Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Runner enters a Sahara-thon



By Jim Knippenberg, jknippenberg@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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        Whoa, you think you have a rough week ahead. Look at what's waiting for Gary Newman: a 145-mile run across the Sahara Desert. Honest.

        Newman, see, is pretty sure he's the only Ohioan who qualified for the week-long Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands) Sunday-April 13, billed as the “world's toughest foot race.” It's for 600 runners from most every nation on Earth.

        How tough? This tough: All runners are required to carry all supplies on their backs. Required extras — besides clothes, food, bandages — include signal flares and snake-bite venom pumps. There's lots of wildlife out there and runners are sleeping under the stars.

        Additionally, runners are tracked by helicopter and other aircraft because they tend to get lost in the Sahara's fierce sandstorms.

        So is this 44-year-old Bethel resident and father of five crazy or what?

        “It's a tough race, I know that. But it's just something I want to do. I've never even been out of the country, so that's kind of exciting, too.”

        The route is a secret until the day of the race, but this much Newman knows for sure: Most days runners do about 20 miles or a little less, but there's one day they're required to do 50 miles.

        “That's going to be the hardest because it's so many miles, and also because of the heat. It will be between 100 and 120 degrees the whole time.

        “And sunny. That's a problem. I'm fair and need sunscreen, but you can't wear it because of the sand. It sticks to you and turns your legs into sandpaper.”

        Newman's still training, running 60-70 miles a week with a 20-pound backpack, and getting himself psyched up: “You can't train for the environment, so you have to gear up for a battle of survival — both physical and mental. By that I mean, can you mentally overcome the hardship?”

        And the prize for all this agony? A million bucks, maybe? “Nope — $5,000 and the right to return next year.”

        His chances of winning, he says, are, well, zero. “It won't happen. Somebody from Morocco who can actually train in that environment will win. For the rest of us, it's just survival.”

        Fest food: Hmmm. Looks as if they'll be serving flying pigtails down in Brazil this year.

        Referring here to the pigtails Covington caterer Mick Noll sells at all the street festivals — deep fried dough, a bit of cinnamon, a bit of powdered sugar.

        Turns out Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce public relations manager and Oktoberfest spokesman Buz Buse got an e-mail from one Rene Correa Guimaraes, his sort-of counterpart at Brazil's Oktoberfest, a Mardi Gras-like party that pulls in an estimated 800,000 people. Buse thinks she got wind of the pigtails from the chamber's Web site.

        Anyway, she wanted the flying pigtails recipe — “I think she was afraid we were chopping off pig's tails and feeding people,” Buse says — and their history.

        Buse got all the stuff from Noll, e-mailed her the info and now it looks as if a little piece of Covington will pop up south of the border.

       



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