Not many believed that Robbie Britton and Dan Lawson could do it when they announced their plans to take on the 650 km Jordan Trail in under 10 days, breaking the previous record of 14 days. Yet that made the challenge all the more interesting for the veteran ultra runners. "The guys who organize the trail said it couldn't be possible in under 10 days, so that was an extra incitement for us," Robbie Britton says, adding that "We wanted something that wasn't quite as clean cut and predetermined as a race. We wanted to push ourselves physically and mentally and find a challenge that would help us see a new place. It was an adventure, a real adventure."The Jordan Trail was their destination of choice not only because there was an established record of crossing the route in 14 days – a record they intended to break – but also because Jordan's reputation preceded itself. "Every time I looked into Jordan travel, you saw this Star Wars-esque beautiful landscape, with beautiful geography, history, and archaeology, but also, everyone said the Jordanian people were really friendly. And that was one of the things that's been completely true," Britton says. "Everywhere we've been, in the remote sections and in the middle of nowhere, you see a smiling face. 'Welcome to Jordan' was a sentence we heard from everyone; they may have known very little English, but they knew that."
Embarking on an adventure like this entailed risks and a little bit of the unknown, which was exactly what they were looking for. "It was an adventure we wanted, and an adventure without risk is no adventure at all. You need the element of the unknown – an uncertainty as to whether you can complete the task. That's why we set ourselves a target of doing it under 10 days," Britton explains.Yet a journey like this was never going to be easy, and they were met with several challenges along the way – first and foremost being the navigation, especially after the first 160 km that were marked along the trail. "We got slightly off because it was a rugged and remote terrain. You get stuck and then go tick off a few nice kilometers, and then you're lost for half an hour," Britton shares. "Going down into some of the wadis (valleys), you literally look down and you couldn't see a path or a route. Finding our way down we had to use the GPS tackers to get to the trails," he says. While the bumpy route and rugged terrain caused a delay on few of the nights, they got through eventually, sticking to their timeline.
The remoteness of some of the areas was also a bit of a challenge at times, as they had to run for sometimes 30 or 40 km carrying their own water. They also had to camp in the wilderness at times, but "sleeping under the starts was just brilliant," Britton says.
The trail gave them the chance to explore Jordan's abundant beauty and hidden gems, which often left them speechless. "I said to the guys there's a really nice quote by a 1930s explorer: 'One must not exhaust one's superlatives too early in an exhibition'. Everyone was just 'Oh wow! This is amazing' at the start of the trip, and I was telling them we have got to hold back because what's to come is just otherworldly," Britton adds. "Seeing things that we thought were absolutely wonderful at the start of our trip, we didn't want to use all our energy on those and run out of words to describe things like Petra, Wadi Rum, and the view from the Dana Trail; it just took your breath away." Britton says, smiling.
"We had a dog join us from Petra! The stray ran about 200 km with us; he wild camped with us and stayed in tents. He was a really good-natured dog and we were worried what to do with him at the end," Britton shares. Fortunately, the dog's story has as much of a happy ending as the runners', who completed their journey in 9 days, 10 hours, and 17 minutes. "When we got the beach in Aqaba, there was a family living there on the beach. They asked if they could keep the dog. It was the perfect end to the story!"
While we can't wait for the next adventure these guys are going to take on, we're sure it's going to be wild, unpredictable, and hopefully full of happy endings like that of Petra – the name they gave their stray dog companion.
All pictures courtesy of James Vincent Photography