For years I’ve enjoyed reading survival stories. Crazy for the Storm, Unbroken and Touching the Void are just a few of the more powerful, memorable books I’ve read in the past several years. If I were to amend My 5 Favorite Books list, I would add Unbroken to it. Each book details inspirational accounts of men who survived ridiculous, almost impossible, situations, often while starving and being dehydrated. Although I hope to never endure anything close to what these men have, I suppose I was curious to see what it might be like to go one full day, one twenty-four-hour period, without food or water.
While running cross-country and track in college, I became a camel. I didn’t want to be encumbered by a water bottle, or several mini bottles attached to a pack around my waist, and essentially wouldn’t drink during runs that sometimes lasted ninety minutes. In the desert. (I went to school in Reno, Nevada, where the summer heat can be pretty intense, though nothing outrageous enough to make my Most Extreme Weather I’ve Experienced list). I also found out in high school that I was susceptible to getting side aches, and grew accustomed to not drinking anything a few hours before a workout or race.
I hoped I would be able to rely on my learned behavior and discipline to get me through a twenty-four-hour period without water. I figured if I had the lack of water under control, the lack of food wouldn’t even be an issue.
As it turned out, neither was actually all that challenging, but I also didn’t exert a lot of energy during the day—definitely choosing to forego a workout or even do much more than I absolutely had to. I certainly wasn’t dragging myself down out of the frigid Peruvian Andes with a broken leg, a la one of the climbers in Touching the Void, nor was my body being parched by the relentless sun while I floated in a raft in the South Pacific for forty-seven days, a la Louie Zamperini in Unbroken.
I did get a headache in the early evening, and wasn’t able to take an Ibuprofen to relieve it, as I have difficulty swallowing pills even with water, but that was about it. I thought I would become agitated, as I know I have a tendency to get cranky when I’m hungry, but perhaps because I knew I wouldn’t be eating at all, I was okay.
I most certainly wouldn’t want to fast—without food and water—for more than twenty-four hours, and I admire even more those men (and women, though they seem to stay out of those situations more than men in the first place) I have read about, but I’m glad to know I’d be okay for at least one full day if I were stuck without food and water.