Sahara Shuffler starts soon

Amanda Matchett/submitted photo  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.

Amanda Matchett/submitted photo
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.

After a year of training, Amanda Matchett is ready to undertake one of the toughest physical challenges of her life.

The Sahara Shuffle, created by Matchett and one of her best friends Eric Wheeler to raise money for Charity: Water – a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations – is a 250 km run across the desert over seven days, set to start Feb. 19.

Originally supposed to be held in Cairo, Egypt, the event was moved to Petra, Jordan, in the wake of political instability.

Matchett has been preparing for this event since January 2013.

“It’s been a pretty big year of build up for me,” Matchett told The Hub. “I signed up for three races to train for to help me build up to this point, starting with a half marathon in Feb. 2013, a half-Ironman in May 2013, a 50k ultra marathon in Oct. 2013.”

Matchett said she also travelled to Mexico to train and has been running with a 20 lbs. pack to get used to the weight of carrying seven days worth of supplies with her. The only things provided over the course of the journey are water and a tent.

Matchett set out to run across the desert in memory of her father, Dave Matchett, who died in Hay River 2006 when he 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.

“My father is definitely one of the motivations,” said Matchett, adding that some extra impetus has been added by the work for Charity:Water. “We’ve raised close to $9,000 and our goal is $10,000. We are still hoping to hit our goal, but it has been incredibly motivating to see how compassionate and generous the people we are connected to are.”

Greg Rowe, who read the eulogy for his friend Dave Matchett, said he has kept in touch with Amanda and knows her to be a dedicated individual.

“I know she’s had a tough time,” he said. “But she’s very motivated. We wish her all the best and I’m more than confident she will complete whatever task she sets herself.”

Matchett said she feels the most trepidation about the 90 km leg of the run in days five and six of the run. The organizers give the participants two days to do it because of the long distance and the fact that they’ve already run four marathons in a row.

“I’m a little nervous about running in the desert in the middle of the night,” she said. “But really happy I’m doing this with a friend. I’m most excited for taking in this entire experience and finishing. That’s our goal: to finish. It’s going to feel so incredibly amazing. Our biggest athletic achievement by far.”

-Sarah Ladik