Two friends. Seven days. 155 miles. For Amanda “Chett” Matchett ’09 and Eric Wheeler ’09, this race is about more than mileage; it’s about honoring memories.
It’s OK to call Amanda “Chett” Matchett ’09 and Eric Wheeler ’09 a little crazy. Perhaps that is why they signed up for a seven-day, 155-mile trek across one of the world’s hottest deserts, part of the annual 4 Deserts race series through RacingThePlanet.
“In all seriousness, the original drive to do this race came from an ever-flowing font of curiosity, our collective desire to push boundaries, both physical and mental, and an extreme sense of wanderlust – at least for me,” explains Wheeler, an account manager at PJA Advertising + Marketing in San Francisco. “In short, we’re both a bit crazy, and we get crazier when we’re together.”
That sense of craziness was fostered on campus, where the duo met, studied communication and discovered they shared uncanny similarities in their passion, work ethic and love of life.
Matchett and Wheeler share more than a kindred spirit and deep athletic drive – both are running to honor the legacies left to them by their fathers, who have both passed away.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through,” Matchett says. “And what emerged from that experience was a ‘stronger me’ that wanted to continue to make him proud.”
Wheeler’s inspiration comes from the memory of his father, an active man who refused to let his cancer beat him, choosing ski trips and bike rides over rest days at home on the couch.
“He taught me how to live,” writes Wheeler in a blog post. “It took his death to really awaken this part inside of me. The early riser. The restless ‘yes man.’”
For Wheeler, “yes” originally meant beginning to run on a regular basis. He didn’t stop. After successfully completing several triathlons together, Wheeler brought the idea of a long-distance race to Matchett, who lives more than a thousand miles away in Calgary, Alberta. She said yes.
Though the original race was scheduled for the Sahara desert, the event was recently moved to Jordan due to the political and security events unfolding in Egypt.
No strangers to change, Matchett and Wheeler have been preparing for the cross-country race by acclimating themselves to hot temperatures and running with heavy backpacks. Participants are required to carry all mandatory supplies (food, water, clothing, etc.) on their backs during the race.
Sounds crazy, right? That sense of craziness is leading to amazing things – like raising $7,000 (and counting) for one of their favorite nonprofits, Charity: water. Although the fundraiser serves as a catalyst to get friends, family and complete strangers involved in following the race, Matchett and Wheeler run for a desire to push themselves emotionally, physically and mentally.
“I’ve always thought that with a strong mind, passionate heart, and positive attitude, absolutely anything is possible,” says Matchett, who works as an innovation consultant at ATB Financial in Calgary. “This is one more stepping stone to prove that.”
Matchett and Wheeler depart for Jordan on Feb. 10. The race runs Feb. 16-22. Follow live updates here.