Run if it’s the last thing you do!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Okay, so you’ve heard about the Mayan prophesy, which is said to predict that the world will come to an end on 21 December 2012. You might have heard about the New Age take on this, which says that we will be entering into a new era of transformed human consciousness - the Age of Aquarius. You probably haven’t heard of the prediction that the Earth will be swallowed by a black hole or that a planet called Nibiru – aka Planet X - is on a direct collision course with us. I doubt either that you have heard that the Earth’s magnetic polarity is predicted to reverse on this date, causing upheavals that we can barely imagine.

Apocalyptic prophesies

It might just be a spooky coincidence, but the total solar eclipse visible from the southern hemisphere on 14 November 2012 (or 13 November for most of us who reside in different time zones) - just weeks before the forecast end of the world - is being interpreted by some as a harbinger of the End Times. This is nothing new; solar eclipses have been interpreted as supernatural bad omens by civilizations for millennia, with many interpreting ‘the Moon eating the Sun’ as a supernatural ‘heads up’ of war, famine and general hard times ahead. This theme seems to have been reinterpreted for a modern audience and some are forecasting a sudden burst of solar radiation that will either set the world on fire, frazzle every electrical appliance, or else mutate everyone on Earth into a zombie, whereupon we will begin to feast upon one another.

But apocalyptic prophesies aside, let’s not forget that here on Earth we are rather lucky to have solar eclipses at all. The Moon, as we all know, travels around the Earth in an elliptical orbit. The Earth, in turn, travels around the Sun in a similar but much wider orbit and when the Moon gets in the way of the view of the Sun (from Earth) we experience an eclipse. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this is the highly improbable fact that the Sun’s distance from Earth is 400 times that of the Moon – and the Sun’s diameter is correspondingly 400 times that of the Moon. What this means in practice is that when the two align in the sky the Moon perfectly obscures the sun, leaving only the outer corona visible.

Start signal of the marathon

When this happens, a dark Moon-shaped shadow – or umbra – tracks across the surface of the Earth. The 13/14 November solar eclipse will start just east of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, before making its way across the top corner of the continent and passing over Port Douglas, just north of Cairns in Queensland, where 2,000 runners will be eagerly waiting, and getting ready for the first rays of the Sun to reappear to signal the start of the marathon.

To be present at a solar eclipse is an eerie experience. As the edge of the Moon begins to pass before the Sun the light levels begin to drop. Presently, sometimes after an hour or more, light levels drop drastically and an unnatural twilight descends. Birds strike up a chorus, dogs cower beneath tables and the whole world seems to quiver with anticipation. And then totality occurs and a weird darkness engulfs you – although it is not a total darkness because the horizons in every direction remain bright. Wearing the right kind of glasses you will now be able to look directly at the black sun and see the flaming corona that surrounds it.

Minutes pass in this quiet gloom. Animals are silenced and parents hold their children close for fear of ... what?  And then, as if from some kind of celestial awakening, the piercing rays of the sun burst forth from behind the curvature of the Moon. If you are with a group of people, spontaneous applause and cheering takes place. The world didn’t end. The Moon was not able to swallow the Sun in its entirety. You have survived!

If you’re standing on the beach at Port Douglas, this magical moment will be your celestial starting pistol, signalling the beginning of the race.

So sign up to run The Solar Eclipse Marathon, you never know, it might be the last thing you do!


Find out more about the marathon, check out the area, have a look at the itinerary and prices.