A life’s journey // 6 stages // South Moroccan desert // 30th birthday

For Linda Sanders, the blazing heat and tough terrain will be the furthest things from her mind as she tackles the world-famous Marathon des Sables this April. What will drive Sanders across the finish line, 156 grueling miles later, is the name emblazoned on her uniform. Sanders is taking on this extreme challenge in memory of Scotty McMillan, a little boy whose mother and stepfather stand accused of torturing him to death.

Sanders wants the world to know his name. She will go to extremes to teach the world about the suffering of children and to remind us that, sooner or later, whether in our own lives or those of the people who matter most to us, it affects us all.

While Sanders is new to the world of extreme racing and has never before tackled Morocco’s annual Marathon de Sables, she will be running the equivalent of 5.5 marathons in five days, a total distance of 156 miles.

“The race is a grueling multi-stage adventure through a formidable landscape in one of the world’s most inhospitable climates: the Sahara desert. The rules require you to be self-sufficient; to carry with you on your back everything except water that you need to survive. You are given a place in a tent to sleep at night, but any other equipment and food must be carried,” she says.

Sanders has been an athlete for the majority of her life. At the age of 20, she began competing and entering in hundreds of athletic events. Having set athletics to the side for five years to focus on raising her two children, she returned to her passion for extreme athleticism on seeing an image depicting the captivating scenery of Iceland. Without training, she impulsively signed up for the Runiceland endurance race, thinking a marathon meant 26.2 miles and not a stage trail race.

“I didn’t know how far I would need to run, since I assumed a marathon meant 26.2 miles, or how many days it would be – all I knew was that I needed a whistle, Thermo blanket and camel bag. When I got there and was given all the info, I found out what it was I had gotten into, but I did not quit the race and I never gave up,” Sanders explains.

Sanders has been an advocate for the less fortunate since she was a teenager, and today seeks to live by example for her two beloved sons. She took on a global mission to help children in need around the world following trips to Peru and Uganda, where she witnessed firsthand the global orphan crisis and at-risk children worldwide. The estimated number of orphans globally currently reported by the US Government and UNICEF include 17.8 million children worldwide who have lost both parents (“double orphans”) and 153 million children worldwide who have lost either one parent (“single orphans”) or both.

Her own non-profit, Hope So Bright, works to raise awareness and provide grants for disadvantaged, under-served and at-risk youth. “Inspired to demonstrate to my sons the importance of raising awareness for the greater good of society, I have formed my own non-profit organization to show them the importance of making a difference,” she explains. When not raising awareness of good causes and running the world, Sanders dedicates her free time to her community. She is a certified Emergency Medical Technician who volunteers for Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in her hometown of Manhattan Beach, CA.