Challenging the Sahara


photo courtesy of Amanda Matchett
Although conditions won’t be the same, Amanda Matchett is training to run in the sweltering heat of the Saharan Desert next year in honour of her father, David Matchett, who died in Hay River in 2006.

There’s nothing that’s possessed Amanda Matchett to run for six days in one of the hottest deserts in the world, but there is a memory that’s inspiring her to do it.

Her father, David Matchett, died in Hay River in 2006, and in his memory she’s committed to run 250 km in the Sahara Desert in Egypt for six days next year.

She also aims to raise $20,000 for Charity Water, an organization that provides clean water to communities that don’t have proper access to it.

The fundraising campaign is called the Sahara Shuffle, and was created by Amanda Matchett and her running partner Eric Wheeler.

David Matchett’s death was sudden and a shock to the community, said long-time family friend Greg Rowe, who read the eulogy for his friend and still keeps in close touch with the family.

David Matchett fainted one day and suffered cracked ribs as he collapsed on a railing. He died of internal bleeding before he could be transported to an Edmonton hospital.

That was my first confrontation with mortality and just being extremely aware that life can end in a moment of time,” said Amanda Matchett. “He was the main supporter in my life, the main influence. He really supported and pushed me to pursue hockey. He encouraged me and really inspired me to live life to the fullest, before and after his death.”

Four years before her father’s death, the 25-year-old moved south to attend high school in Saskatchewan to play on an all-girls hockey team. After graduation, she moved from Hay River to attend university in Minnesota.

The Matchett family moved around many locations in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and came to Hay River in the mid-’90s. They made friends, became busy with hockey and athletics, and decided to hang their hats in the town.

My dad fell in love with Hay River,” said Matchett. “He really liked the supportive community, the camaraderie and connection. Everything to do with the North he fell in love with.”

David Matchett was very committed to the community, noted Rowe. “He helped out with hockey, golf, and track and field. He was well-liked and well-known in the community. He was a very good father and a good man.”

Already, Amanda Matchett has completed five triathlons and one half-marathon in preparation for her run in 50-degree Celsius conditions in the desert. She will also be doing a half-marathon in San Francisco in May, followed by more marathons and heat training.

I’m a northern child at heart, so running in a warmer climate will be hard,” she said. “I’ll have to find a treadmill in a sauna. Like everything else, I’ll take it one step at a time.”

One hundred per cent of the funds she and Wheeler will raise will go towards the water charity. Having launched their website on March 11, they had raised $550 as of March 13. They have until June 30 to meet their goal.

The Sahara Shuffle is scheduled to start on Feb. 16, 2014.

— Angele Cano