It’s probably safe to bet that few people can immediately pinpoint the Saryesik-Atyrau Desert, in eastern Kazakhstan, on a map.
But on Monday, Jamie Maddison was scheduled to begin a 100-mile, 24-hour ultramarathon — what Mr. Maddison, a 29-year-old British explorer, said would be the first such effort on foot there. “The place is quite special in terms of space,” he said. “It’s so open, big and broad. There’s something very unique about the endless steppe that goes on and on.”
Mr. Maddison, who is documenting his journey online, is part of the Challenger Program, a project created by the British watchmaker Christopher Ward in 2013. Past Challengers include Samantha Kinghorn, a wheelchair racer from Scotland who won two gold medals in July at the World Para Athletics Championships in London, and a team of climbers who scaled mountains in Kyrgyzstan last summer.
The program is for “young people who have potential but don’t have a silver spoon in terms of either an easy life or getting major sponsorship deals,” said Mike France, one of three men who established the watch company in 2005. In addition to funding, which Mr. France described as in the “single-digit thousands,” participants have access to the company’s marketing team and are given one of its watches.
Mr. Maddison, who works in digital marketing when he is not training or on an adventure, is using the money to rent a logistical support vehicle for the trek and to pay the travel expenses of a longtime expedition partner and a photographer. His only other companion will be a Christopher Ward C60 Trident COSC 600, the watch he received through Challenger.
He said the watch was more useful than a GPS timepiece with the latest wizardry: It doesn’t have a battery that can run out, and it’s useful for navigating by the sun, as he will in the desert.
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