Jay Solman

Giant spiders share route with ultra marathoner

January 8, 2009

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Venomous vipers and camel spiders the size of dinner plates.

Jay Solman’s 2009 athletic plans involve far more challenges than your typical new year’s fitness routine.

The university’s new ombudsperson is training for the Sahara Race, a gruelling one-week ultra marathon in October in which more than 100 runners cross 250 km of the Sahara desert, enduring average daily temperatures of 30-45 degrees centigrade.

"It will be fun," says Solman, adding he’s a bit worried about sleeping in a tent in a desert populated with the aforementioned "creepy crawlies".

An experienced marathoner, Solman’s race training starts with two weight-training sessions per week along with weekly runs totalling 80 km, building to 177 km, sometimes through sand. He’s also throwing in a few 50-km and 86-km ultra-marathons, as well as back-to-back 40-km runs on Whistler’s peaks. Plus, he plans to ask for some heat acclimation and training tips from SFU’s environmental physiology unit.

During the race, Solman will run 35-45 km a day. The longest day’s run is 95 km. He’ll be carrying a 20-pound backpack with all of his food, clothes, a sleeping bag, emergency equipment and some water. Checkpoints along the route will supply extra water and the last checkpoint each day includes sleeping tents and medical assistance.

Rules for the desert racers are very strict. "If we’re in a sandstorm, we’re supposed to sit down, cover our faces and wait it out," says Solman. Runners must also carry flares, a compass and a map for each day’s course.

Nor is the punishing marathon free. Solman must pay a $3,000 entry fee, plus airfare. He and his three B.C. team-mates plan to raise money for the Children’s Variety Club charity.

"It’s crazy, but the adventure is part of the attraction," says Solman. "The finish line is at the pyramids. That’s pretty cool stuff."


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Fantastic piece Diane Luckow on really one of the craziest guys I have ever met! How he talked me into do this with him is a story in itself. By the way, Jay never mentioned "creepy crawlies"! Yikes!

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