Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 162 October 2023 | Page 65

The World ’ s Toughest Flat Route

Ultra Marathon

The Salt Pans Ultra routes are entirely on and around the awe-inspiring and humbling Makgadikgadi Salt Pans , the second largest salt pans in the world , which are the bed of an ancient mega inland sea from which some scientists believe early mankind started the first migrations north . Offering 100km and 50km distances , you gain very little in elevation , but you will certainly be pushed to your mental and physical limits , as there are few points of reference , no route markings , extreme temperatures , and plenty of time on your own to chat to your spiritual ancestors in the incredible solitude . Also , you may run a few kilometres more , as one struggles to run in a straight line on the Pans …
Both races start on the southern edge of Sua Pan , the eastern pan of the huge Makgadikgadi Salt Pans , leaving behind an escarpment that marks the old southern shoreline of the pan . Starting at 2am , the first 30km of the SPU100 are cool , fast , flat and run in the dark , but with a full moon to help you see . Ironically , the moon ’ s light will actually make the Pans seem like the Moon ! You will breeze past the first two checkpoints at 15km ( Alpha ) and 30km ( Bravo ), and somewhere between Bravo and Checkpoint Charly ( 45km ), the sun will rise to your right . At Charly , you will be almost halfway , and will have run as deep into the Pans as you will go .
The next stop is Checkpoint Delta on top of Khukonje Island at 60km . Be warned , you will see Khukonje long before you reach it , as it is 15 metres higher than most of the Pans , and the island is home to an old baobab tree that is over 1500 years old . When you get there , make sure to touch the tree and greet an old friend as you take a moment to replenish and rest . Hopefully you will have made the cut-off time and can continue .
Now the hard part starts , with the edge of the Pans hugging your left shoulder and the baobab marking Checkpoint Echo at 78km will slowly peak out at you on the horizon . After Echo , you will run off the Pans for a while , down some old jeep tracks , but after a few kilometres , you ’ ll drop back onto the Pans to Checkpoint Foxtrot at 89km . The temperatures will be a big distraction now , so cool down at Foxtrot , and then you ’ ll be on your way to the finish , a cold drink , and a medal if you made the cut-off .
The next Salt Pans Ultra will take place at the end of September 2024 , so visit beautiful Botswana and come run the toughest flat route race in the world ! More info at www . saltpansultra . com .