Senior to run Moroccan race benefiting Friedrich’s Ataxia

By Jonathan Jacobson

Peter Murakami will journey to Ouarzazate, Morocco in April to compete in the annual Marathon des Sables, a 150-mile-long voyage through the Saharan desert.

Murakami, a senior in LAS, will participate in this race to benefit the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance. Friedrich’s Ataxia is a disease which causes an inability to coordinate voluntary muscle movements.

Murakami decided on this charity because of his friend, Garrett Timbie, who suffers from the disease. Murakami assisted Timbie, who lived at Daniels Hall and was confined to a wheelchair. Timbie, despite his disability, was able to graduate in 2003 with a degree in finance.

“Seeing him live a normal life and succeed in what he was doing and graduating – it could be an inspiration for anyone,” Murakami said.

This isn’t Murakami’s first big race, though. This year, he has participated in the Chicago Marathon, the Chicago Triathlon, the Pacific Crest Marathon in Sunriver, Ore., and the Run for Roses 10K in Urbana, which he won.

Murakami, who grew up just south of Chicago, has been running for almost 10 years, since he was 13-years-old.

“I wasn’t an all-star by any means,” Murakami said. Although he is not a professional, he is confident he can finish the race, he added.

The Marathon des Sables is no small excursion. It will cost Murakmi nearly $5,000 to compete and pay airfare. Even after he does these things, he still has to navigate a section of the second-largest desert in the world with virtually everything he needs on his back.

Although Murakami is not entirely funded, he expects to pay the portion that donations will not cover. He currently has raised approximately $400.

The race is the brainchild of a French concert promoter who, after he traversed the Moroccan Sahara, wanted to share his experience with others.

“The idea of running in the Marathon des Sables has gradually crescendoed in my mind from being a passing thought in the back of my head to becoming the commitment that is has now become,” Murakami said on his Web site.

That commitment involves a strenuous amount of training.

“Lately, I’ve been running five days a week,” Murakami said. “I also do weight training and I swim – at least six days a week.”

When Murakami goes to Morocco, it will not be an entirely foreign land. He studied abroad there for a semester, delaying his graduation. While in Morocco, Murakami picked up the language.

“I can speak the colloquial Moroccan dialect of Arabic,” he said.

Before the race, Murakami will live in Morocco and afterwards, he says he will stay but doesn’t know for how long.

Murakami said that learning the language, although it won’t be an essential skill, “will help me [while I] live in Morocco.”