BENEFITING: Back on My Feet
EVENT DATE: Oct 05, 2014
UPDATE: Thank you all for your support. Please note that I will be posting to my blog after each race day, starting on Sunday October 5th (and you can comment on the posts if you wish). Follow this link and look me up! Please note that blog postings may sometimes be delayed due to Internet or other issues. The race website will also include daily updates on the race, photographs, and more. See the “Race coverage” tab at www.4deserts.com/atacamacrossing.
Please support me as I run 155 miles in the Atacama Desert in Chile to raise funds for Back on My Feet to help change the lives of homeless and other underserved individuals in New York City.
What? In early October, I will participate in a 155-mile, six-stage, seven-day, self-supported running race in the Atacama Desert in Chile. I will carry all of my food, supplies, and equipment for the entire race in a backpack. Water, shared tents each night, and emergency medical care are provided by the race organizers. The race is called the Atacama Crossing and it is part of a series of races called the 4 Deserts that take place in the hottest (Sahara), windiest (Gobi), coldest (Antarctica), and driest (Atacama) deserts in the world. (The Atacama Desert is also the highest desert.)
Why? Good question. I enjoy long-distance running and this will be a significant personal challenge. More importantly, I am running to raise money for an organization called Back on My Feet to support the invaluable work they do to alleviate the challenges faced by homeless and other underserved individuals in New York City. All of the money I raise will go directly to support services provided by the organization (I am personally funding all of my expenses associated with participating in the race).
What is Back on My Feet? I'm glad you asked. Back on My Feet is a national, for-purpose organization that uses running to help homeless and other underserved individuals change the way they see themselves so they can make real changes in their lives that result in independent living and employment. The goal is not to create runners within underserved populations (although I have certainly seen that happen), but to use running to foster self-sufficiency and positive personal transformation. Rain or shine (or anything in between!), members served by the program and volunteers run together three days a week at 5:30 a.m. After demonstrating their commitment to the program, members gain access to educational, job training, and housing opportunities as well as financial aid. Members and volunteers regularly take part in and volunteer at local running races, and several of our members have even completed the New York City marathon. I have been volunteering with Back on My Feet since they started their New York City chapter in April 2012. Since that time, I have seen the positive effect that the program has had on dozens of individuals. Click here to learn more about the program from the individuals it serves. Click here to read a news article about Back on My Feet's Team Brooklyn that I run with.
Can you tell me more about the race? Sure. I will be one of about 165 participants from dozens of countries around the world. The six race stages vary in length from about 10 to 48 miles. Aside from having to carry all of your food and equipment with you for the entire race in a backpack, the challenges include the fluctuating temperatures (over 100F/38C during the day, dropping to around 41F/5C at night), high altitude (the race starts above 10,000 feet), and the undulating and varied terrain (which includes sand-dunes, river crossings, loose rocks, hard packed earth, waist high grass, and unforgiving salt flats). The race takes place in the Atacama Desert, which is the driest place on earth (it is 50 times more arid than Death Valley in California). Due to its lunar-like landscape, NASA frequently tests its planetary rover vehicles in the Atacama Desert -- you never know, maybe I'll see one during the race!
How are you training for the race? Essentially, I have added more long runs (including on successive days) to my usual training and racing schedule. I have also been doing a lot of runs wearing the backpack and have gradually been increasing its weight. My backpack could weigh as much as 20 pounds (9 kg) at the start of the race, so that makes a big difference in terms of my running pace and gait. I have also been doing some running wearing shoes that are a half size bigger than usual (the heat, terrain, and long distances in the desert often cause feet to swell) and wearing two pairs of socks (which can minimize blisters). I also spent a week in Arizona over the summer where I was able to do some running in the heat at altitude and on varied terrain.
What will you eat during the race? That's a question I have been spending a lot of time thinking about! Most likely a combination of "real food" (including freeze-dried meals that are reconstituted with water, oatmeal, nuts, dried fruit, candy [marshmallows are great fuel for running!], etc.) as well as sports gels and chews, energy drinks (made from powder) and bars, recovery drinks, etc. I will try to have a good mix of foods available for each day, but I'll have to be selective in terms of bringing enough to eat but not so much that the food is too heavy to carry. If you have any food suggestions, please do send them along!
Let me know if you have any other questions!