the early Raids (they began in 1989) as a journalist under the same appalling conditions endured by the contestants--rain, cold, heat, mud, leeches, etc.--but experienced a lot more boredom. An endurance runner and triathlete, Dugard found it hard to just stand there, so he formed his own team for the 1995 Patagonian Raid. Dugard's story here gets bogged down in logistics, losing the elasticity of his sports reporting, and when he drops out due to a knee injury, he endlessly flails himself with self-recrimination, and the story grinds to a halt. Fortunately for Dugard and his readers alike, he is more successful in the 1997 Lesotho Raid, in which he is allowed to race independently, waiting a chance to join a team when a member drops out. The narrative regains its bounce as he details his misery, his adopted team's dynamics, and the exultation of finishing. ``Each moment of each day is lived with incredible intensity,'' notes Dugard: intense pain and fear, yes, and intense dehydration, hunger, disorientation, personal filth. Not everyone will feel the Raid's calling. (16 illustrations, not seen)