Cincinnati athlete races 6 days across Sahara

Posted: 11:13 AM, Apr 16, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-01 20:22:19-04
Cincinnati teacher races 6 days across Sahara
Cincinnati teacher races 6 days across Sahara
Cincinnati teacher races 6 days across Sahara
Cincinnati teacher races 6 days across Sahara
Cincinnati teacher races 6 days across Sahara

CINCINNATI -- Blistering heat, violent sandstorms, rocky trails and tall dunes: Perfect running terrain, right?

It's the kind of extreme challenge Harvey Lewis, a Cincinnati Public Schools teacher and ultramarathoner, seems to love.

Less than two years ago, he finished first in the Badwater 135 -- a 135-mile footrace from California's Death Valley to Mount Whitney, and one of the toughest competitions in the world.

Apparently, that wasn't enough heat: He joined four other men on a team to compete in the Marathon des Sables, a six-day, six-marathon race through the Sahara this week.

PLUS: Lewis races through a Minnesota winter, too

Sunday was plagued by headwinds, tall dunes and shifting sands -- 20 dropped out that first day, according to Lewis' Facebook page.

Lewis finished 171st in stage 2 of the Marathon des Sables. Photo courtesy I Run 4 Hope Team.

Temperatures in the desert topped 120 degrees. The athletes had to collect firewood and cook meals in the dark, desert nights of Morocco. Water was rationed.

Lewis spent his 40th birthday -- April 13 -- running one of the longest, toughest stages of the race, a double marathon of 52.3 miles. He told WCPO's Ken Broo in 2014 about his training regime and consuming 15,000 calories a day during the Badwater event -- through sugary and electrolyte-packed drinks. ("I would pay 100 euro for a Coke 2 liter," he said Monday.)

Ultra runner Linda Sanders brought together Lewis' Marathon des Sables teammates -- Jason Schlarb of the United States, Carlos Sa of Portugal, Marco Olmo of Italy and Ricardo Mejia Hernandez of Mexico -- for her organization Hope So Bright, raising awareness about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. They finished second, behind a Moroccan team.

Overall, Lewis finished 92nd in individual results, with a time of 34 hours 47 minutes. It put him in the top 10 percent.

Check out this video of him finishing the final stage:

Oh, and if you're an ultramarathoner, there's no better way to celebrate than by running some more: Lewis took part in a half-marathon charity run Saturday, his last in the desert:

Lewis takes part in one final run in the Sahara. Photo by Riccardo Viola (for IRun4Hope).

See more of Lewis' journey on his Facebook page.