News & Publicity

Vancouver Courier on Dr. Pushpa's Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert

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Dr. Pushpa's Marathon des Sables

59-year-old retired nurse from Vancouver, BC, is the second oldest female competitor in this year’s Marathon des Sables – a 250km footrace through the Sahara Desert.

To celebrate her 59th birthday, Dr. Pushpa Chandra will be one of 18 Canadians (of a total 1300 competitors, 14% of whom are women) competing in the 32nd annual Marathon des Sables – a 250km stage race through the Sahara Desert. Taking place 9 – 16 April, Discovery Channel refers to this historic footrace as the toughest on earth, with competitors running in 50+ degree heat, armed with a distress beacon, GPS (athletes have gotten lost in the past), and a venom extractor in case of bites.

Now a grandmother, Dr. Chandra has had a lifelong passion for running, beginning when she was at elementary school in Fiji. As a nurse in Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, running was a very effective way to mitigate the effects of shift work on her health. For Dr Chandra, the adventure never stops, and she continues to be inspired by the challenges, drive and determination required, as well as the physical and spiritual rewards running brings her. She has run over 500 marathons and ultra-marathons, and is one of only 18 women in the world who is a ‘North Pole Grand Slammer’—who has run marathons or longer races on all seven continents plus the North Pole.

Her last race was a 250-km race through Madagascar, which she describes as adventurous and somewhat traumatizing:

“When you’re running close to sugar cane fires, crossing lakes with crocodiles, and waking up with tarantulas outside…that’s tough. But here I am, back at it!”

The Marathon des Sables has its own peculiar challenges. For a start, this is a self-supporting race. That means runners have to carry everything needed for survival on even the longest leg, which is 80km. Then, the Moroccan Sahara desert is one of the most inhospitable environments in the world:

“Your feet swell 2 sizes, then crack and bleed in the heat. The terrain has rock fields sharp enough to slice your skin open at the gentlest touch. Popping blisters becomes a daily routine and you have no showers for a week!”

The only home comforts supplied by the organizers are goat hair Berber tents and rationed water – but even water comes with a warning. If you exceed your ration, you get a time penalty!

Dr. Chandra is racing to raise money for the charity Plan International and their initiatives in the fight against child prostitution. With efforts being directed towards prevention, rescue, and rehabilitation, Plan International is working to reach 25,000 girls in Nepal, where it is estimated that 11,000 girls are trafficked every year.

To contribute to Plan International and follow Dr. Pushpa in the Marathon de Sables visit the official website. Here, you can follow Dr Chandra’s progress using her race number, 709, as each runner is tracked by GPS.

Learn more about Dr. Pushpa’s nutrition-based work in reversing the adverse effects of shift work here.

“It’s going to be challenging, but I’m confident that I can react positively to the situations I’ll be faced with.”

Read what Vancouver Courier has written about Dr. Pushpa's Marathon des Sables



Dr. Pushpa's Madagascar adventure

On August 31st, 2014 Dr. Pushpa participated in the RacingThePlanet’s seventh Roving Race in Madagascar, a 250-km race through the fourth-largest island in the world.

It was a feat of endurance, on an exotic but very rough and demanding terrain: lush rain forests, around rock cliffs, in the dry savanna, with constant life-threatening obstacles. Dr. Pushpa recalls:

“When you’re running close to sugar cane fires, crossing lakes with crocodiles, and waking up with tarantulas outside…that’s tough. But here I am, back at it!”

Learn more about it here.



Following Heel Canada seminars, Dr. Pushpa Chandra did a marathon in Gobi Desert (China and Mongolia) on May 25 for a 250 km self-supporting stage race!



Dr. Pushpa Chandra was a speaker at a seminar organized by Heel Canada on Inflammation Modulation and the Effective Management of Pain.

Heel is one of the world's leading manufacturers of homeopathic combination medications, with award-winning products and more than 70 years of "healthcare designed by nature". Read more about the company here.

Dr. Pushpa is truly honoured to have shared her knowledge and experience. Her busy schedule included talks in Canada's major cities in the course of a week. She started in Montreal on May 7th, then moved on to Ottawa (May 8th), Toronto (May 9th), Calgary (May 14th), and finally ended in Vancouver on May 15th. The venue in Vancouver was Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Hotel.



Dr. Pushpa was a guest speaker at the 16th Annual VIMFF (Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival) on February 10, 2013.

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A short film about the North Pole marathon
in 2009:



Tackling Everest: A Vancouver woman's odyssey holds hope for Nepalese girls

September 24, 2007

Vancouverite Pushpa Chandra will be celebrating her 50th birthday at the peak of the world. The naturopathic physician is one of two Canadians to qualify for the Everest Marathon, the highest and hardest marathon on Earth, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Held on December 5th, athletes from around the world compete for one of seventy-five spots and the opportunity to test their mettle in life-threatening altitudes and temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius. And the event is more than simply a race. A registered charity, the Everest Marathon Fund's mandate is to promote health and education in rural Nepal. Runners fundraise for months prior to the event and one-hundred per cent of the funds are donated to selected charities. After researching the situation in Nepal, Chandra has decided to direct all her funds toward sending Nepalese girls to school.

"Seventy percent of girls in Nepal don't have access to any education. Thirty-five percent of children die before they turn five," says Chandra. "It all comes back to education. If you haven't been taught, how can you protect your child from dying from an unclean water supply?"

Nepal is one of the five poorest countries in the world, with an average annual income of $200 U.S. Due to this, Chandra notes that it won't take much money to begin to educate Nepalese girls, but the potential for shifting the entire culture to a new paradigm of health and well-being is tremendous. Her vision is to assist in the launch of a new program specific to the education of girls and to actively recruit girls for this program.

Meanwhile, the training for the race is rigorous, with runners expected to complete in double their best time. Unlike other marathons where athletes taper training for two to three weeks prior to events, Everest in preceded by sixteen days of trekking through the Himalayan foothills for six to seven hours a day and camping out in sub-zero temperatures, to reach a starting line of 17,000 feet. At this height, atmospheric oxygen is half of what humans are accustomed to but runners are not permitted to supplement by carrying oxygen. Constant medical examinations ensure athletes are able to sustain the trials of the competition, which exposes them to the risk of cerebral edema and pulmonary edema.

If she's a seasoned marathoner, Chandra is also no stranger to relief work. She served as a nurse for twenty years before qualifying as a naturopath and has worked in India and Fiji. And Nepal holds a deep significance for Chandra, whose heritage is Indo-Nepalese. An Ironman Canada triathlete with thirty-five marathons under her belt including Boston and New York, Chandra says that the drive to race Everest has a spiritual genesis. "It's the mountain, and mountains are gods in our (Hindu) culture. Everest is the mother of all mountain gods."

Marni Norwich
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