Just a jog under the blistering sun through the scorching Sahara
At the peak of summer in midday heat, a strange figure clad in
thermal underwear and a tuque could be spotted slogging along Greater
Victoria's roads and pathways.
Jeff Chand isn't avoiding the sun, he's trying to increase its
The 29-year-old Saanich resident is training for the hottest
seven-day marathon known to man: the Sahara Race.
"This is the toughest one," explained Chand, who also
works full time as a Chinese medicine practitioner and Registered
The Sahara Race in Egypt is part of the international 4 Desert
running series - a collection of footraces that take place across the
largest and most forbidding deserts on Earth. Deserts are divided into
four categories: subtropical, cool coastal, cold winter and polar. The
other races in the series include the Gobi March in China, the Atacama
Crossing in Chile and the Last Desert in Antarctica. Conveniently,
they are also the driest, hottest, coldest and windiest terrains on
This is Chand's first desert race and he picked a doozie.
Temperatures are expected to reach 50 C during the day and drop to
10 C at night. There's snakes, scorpions, blinding salt flats that
look like snow and sand, lots and lots of sand.
"That's what worries me," he said. "It can be so
The 250-kilometre course makes a beeline path across the Sahara
Desert to the pyramids and is divided into four stages. Racers must
complete between 35 to 42 kilometres during each of the first four
stages - roughly the equivalent of a marathon a day, four days in a
row. During the fifth stage, runners must complete 80 kilometres
running through most of the night and part of two days. Grueling -
yes, but it makes the sixth and last stage all the sweeter. Within
sight of the pyramids, racers have only 10 kilometres to the finish
During the event, participants must carry their own supplies in a
25-pound pack. At the end of each day, they'll cook their own food
over an open fire and sleep in a tent with nine of the other racers.
But Chand won't be completely alone. His wife, Kristina, will be
volunteering at the race to help cheer him on and the racers often
bond in their down time. According to the race website, many racers
say meeting like-minded friends is the best part of the experience.
The competition is limited to 100 participants from all over the
world. It's first-come, first-served, but Chand had no problems
"There's not too many people chomping at the bit to do this
thing," he joked.
But ever since Chand first heard about the event last February,
he's been doing exactly that.
He recalls visiting the website racingtheplanet.com on a cold
winter night at about 11:30 p.m.
Looks interesting, he thought and crawled into bed. But he couldn't
sleep. He got up again and took a second look at the website and he
spent the rest of the night thinking about "what if?"
"I don't know what it was, but something just made it seem
tangible," he said. "You know when you're reading about
someone summating Mt. Everest or doing something like that - it just
seems so far away. But something made this seem like, maybe I could do
The 4 Desert race series isn't marketed to world-class athletes.
Most of the participants are working professionals who are high
achievers. The race can be run or walked and the emphasis is on
completing the event, rather than getting the best times.
Chand's played pretty much every sport there is and has completed
two marathons, but he's never solely focused on running.
And since he started his training five months ago he's lost 30
He typically logs 95 kilometres a week, alternating between the
hills in Rockland and the Galloping Goose trail.
Chand's not worried about the physical aspect of the experience.
"At some point, it becomes so simple as putting one foot in front
of the other."
However, unable to recreate Cairo conditions in Canada, Chand has
to mentally train himself. "If you're prepared to handle that
mentally, then that's 90 per cent of it."
In addition, he's raising funds for Doctors Without Borders, a
charity organization that provides doctors, emergency relief and
health care to developing countries.
For more information or to donate contact Chand at 384-1700.