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Heads up: Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab to run the Atacama Desert

Posted: Dec 22, 2010 02:41 pm EST

(By Correne Coetzer) The two Canadian long distance runners and polar skiers are heading to Chile in mid-January to run the length of the Atacama Desert. They hope is to run between 80-90 km per day for as many days as it takes to cover the 1200 km distance.

Kevin and Ray are going to carry all their gear with them but will pick up food and water where they can; at villages, etc.

Kevin Vallely said to ExplorersWeb, What's particularly interesting about this traverse is that it has a historical aspect to it as well. You'd think that so-called "ultra-marathoning" is unique to our modern world but over 500 years ago when the Inca's ruled much of western South America they used ultra-runners named "Chasquis" to ferry messages around the empire. Using a relay of runners these ancient athletes would cover up to 400 km/day, traversing the steep mountain trails and desert plateaus faster than a horse and rider.

He added that these runners are the inspiration for their journey as they make their run across the Atacama.

Here goes a press release of their adventure:

Stretching over 1000 kilometers south from Chiles northern border is the driest place on earth, a high lifeless plateau with areas so dry that rain hasnt been recorded since record keeping began. Defined by meteorologists as an absolute desert, the Atacama Desert of Chile sits in the rain shadow of both the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range and is uniquely affected by coastal inversions to make it the driest, most sterile place on the planet.

This daunting landscape, a place so devoid of life that NASA deems it a terrestrial-double for a Martian world, is the backdrop for the upcoming i2P 2011 On the Trail of the Chasquis expedition.

In January of 2011, impossible2Possible founder Ray Zahab and adventure journalist and i2P team member Kevin Vallely will attempt to push the limits of human endurance by running the length of Chiles rainless Atacama Desert.

Following the paths and trails of the legendary ultra-running messengers of the ancient Incan empire, Canadians Zahab and Vallely will explore the world of a mysterious lost civilization as they navigate one of the most unforgiving landscapes on the planet.

In the early 13th century the Inca civilization began its rise in the highlands of Peru and for the next 100 years would control much of western South America including the Atacama. A primary reason for the Incan dominance was their ability to maintain an effective communication system throughout the thousands of kilometers of their empire.

Using ultra-running athletes called Chasquis the Incas devised an extraordinary method of communication that saw runners relay messages throughout the realm. These highly trained athletes would negotiate routes through deserts and over mountains at a seemingly unbelievable pace of up to 400 km per day and reliably deliver messages thousands of kilometers throughout the Incan empire.

Taking inspiration from these legendary athletes, modern-day adventurers Ray Zahab and Kevin Vallely will test themselves on the trails of the Chasquis as they traverse the length of Chiles Atacama Desert. And like their ancient counterparts, Zahab and Vallely will be carrying a message but theirs will be one of experiential learning as they communicate their experiences in real-time to thousands of students in classrooms around the world.

As they successfully demonstrated on their World Record 2009 South Pole Quest and 2010 Siberian Express expeditions, the two Canadian ultra-endurance adventurers will employ a fast, lightweight approach on a journey that is believed to be the first of its kind in modern time. Ray and Kevin will run an average of between 80-90kms a day - over two full-length marathons - in an attempt to cross the full length of the vast Atacama Desert in a 12-14 day push. Relying on minimal re-supply, this expedition is as risky as it is exciting.

[Ed note: Check in again for an interview with the guys.]

Kevin Vallely works as a journalist and is the Editor-at-Large for the Canadian Adventure magazine Outpost. He was born in 1964 (the year of the dragon, he says) and lives in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Kevin is married with two young daughters Caitlin (7) and Arianna (5). He loves to draw and paint and his favorite food is Indian.

Ray Zahab was born in Ottawa, Canada on February 11, 1969. He grew up on a hobbyhorse farm in Carp, Ontario with his brother John, and his parents. Fast forward 39 years to today, and I now live with my incredible wife and soul mate Kathy and our daughter Mia Sahara in Chelsea, Quebec, says Ray. He is very passionate about the organizations he work with, and when not running he divides his time sitting on the board of directors.

Rays ultra-marathons:
- 2004 Yukon Arctic Ultra, 160 km
- 2004 Jungle Marathon, Amazon, 250 km
- 2004 Trans 333, Niger, 333 km
- 2004 & 2005, Marathon des Sables, Morocco, 250 km
- 2005 Sahara Race, Egypt, 250 km
- 2006 Gobi March, China, 250 km
- 2006 Libyan Challenge, 190 km
- 2007 Running the Sahara, 7500 km, 111 days, with Charlie Engle (USA) and Kevin Lin (Taiwan)
- 2007 three extreme coastal trails of Canada, back to back, 100, 210, 75 km
- 2008 Canada, in each province and territory, 80 km per day x 13 days.
- 2008-09 Antarctica, walked 1130 km in a speed record time of 33 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes with Richard Weber and Kevin Vallely
- 2010 Lake Baikal Siberia. Ray and Kevin Vallely departed March 1 on a speed record attempt across the lake; distance 650+ km.

In the 2008-09 Antarctic season Canadians Richard Weber, Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab set the fastest time for a team from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole (1130 km) in 33 days, 23 hours and 55 minutes.

On March 14,2010 Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab completed their speed record expedition across Lake Baikal in a time of 13 days and 16 hours; running/walking the 640 km (as the crow flies) in an average distance of 50 km a day with special screw in spikes shoes. They started from the small village of Kultuk on the southern side of the lake and finished at northern tip at a community called Nizhneangarsk.

#Polar #Trek

Running 80-90km per day over 1200 km is one thing; doing it with a 12kg (25 lb) pack on is another.
courtesy Ray Zahab
Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab hope is to run, with back packs, between 80-90 km per day for as many days as it takes to cover the 1200 km distance in the upcoming On the Trail of the Chasquis expedition. (click to enlarge)
courtesy Kevin Vallely
Kevin: Over 500 years ago when the Inca's ruled much of western South America they used ultra-runners named "Chasquis" to ferry messages around the empire [] they would cover up to 400 km/day. (click to enlarge)
courtesy Kevin Vallely