Running Through the Sahara Desert with a Mission

Thursday, 13 October, 2011 - 11:40

In the past few months much has been written and said about the SANGONeT “No Pain No Gain” fundraising campaign which is linked to SANGONeT CEO, David Barnard’s participation in the 2011 Sahara Race in Egypt. Having successfully completed this extreme 250km footrace in the Sahara Desert, this is David’s story in his own words.

“No Pain, No Gain”

The idea of running the 2011 Sahara Race in Egypt started shortly after I completed the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM) in October 2010.

Although my body, and especially my feet, took a pounding running 250km through the Kalahari Desert, I had been bitten by the desert running bug. I wanted to experience more extreme running adventures and was looking for a next big challenge.

Ultimately, my decision to enter the 2011 Sahara Race was informed by the idea to once again use my participation in support of SANGONeT’s fundraising activities for 2011. In 2010 we crafted the “No Pain No Gain” fundraising campaign linked to my participation in the KAEM. We decided to be more ambitious this year and expand the focus and scope of the campaign by inviting five other NGOs to partner with us and share the proceeds.

I had already been reading about the Sahara Race while preparing for the KAEM. This, coupled with my general interest in the many fascinating features of the African continent, including the Sahara Desert, made it an easy decision - I was going to run the 2011 Sahara Race in Egypt!

I started the Sahara Race fitter, wiser and better prepared based on my KAEM experience. But a seven-day race through a desert in extreme conditions does not always follow the planned script. Pain presents itself in many ways…

Thankfully, I survived the challenges of the 2011 Sahara Race and the mighty Sahara Desert.

I crossed the finishing line shortly after 11h00 on 8 October 2011 in 52h38 in sight of the Pyramids of Giza on the outskirts of Cairo.

The Sahara Race was tough, very tough. It was also a very humbling experience. But because everyone suffers together, the spirit and camaraderie between tent mates, other competitors, organisers, medical staff and the support crew, make this a truly unique experience.

My words can’t do justice to this experience, but I have tried to capture it in a manner - three parts in total - which hopefully provide you with some insight into the race, the Sahara Desert and the meaning of it all - both personally, and to the work of SANGONeT and the South African NGO sector in general.

Part 1 covers the build-up to the Sahara Race, including my training and preparations, the “No Pain No Gain” fundraising campaign and the final countdown to the start.

Click here to read more.

Part 2 covers the actual race, with a day-by-day account of my experiences and observations from one sand dune and campsite to the next.

Click here to read more.

Part 3 covers my reflections of the people who made the race a special experience, the challenges of completing an extreme event of this nature and why I would do it all over again.

Click here to read more.

Although the Sahara Race is now something of the past, the “No Pain No Gain” race to R1 million is far from over. We still need more donations, and you have until 30 November 2011 to pledge your support.

Trust me, running through the Sahara Desert gave real meaning to our campaign slogan - “No Pain No Gain”!

Remember, all money donated will be shared between five NGOs at the forefront of development and community work in South Africa - SANGONeT, Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), Starfish Greathearts Foundation and SCORE.

Please make a donation and encourage others to do the same.

I dedicate this story to my dad, David Botha Barnard (sr), who passed away on 12 October 2011.

May you rest in peace.

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