Running hot and cold on epic desert trek

Completing an epic desert marathon

TOM HUNT
Last updated 11:55 22/07/2014
Florence Reynolds

LINE IN THE SAND: Former Wellington Girls' College student Florence Reynolds, second from right, was part of a team of five that ran 219km across Chile's Atacama Desert.

Florence Reynolds
SANDY: Florence Reynold stops for a breather.

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Florence Reynolds had never run a full marathon before tackling 219 kilometres across a desert so dry that even the insects stay clear.

And it wasn't the heat that was a problem for the former Wellington Girls' College student - though it did peak at a "pretty awful" 34 degrees C.

At night, the temperature would plummet as low as -5C. "The issue for me was more the cold at night."

There was also the mysterious, nagging knee pain that moved around one knee on the first day, leapt to the other knee and then - thankfully - disappeared.

At the end of May, Reynolds, 21, was part of a five-person team from the United States, Canada and New Zealand that ran across Chile's Atacama Desert.

She was selected as part of the Impossible2Possible's international expedition programme - an international organisation set up in 2009 to push young people to their limits.

A big part of the programme was video links to classrooms, meaning that even during the team's 90-minute breaks, Reynolds was busy talking to classrooms around the world.

"Before I left, I was incredibly nervous. I kept thinking, 'What on earth am I doing? I've never even run one marathon before'. There were moments where I was crying because I was scared to go."

But, as it turned out, the hardest day during the run turned out to be one of the highlights.

Day five was a 55.5km haul across the desert. "That was amazing. The feeling at the finish - completing that," Reynolds said.

Another highlight was the night she slept outside under a full moon. It was cold but, because the desert was so dry, there were no insects to bug her.

Now finished, and with no hesitation in saying she would happily return to Chile, Reynolds reckons it was an "amazing experience".

"Until we'd completed it, I never, ever thought that I would be able to do something like that.

"Running together as a team and supporting each other made it possible . . . and bizarrely, it was even fun."

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