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Sunday, 29 April 2007

Running The Sahara - Page 3

Written by Sasha Didier
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Have you ever thought it was possible to run across the vastest desert in the world? How about running for over 100 days in the hopes of helping to improve the lives of the people in African communities that don’t have access to clean water? On November 2, 2006, three runners, Ray Zahab, Charlie Engle, and Kevin Lin set out across the world’s largest desert on a life-changing quest that lasted 111 days and covered 4,300 miles.


Charlie Engle, Kevin Lin, and Ray Zahab (left to right) along the expedition route in Mauritania
Photograph by Don Holtz

With his vast history of tremendous running accomplishments, Charlie reflected on running the Sahara as being his greatest athletic endeavor. “Running the Sahara was easily the most challenging athletic pursuit of my life. But I think what really motivated me to do it was the mental challenge. I knew instinctively that it would be impossible to train for running 4500 miles. I really relied on my life experience to get me through the toughest times.”

The documentary Running the Sahara is aimed at raising awareness of the lack of clean water in Saharan Africa that kills nearly 4,500 children a day and empowering people to take action. It is being directed by James Moll who won an Oscar for best documentary in 1999 and narrated by Matt Damon, who is also one of the executive producers. To further the goals of the film a new foundation was set up: The H20 Africa Foundation. Its objective is to create sustainable alliances between people who want to help, the best organizations in the field, and the communities of Africa that have no clean water.

Charlie Engle describes how he got involved in the cause: “When I first decided to try to run across the Sahara Desert, it was primarily an ego based idea. I wanted to be the first person to run all the way across the Sahara. While on my scouting trip, I realized I had a chance to do something more. I learned that the biggest single problem in all of Africa (if not the entire world) is access to clean water. As a runner, I won’t get very far without clean water. While I was able to buy a supply of clean water to carry along, the average person in the Sahara has to travel more than two hours each way just to gain access to water that is probably not clean. It is not that water doesn’t exist there. In fact, it is well known that huge amounts of water are in underground aquifers, but it takes money to build wells to access the water. One well that might cost $15,000 could supply thousands of people with life changing water.”


Local children run alongside Kevin Lin, Ray Zahab, and Charlie Engle (left to right) as they pass a small Mauritanian village.
Photograph by Don Holtz

To find out more information about this great expedition and humanitarian project visit: or the H20 Africa Foundation’s website:

© Sasha Didier

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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