If you’re a 47-year-old guy who has raced in some of the toughest environments on Earth for the last eight years, you might say to yourself that maybe it’s time to relax in a lounge chair and enjoy the fruits of your home life in northwest Las Vegas.
But that’s not for Mark Jaget — at least not yet. Jaget, who began his professional life as a chiropractor and has since become a successful businessman, has adventure-raced up and down some of the highest and most rugged mountains in the world, across the steamiest deserts, into the faces of blizzards and ice storms, and through heavily infested jungles.
On May 25, he’ll be leaving again for what will be his 12th adventure race, this time in Bhutan, one of the most remote and primitive countries in the world. It is just east of Nepal and northeast of India.
The race is set to begin June 1 and consist of six days and approximately 120 miles of rugged mountainous terrain.
“All adventure races involve harsh conditions,” Jaget said. “The race is not a marathon. It’s nothing like a marathon. It requires far more specialized training. In fact, sometimes adventure races like this are almost races for survival.”
Jaget should know a thing or two about harsh adventure races for survival. He has raced across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, the Sahara Desert in Morocco, the mountainous deserts of Atacama and Namibia in Africa and Chile, the mountains of Nepal, twice into the darkest reaches of the Amazon Jungle, and along fierce conditions of ice and snow in Antarctica and Iceland.
To prepare him for the terrain in Bhutan, for several months his training routine has included running and skillfully climbing the hilly landscape of the Red Rock range.
“Earlier I ran five days a week, which included 11 miles on two of those days at Red Rock,” he said. “Then I spent two hours a day with my trainer, Marc Gitelman, who’s affiliated with the UNLV athletic staff.”
Jaget added that he ultimately trained six days a week and ran 23 miles every Saturday.
He admitted, however, “The older I get, the harder it’s getting to maintain that kind of routine, especially keeping pace with the younger guys.”
So why does he do it? Moreover, how does his wife, Clare, and his three children feel about the hectic training schedule, followed by his departure for 10 to 12 days, which includes a period of familiarization with the race site atmosphere prior to the start of six days of rugged competition?
“For me, it’s a challenge,” he said. “Each time I push myself to see if I can survive another arduous journey, it’s something special. It’s daunting, and it’s difficult. It’s the kind of thing that makes you stronger, and it stays with you the rest of your life.
“My wife knows how rewarding it is for me. She knows it makes me happy. Clare and I have been married 23 years, and I’d marry her again, tomorrow.”
And what about the children, Sebastian, 14, Tristan, 13, and Olivia, 3?
“They don’t like to see me go away, but they’re proud of the feats I have accomplished,” Jaget said.
He talked about “one of my worst and best days, all in one.” It happened last August during the race in Iceland.
“I suffered my first serious injury,” he said, referring to severe damage to his right ankle. “At first I thought it was a stress fracture. Every step I took felt like there was a knife in my leg. It was bitter cold, and I was prepared to quit the race. I needed 25 more miles to go that day. Somehow I managed another 20 miles, all the while screaming from the pain.
“Then I took 10 extra-strength Tylenol and finished the race. I proved to myself that with willpower and perseverance I could do it. My children learned a valuable lesson from that experience.”
Jaget plans to race in Madagascar in September. In 2015, he has his sights set on Cambodia and maybe Ecuador.
“In the next year or two, I’ll start to rethink things — as Mother Nature enters the picture,” he said.
Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.