Running the Sahara - Charlie Engle

  • 4,300 miles
  • 6 countries
  • 9 ecosystems
  • 3 runners
  • 111 days
  • 10,000 calories burned daily per runner
  • 1,400 liters of Gatorade consumed

These are the stats from Charlie Engle's amazing run across the Sahara. Blair and I, along with some friends, went to hear a presentation Friday night by the 42-year-old extreme runner.  Charlie lives in Greensboro and has completed every major adventure race in the world, winning quite a few of them along the way. This is a man for whom 130 degree desert temperatures and running for 60 hours straight are no big deal.

Charlie teamed up with extreme runners Ray Zahab of Chelsea, Quebec and Kevin Lin of Taipei County, Taiwan to complete a 111-day race from the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Senegal to the Red Sea in Egypt. A documentary film was made about their trek and will be released in November, narrated by Matt Damon.  They three runners have already appeared on Leno, have an Oprah appearance scheduled for August, and Charlie is writing a book which I will be first in line to buy.

The talk Charlie gave was great. He is a very down-to-earth, funny guy, laughing about what color drinking too much purple Gatorade turns your urine (florescent green, if you must know) and talking about the H2O Africa Foundation that is part of the Running for Sahara expedition to raise awareness and gather support on the mission for clean water (

These three men ran for 14 hours each day, the equivalent of running about 3 marathons a day. They were plagued by injuries and dehydration. Charlie showed a photo of a blister the size of a tennis ball on the bottom of his foot that would have sent any normal human screaming for his mother. He ran on it the last 3 days of the race. The team could only go as fast as the person who was feeling the worst that day. They ran in 60 mph windstorms, in sand that came up past their ankles, and in blazing heat.

The ran across landscapes that thousands of years ago were home to tribes but that hadn't seen human contact in years--hence, they passed fields of hand carved tools, rock carvings of giraffes where giraffes hadn't been for over 10,000 years, and much more.

It was a fascinating lecture and an adventure I can't even begin to comprehend. Aside from the physical endurance aspect, the mental fortitude athletes like this show is just beyond me. On day two after 40 miles I'd be saying, "Yup, call the chopper. I'm going home."

For more details, go to And get ready to hear more about Charlie Engle and his team...