• Alfie Pierce Higgins and Mohammad Al-Sweity. (Supplied )Source: Supplied
British runner Alfie Pearce-Higgins and Jordanian marathoner Mohammed Al Sweity are the first runners to cross Jordan's new 650 km hiking trail, covering a staggering 650 km in 15 days.
By
Alex Chapman

Source:
The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour
26 Jan 2018 - 9:41 AM  UPDATED 26 Jan 2018 - 3:21 PM

There are easier ways to see Jordan than running the length of the country, but for British runner Alfie Pearce-Higgins, the Jordan Trail was his journey of choice.

Along with Jordanian marathon runner, Mohammed Al Sweity, the two men became the first to run the length of Jordan: 650 km in 15 days.

Pearce-Higgins, an experienced marathon runner was determined to see the sights of Jordan after suffering a setback with his health.

“I was meant to come here last year to run and then I discovered I had a hole in my heart,” Alfie says. “It made me more determined to come back this year and run the Jordan Trail.”

Established in 2015, the Jordan Trail is a hiking trail that usually takes the average hiker 40 days to walk. Starting in Um Qais in the north and ending in Aqaba in the south, trekkers traverse mountains, canyons and harsh desert terrain.

Less than 20 people have hiked the full length of the Jordan Trail in one go.

It is not the first time for Pearce-Higgins to run an extraordinary distance in the desert, having completed a 400 km self-navigated run in the Gobi Desert in China.

At the starting line Alfie describes the difficulties ahead of him, “challenging terrain and hot temperatures,” he says,

“If all goes to plan, in two weeks-time we’ll be swimming in the Red Sea.”

In an article earlier this year, Alfie analyses the reasons why he runs until it hurts.

“Hallucinations are common,” he writes. “Emotions can oscillate from elation to anger to melancholy in rapid succession. Speech becomes slurred; planning, rational decisions and accurate navigation almost impossible.”

But for many, he says, running is a form of therapy.

“Hallucinations are common,” he writes. “Emotions can oscillate from elation to anger to melancholy in rapid succession. Speech becomes slurred; planning, rational decisions and accurate navigation almost impossible.”

The Minister of Tourism in Jordan, Lina Annab explains how marathon running is “growing in popularity all over the world,” she says “people start one way and by the time they end they are completely changed persons.”

The trail is becoming a popular hiking destination in the Middle East.

Half way through the run, Alfie says “the motivation for me is to see and experience Jordan. This is more of a high-speed sightseeing tour than an endurance challenge. Although at times the Jordanian dogs do a good job of pushing me to run faster.”

The greatest challenge for a marathon runner is eating enough food, “5000 to 6000 calories per day,” Alfie says. The equivalent of approximately 20 McDonald’s Cheeseburgers.

At the end of the race, SBS Life asks Alfie what the most beautiful sight was on his journey, “Petra is beautiful from any angle but, arriving here after 450 km in the evening light was a special experience,” he explains. “No matter how many pictures one has seen in advance the sight of it is mesmerising.”

The authors travelled to Jordan as part of The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour, a joint program between the University of Technology, Sydney and Swinburne University supported by the Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR).  

 

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The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour is a joint UTS and Swinburne University project, supported by the Commonwealth through the Council for Australian-Arab Relations, which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.