This post was written by Deyl Kearin, Opportunity supporter and member of the Board of Governors, who’s en route right now to Egypt for an ultramarathon, Sahara Race, starting October 28. He’ll run the equivalent of six marathons in six and a half days — a total of 155 miles (250 kilometers) — to help Opportunity’s clients in sub-Saharan Africa work their way out of poverty. Follow along on Deyl’s Run 4 Poverty at run4poverty.org, make a donation at his Opportunity fundraiser, and share his story at opportunity.org/run4poverty (a supporter gives $1 for every “share” from the page).
I’ve always been committed to personal growth, so when I decided to take on this race one of my motivations was to break through all my barriers and limitations. But I also wanted to raise money and awareness for the fight to end poverty in Africa through a nonprofit I’m passionate about.
Why I Race
I knew my fundraiser would have the most impact if I did something extreme that required mountains of effort. Being involved with Opportunity for the last decade has helped me realize that as extreme as my circumstances will be during this race, impoverished families in sub-Saharan Africa face far more oppressive circumstances every single day. I have tremendous respect for the endurance and tenacity of the micro-entrepreneurs that Opportunity serves.
That’s why I set my fundraising goal at $50,000, or $200 per kilometer. It’s just a little more than the average amount of a first Trust Group microfinance loan from Opportunity. This will be a hard race but knowing that if I push myself for one more kilometer, I’ll be able to fund another loan, is going to help keep me motivated. If you want to help me get there, consider sponsoring one or more of my kilometers, and think of me in just a few days as I run them!
Are You Insane?
Growing up, though I was athletic–surfing, mountain biking and doing other activities–I was never drawn to competitive sports. After college, I did some triathlons and even a marathon. (Ironically, I didn’t like the training or the event!) Looking for an even bigger challenge, I was drawn to do an endurance event because of the mental and physical toll it would take on me. Fear is a good motivator, and I think it’s healthy to do things that scare the daylights out of you. So I took on one of the most challenging multi-day ultramarathons on earth. I’m haunted by something Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” I didn’t want to be thinking at age 52, “I shoulda went for it!”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “Are you insane?” over the last six months. A race like this doesn’t fit into most people’s framework. My wife, family, and close friends have been incredibly supportive. They realize that I have so much purpose and passion for this goal. I’m humbled by all the encouragement I’ve received and I think that will keep me going in the difficult moments.
My training regimen consisted of putting lots of hours on my legs and getting my body used to exerting in heat. During my peak training, my average weekend would consist of a 90-minute run on Friday, a four-hour run on Saturday, and a three-hour run on Sunday. During the week I would take one rest day for Bikram yoga, a 90-minute speed workout and another light 90-minute run.
This would mostly be done with a 10-15 pound backpack in the thick beach sand in Santa Barbara. The low-tide runs were glorious, as I could connect over 20 miles of beach without setting foot on asphalt. At higher tides, I did laps on our most popular stretches of beach. I got a lot of looks as the guy running back and forth in the heat of the day wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a backpack and a legionnaire hat.
For the heat training, I spent almost a month running the hot and humid beaches and trails of Nosara, Costa Rica. The most challenging, and henceforth most helpful, training was two separate weekends in Death Valley. My friend and fellow competitor Brian Townsend and I ran the Mesquite sand dunes in scorching 115-125 degree heat. We would do three- and four-hour runs and then spend the night at a Death Valley camp eating dehydrated food. We were trying to re-enact the race conditions as much as possible. I developed a healthy fear of the heat on those weekends, so I was determined to figure out my electrolyte needs and how to stay hydrated.
My training lasted a little under six months. Running in the sand turned out to be a huge blessing as it was way less impact on my body than running on paved roads. Remarkably, I did not suffer one running-related injury!
As far as my health goes, I’ve done everything I can do physically to prepare for this race. I heard someone say about endurance racing: “It’s 90% mental, and the other 10%? Well, that’s mental too.” So, I’ve done a lot of visualization in addition to my physical preparation.
So how hard will I push myself? I didn’t sign up for a vacation. I committed to this race knowing it was going to be grueling and painful at times, and in those moments I would have my greatest lessons. I’m not going to take any stupid risks (I pinky-swore my pregnant wife that I wouldn’t) but I do plan to push past my previous limits. I’m sure that will be painful. At the same time, I want to be present and enjoy the experience.
Wish me luck in the desert!