Steve Minar heard it all. “Are you crazy?” some asked. “Do have some death wish?” others wondered. Some just stood there, silent, with puzzled looks on their faces. Minar’s news was this: He was planning to trek 150 miles across the Sahara Desert in Egypt in just seven days—a pace of almost a marathon a day in 100-plus degree heat. It’s no wonder they questioned his sanity. “But my friends and family finally came to the realization that it is something I had to do,” he says.
The Sahara Race, as it’s known, is part of a “Four Deserts” series of endurance races produced each year by RaceThePlanet that takes the bravest of fools across the Sahara, the Gobi Desert (China), the Atacama Desert (Chile) and Antarctica. Competitors carry their own equipment and provisions, while RaceThePlanet provides a tent, campfire and water at the end of each day.
For Minar, the idea became a test too tempting to refuse. “It’s just one of those challenges where you set a goal for yourself and you need to complete it,” he says. But it also became more: He set up a fund so friends and family could pledge money for cancer research. When he completed the race on Oct. 31, he had raised nearly $10,000. But Milnar didn’t just finish the race. Running with childhood buddy Brian Vogel, the two finished an impressive 33rd out of 120 participants.
“It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life, but it was so rewarding,” Milnar says. “The Sahara is a beautiful and special place. I didn’t think my body would come under that much stress. The temperature would reach 120 degrees. There is a pain in every part of your body.”
To train, Minar—a 2007 finance grad who works as an analyst at Morgan Stanley outside of New York City—took up Bikram Yoga. “It’s done in a room that’s 105 degrees and there are 24 different positions you use. It helps to cleanse your body, but it also gets you used to the dry heat.”
Now that he’s used to the heat, Minar’s thinking about the Gobi Desert race next. He figures, since he’s single, he might as well hike deserts while he can. “If I had a significant other, I don’t think she’d stand for this.” That really would be a death wish.
Editor’s note: Read Minar’s blog about the race.