7 Summits 8000ers Adventure Films Adventure Travel Africa Alaska Alpine style Ama Dablam Amazon Annapurna Annapurna Antarctic Antarctic Archaeology Arctic Arctic Aviation Ballooning BASE jump and Paragliding Big Wall climbing Broad Peak Canoeing & Kayaking Caving Cho Oyu Climate change Climbing COVID-19 Desert Dhaulagiri Dhaulagiri Endurance Environment Everest Exploration mysteries Explorers Flying Gasherbrum Gear Geography High altitude skiing Himalaya History Ice Climbing Indigenous cultures K2 Kangchenjunga Karakorum Kilimanjaro Lhotse Long-distance hiking Manaslu Manaslu Marathon Mountain Nanga Parbat Natural History Nepal Oceans Patagonia Photos Poles Reviews Rivers Rowing/canoeing Science Sherpa Siberia Skiing Solo South Pole Space Sponsored Content Survival Swimming Uncategorized Unclimbed Volcanos Wildlife Winter 8000ers Winter Himalaya

Debrief Jukka Viljanen’s Sahara Run: sandstorms and soldiers

Posted: Oct 23, 2012 03:53 pm EDT

(Newsdesk) Finnish ultra-runner Jukka Viljanen shares his experience running 1609 km in 31 days across the Sahara Desert from Morocco to the Senegalese border earlier this year. The preparations took 18 months as he had to be escorted and at one stage had 12 soldiers protecting him and his support team.

Here’s what Jukka shares with ExplorersWeb:

"Sahara Run was big fun. It took me 31 days to cover the whole distance (1609 km). My journey ended only 15 km before Senegalese border and at time we were already in Sahel Desert.

It took me 18 months to fix everything, i.e. route, crew members, finance, security issues etc.

My epic journey started in Morocco, close to a city, "Tan Tan".

I had a few excellent team members from Finland and a local crew with 4x4 cars. We had to carry a hell of a lot food and water, tents, clothes and stuff like that.

My running route took me to Western Sahara and from there to the Mauritanian border. We had another (Mauritanian) crew waiting for us at the border.

Mauritanian officials offered us protection along our way towards Senegal. One night we had 12 armed soldiers to protect us from any potential hassle.

The dunes were majestic. I´m a dune freak, so I was on fire while running on top of the dunes!

My daily mileage of running was of minimum 50 kilometers. Last day I ran 92 kilometers. My running speed was a bit faster than expected, approximately 5.20 - 6.00 min/km.

We faced quite many sandstorms over the first three weeks and I ate a lot of dust and sand. The temperatures ranged from +4 to over +30 degrees (Celsius). As I mentioned we faced quite heavy sandstorms and strong headwind especially in Western Sahara. I drank about 0,6 liters of water (with some extra salt) per hour + some soda drinks

I took one shower during the month, so local bugs spotted me very quickly:-)

All in all, it wasn´t that difficult to run alone. I had a lot of time to listen my inner voice and think about "the meaning of life". Couldn´t find the answer yet.

After the long run I was in a pretty good shape. I´d lost quite many toenails and weight, since I lost my appetite along the way."

Jukka released a book this past Spring about his running journeys to the North Pole (marathon and bike), Libyan Sahara, Antarctica (100 km ultra-marathon), Kalahari and his latest expedition, running the Sahara. The book is in Finnish, but contains lots of photographs about these remote and not often visited places.

When Jukka is not running somewhere, he works as a motivational speaker and also as a freelancer consultant for the Finnish (Outdoor) media company. They publish a running, cross country skiing and triathlon magazine.

Related links:

Wrap up: The Trans-Kalahari Run a success.

Christian Bodegren Sahara Desert update: Leaving the camels and the desert

Kite buggies across the Sahara sands

ExWeb interview with Ray Zahab: From the Sahara to the South Pole


Jukka running across the Sahara: "The dunes were majestic. I´m a dune freak, so I was on fire while running on top of the dunes!"
courtesy Jukka Viljanen
Book cover.
courtesy Jukka Viljanen