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Running The Sahara

4.4 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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(Feb 02, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Running the Sahara is a 2007 documentary feature film that chronicles Ray Zahab, Charlie Engle, and Kevin Lin's attempt to run across the entire Sahara desert. They traveled a total of 6920 kilometers, reaching the Red Sea on February 20, 2007.

About the Actor

Matt Damon, Produced and Narrated Running The Sahara and focused on the film's ability to bring light to the water crisis in Africa. Matt's philanthropic interests have always been a part of his career. He was the founder of H2O Africa Foundation, the charitable arm of the Running the Sahara expedition, which merged with WaterPartners to create Water.org in July 2009. Along with frequent co-stars George Clooney and Brad Pitt, supports ONE, a campaign fighting AIDS and poverty in Third World countries. He has appeared in their print and television advertising. Damon is also an ambassador for OneXOne, a non-profit foundation committed to supporting, preserving and improving the lives of children at home in Canada, the United States, and around the world. Damon, along with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, and Jerry Weintraub, is one of the founders of Not On Our Watch, an organization that focuses global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities such as in Darfur. Charlie Engle, USA Expedition Team Leader / Expedition Originator A 42-year-old American father of two boys, a television producer, and one of the best ultra distance marathon runners in the world today, Engle has been a runner, climber, and adventure racer for more than 30 years. He recently finished first in both a race across the Gobi Desert and in a seven-day race through the Amazon jungle. He has crossed the Atacama Desert in Chile, charted the jungles of Vietnam and Borneo, climbed to the top of the volcanoes in Ecuador, summited Mt. McKinley, and has run across Death Valley. He sees running the Sahara as a personal quest to find fulfillment through both physical and mental challenges, believing that it will be an unparalleled journey of discovery. Ray Zahab, Canada Late in 1998, Ray made a life changing decision to leave a pack-a-day smoking habit and very unhealthy life choices behind him. On New Year's Day 2000, he decided to go hiking with his brother John and has never looked back. New to the sport of running in 2004, ultra-marathoning took Ray from the cold north of Canada to the Amazon jungle. But it was the Sahara desert that ultimately captured Ray's heart. After witnessing and experiencing the water crisis and malaria epidemic in Africa, Ray decided to dedicate his future adventures to raising awareness and funding for causes that he supports and believes in..Ray is a member of the board of Directors of the Ryan's Well Foundation, is the official Athletic Ambassador to the ONExONE organization, and is a representative of SpreadTheNet and the founder of Impossible2Possible. On January 7, 2009 Ray and two other Canadians, broke the world speed record from Hercules Inlet to the Geographic South Pole. In the process, Ray became the first person to trek to the South Pole on this traditional 1130 km route solely on foot. This expedition provided young people with an interactive platform and educational resources through a ground-breaking website. Kevin Lin, Taiwan 28 years old and living like a rock star in Taipei, Taiwan, Kevin is one of the most well known endurance athletes in all of Asia. A full-time graduate student, he recently won the first ever 150-mile (241-kilometer) race across the Atacama Desert in Chile, dancing across the finish line while more than half the field had to be rescued from the course.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Matt Damon, Charlie Engle, Ray Zahab, Kevin Lin
  • Directors: James Moll
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Nehst Out Release
  • DVD Release Date: February 2, 2009
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002J6ZJKE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,903 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I would have absolutely LOVED this documentary if it weren't for the egomaniacal and deceitful personality of Charlie Engle. It doesn't surprise me one bit that he's currently serving time in prison for mortgage fraud. Not only is he a criminal and a cheat, but he's a miserable excuse for a friend and team mate. Multiple times throughout the video you see evidence of his controlling, manipulating and egomaniacal personality. I was almost hoping that he would have to pull out of the run so I could pull for Ray and Kevin, who were both truly inspirational and likable individuals. Some examples of Charlie's self serving, ungrateful ways were.... blasting members of his support team for their desire to keep their previous commitments, (when the run went WAY over it's originally anticipated time frame) "running" ahead of Ray and Kevin with seemingly every intention and even a desire to "finish first" in what was NEVER meant to be a competition, (when the agreement was he would walk until Ray and Kevin caught up)to even making sure that he was the first of the three to put his hand in the Red Sea. (I watched this particular scene a few time, and this observation is not imagined) The bottom line is that this is absolutely a memorable documentary and I found myself relating to two of the three runners. Regardless of how impressive the feat was and how honorable it is to raise money to insure fresh water in Niger, Charlie Engle comes across as a despicable, pathetic human being, who deserves exactly what he got! PS I actually felt bad for his girlfriend, who seemed like a really classy lady.
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Format: DVD
I can't tell you how many times during the watching of this film that I said either out loud or to myself, "Wow!"

When I first read the description of the expedition that the runners Charlie Engle, Ray Zahab, and Kevin Lin planned to do I thought, "Wow!" Initially I assumed that these runners were going to run across the Sahara Desert south to north or vice versa, but when I realized that their plan was to run the Sarah from the Atlantic Ocean in Senegal in the west all the way to Egypt and the Red Sea om the east I thought "WOW!"

These ultra-endurance runners did something that most people cannot imagine. They ran the equivalent of 170 marathons in under four months' time, without taking a day off to do so.

I can't begin to imagine the stress and strain on their bodies, emotions, and souls as they plodded toward their goal. Compared to these guys I'm just a casual jogger (I compete in races only up to 1/2 marathons). My wife, who has run a few marathons, said that she's sometimes crying like a baby at the end of 26.2 miles, but the three runners in this film sometimes ran up to 2 marathons a day, every day, for over three months! Yikes!

The wear and tear on them is inestimable as they ran in temps on the ground up to 140oF and down to the low 30soF is unfathomable.

When you watch this film you will see the runners plodding along it's difficult to gauge just what their pace is, but it doesn't look especially fast, but remember that these guys are running something like 8-10 hrs/day. Maybe the film doesn't feel much like a running movie...well, that's not too surprising, since part of their goal was to experience the land and people of the Sahara and their need for access to water.

All in all I give this film 4 solid stars.
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Format: DVD
When I started running again in 2008, there was an article I distinctly remembered reading about a guy who had pretty similar high school running credentials to mine and then had gotten into some trouble while attending the University of North Carolina, ultimately getting back into running later in his 20's with a great deal of success. This article was Jeff Pearlman's Runner's World profile on Greensboro's Charlie Engle. Now while my twenties weren't nearly as wild as Charlie's were, running was something that took a back seat to "socializing" and then came back into play around my 30th birthday. So when the opening scenes of the film showed Charlie running on Irwin Belk Track at Fetzer Field and in the Eddie Smith Field House, I was hooked.

All this being said, I found it shocking earlier this year when news surfaced that Charlie had been arrested for fraud as "IRS special agent Robert Nordlander began looking into Engle's finances after reading a story about the ultramarathon across the desert and wondered how Engle could afford to pay for such an adventure." This just goes to show, don't try to cheat the IRS, "they read the newspaper."

All this aside, "Running the Sahara" was an enjoyable documentary about Charlie, Ray Zahab, and Kevin Lin running over 4300 miles in 111 days across Africa, the equivalent of 170 marathons with no days off. Quite a feat to say the least! The cinematography was great as was the narration, which was done by Matt Damon, who also was an executive producer on the project. There were some expected testy moments as runners can get a little grumpy and running in sandstorms would likely make one extremely on edge.
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