The Ethiopian 10,000 meter champion finally pulled ahead of us. Well, actually, he lapped us on the course and was going for a strong finish—a time of 28 minutes or something superhumanly close to this. We still had one more round on the 3300-meter loop through the center of town. Then, right when we though humiliation was over, we got passed by a Moroccan runner tailed by another Ethiopian runner. I asked my brother, "What did we get ourselves into?"

* * *

Thomas, my twin brother, and I rode by Mohamed Mourit's house in Ifrane, Morocco, on our bikes, checking to see if he was back from Belgium. In case you don't know, Mohamed Mourit is a Moroccan who represents Belgium in running. He is the two-time world cross-country champion. We saw a black Mercedes sitting in the driveway. "He must be around." We knocked on the gate to his house and his small-framed Berber smile appeared when he opened up. One of the most humble people I've ever met, he said, "He Thomas and Terry, how are you guys doing?" His English is impeccable as he lived in New Mexico in the US for some years during college, where he found running paid more than schoolwork. Lucky for him.

We sat straddling our bikes asking him about his running, family and friends. We told him that Yes we've been running, and Yes we've been doing some races, but Nothing in the same caliber (the same universe) as what he does. We told him that we'd like to go on a run with him soon, an easy one of course. We had run with Mourit and Hesham El-Karoug (Olympic 1500 gold medalist) several times through the cedar woods of our mountain town. Mohamed said, "You guys ought to come to Boujdour with me in the Western Sahara to run. There's a small race and it would be fun." We laughed. "Yeah Mohamed, you take the jet and we'll meet you there." Neither Mourit nor we mentioned it again. Until

Untilwe rode by on our bikes and saw Mourit again two days later. We stopped to say hello and he said, "We're leaving tomorrow." He went on to inform us that our plane tickets were already bought. The race directors had paid for everything. Well, we couldn't say "No" now, could we? The plan was set: Mourit would drive us all to the airport in Casablanca the next day, after stopping by for lunch in his other house in Rabat. To say that Mourit made a living by running is saying the least.

We boarded the plane which was chartered for athletes participating in various activities in the small town of Boujdour just past Layoune in the Western Sahara, a "region" considered by Morocco to be part of (not apart from) Morocco. Maps that show the region as separate are not used in the classroom and are not allowed in the country, assuring that everyone agrees with the governing majority. We arrived at two in the morning and were treated to dates, milk and a meal under two huge circus-like tents. We were served by waiters who tended to our ever whim.

"Tomorrow (this morning) is the parade. The race is Sunday. Get some rest," Mourit sort of chuckled at us. This is not us. This is something out of the life of Forest Gump. I had no idea what was still left to come.

The next morning we awoke and were treated again to breakfast under the tents. The parade started at the government building. There were athletes from Italy, Spain, Germany, Holland, Kenya, Morocco, Ethiopia, France, and the USA (us).

We were thrown out the door into the side street. We were told to march behind the little Moroccan girl carrying the American flag. Over the loud speaker as we started walking: "And representing America are the champion 5k and 10k champions, Thomas and Terry." We're representing the United States as the "best" runners? I thought to myself then voiced it to Thomas. We later think they knew we weren't pros but posers, as finding Americans on such short notice was near impossible. The crowd wouldn't know either way anyway.

We all lined up at the start line the next day at 11:00am sharp; however, the race was due to start at 8am. The day was proving to be hot indeed. The gun sounded and we were off. Here were two twins from the US who have, at best, ran respectable times running in high school and college. However, now we were representing the US against some of the world's best and up-and-coming runners. We never caught up with any of the others, but paced the whole race together, happy with our 36-minute time.

* * *

We did get last but we still ran decent for no training, intense sun and little chance. Everyone was still very welcoming and didn't really care that we scored last and represented the US quite poorly. TV cameras surrounded us and race officials still wanted pictures with the runners who came all the way from the US to run in this first international Western Sahara event. We got interviewed, photographed and appeared in regional and national newspapers, TV stations and the like. Our part-time maid's family even saw us on the evening news. They just shook their heads later in disbelief, as did we.

We flew back from the Western Sahara on Monday morning early. My brother and I somehow got nominated to "tend" to the Ethiopian runners, who we bought meals, water, snacks and gave wakeup calls. They were lean and powerful like pure greyhounds. It was no wonder they were so fast.

"So what is your real age?" they asked us later. You see, runners often illegally change their age to younger than they really are in order to run "longer." We told them our real age and they told us theirs, not really worried that their documents showed them five or six years younger. I guess we're all poser pros in one way or another.