Four Years On Foot
The price of a journey. https://lenafaber.com
On the first day, she cried, on the second gave away the rest of her belongings to her maid and gardener, said goodbye to her husband, and flew across the Atlantic with a 13-lb backpack for her four years’ journey.
She was on a Cape Town road trip when her car was broken into. All her trail-running and mountain bike gear, her racing trophies, as well as a Nikon camera with footage intended for the next exhibition – gone. On the first day she cried, on the second gave away the rest of her belongings to her maid and gardener, said goodbye to her husband, and flew across the Atlantic with a 13-lb backpack for her four years’ journey starting at the Appalachian Trail, where immediately she was given the trail name “Brave” from fellow hikers, once they learned her story. She didn’t get back home.
It’s done even though she hates backpacking and camping. The limits were smashed after participating in the Kalahari Desert Ultra-marathon, where runners slept inside one big gazebo.
She thought she would stop after a week or two because of her chronic foot problem. But she was greeted as a thru-hiker by fellow hikers and trail angels; they were so amazed and inspired and already gave her a trail name “Brave.” So she made it all the way to Mt. Katahdin – even though it had not been her plan! While all the others battled with legs, knees, etc., her foot miraculously recovered.
Luxury-resorts-foreigner yet a prominent trail runner, she found herself on Appalachian Range with no clue what hiking was about in general and the Appalachian in particular, 2180 miles from Georgia to Maine. She spent an hour on the phone with an AT manager named Laurie, and two days in a hotel reading about bears and snakes. She was crying from fear at the last six miles of the dirty desert road to Springer Mountain, thinking she would be the only human for 100 miles and would turn into Mowgli. Fellow hikers didn’t see her tears and thought she was brave with all her stories and gave her the trail name “Brave.” People always say that she is brave, and she always wants to ask, “How you know my trail name?!”
Her life was far from sports and the outdoors. She was a talented journalist, a big-city girl, a 5-star resort customer. It was a complicated marriage, a much more complicated divorce, about-to-marry her divorce attorney, raising two kids on her own, a nightlife with parties and no boundaries between the journalist job and life itself, and her biggest love.
“By that time the children had already grown up, so I just bought a ticket and flew . . . to the Kalahari Desert, 2008. Remember the movie? Gods Must be Crazy 2? A must-watch. I always wondered if one day a surgeon could fix my foot, so I could run like the bushmen in the movie, but I struggled to walk a single mile. That’s how badly my foot was damaged by the fancy shoes of my teens.
I participated in a multi-day ultra-marathon through the Kalahari. Being not one bit a runner, I just used the opportunity to go wild in the desert. Never in my dreams did I think that very soon I would become a top South African runner.
In the desert I met my future husband, a former radio DJ. Soon a surgeon fixed my foot, I started faculty teaching at the University of South Africa, won an international photo contest with a follow-up personal exhibition “Iron Africa,” and in the meantime trained for speed running. Soon I got a silver medal for 10k in the US at the 2011 World Masters Athletic Championship.
Day-by-day life was getting boring, spent with a former DJ. Every day the same – a yacht club with beer, a golf club with beer, and a restaurant. With beer. So “One day, 2014, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run.” For this “little run,” I bought an ultralight tent and sleeping bag, even though I hated camping, and flew across the Atlantic to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. “And I figured, since I run this far, maybe…” and I cycled Route 66 from Chicago to LA and the East Coast from Maine to Florida.
After that, I finally yielded (I didn’t like Tom Hanks) to the insistence of my children and watched Forrest Gump. And I figured a couple of movie quotes above saved a lot of writing. The rest will be in my book Four Years On Foot. Hopefully, soon. I recently stopped in Midcoast Maine. “For no particular reason.” Or . . .?
IRON AFRICA Photo Exhibition
Before starting to teach at the University of South Africa in 2010, she followed her husband on his business trips to South African mines and took pictures of dusty workshops, rusty chains, oily tools, and all kinds of industrial junk. These photos won the Alliance de France international photo contest, and they organized her photo exhibition in Pretoria. Her camera was stolen when she was shooting footage for her next photo exhibition about abandoned harbors around the Cape of Good Hope. She has never gotten back to photography since then.
JOURNALIST FOR LEADING RUSSIAN MEDIA OF 00s
Travel and lifestyle columns, motor car reviews, driving techniques series, and lifestyle futures: art, culture, wine, food, real estate, etc., 2008 Journalists Union of Russia Award for the road trip series “200,000 km Around Moscow.”
2007 Journalists Union of Russia Award and the British Consulate Award for series of road pictures of rural and raw Russia just outside of Moscow.
“She had gasoline in her blood and no speed limits. As a single mother of two, she couldn’t become a proper car racer, which was a real pity.” That what a Russian race guru, a professor at the Academy of Driving Art, Ernest Tzygankov, wrote in the foreword to her book.
200,000 KM AROUND MOSCOW. ROAD TRIP
One of her newspaper duties was testing and reviewing new models of cars. Being one who always has to make any assignment Award own, she turned the ordinary reviews into a once-in-a-lifetime road trip series from Moscow to tiny local museums and hidden artifacts. It was real anti-glam during the binge-glam era in Moscow. A major publishing company printed her newspaper travelogue series as a book, which was sold quickly. And yes, she preferred to sleep in the car rather than in a hotel. Because she can’t stand air-conditioning at all.
DANCING WITH GYPSIES
Desperate single mother of two teens worked as a financial director of an international company, then, after the crisis of the later 90s, as a journalist during the day and incognito as a dancer in nightclubs at night to provide her kids with the basic, in her opinion, necessities: tickets to the opera and theaters, computers, hockey and ballet classes, and the best teachers. The most unbelievable event of these times – dancing with gypsies on the backstage of the International Gypsy Festival in Poland, replacing the real gypsy girl who could not come.
SKI LESSON FROM DOGS
Genetically a good skier (her father was the good one), she tried skate-style the first time just before moving to South Africa, 2009. After a couple of miles “skating” along a nice narrow track she was exhausted and stopped. Suddenly she heard barking – a dog-sled race had started, and they were getting closer! No place to escape, rather cling to the pine tree and wait for three hours when the race would be over. So she “skated” another 8 miles, hurrying up before dogs catch and crushed her with their sleds. Next weekend she participated in a 24-hour ski race because these dogs made her quite familiar with fast “skating” style.
SHE ACTUALLY COULD BE A BIATHALETE
She was a sharpshooter and had many awards In her teens even though she couldn’t approximate by sight the distance to the target. Then she became so squeamish with any kind of weapons and took the gun only for the picture.
In 2018 she was supposed to join her family in England but was denied entrance because the officer told he did not have enough evidence that . . . her daughter is her daughter. With no idea how to deal with that, she started her next American journey, this time a road trip, but her car was accidentally towed away from McDonald’s during her first stop in Midcoast Maine. A friend invited her to stay in their big house, and a further chain of amazing events pushed her into the middle of something–she doesn’t know what yet. She can’t wait to see what is going to happen next.