With the days turning chilly and winter swiftly approaching,George Chmiel did what many a Bay Stater would like to do: He picked a hot place to take a few days off, and he plans to get some sunshine and exercise.
Only he's taking it to the extreme. The 28-year-old Charlestown resident has entered a seven-day, 150-mile footrace that will take him across the trackless wastes of the Sahara Desert in temperatures of up to 115 degrees.
The runs will include a 22-mile segment that goes up and down sand dunes and a 58-miler that he hopes to complete in 13 to 14 hours, he said.
"I'm excited. I'm ready to get out there and take this thing on," Chmiel said Wednesday night via cellphone as he sat in the plane at Logan International Airport that would take him to Cairo.
Chmiel said that after his arrival in Egypt, he and 128 other competitors from 30 different countries will be bused Sunday eight miles into the desert.
He'll carry about 20 pounds of food and gear on his back and start out every morning at 8 a.m. Every eight to 10 miles, the race mans a checkpoint with a volunteer and a doctor on hand – and water. He'll get a whistle to blow if he gets in trouble.
"It's totally insane yet at the same time it makes a bunch of sense," he said.
He's only been running for about two years, he said in an interview earlier this week, but he's already completed nine marathons. He's trained hard for the race with runs of four, five, and six hours on weekends, including a 34-miler one day, and a Saturday and Sunday in which he did back-to-back marathon-length runs. He also trained in 117-degree heat in Death Valley.
"I have an addictive personality," the financial services industry worker said of his running hobby, "and it didn't take long to catch on and now it's a big part of my life."
Chmiel said he was also running to raise money and awareness of a cause after watching his friends Mike and Julie Horvath cope with their daughter Luci's struggle with congenital panhypopituitarism, a condition in which the pituitary gland doesn't produce enough hormones.
The family's courage and strength is "absolutely amazing," he said. His run has already raised more than $50,000 for the MAGIC Foundation, which is a non-profit dedicated to children with medical conditions or disorders affecting their growth, including panhypopituitarism.
The Sahara Race is part of the 4 Deserts Series and attracts leading endurance athletes, according to its website.
Hassan Haydar, 59, of Quincy, an official veteran of 24 marathons and one 50-mile race, as well as a runner of many unofficial marathons and longer-than-marathon runs, said that if Chmiel has trained properly, he'll make it.
"I'm sure this guy is trained for it and mentally is prepared for it. The training is really where the secret is," he said. "It's doable. You go nice and slow and you get there eventually."
Chmiel acknowledged that he is much less experienced than other competitors, but vowed to finish the race.
"I know there's no chance in hell I'll quit," Chmiel said. "The only way I don't make it across that finish line is if they have to helevac me out of there."
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