For immediate release
For more information, contact:
Alice Hunter Morrison, Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, a writer for RunUltra, author of “Dodging Elephants, 8000 miles across Africa by bike” and Special Correspondent to Hope So Bright [email protected]
The Challenge of Badwater
Running America’s toughest race for awareness of Autism
July 21, 2016
(Manhattan Beach, CA)
Mohamad Ahansal is a Moroccan Berber from the desert town of Zagora. He is a five-time champion of the Marathon des Sables, the six-day race across the Saharan Desert. This year, for the first time, he took on the challenge of STYR Lab’s Badwater® 135 in the USA, running for IRun4Ultra to raise awareness about autism.
The STYR Labs Badwater® 135 covers 135 miles (217km) non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA. It is the most demanding and extreme one-stage running race offered anywhere on the planet. The start line is at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in North America at 280’ (85m) below sea level and boasts some of the hottest temperatures in the world. The race finishes at Whitney Portal at 8,300’ (2530m). The Badwater® 135 course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 14,600’ (4450m) of cumulative vertical ascent and 6,100’ (1859m) of cumulative descent.
Before he started the race, Ahansal said, “Running for IRun4Ultra gives this race special meaning for me. It is going to be very difficult, very tough with the heat and the elevation. I have never run this far in one go, but I believe that when you take on something so hard and give it everything and push through it to help children with difficulties; it is worth the suffering.”
The elite wave of runners for Badwater, including Ahansal, set off at 2300 PST, Monday, July 18. At the first checkpoint at 17 miles, he was lying in 12th place and was running strong. However, trouble started to kick in over the next 20 miles and his position dropped to 25th with a time of 7 hrs 17 min at 41 miles.
His knees, first the left and then the right, were failing as he was not accustomed to running on tarmac and he was wearing new shoes. His luggage had been lost at Los Angeles International Airport. As he pounded down an eight-mile descent, he was forced to confront the fact that he was facing long-term damage to his knees unless he gave up. He made that heartbreaking decision at 73 miles, with just over 62 miles to go.
“He gave it everything he had,” said Linda Sanders, Founder of IRun4Ultra, “ We couldn’t ask any more of him. Ahansal is a true champion and great desert runner but Badwater is a massive challenge and, this time, it was not to be. He has made us proud and, most importantly, he has helped tremendously in our mission to raise awareness of the problems of autism.” Will he be back? “I hope so,” said Ahansal, “Next year, God willing!”
About Mohamad Ahansal
Mohamad Ahansal is a Moroccan Berber from the town of Zagora in the Sahara in the south of Morocco. He started running competitively in his teens but as a young boy he ran to and from school every day (7K each way) so, his conditioning started early. He and his elder brother, Lahcen, have won the Marathon des Sables 15 times between them. Ahansal has just taken first place at the Iranian Silk Road Ultramarathon.
About Hope So Bright and I Run 4 Ultra
Mohamad Ahansal ran as an IRun4Ultra Ambassador for Hope So Bright. Linda Sanders founded Hope So Bright, a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity foundation in 2012, to provide financial support to nonprofit organizations who offer programs and services to disadvantaged, underserved and at-risk youth. The current goal of Hope So Bright, for the next several years, is to promote awareness, collaboration, education, resources and advocacy for children with learning disabilities, particularly autism syndrome and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with special consideration given to the underserved. IRun4Ultra uses the sport of ultrarunning to promote those goals. For more information visit: https://hopesobright.org. To watch the sizzle reel for the ADHD documentary filmed at Marathon des Sables please visit https://vimeo.com/155417209 .
Autism is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It also includes restricted repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities, which cause significant impairment in social, occupational and other areas of functioning.
Hope So Bright’s 2016-17 Autism Awareness Campaign is focused on spreading awareness about the epidemic of Autism as well as the non-pharmaceutical behavioral programs that can effectively help children who exhibit symptoms.