34-year-old Manika Gamble has etched her name in history by becoming the first African American woman to complete the 155-mile Namib Race. This seven-day, self-supported event takes place in Namibia’s ancient Namib Desert, the oldest desert in the world.

Born in Hawaii and now residing in Atlanta, Georgia, Gamble’s journey into running began in her middle school physical education class. Encouraged by her teacher’s praise, she joined the track team, sparking a lifelong passion for the sport. Gamble’s running career evolved from middle school hurdles and sprints to college-level competitions, ultimately transitioning to ultra-long distances post-graduation.

The Ultimate Namib Desert Challenge

Gamble was inspired to tackle the Namib Desert race by a YouTube series showcasing the event’s breathtaking yet formidable course. Captivated by the challenge, she started an intensive eight-month training regimen that included running, weightlifting, swimming, and hill sprints. Preparation also involved psychological conditioning as she braced herself for the extreme physical and mental demands of the race.

Despite her rigorous preparation, Gamble faced numerous challenges during the race. The Namib Desert’s harsh conditions pushed her to the limit, with temperatures soaring to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Early in the race, Gamble’s gators were damaged, leading to severe blisters that caused excruciating pain. However, her resilience and mental fortitude saw her through these dark moments.

“I learned that I’m much tougher than I thought I was,” Gamble told ESSENCE. “Getting through some of those very moments showed me that I have a certain level of pain tolerance that I didn’t know I had and also a mental fortitude that I didn’t quite know I had.”

Manika Gamble’s Plans For The Future

After returning to her Atlanta home for some well-deserved rest, Gamble is already contemplating her next adventure. She has her sights set on conquering all four deserts in the Racing the Planet series, which includes the Namib, Gobi, Atacama, and Antarctica races. Through her GoFundMe campaign, Gamble hopes to raise funds to cover the costs associated with these races. She also wants to support local initiatives, such as Namibia’s Helping Hands Sandwich Tours program.