Malibuite Chris Frost recently ran a 150-mile race across the Sahara desert.
By Vive Decou / Special to The Malibu Times
Running a marathon is a challenging feat that requires both physical and mental fitness, but for the athletes who run in ultramarathons, a typical marathon is not nearly enough. An ultramarathon is any race longer than 26 miles and most are much longer, with the longest races taking weeks and covering thousands of miles. The athletes who compete in these races are constantly testing their limits as they run farther and farther in the most adverse conditions.
Malibu resident Chris Frost is a member of this elite group of runners and has been making a name for himself in the world of endurance sports for decades. He was recently named to the United States endurance running team that will compete this December in Argentina. At 53, he is a veteran of ultramarathons and has completed races all over the world, including the invitation-only Badwater Ultramarathon, a nonstop 135-mile race from the depths of Death Valley to the summit of Mt. Whitney.
Frost is fresh from his latest race-a seven-day, 150-mile trek called Race Across the Sahara that he ran in late September. He traveled to Egypt and joined 100 other adventurers from around the world in their quest to conquer the sands of the Sahara. The competitors’ backgrounds were diverse, including a 73-year-old man and a blind runner from Korea who completed the race with the aid of a spotter. These runners would be taxed to the limit as they ran in 122-degree heat while carrying all of their own food and water in 20-pound packs.
Frost said that there was a bit of culture shock to overcome as well.
“Security was tight,” he said. “We had guys with machine guns with us the whole time we were running.”
The runners would complete the designated part of the course each day, camping at night in 10-man tents and cooking their own food.
Although the heat and terrain as far as running was harsh, Frost said the scenery as he ran was magnificent.
“Each day we ran 25 or 26 miles through all kinds of terrain. I saw the most phenomenal and pristine sand dunes I have ever seen,” he said. “The Sahara in places looks like the moon. Some places were covered in slate rock, while in other places the sand was like walking through down feathers It was silky.”
The most grueling day of the race was a 50-mile day with a compulsory 90-minute rest stop at the Baridhara Oasis. The oasis had water bubbling up in two places that supported a little town whose residents impressed Frost.
“The children there are so cute,” he said. “It was amazing how well dressed and beautiful they are considering that they live in such poor conditions.”
It took Frost morning until night to finish the 50-mile leg and runners were still coming in the next day at noon.
Frost said the final day of the race was quite emotional for all of the runners. They ran the last seven miles through the desert to finish at the pyramids of Giza where their friends and family were waiting to welcome them.
“I got choked up thinking about how everyone was going their different ways,” he said. “Most people were overtaken with emotion because of where they were and what they had accomplished.”
Frost had finished first in his age class and 15th overall when all was said and done.
“I wanted to be in the Top 10 and think that I could have been,” he said. “I had some bad days and some good ones.”
He said his best day was day three, when he came in fourth overall. At the finish the runners were treated to a sumptuous awards feast where they got to party and relax among the pyramids.
“I came away with an unbelievable experience,” he said. “My trophy sits on my wall and reminds me of all the people I met who are now friends for life.”
Frost said he derives great satisfaction from traveling and meeting people while he pursues his passion to run, a passion that seems never to wane.
“I love the motion,” he said. “Motion is healing. I worked my way through the ranks of short distance races and triathlons, which I still do from time to time. I just really loved the idea of running for such long periods of time. I was amazed that I could actually run for as long as I wanted. It was interesting to see how far I could push myself.”
Frost is at it again and after the race in Argentina, he can add Team USA to his resume. He will represent the U.S. team in the men’s 50-54 age class on Dec. 11 in Bariloche, Argentina in the Masters World Championships 100 KM Ultramarathon. The Masters take place every two years and are open only to the best runners in the world. Frost said he feels he is a good choice for the team.
“They know I can give them a good run,” he said.
And to ensure that happens, he is training these days in Arizona. He has completed his last long distance training run in which he explored the Arizona-California border and along the Colorado River. For the remaining time he will be gathering his energy for the race ahead and maintaining top shape with shorter runs.
“At 62 miles this is a fast race,” he said. “Fast feet are imperative.”
Frost flies to Argentina next Sunday to embark upon this latest adventure and odds are there will be many more to come.