“How far would you go?”
This is a tag line we use at Water.org that references the millions of women and kids around the world are forced to go to great lengths each day to secure water for their families and challenges people to think about how far they’d go to help.
Twenty-one-year-old Trevor Nibbi decided he would go 150 miles over six days through Egypt’s Sahara Desert. Oct. 2 – 8, Nibbi completed the Sahara Race and raised almost $14,000 to help Water.org reach more people in need with safe water and the dignity of a toilet.
“Water.org was the cause foremost in my mind because it starts on the most human basic level,” Nibbi said. “Water is connected to so many things – health, gender equality, and income — which has always been interesting to me. I see Water.org as innovative, especially using microcredit in its WaterCredit program and community partnerships, so I thought, ‘What better opportunity than doing a race I love for a cause I love?’”
Nibbi joined 160 internationally-selected competitors from 40 countries to run distances from 30 to 50 miles every day, on soft sand, in 105 – 110 degree heat, with 20-pound packs containing food and supplies. Are you tired yet?
“I had done a long-distance triathlon and marathons in the past, but was completely unsure how capable I would be with the new goal of this race,” Nibbi said. “I started training pretty naively about six months in advance, about six to seven hours a day, including sauna training. In fact, I probably undertrained.”
He flew into Cairo a day before the race, and then took a grimy bus into the desert. There were no roads, no trails. The race trail was marked with pink flags. He spent each night in a tent with nine to 10 other people, which he grew close with over the course of the race.
“One of the best parts was getting to meet all these people from diverse backgrounds,” Nibbi said. “I got to hear about their experiences, backgrounds, and causes.”
While it was a highlight each day to find someone close to your pace to chat with for an extended amount of time, Nibbi said, “You would pass random people and strike up conversations, or give words of encouragement.”
But the iPod finally ran out of juice and when no one was around, Nibbi was stuck with just his thoughts and the sweltering heat.
“Ninety percent of the race, if not more, was mental,” Nibbi said. “Success or failure was dependant on your ability to compartmentalize, rationalize, and encourage yourself. It was cool having done ultra-endurance events before because it was a similar process, but this race took me to a completely different level. It is reassuring to know you can push your mind and body that much.”
Every night, Nibbi looked forward to a bag of potato chips, a dehydrated meal, and packet of Nutella.
“Eating Nutella was the greatest luxury,” Nibbi said. “By the end, all everyone talks about is food, what they are most excited to eat. The crazy thing that surprised me is because you are in such heat, your appetite goes down and you really aren’t hungry even though you’re only eating about 2500 calories a day, and burning 5500 calories.”
Day five was a double marathon, and Nibbi was fortunate to run some of it with an interesting man who was a multi-generational farmer from Britain that decided he wanted to take on the challenge of the Sahara Race.
When Nibbi finished the race, he got to do the simple things he had been dreaming about: order a delicious cheeseburger and take a shower.
But we’re left wondering – would he do it again?
Nibbi laughed, “I don’t know if I’d do another one…I’d say that’s enough for now.”