SAN DIEGO — Deyl Kearin wanted to try to something “bigger than him” and about the biggest thing he could think of was to run the Sahara Race – a 155 mile, five-stage race through the Sahara in Egypt.
The 32-year-old Rancho Bernardo high school graduate, who never ran competitively, trained for months by running on the sand at the beach and in Death Valley during the heat of the summer.
“I just didn’t know if I could even do back-to-back-to-back marathons over five or six days,” Kearin said.
“It’s just stifling,” he said. “There’s sweat on you and just days of sweat, dirt, sunscreen, sweat, dirt, sunscreen. It was not a pretty sight.The heat was overwhelming.”
Kearin carried everything he needed in a 18-pound backpack.
“That was all of my food for six days, my snacks, my electrolytes, sleeping bag, sleeping pad,” he said. “I wore one pair of shorts and one shirt the whole time, which I’ve tried washing them and they are just way beyond recovery.
“Everyday was such a big challenge. There were so many dig deep moments,” he said. “Day three, I started the day with dysentery. I couldn’t get any breakfast in me. I was dashing behind the rocks with my toilet paper. I couldn’t run. My stomach would just kind of get scrambled up. So, what was normally a six-hour day turned into a nine-hour day and it was, mentally, probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”
The course’s terrain varied for the most part, but it was all sand.
“I would say 75 percent really soft sand, like La Jolla Shores, thick, soft, beach sand. A lot of big dunes that we climbed, 200 to 500 foot dunes, that are thick sand,” Kearin said. “You’re climbing up the steep ones and your arms are going into the sand. You’re just trying to stay upright and on your feet. You’re going up to your ankles in sand so you’re trying to keep sand out of your shoes. It was part of the challenge.”
The fifth, and final stage, covered nearly 55 miles and nearly broke Kearin. Until his iPod played “Times Like These” by The Foo Fighters.
“I got this rush and just started running fast,” he said. “I’m sweating, my heart’s beating. I’m just beating my chest, yelling at the Sahara Desert and I thought, ‘I’m peaking way too early. I still have 12 miles to go, three more hours, I hope this lasts,” he said. “I hit repeat on my iPod. I kept hitting repeat and it did. I just kept digging deeper and the faster I ran, the less it hurt, kind of like everything went numb.”
As Kearin ran on that final day, he said he though of his pregnant wife, his young daughter and all the people who had supported him by pledging money to donate to Opportunity International, an international non-profit that provides micro-loans, in $100 or $200 increments to people that couldn’t go out and get a loan any other way, that want to start a business.
Kearin finished the race in 29th place, out of more than 150 who started, but said his final standing was not as important as the fact that he was still standing at the finish.
“I wasn’t sure that I could do this and I was able to accomplish it and now I’m kind of thinking, ‘What else can I do?'” Kearin said. “I would encourage anyone to go for it. The way I looked at it was that I was not going to fail.”