The Atacama Desert is the driest place on the planet outside of the arctic poles. It’s sparsely populated and so inhospitable that scientists use it to simulate how rovers will function on a martian terrain.
But the Atacama is exactly where Redmond resident Stefane Boss is headed.
The 51-year-old runner left Tuesday to begin a 155-mile race across the desert this Sunday as part of the 4 Deserts series of self-reliant races.
“You have a backpack with all your clothes and food for the entire week,” Boss said.
While 4 Deserts sets up camp for the runners at each checkpoint at the end of the day as well as provides water, the runners are expected to bring their own food, clothing and gear for their week trekking across the desert.
Other races by the organization are held in Antarctica and the Gobi and Sahara deserts.
The race starts at 10,000 feet and descends over the course of the week. Temperatures are expected to fluctuate between the 80s in the day and dip down to the mid 40s at night.
It’s a grueling race, especially for someone who until two years ago wasn’t even a runner.
In 2015, Boss said he was playing with his three sons and started noticing he was getting winded too easily.
“I was out of breath after 10 minutes or so,” he said.
He started working out in his basement but quickly got bored of being stationary and decided to try running.
His first race was the Redmond Half Marathon in 2015 and Boss said he spent more than a week recovering, but he was hooked.
“You get to see a lot of things in one day,” he said.
He’s been training for the Atacama for a year and hopes to finish the race running most of the way, but he said his biggest goal is just to finish.
The race is likely to be difficult, he said, but he’s learned how to push himself both physically and mentally.
While the number of miles runners will travel each day varies, it will average around 25 per day, with a “double” day where contestants will be traveling 40 miles.
It usually takes participants between 26 to 70 hours of running to finish the race and Boss is carrying enough calories and electrolytes to last 40 hours.
For distance running with packs, every ounce of weight in a backpack matters. He pack was at 20 pounds on Tuesday and he was hoping to shave off two more before he left.
Runners are also expected to carry other basic supplies like a long-sleeve shirt, a compass, pocket knife and mirror, among other survival items.
Boss is raising money for the event that he will be donating to the Set Free Movement. It is an organization that has a goal of helping end human and sex trafficking.
Philanthropy is something Boss is no stranger to as his print products business, ByDefault, donates 5 percent of each purchase to various charities.
He hopes to inspire people to get active in their own way.
“I think everybody can do this, assuming you put the work and training beforehand,” he said.