On February 20, Charlie, Ray and Kevin touched the Red Sea, just a few hours before sunset. Their quest had lasted 111 days and taken them through 6 countries: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, and Egypt. By the team’s daily GPS record, they had traveled over 4,300 miles (6,920 kilometers). They fought through injury and extreme fatigue to reach their goal, which changed them forever.
The Running the Sahara expedition is chronicled in a documentary film, Running the Sahara, narrated and executive produced by Matt Damon and directed by Oscar™-winner James Moll. The film follows the runners and captures the diverse culture of the Saharan people.
The runners crossed some of the world’s harshest terrain and they battled intense heat, injury and diarrhea. Kevin Lin’s feet swelled from a size 7 to a size 81/2 during the run, and shoes had to be flown in; they went through 25 pairs total between the 3 men. Backed by a support group in 4x4s, they aimed to be running by 5am each day and did not sleep until 11pm. The stopped for lunch, mid-day and at night they consumed nearly 7,000 calories each, and still lost weight. During the day, they primarily sustained themselves on the run with water and FreeLife’s Himalayan Goji Juice.
At several points in their trek, the athletes stopped near sparsely populated wells to talk with villagers and nomads about the difficulties they face finding water. That marked another goal of the run — raising awareness for the clean water nonprofit group H2O Africa. "We have seen firsthand the need for clean water, which we take for granted in North America. It’s such a foundation for any community," Zahab said during day 108′s lunch break. The three plan to fund-raise for the group after they return home and finish recuperating. "It started off as a huge motivator, especially as we passed through countries where the water wasn’t clean," Engle said. But as the trio’s bodies became more depleted, the focus was "the day-to-day battle to stay alive and keep moving," he said.
They never skipped a day of running. Most days the three ran a total of 44 to 50 miles — sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. "It will take time to sink in … but this is an absolutely once in a lifetime thing. They say ignorance is bliss, and now that I know how hard this is, I would never consider crossing the Sahara on foot again," said American runner Charlie Engle, 44, hours after he and the others completed the run at Egypt’s Red Sea. Despite the preparation and drive to finish, the runners said they often questioned — mostly to themselves – “What they were doing”? Temperatures fluctuated between freezing and 110 degrees.
"We touched the water in Senegal at the beginning, and we touched the water in the Red Sea at the end. They were the bookends of our journey," Engle, of Greensboro, North Carolina, said on the telephone from a hotel room in Cairo, highlighting the importance of Water…
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