By Sean Patrick South Side Leader
From April 6 to 16, Green attorney Richard Davies will be in Morocco to compete in the Marathon des Sables — a race that covers 155 miles in seven days in The Sahara Desert.
Davies, 58, said he has never done anything like this before in his life. In fact, Davies said he has yet to even attempt a single marathon.
The idea for running in the race, the British-born Davies said, came from an alumni newsletter.
“I moved to this country almost 40 years ago,” he explained. “I went to a school in England, and I got an alumni magazine from my high school last year with an article about one of the alumni who’d done the 25th anniversary race in 2010. I thought, ‘That sounds interesting,’ and I started to do some research on it.”
Known as “The Toughest Footrace on Earth,” the Marathon des Sables (or Marathon of the Sands), which will take place from April 8 to 14, is equivalent to running approximately five-and-a-half marathons in seven days — in the desert.
Davies said he has been preparing through a variety of means, including “walking, running and doing exercises to build up [his] core.”
“Approximately 20 percent of the terrain will be sand dunes,” he said. “Most of the terrain is very rocky, and there’s a mountain in the middle of the course.”
In addition, runners will carry a pack with them that includes items such as food, clothing, medical supplies and an anti-venom pump.
“The race involves you carrying everything you need for the week on your back, except for water, which the organizers hand out at control points. The water is rationed,” he said. “And they also provide an eight-person tent. But as far as food, clothing, sleeping bag, bowls, anything like that, you have to carry it yourself. And they limit the amount you can carry. There is a minimum and a maximum amount. Most packs average 20 to 25 pounds.”
Typically, Davies said, 50 to 60 people who enter the race will not finish it. He said he does not plan to be among that group this year.
“I intend to finish it,” he said. “There will be about 1,000 participants this year. About 90 percent of them will run the course, while 10 percent walk it. I have a feeling I will be doing more walking than running. Because it is called the ‘Toughest Footrace on Earth,’ just finishing it is an achievement. Some people try to finish in the top 100 overall or be one of the top 10 Americans or something like that. My goal is just to finish it.”
And even though the Marathon des Sables is considered a race, Davies said he is more interested in the achievement of finishing the race and the experience of taking part in such an event, than he is in worrying about where he finishes.
“There is some money involved for the top finishers, but almost always it’s the Moroccans who win it because they train on the same ground and they train for six months out of the year for the race,” he said. “For most people, it’s just to go out, test yourself physically and mentally, and experience a part of the world that you’re never going to see again in all likelihood.”
Davies said he will be the only runner from Ohio and one of approximately 45 runners from the United States to take part in this year’s event.
“Everybody’s reaction is to ask me if I’m crazy, including my wife and my daughters,” he said. “But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing to do. Honestly, I wanted to do it just to see if I could do it.”
However, Davies said, his reason for attempting the event took on a larger cause when one of his daughters, Amy Troyer, of Uniontown, suggested he do it for charity.
Davies chose to support The Up Side of Downs, a nonprofit organization in Cleveland that exists to provide support, education and advocacy for people with Down syndrome throughout Northeast Ohio.
“My grandson, Ryan, who is 11, has Down syndrome, as does my younger granddaughter, Drusilla, who lives in Portland with my younger daughter, Meredith Hines,” he said. “So I have two grandchildren with Down syndrome and I thought it sounded like a wonderful idea to raise money for Down syndrome and awareness for it.”
Davies said he signed up to participate in the Marathon des Sables last year.
“Normally, it takes two to four years to get in the race. The number of runners who can participate is strictly limited to between 850 to 1,000 runners,” he said. “Usually, the contingency from the U.S. and Canada is between 50 to 60 runners, and they say it’s very unlikely that you will get chosen in your first year. So I signed up to have my name on the list, and I happened to be chosen. It’s strictly a lottery. All they ask for is your name, address, state and country of citizenship.”
Davies said he has received the go-ahead from his doctor to participate.
“I have talked to my doctor, and he said it’s fine for me to go,” he said. “The organization requires that when you arrive in Morocco you have a statement from your doctor that’s no older than 30 days that says you are fit to race it. They also require an EKG to make sure you are physically able to do it.”
And while there will be medical care available throughout the course, Davies admitted he does have some concerns about the race.
“I think I would be silly not to,” he said. “It’s going to be hot in the day — it can get up to 120 degrees — and cold at night. Your water is limited. There is the danger of twisting an ankle or breaking something, and you could suffer dehydration or heat stroke. Blisters are a constant threat and you have to watch out for scorpions and snakes and spiders. Physically and mentally, it can just get very, very tough. Mentally, I think I’m there. Physically, I have eight weeks to go.”
The cost to participate in the race is $3,900. Davies said he is accepting both donations for the Up Side of Downs and sponsorships to help with his expenses.
“I have divided it into donations and sponsorships,” he said. “The donations go directly to The Up Side of Downs; they don’t come to me. If you want to sponsor me, there are sponsorship opportunities. I have had a number of people who have volunteered to help me to defray some of the costs. In return, there will be a banner I will carry with the names on it.”
Donations to The Up Side of Downs can be made online at www.theupsideofdowns.org. Mention the Marathon des Sables in the “donate now” comments box so the donations made specifically for this race can be noted. Donations by mail should be sent to The Up Side of Downs, One Independence Place, 4807 Rockside Road, Suite 200, Independence, OH 44131. Mention the Marathon des Sables on the check’s memo line.
Sponsorship contributions can be made payable to Richard Davies and sent to 3572 S. Arlington Road, Suite 2-4, Akron, OH 44312. For a list of sponsorship levels, contact Davies by email at rdl@rich arddavieslaw.com or by phone at 330-899-8846.
And for those who would like to keep track of Davies on his journey, the official website of the Marathon des Sables, www.darbaroud.com, will post updates on all of the runners through a GPS tracking device located on the runners’ ankles. Davies will be listed by his number, which is 962.