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Auldern Academy
Pittsboro, NC

Richard Williams

December 9, 2005

Headmaster Finishes Fifth In A Daring Desert Run

Pittsboro, NC—Auldern Headmaster, Will Laughlin, recently completed the Sahara Race, one of the most difficult running races in the world. The grueling stage race covered 150 miles over several days with temperatures regularly reaching 125 degrees. Laughlin and his fellow athletes trudged through deep sand while carrying an entire week’s supply of gear and food on their backs (an average of 25 pounds).

Laughlin, a newcomer to the sport of ultra running, placed fifth overall and first in his age group (40 – 49) in a field that included professional endurance athletes and former Olympians. “I’m still shocked,” he said after the race. “I worked hard to prepare, but my goal was to just to finish the thing.”

Laughlin used the run to raise scholarships for the Blanton Scholarship, which provides college funds to graduates of therapeutic schools and programs owned by Three Springs, Inc., . Laughlin runs Auldern Academy, a girls’ boarding school located in North Carolina. Auldern works with college-bound girls who want solid academics as well as counseling support for such things as depression, eating disorders, or anxiety.

At the start of longest stage of the race, which covered fifty miles, Laughlin asked for some advice from champion ultra-marathoner Lisanne Dorian. “She looked at me intently for a moment just before the gun went off,” Laughlin recalls, “it looked as if she was searching for something profound to say. All she said was, ‘do what you do best.’ That’s it, that’s all she said, but it made perfect sense. My talent, if I have one, is to creep—to run slowly without stopping. Some of the elite runners would combine fast running with walking, so they’d start each day at a fast pace. I would start way back in the pack every day and wouldn’t start passing people until about the last quarter of the stage. Classic tortoise-style racing. It was tempting to try to do something different on that long day, to try to keep up with the hares off the start, but instead, I took Lisanne’s advice. I kept saying my little mantra over and over, ‘creep, creep, creep’. It worked.”

Laughlin says that that advice applies to life in general and is equally easy to forget in school, in work, and in life in general. “I try to emphasize this with the kids I work with. They tend to want to spend the majority of their energy trying to fix the things in their life they see as deficits or obstacles. They get fixated on those things and try obsessively, even angrily, to overcome them. I tell them to look for those things that come easily. They’re the things they tend not to pay attention to or value; ‘that’s easy’ they say. ‘Easy for you,” ‘I respond,’ “and that’s how you know it’s your gift. Capitalize on your gift. Spend your energy developing that.”

The Blanton Foundation is still accepting donations on behalf of the Sahara Race. For more information, contact Laughlin directly. Information about Auldern Academy.

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