Friday, July 15, 2016
Running Across The Mojave Desert All Alone
Immediately after completing the Germany run, I began planning the Mojave run -- to take place 10 months later. I had never spent any time in the Mojave Desert, but had run all alone across the Great Plains during the heat of the summer in 2006 and didn't anticipate the Mojave to be much different. Well, the Mojave Desert is indeed unique and poses some significant challenges. It is the driest of the North American deserts, receiving less than 13 inches of rain a year. Not only is the Mojave very hot, but it can also be very windy. At nighttime the desert floor comes alive with insects, snakes and spiders, so staying in my tent after sunset would be necessary. There are rattlesnakes, coyotes, tarantulas, lizards, turtles, scorpions, and a host of other living things.
To make the run "solo" I would have no support crew and would push all of my gear, food and water in a BOB Sport Utility Stroller, the same stroller I had pushed on my other adventure runs across states and countries. However, this time the stroller would be more of a rolling canteen, because I decided not to store water caches in the desert before beginning the journey -- contrary to the advice of other adventure runners who had contacted me before I started. I decided that I would restock my water supply where and when I could as I traversed the desert, carrying a water purifier to use, if needed. I had enough containers to carry up to 7 gallons of water -- which would weigh a total of 56 pounds. That, combined with the 20 pound weight of the stroller itself and the 23 pounds of weight for my tent, clothes, food, and electronics (used to update my online classroom for students) would bring the maximum weight of the stroller to nearly 100 pounds. I weighed 153 pounds at the time.
Late in the run I encountered 40 to 50 mph headwinds and could only accomplish 2 miles every hour while pushing the stroller. With ski goggles over my eyes and ear plugs in my ears, I pushed on through the blowing sand. In some places, I had to take apart the stroller and carry my items up a sandy sloped portion of "road" and re-assemble things in order to continue on -- the combined weight of the gear, food and water being too much to push collectively up the soft/shifting surface.
After experiencing some incredibly difficult days of running, I ran into Badwater Basin, Death Valley, and had completed the first solo run across the Mojave Desert with a start at the Grand Canyon. My footsteps touched Arizona, Nevada and California. I would then have to go through 2 months of physical therapy to treat a couple of herniated discs in my lower back due to the exertion required to accomplish the run. The adventure was an exhausting undertaking and I used a live satellite tracking device so that people around the world could watch my progress via the Internet. I had an "online classroom" for students so that they could virtually experience the adventure with me through my writings, pictures and videos. The run was one of the most physically demanding events I have ever done.
Keep reaching for life's mileposts!
Paul Staso, Founder & President
The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, Inc.
P.A.C.E. is a non-profit organization aimed at Promoting Active Children Everywhere.