THE TOUGHEST FOOT RACE ON EARTH

The Marathon des Sables may prove a step or several too far for most people. This six-day, 251-km ultramarathon across the Sahara Desert in southern Morocco has been called ‘The Toughest Foot race on Earth’.

Anyone can pay $4647 [Rs. 3,51,150], the 2020 entry fee, in order to endure tortures such as an 80-km-plus run, a near double marathon, in a single day.

Arthur Worsley, an Anglo-French traveller and blogger, has a taste for such extreme adventures. He entered in 2016 as one of four close friends.

“It was an opportunity to spend time in the desert together,” he says. “No distractions, no phones, no emails-how often does that happen?” At the time he booked, Arthur could barely complete a 3-km run. He had 10 months in which to get fit. “I just ran wherever I happened to be,” he says. “I got chased by a lot of dogs. “It wasn’t always easy. But it was also an amazing way to get to know the world around me.”

Marathon des Sables competitors have to carry all their food and equipment with them. So Arthur trained by running with a backpack of Coca-Cola. “I learnt to stop resisting the pain that comes with ultra-running and really fell in love with the sport.”

“Stepping back and appreciating the desert is one of the main things that makes all the pain and suffering bearable. It’s sheer size and beauty is deeply humbling.

It really puts your problems in perspective. The marathon was relentless, unforgiving, demanding, empowering, life-changing and a lot of fun. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

PEACEFUL PAINTING

Once upon a time,

There was a king who appreciated art a lot.

He asked all the artists of his kingdom to participate in a competition and create a painting with the subject of “peaceful view.” He announced that there would be a great prize for the winner of the best painting and promised that he would hang the frame in his palace, which was a huge honor and fame for artists. Every artist started to paint their version of the most peaceful view. On the day of the competition, there were hundreds of beautiful paintings all gathered in the big hall of the palace for the king to judge. The king looked at each painting in depth. There were many paintings of the blue sky and great sea, quiet and peaceful.

Between all the peaceful paintings, the king announced the winner.

The winner was a painting with a dark cloudy sky, sea waves madly stroking the cliffs and a waterfall deviated to the side because of the angry wind. All the artists were shocked, how could the king choose such a madness painting as a peaceful subject?

The king said: “behind all this madness, in the corner of the waterfall I saw a crack with a green bush and a bird’s nest. Birds were sitting in their nest in peace. Peace doesn’t certainly mean that there shouldn’t be any noise, toughness or craziness, being in peace means that you could live peacefully amongst all the madness.”

The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength. – Marcus Aurelius

MEANINGLESS GOALS

Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” – Alfred A. Montapert

There is a big difference between activity and accomplishment. This was demonstrated by a French scientist named Fabre. He conducted an experiment with processionary caterpillars. These caterpillars instinctively follow the one in front of them. Fabre arranged them in a circle on the rim of a flowerpot; thus the lead caterpillar was behind the last one. Fabre put food for the caterpillars in the centre of the flower pot. The caterpillars kept travelling around in a circle on the pot’s rim. Eventually, after a week of circling around, they dropped dead of exhaustion and starvation with food only inches away from them. We need to learn a lesson from the caterpillars. Just because you are doing something, doesn’t mean you are getting anywhere. One must evaluate one’s activity in order to have accomplishment.

If we confuse activity with accomplishment, we could be making great time but we won’t get anywhere.

UNDERAPPRECIATED ABILITY OF AN INSECT

Dragonflies are really underappreciated.

They have a fantastic control against mosquitoes, one of their main sources of food. They can eat hundreds in a day.

One of the coolest things about them is their flight speed- they are the fastest flying insect in the world. And can fly at 60 mph, which would get a car a speeding ticket on most roads.

They also have awesome control of their wings and can change direction on a dime’s notice, Their natural flying impulses have a random direction generator. Scientists have trouble filming and understanding their flight pattern as it is super erratic and unpredictable. This serves as a great defensive mechanism.

Their 4 winged structure, their flight speed, and their precision flying have also led them to be the subjects of intensive study by Aerospace Engineers.

MIT engineers hope to someday design robots that will utilize dragonfly mechanics.

Several have already been developed but designing a robot with 4 independent flapping wings is proving to be quite challenging. Dragonflies are more complex than which meets the eye.