23 May 2009


In the Kalahari Desert, hunters still run antelopes to death.  It's called "persistence hunting" and it works because they run in the middle of the day.  Humans can sweat and cool down as they run, but the antelope needs to stop and pant.  So they run after it, keep it on the move until it collapses.  You must watch this video, it's incredible, probably the best youtube clip I've ever seen.   I cried the first time I watched it, no kidding.

How the devil did they film that?  (More info about persistance hunting here.)

Likewise, in sub-zero temperatures it's possible to run a half-marathon barefoot and shirtless. 

Yes, I've been thinking quite a lot about temperature.  I'm experimenting with adjusting to the heat here, it would just be so awesome to not be bothered by heat, since it promises to be a large part of life here. However, I could freeze ice cubes on my desk at work, because of the overly abundant AC, so becoming accustomed to the cold is still useful.

It can feel pretty awesome to exercise at high temps.  Once upon a time, I tried out Bikram yoga, which is basically yoga in a super hot room, and I was suprised at how awesome I felt after sweating profusely and grunting in difficult stretches for an hour.  I would walk out and feel like a million bucks.  Yay, endorphins.  

In Abu Dhabi, I've recreated that feeling a couple of times after exercising in the heat.  Sometimes it's as though the heat gives me extra energy - I feel like I can run farther, and it certainly makes stretching easier.  Thank goodness my ancestors ran antelope to death.  

However, if I'm stressed out, I just can't deal with extreme temperatures.  I get grumpy fast and switch on the AC or retreat indoors.  If I'm happy (and hydrated) heat's not usually a big deal.

Even still, I have a hard time imagining back breaking labor in the sun all day, like the migrant construction workers here do.  

Apparently it's common to see temps of 50 C (122 F) in the middle of the summer here.

Took a short trip to Oman recently.  It definitely got up to at least 48 C (118 F).  I was surprised to find that it was still possible to walk around outside and people weren't bursting into flames or gasping for breath (Honestly, it never occurred to me that humans could function at those temperatures...a 105 F fever is dangerous, right?) All the water that came out of faucets was pretty warm.  Makes sense, just hadn't ever thought of it in Boston where tap water is freezing cold in winter.  Upon investigating the much higher than predicted temperatures in Oman, I found this interesting article that suggests the Omani government isn't quite truthful about their published temperatures.

It's really quite impressive what a human body is capable of.  I think most of us never have the chance to see this potential because we have grocery stores now instead of antelope, and they stay put.  And it's not just those hardcore African bushmen who can do it - at least one white guy has kept up on runs too, Louis Liebenberg, an anthropologist.  (Okay, on his first run he nearly died of dehydration, but even for this untrained runner, the antelope died first.) ...which makes me think that all humans have the hidden potential to run an antelope to death.  Take Dean Karnazes, for example, who started as Joe Schmoe, but then metamorphosed into ultra super athlete man.  Among other things, he's run 50 marathons in 50 days and then decided to run from New York to San Francisco. 


Andrew Bouchard said...

Very cool. Thanks for sharing that.

Susan said...

I ran with Dean Karnazes!

Cheryl said...

The antelope thing was amazing. But I have to admit that in the middle, where he's running and drinking water, the pouring it on himself, the thought snuck out "This would make a great Gatorade commercial."