Posted by gaincanada

Turn Desert Sand into Water for Life!

At 60, Albert Martens knows what it means to live with purpose and what strategic efforts it requires.  But what makes it fulfilling is the extreme joy he has in what he does.  In 27 years, he’s run just over 4300 km in marathon races.  This year Albert and two fellow runners, Dale Wohlgemuth and Walter Unrau, will run one of the most grueling marathons on earth, the famous “Marathon Des Sables” in Morocco, to turn desert sand into pure, clean water through Global Aid Network’s (GAiN) Water for Life initiative.

The “Marathon Des Sables” (Marathon of the Sands) is a 7 day, 230 km race through the deep south-Moroccan part of the Sahara desert.  This year, the 24th annual Marathon Des Sables runs from March 26 – April 6, 2009.   In 2008, 801 runners from 32 countries competed.  The physical conditions are extreme and the stress is intense…50 of these amazing athletes dropped out, unable to complete the race.

  • Running on sand…no tracks or roads
  • Extreme distances, up to 80 km each day

  • Huge sand dunes – Day 3 is 15-20 km of dunes, hundreds of metres high, passable only on foot.
  • Runners must be self sufficient, carrying food in backpacks during the race.

  • 9 litres of water per day provided at checkpoints that runners find as they run.

A compass helps navigate the course, and at day’s end runners sleep in native tents pitched on the sand and stones.
“Mental challenge is crucial & preparation is important-it makes or breaks the race.  Thousands of thoughts go through your mind when you’re in the wilderness, running thru this brutal area.  Sandstorms can be very rough.”

Water for Life


Today, water-related diseases kill a child every 20 seconds, and are responsible for 80% of all illnesses and deaths in the developing world. (click here to watch the new Water for Life video)

Water…something you and I take for granted, is worth more than money or precious stones. Clean water is health.  Water is Life. And ironically, water can also be a source of death. Diseases, like cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, and guinea worm parasites plague too many men, women, and children. They spend their days suffering through extreme abdominal cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and headaches.

However, the provision of clean, un-contaminated drinking water through the drilling of deep-capped water wells can end this cycle of suffering and death!  A village elder was asked what a difference the well had made to his African village:

“My people are no longer weakened by sickness and weary from their daily water excursions. Instead of spending 5 hours a day packing water, children are able to spend more time in school and women are able to spend more time tending their crops and performing other income-producing activities.”


One of our main goals is to raise funds to help people in poverty.  Athletes in Action, partnering with GAiN Canada and compassionate donors, can help transform people’s lives by bringing something as simple as fresh clean water.  GAiN’s Water for Life initiative has already drilled 140 water wells in Africa and up to 140,000 people are drinking pure, clean water! This year we runners want to raise funds to provide 3 water wells through GAiN Canada.  Knowing that these wells will provide water for up to 3,000 people for generations will be incredible motivation for us to endure the difficult conditions.

Is the suffering worth it?

“I think about the blistered feet…we’ll have blistered, bloody feet that will be pushed to the limit.  That’s a little bit of suffering, but it’s so temporary, compared to the suffering of children in Africa.  Such sweet children, through no fault of their own, suffer long term.  Our blisters will heal in 2 or 3 days, but that’s nothing compared to the suffering of sickness that African children endure every day from drinking disease-ridden water.”

Join the race!

“Please join us to fund water wells by donating to GAiN Canada.  One well will serve up to 1000 people for generations.  A donation of $13.33 will help underwrite our marathon expenses and provide fresh, clean water for one person for life!  We want to raise funds for 3 wells, bringing fresh water, life, and hope to 3000 people.  With the 3 of us running, compassionate people contributing donations, and GAiN drilling water wells, I’m confident that together we will make a difference in bringing pure, clean water, health, hope and life to African children!”

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