By Esther Au Yong
SINGAPOREAN Denvy Lo has never run a marathon before but, for the love of sharks, she will soon run almost six times the distance - in the desert.
The 29-year-old legal recruiter, who is based in Hong Kong, will attempt the tortuous 250km Gobi March in June.
The race is part of the legendary 4 Deserts series, listed by Time magazine as one of the top 10 endurance competitions in the world. Just 29 Singaporeans have completed it since 2003.
Participants typically cover more than 35km each day in the first four stages of the race, at temperatures of about 40 deg C.
The fifth stage will usually cover at least double that distance, with the final stage crossing a distance of more than 10km.
All six stages need to be completed in seven days, with strict cut-off times for each stage.
Runners will have to carry their own equipment and food.
They are provided with only water and a place in a tent each day at various checkpoints.
Ms Lo said: 'This race will be 80 per cent mental strength, 10 per cent preparation and 10 per cent fitness.'
She wants to raise about £20,000 (S$42,700) for Shark Rescue, a Hong Kong-based initiative to protect sharks. The money will help fund its educational and awareness campaigns.
After hearing about Ms Lo's initiative, her acquaintance, Ms Delian Gaskell, 39, a Hong Kong-based Canadian, will also run the race for Shark Rescue.
Ms Lo feels it is important to raise awareness of how trade in sharks fin is depleting the population of the species.
Jesting that she will go through a 'suicidal challenge', she said: 'I hope that by putting myself out there, people will start to notice that the shark population is declining rapidly.
Among other effects, this will seriously affect the balance of the marine ecosystem.'
The former national netballer and scuba-diving enthusiast said she heard about the race from a friend, who completed it last year to help a children's charity.
She said: 'I asked him jokingly why he didn't do it for the sharks... You never really hear about people running to save sharks.'
She then realised she could do it 'instead of just thinking about it'.
She started training last month and is now running about 90km a week. She runs at least 10km with a backpack weighing more than 5kg every weekday night. On weekends, she runs at least 40km in total.
'My mileage will increase every week until about two weeks before the event when I will taper off the training,' she said.
'I also do core and strength exercises. I not only want to finish the race, but also complete it with a good timing.'
Shark Rescue director Ran Elfassy said: 'At first, it seemed strange that someone crossing the Gobi Desert, said to be the most distant point from an ocean, would want to use that opportunity to raise awareness about sharks.
"But then we realised that having this 'sharkie' in the desert could be a powerful reminder that, by killing so many sharks, the oceans are being turned into a kind of desert."
RacingThePlanet, the race organiser, told my paper that, as far as it knows, this is the first time anyone is running to raise funds to protect sharks.
In all, 38 Singaporeans have competed in a 4 Deserts or RacingThePlanet event. The 4 Deserts race series covers the Gobi Desert in China, the Atacama Desert of Chile, the Sahara Desert in Egypt and Antarctica.
Ms Lo hopes that even sceptics would be converted by her efforts.
On her Facebook page, Run Denvy Run!, she wrote: 'We save sharks, we save the oceans, we can still enjoy fish n chips 20 years later' Everyone is happy.'
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