Marathon man runs another 145 miles
By Scott Axtell

Wyoming Tribune-Eagle CHEYENNE – Cheyenne adventure runner and McCormick Junior High teacher Brent Weigner has added another to his long list of adventure runs. Weigner already holds the record for running an ultra-marathon (longer than 26 miles) on every continent in the shortest time – 267 days. He has run in the Himalayas, on King George Island in the Antarctic, even in the West Bank. This time Weigner ran the seven-day, 145-mile Marathon Des Sables, or Marathon of the Sands, in Morocco. "I finished about as well as I expected," Weigner said. "I placed 32nd out of 76 starters in the Veterans 2 classification, which is for 50- to 59-year-olds. I was also the second American to finish in the age group." The American who finished first took second in the category.

In all, Weigner finished 287th out of 581 finishers with a time of 42 hours, 37 minutes, 31 seconds. The top American, Michael Wardian, finished in 26th in 26 hours, 45 minutes, 30-seconds. "This past Marathon des Sables had to be one of the toughest on record," said American representative Mary Gadams. "Brutal heat, sand storms and mistimed water on the dune stage. "Brent can be called heroic for finishing with a great attitude." But if just running in the Sahara for seven days wasn’t enough, participants had to carry their own food, clothing and a survival kit and a course booklet. Organizers supplied water and shelter in the form of open-sided tents. The survival kit included a blanket, mirror, whistle, anti-venom pump and flares. "My pack weighed about 14 kilograms, or roughly 31 pounds," Weigner said. "It was mostly food, but I also had a survival kit, sleeping bag and the pack. Organizers provided water every 10 kilometers. So barring medical emergencies, you’re on their own.

" Weigner said he lost between five and six hours in the race stopping and cleaning sand out of his shoes and socks. "The sand over there is super, super fine," he said. "Any kind of mesh in your shoes and the sand would just sift through. "You’d be good for an hour or two, then you’d have to stop and clean the sand out of your shoes and socks or continue running and get blisters and essentially have your feet sanded." And as if having to dump sand out of your shoes and carry your food wasn’t enough, the tents weren’t exactly top of the line. "(They) didn’t have bottoms, so you’d have to clean the rocks off the sand and hopefully be the first one to a tent to get a good spot," Weigner said. "I learned that one early because one time I stayed to cheer runners on at the finish line. "We had been having sandstorms and when I got to the tent, I ended up with a hole above where I was and holes along the side. I slept with a bandana around my nose and mouth." Weigner said he carried about 15 pounds of food at the start, mostly freeze-dried foodstuffs along with jerky, energy bars and trail mix. "I jettisoned a lot of stuff after that first day," he said. "I also gave a lot of food away because I had overdone it on the calories."

Race officials required the participants to intake at least 2,000 calories per day. Weigner said he had packed for about 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day. Weigner said most of the Sahara isn’t sand, but bedrock, rock outcroppings and dirt. "It reminded me of running between Rawlins and Rock Springs," he said. "It’s kind of the same bareness and openness." There was one day of the race that was run entirely on sand. "It was 124 degrees on Dune Day," he said. "The stage was 30 kilometers run entirely on sand. Two helicopters patrolled the course looking for emergency flares. Some people had never used the flares before, and the instructions had worn off, so many people burned their hands and arms setting them off." There was also a stage of the race run mostly at night. It course was 48 miles and marked with glo-sticks. "I ran the stage in about 19 hours," Weigner said. "I was most worried about getting lost or disoriented, but the course was well marked and your navigation skills weren’t that necessary because of the glo-sticks. I ran for about three or four hours by myself, chasing the glo-sticks in front of me." Added Gadams, "The course at night is the most difficult for organizers because the Moroccan children steal the glo-sticks.

The course also had to be set up by helicopter because many of the sand dunes were inaccessible by four-wheel drive vehicles." Weigner also was worried about local wildlife. "I was also concerned about insects and snakes," he said. "They have several different types of vipers, including the sand viper, which stays buried in the sand with just its eye poking out. If it got really cold one night, what was going to stop one of these things from crawling into my sleeping bag?" The race was started 15 years ago by a high school dropout and former concert promoter named Patrick Bauer. "Bauer went on an epic crossing of parts of the Sahara and was so inspired that he wanted to share the experience with others," Gadams said. The entry fee for the race was $2,500. "The event is set up so that there is lots of medical help available," Gadams said. "Thus a person dropping out of the race doesn’t create too much of a problem. I do feel bad when a person drops out because it is so expensive." This year’s race was unique for another reason: "My students at McCormick were able to follow my progress on the Internet," Weigner said. "They had a wonderful time following along. It made the geography come a live for them" Weigner is considering a return to the area in November for the first Desert Cup race – a three-day, 200-kilometer run in Jordan that finishes at the Treasury of Petra. That was in the climatic scene in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." Weigner said running the Marathon des Sables was unique. "Of all the adventure races, this is the oldest," he said. And it’s one of the few races where you have to be totally self-sufficient, which for me was the first time I have done anything like that."