How to Become a Runner, Part 2 (or, "Poop Sandwich on the Dead 2 Red Relay Race")

There is a thing called Dead 2 Red. It sounds like it would be a duet with Prince and Slayer, but it's not. It's a race from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. Teams of ten runners and two or three chase car drivers get together, slam a bunch of Red Bull, and then run 150 miles through the Jordanian desert. This year I got together with three friends and 10 complete strangers, and we all ran the race like cheetahs, and the other teams ran like gazelles, and we overtook them and ate their innards and left their carcasses on the side of the highway. Just kidding. We didn't do any of those things.

"Did you say poop sandwich? Thumbs up."
I had never run in a real race before, at least not since fifth grade when I raced the cool kids across the playground from one fence to the other, but when we all reached the finish-line-fence I couldn't stop fast enough so I just plowed into the fence like a crash test dummy. I remember laying on the ground and my friend Danny standing above me saying, "Don't cry, Joe! Don't cry!" So I huffed and I puffed and sniffled and I growled and I rolled on the ground rubbing my throbbing knees and elbows. And then I cried a whole bunch there on the blacktop with everyone watching. And after that I didn't get invited to very many slumber parties, and things just kind of spiralled down until I got depantsed in seventh grade in the hallway outside the lunchroom. Don't worry, I was wearing Loony Toons briefs so it wasn't embarrassing at all.

I didn't actually know all of my Dead 2 Red team members. We didn't have enough people from Jeddah who were interested in running, so we asked a friend at Embassy Amman to hang up an advertisement in the embassy hallway that said something like, "Email Keegan if you want to join our Dead 2 Red team." Well, I guess there is more than one Keegan on the planet, because these two guys at the embassy were like, "Oh, cool, let's join our friend Keegan's team," except their friend Keegan and the Keegan they actually emailed were two different people. After we all started exchanging emails in preparation for the race, these two guys were like, "Wait, who are these people?" But by then it was too late. Our team rule was, "If you email us, you are one of us," or "Emailing us is like marrying us," or something like that.

The first two or three hours of the race were a bit chaotic, to be honest. There were more than 40 teams, each with 10 runners and two chase cars. And the "course" was just the Dead Sea Highway, which is two lanes. And they didn't shut down the highway. And there's no requirement on how long each leg has to be -- each team can choose. And history has shown that sprinting short legs is the key to being competitive. So you have to picture 80 vans all bunched up, with runners sprinting like 100 meters at a time, and cars picking up the guy who just finished sprinting, and then trying to pull out into the traffic created by the other 79 cars, which are all doing the same thing, and each van is trying to hustle down the highway another couple hundred meters to pick up the guy who is currently sprinting, and the van has to get there before the sprinter finishes, so there's a lot of urgent driving, and there aren't really "traffic laws," per se, in Jordan, and we've only got two lanes, and don't forget regular traffic, including semi trucks loaded with produce and water and goats, is also trying to get by. For my first several miles I'd say I was less "running" and more "not quite getting hit by a car or colliding with other runners or getting pushed into the Dead Sea."

One guy on our team kept saying, "Look guys. This race is a big poop sandwich, and we all have to take a bite." I thought that was funny, partly because I think eating a big poop sandwich is a funny mental image, but mostly because the guy who kept saying that was the only guy who was actually eating the figurative poop sandwich. First, he got stuck running the opening leg, which race organizers mandated had to be at least two kilometers. I don't think Poop Sandwich Man paced himself very well, because when he rounded the last bend in the road, he was in real danger of exploding into a nasty ball of I-Just-Ran-Faster-Than-I-Am-Able-For-Longer-And-Further-Than-I-Am-Able-And-Now-BLAM-I-Have-Died." He survived, and I was like, "How does that poop sandwich taste." And he was all, "Like poop."

Later, when it got dark, we kind of lost him. He was running a short leg (in exchange for the long initial leg he had run), and he somehow got in front of the van that was ostensibly waiting for him. After sitting on the side of the dark road for like 15 minutes, we looked at each other and were like, "How long do you think it takes Poop Sandwich Man to run half a kilometer?" Then, after doing some complex long division and employing the Pythagorean Theorem, we figured it is strange for anyone, particularly Poop Sandwich Man, who is actually quite fleet of foot, to take 15 minutes to run 500 meters. So we drove down the road for awhile, and eventually we found Poop Sandwich Man limping along, having run several miles alone in the dark, and we were like, "You are hogging the poop sandwich." I do not know if he thought this was funny. I'm thinking no.