QUITO – Ecuadorian Millan Ludeña, a 37-year-old agricultural engineer who jogs some five kilometers (3 miles) twice a week, is moving forward with his plan to set a Guinness record by running a half-marathon that will take him “from the center of the Earth to the Sun” in 80 hours.
Ludeña, who stands 1.61 meters (5 feet 3 inches) tall and weighing 60 kg (132 lb.), will travel to South Africa in August to descend into the Mponeng gold mine, the world’s deepest, where thousands of miners work each day riding three-story elevators down – and then back up – the central shaft.
The adventure, which initially was scheduled for last month, was postponed to August for economic reasons, but now that they have been surmounted the way is clear for Ludeña to fly to Johannesburg on Aug. 17, undergo medical and physical exams, and then descend into the mine at midnight on Aug. 19, some 3,700 meters (2.3 miles) below the Earth’s surface, he said.
There, he is intending to run along a subterranean course 1.8 km long a total of almost 12 times – 21 km in all – in four hours.
“That is the first record that Guinness will endorse,” he told EFE, adding that a judge will descend into the mine with him to “keep the time.”
In terms of the conditions he will face on his half-marathon deep in the bowels of the Earth, he said, not batting an eyelash: the atmospheric pressure will be 1.6 times that at sea level (whereas in Quito, where he lives, it’s 0.7); humidity is 80 percent and the temperature will be some 42 C (108 F).
He plans to exit the mine at 11:00 am local time on Aug. 21 and travel immediately to the airport to fly to Quito via New York, and offer a press conference before sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber “full of pure oxygen.”
The next day, he will begin the second phase of the project, traveling four hours by automobile to San Juan, at 3,800 meters above sea level to the community nearest the Chimborazo volcano, rising to a height of 6,280 meters, which – measured from the Earth’s center – is the spot on the planet closest to the Sun, according to French scientists.
“I’m going to connect the point closest to the Earth’s center to the point farthest from its center,” Ludeña said, adding that from San Juan he will climb to the Chimborazo shelter at 4,800 meters, a trek of 16 km.
There his escort will await him, four police officers experienced in rescues and six members of the production team for a 52-minute documentary in which he is starring under the direction of Uruguay’s Oliver Garland, who is considered the “(Steven) Spielberg of adventure,” he said.
The 12-man team will begin the 5-km ascent at 8:00 pm local time to arrive, 10 hours later, at the summit and from there they will call the shelter by radio where the Guinness judge will verify that they have completed the hike to the “point closest to the sun,” he added.
The project, which will cost some $190,000, including the documentary, is just one more test Ludeña has set for himself to prove that there are no unattainable limits.
So far, he has participated in the “most difficult (race) in the world” of 240 km in the Sahara, and the coldest race on the planet, a 100-mile trek in Antarctica.
As in preparing for those races, he is following a strict training regimen that – in general – begins at 5:00 am each day in a Quito park or in a gym before he goes in to the office. And he climbs mountains on the weekends.
To deal with dehydration in the mine, experts are analyzing Ludeña’s sweat in a laboratory to determine what he must eat deep in the mine and on Chimborazo’s peak to get the best performance results and remain healthy.
“I’m not an athlete,” Ludeña said, but he did admit that his health is “super good.”