GRUELLING HEAT: Dale Aikenhead was on hand to help his son Sam Weir pace his way from Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park to Mount Whitney, California.
GRUELLING HEAT: Dale Aikenhead was on hand to help his son Sam Weir pace his way from Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park to Mount Whitney, California.

Ultra-marathon desert race a test of fatherly love

BOKARINA resident Dale Aikenhead went the extra mile for his son last month - actually he ran more than 80km in a gruelling dash through the desert.

The 53-year-old finance manager for TAFE Queensland East Coast was one of three "pacers” for his son Sam Weir, who was competing in one of the world's toughest ultra- marathon races.

Sam, 25, was the youngest competitor in the invite-only Badwater 135, a 217km run from the Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park to Mount Whitney in California, USA.

As a pacer, Dale ran part of the course behind Sam, holding his electrolytes, water and food during the non-stop event.

Dale completed his stint in sweltering 50-degree heat and wearing a hand-me- down pair of shoes, because he had hardly run before Sam asked him to join his support crew four months prior to the event in July.

"He asked me to go and I said yes but I had never done any running before, so he gave me a pair of his old shoes and said I should start doing some training,” he said.

Dale ran about 100km a week and an estimated 1200km in total in the lead up to the trip - the equivalent of Noosa to Wollongong.

"You don't know what to expect but it is a torturous race,” he said.

"We knew it was going to be hot but even in the middle of the night it was still 40 degrees.”

That heat melted the soles of Sam's shoes, but Dale's hand-me-downs survived.