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Record Number of Americans

Americans turned out in droves for RacingThePlanet: Iceland 2013.  Sixty-three of the 278 competitors signed up came from the United States, the most-represented nation of 52 at the race.  Their reasons were coming were, undoubtedly, as diverse as the country itself.  Gabriel Bures of Cleveland, Ohio is one snapshot of the entire collage.

“Life is about good stories, and I managed to get some out this week,” Gabriel says, joking that he also came because he “heard about the pretty girls.”

Gabriel purposely came into the race with as few expectations as possible. 

“I avoided looking at travel books or photos.  I didn’t do much research on purpose, so I could get a feel for the country,” he says.  Now that he has gotten the feel: “It’s a shame that it’s to hard to emigrate.”

Gabriel did know in advance that he wanted to meet as many people from around the world as possible.  He was actually a bit miffed that everyone in his tent spoke English.

“I would have liked the challenged of communicating,” he says. “I need to practice some of my terrible German.”

Outside of the tent, though, Gabriel made friends with Germans, Japanese, and Singaporeans.  He discovered language, whether shared or different, didn’t much matter.

“It’s personality rather than nationality that is key.  A smiley, happy person is a smiley, happy person,” he says.  “Even if you can only say ‘race good’ to one another, it’s all you need.”

For most competitors, the physical and mental accomplishment of racing 250 kilometres across the cold, windy desert will be the biggest take-away from Iceland 2013.  But for Gabriel, the experience was culturally and socially eye opening.

“The race creates an environment where people interact in a way that transcends nationality and ethnic background, if you are open to it,” he says.  “Normally, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in just your own culture and forget what’s out there.”

Gabriel will also highly regard and fondly remember, of all things, the rocks.

“The rocks at home are sedentary. Here, they are ignacious.”

By Alexandra Graves

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