For the love of ex­treme sports

Clare­mont pe­ri­odon­tist has no plans to slow down af­ter Sa­hara Desert marathon

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - NOR­MAN CLOETE

A SOON- TO- BE 65- year- old pe­ri­odon­tist keeps de­fy­ing the odds by par­tic­i­pat­ing in ex­treme sports events that will leave younger ath­letes shak­ing in the sand and quak­ing in their boots.

Hans van Heer­den has just re­turned from the 33rd Marathon des Sables in the Sa­hara Desert where he was the only South African to par­tic­i­pate in the gru­elling 250km walk across the Sa­hara Desert.

The race, which was or­gan­ised by At­lantide Or­gan­i­sa­tion In­ter­na­tionale, took place from April 6 to16 in south­ern Morocco.

The an­nual event is hosted by the Mo­roc­can Min­istry of Tourism and brought to­gether about 1 300 French and for­eign par­tic­i­pants. It is said to be the old­est stage race in the world.

“This race is called high­way to hell. You run for a week. Most of it is ei­ther soft sand or rock. It’s fully self- sup­ported and you carry all your food and sleep­ing bags for the week on your back,” said Van Heer­den.

Day-time tem­per­a­tures in the Sa­hara Desert can reach 51ºC and night-time tem­per­a­tures can drop to 2ºC.

“On the long­est sin­gle day of the race, I ran for 27 hours. We had mas­sive sand­storms and our tents blew away. A huge prob­lem is blis­ters and I also lost most of my toe­nails,” said Van Heer­den

The Clare­mont-based pe­ri­odon­tist criss- crossed two moun­tain ranges dur­ing the Marathon des Sables event.

Other feats un­der his belt in­clude the 42km North and South Pole races, the same dis­tance on Mount Ever­est and a 100km race in Mon­go­lia.

“The events at the North and South Poles take place on float­ing ice and were par­tic­u­larly tough,” said Van Heer­den.

The mar­ried fa­ther of two, says he is in the gym at 5.30 ev­ery morn­ing and is also a keen boxer.

“I am an old run­ner,” said Van Heer­den.

But Van Heer­den has no plans to take it easy any time soon.

In Jan­uary 2019, he will be back in South Amer­ica where he will aim to sum­mit the Acon Con­tiguan moun­tain.

“I have tried it twice be­fore and I was blown off by a bliz­zard on both oc­ca­sions. Hope­fully the next time will be third time lucky or third time dead,” said Van Heer­den.

The die-hard pe­ri­odon­tist has al­ready walked 600km from east to west Green­land.

Van Heer­den runs a clinic in Clare­mont and says it’s all about time man­age­ment for him.

Asked about what his wife has to say about his ad­ven­tures, Van Heer­den smil­ingly said, “she just ig­nores me”.

He told Week­end Ar­gus he was away from home for four weeks for the Marathon des Sables but smaller events that he has par­tic­i­pated in only kept him away from home for two-and-half weeks.

The Marathon des Sables was won by Rachid El Mora­bity for the sixth time, fifth time in a row, and his brother Mo­hamed El Mora­bity in his first event, fin­ished in sec­ond place just 26 min­utes be­hind.

“This was my birth­day present to my­self,” said Van Heer­den who turns 65 in Oc­to­ber. And he did it “for the sheer love and fun of it”.

The af­ter-ef­fects: Van Heer­den’s feet af­ter his 250km walk across the Sa­hara Desert.

Par­tic­i­pants in the Marathon des Sables have to rough it for a month. They have to brave scorch­ing day-time tem­per­a­tures, freez­ing night­time tem­per­a­tures and sand­storms.

Hans van Heer­den (cen­tre) makes his way over rocks and sand in the Sa­hara Desert.

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