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Mike from Aura’s House Gets Ready to March Across the Gobi Desert for Needy Children

15 May 2012 2 Comments

Mike Epler

The Amazing Mike Epler of Aura's House

Aura’s House Partner, Mike Epler has become quite the endurance and distance runner over the past few years. His latest and most challenging race is fast approaching! The Gobi March (China) is part of the 4 Deserts series (RacingThePlanet) which was again named by TIME magazine as the #1 footrace in the world, and as one of the world’s top 10 endurance events.

Mike will be raising funds for our UALR Dental Project (USA) by running/walking 250K (that’s not a typo!) across the Gobi Desert from June 10-16, 2012. All the funds Mike raises will help 400 needy children in Little Rock, Arkansas get free preventive dental exams.

Of course we had a ton of questions for Mike as he continues to train for the race of a lifetime. He was kind enough to do an e-interview for us. You can also follow Mike’s progress from day to day at his personal running blog.

Mike, what exactly is this race about, how long is it, and how many people participate in it?
For me this race is about overcoming personal challenges. For my charity, University of Arkansas, Little Rock Dental Clinic (Aura’s House Project), it is about helping achieve their budget for dental supplies.  The race is a multi-stage 250K race which occurs over 7 days of running, hiking, and crawling: Four days of 40K (26 miles); a long day 80K (50+ miles) over a 1.5 days, and completing the last day with a 10K (6 miles).  You are required to carry your sleeping bag, food, supplies and emergency gear for the whole week.  The backpack is usually 17-22lbs at the start of the race.  Water is provided by the organizers every 6 miles.  The race sees an international cast of characters of approximately 150+ runners.
How long have you been running and what previous experience do you have that will help you complete such a grueling race?
I have been trail running for 2.5 years now, a novice compared to many of my running friends.  I run 30-70 miles a week depending upon my training cycle and upcoming race plans.  I have participated and completed two 100K’s (62 miles), three 50 mile races, seven 50K’s (32 miles), a 25K and a 22K.  I’m a water buffalo runner, not an antelope runner, but I love the places I see when I go out on long runs.

Will this be your first time in China? Will you also do some sight-seeing before or after the race? What other adventures have you been on around the world that demanded such endurance and discipline?
This is my first time in China but I will be going back because I only set aside 2 days in Beijing to adjust to the 15 hour time difference. So, I will see a few things before heading to Kashgar, located on the Silk Road in Western China.  That portion of the trip takes a whole day to fly across China.  I have always enjoyed backpacking around the west coast, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Mount Whitney, and more.  In 2005, while on a break between jobs, I volunteered in Tanzania and added at the end of my trip a Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, 19,600ft (83xx meters).  I did this when I weighed 65 pounds more than I weigh today.  I took my time, hiked high and slept low while crossing and climbing the mountain.

Is it true that at one time you used to be a typical American in the sense that perhaps you worked too long, ate a little too much, and didn’t exercise enough? What made you change and what advice do you have for others who want to get in better shape?
I really enjoyed my food which became a social gathering event, eating out every day many times both lunch and dinner.  Exercise was a key activity in high school and college, but work and family always seemed to take priority over exercise.  At the time I made the decision to change I worked at a facility which had meetings in three different buildings and on hot summer days I had to cool down before I could focus in a meeting.  Also, my daughter told me she was concerned about me being alive for her wedding which wasn’t even in sight.  Sometimes it takes both internal and external factors to make lifestyle changes.

What made you want to dedicate your race towards helping needy children in Little Rock, Arkansas?
As a volunteer partner with Aura’s House, I wanted to do something that could help within the United States as we have done many projects across the globe.  Since the Racing the Planet Gobi March is an international race many countries are represented and runners have the option of choosing a charity to run for, so it was a perfect fit.
Would you like to say anything else to the Aura’s House community?
After meeting Kristen in Tanzania and looking at the original website in 2005, I just loved the concept of “Small Projects that Make a Difference.” I like how Aura’s House has a mix of project sizes that help both individuals and communities, which have a significant impact on those who receive the support.  This year, seeing Aura complete her teacher training was a major milestone in the organization’s growth. Now she can personally give back to her community and make a better life for herself.

Thanks Mike! Make sure to follow Mike’s progress from day to day at his personal running blog. Also, please consider make a small donation to our UALR Dental Project to help show Mike your support.


  • Kristen (author) said:

    Go Mike Go!!!

  • Heather said:

    Mike is an inspiration!

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