he Marathon des Sables is not a race for would-be athletes or weekend joggers. The six-day, 150-mile foot race across the Sahara Desert requires competitors to carry their food and sleeping gear on their backs in temperatures that can reach 120 degrees. At least two people have died running it; one time, a racer from Italy hit a sandstorm and wandered around, lost, for nine days. Entry fees are steep. Multiple bloggers state that anyone even considering running the “marathon of the sands,” the equivalent of six marathons, must be crazy. Brian Grossman’s reaction? Bring it on. Combining self-interest and philanthropy, Grossman ran the MdS earlier this year to raise money for Kids in the Game, a Bend, Ore.-based charity he founded in 2010 to provide athletic fees for low-income kids who can’t afford to participate in their local sports programs.
“I told myself that I’m going to take the whole idea of a midlife crisis to a midlife ascension,” said Grossman, JD/C’93. “This is the time of life where people cheat on their wives, buy motorcycles, etcetera. You can leave a legacy when you’re dead, but also when you’re alive.”
Getting in the Game Married, a successful businessman and firmly into middle age, Brian Grossman JD/C’93 decided he needed a new challenge. So he signed up to run the most grueling race in the world.
40 | Willamette Lawyer
Grossman, a veteran of several ultra-long races, is 6 feet 2 inches. He skis, bikes and runs, but over the years his weight had ballooned to 221 pounds. His dad’s reaction when he told him he was going to run the MdS: “That’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever signed up for. Why would anyone want to do that?” The race had actually been on Grossman’s to-do list for quite a while. While living abroad after law school, he had seen a pal of his running down the hot, steamy streets of Shanghai with a backpack. When Grossman asked him what he was up to, his friend replied he was training for the MdS. Intrigued, Grossman vowed he’d tackle the race some day, but it was 15 years before he got to it.