FORMER Bathurst resident Luke Tyburski made his name on the sporting fields of the region as a top level soccer player who lived the dream of playing his chosen sport in the United States, Belgium and England.
In a few months though he will face a tougher challenge than anything the round ball could present him.
From April 5-16, Tyburski will put himself through what must be as close to hell as the human body can endure when he contests the Marathon Des Sables in the Sahara Desert in Morocco.
In short, a collection of army-style trucks will take around 700 competitors two hours’ drive into the world’s biggest and most inhospitable desert. Over the next 11 days, including two days of orientation, they will run over 250 kilometres to the race finish.
With them they will carry all their essentials including a sleeping bag, food for a week, venom pump, compass, maps, signal mirrors and perhaps most ominously, flares.
The only supplies they are given at the end of each stage are a tent and fresh water.
“After three years of constant injuries I made the decision about three months ago to retire from soccer and wanted to do something big. I saw this race online and read that they call it the toughest race on earth, so I decided to compete and make a documentary about the experience,” Tyburski said.
“This is the first of hopefully many to come. It has been good so far, I’ve got a good team of trainers and medical staff helping me. So far I’ve run about 700 kilometres in training and have averaged about 140 kilometres per week recently.
“I grew up playing sport with Matt Willis who now owns Sportsco and he has helped me out a lot with equipment and training needs since I came back to Bathurst for a month for a visit.”
The final layout of the race isn’t revealed to competitors until a few days before it starts but in general the total distance is around 250km, with one ‘big’ stage of between 70 and 90km where contestants run into the night.
Tyburski’s carried load will total around 13kg just to make things a bit more difficult and as well as the ridiculously treacherous terrain, he will tackle possible sandstorms as well as wildlife and extreme variations in temperature.
“It is supposed to be between 40 and 50 degrees celsius during the days and nought to 10 at night on average. Three people have died in the race’s history while another was found about 200km in the opposite direction to where he was supposed to be,” the 28-year-old explained.
“My personal goal is just to finish as fast as I can, I would like to make it into the top 100, there are usually about 500 who finish.
“From what I’ve seen on clips and the like, you are often around other runners, but with some of the big dunes and with the routes that runners choose to take, I’m preparing for long periods where I can’t see anyone else.
“I’m very excited. I feel like I have a lot to give still as an athlete even though I can’t play football, and I need a big challenge. I also want to show people that you can leave your comfort zone and do things you didn’t think were possible.
“I’d never run more than 10 kilometres until about three months ago and now I am doing 35 kilometres training runs and 50 kilometres runs on trails. You can do whatever you want to do if you set your mind to it and are willing to get out of your comfort zone.”
Tyburski is also raising money for charity during his trek, with funds to be directed towards the Kids With Cancer foundation which helps families struggling to handle the commitments of caring for children with the dreaded disease.
Anyone wanting to support Luke, or donate to the cause can do so through his website at www.luketyburski.com.