By Alina Brown
Checkpoint 1’s highlight of the day came when Kristina Narusk from Estonia strode purposefully into the checkpoint tent, smiled broadly and exclaimed, “No one told me it was going to be this hard!”
Kristina, a 30-year-old internet technology employee from the capitol city of Tallinn, registered for the Atacama Crossing as a running enthusiast whose greatest race distance before her 22-mile (35.2 km) jaunt that began at 8:00 this morning, was a half-marathon. “Why?,” is a question that she is frequently asked. Her friends think she is (in her words) “crazy,” and it will probably take until this article is posted online for her parents to really understand what she’s doing in the northern deserts of Chile. Her mother, says Kristina, tends to worry about her.
Kristina further explains that distance running is not a popular sport in Estonia and that the country’s annual marathon is frequently cancelled due to a lack of registrants. So she was actually as surprised as anyone when she signed up for the Atacama Crossing, “without a second thought.” It’s a whole other story to hear about the time she first heard of the race, through a tourist friend who had a friend of a friend that participated. (Got that?)
To train for the event, Kristina ran 4-5 times a week, often slogging through the knee-deep snow that covers the Estonian capital in the winter. She felt a little awkward carrying weighted backpacks through Tallinn’s city streets where people often stared at her, "a strangely dressed young woman" in her own words! She figures her training included at least 700km of running and 300km of (perhaps more appropriately for negative 15 degree weather) cross-country skiing.
What’s so impressive about Kristina is her ability to persevere, to figure out a way of doing things that no one around her has ever even thought about doing. In addition to training and traveling to Chile on her own, she researched and purchased all of her racing equipment online (no stores in Estonia carry appropriate gear). She decided that since she has four weeks of vacation every year that she should spend that time doing something “different” and “amazing.”
We’re pretty amazed ourselves with Kristina. She says that life is about, “getting out of your comfort zone,” but confesses that once she returns to Estonia she will, “probably reserve a table at a really nice restaurant, put on a dress and feel like a normal person.” And, frankly after the Atacama Crossing what with the distance she has to cover and the environment she has to race in, she'll certainly deserve a little normality.