26 Mar 2024


The Girls Rising group hosted four outstanding speakers on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2024. The speakers, all from very different backgrounds, told remarkable stories of overcoming challenges and how they became stronger because of it. 

Each week we introduce a different speaker. This week we meet Nicole Chik, Ultramarathon Runner. Chik explained that running in a Sahara sandstorm was like fighting against nature. 


Chik is an endurance athlete who competed in Marathon des Sables (MDS) in 2023. The race is often dubbed, the toughest footrace on Earth. It charts 250km through the Sahara and Chik took part when she was just 16 years old. 

Off the racetrack, she is devoted to social advocacy. She partnered with local charities to initiate the ‘Sands of Solidarity’ fundraiser to support marginalised groups such as refugees and human trafficking survivors, and uplift those “trapped in their own, harsh deserts.”

At the start of Chik’s presentation she asked the audience to close their eyes and swing their heads around. She explained that this is what it feels like to be disoriented in the desert. The idea of running in the desert for seven days was understandably daunting. Runners have to carry everything they need, including water and food. There are no bathrooms and competitors sleep in tents after 10-15 hours of running on sand. Plus nose bleeds and eye bleeds are common – the physical and mental challenges of this race are epic. 

Chik completed approximately 40km per day. On the first day, about 20km in to the race – a sandstorm whipped up, the sand felt like thousands of needles puncturing her skin and she was terrified for her life. All the competitors have a SOS button they can push for help. She said, “I really wanted to push the button but if I did that would mean instant disqualification. I just had to keep going. There were so many moments like that. I ran into the wind and it felt like I was fighting against nature. Sometimes you have to fight back.”

Almost everyone told Chik that she would not be able to survive in the Sahara desert. They said she was too skinny, too girly and not strong enough. She said, “Imagine if I had listened to them.” 

“Not everyone is going to agree with you. And that is ok. Everyone sees the world through a different lens. 

What matters is you – and how you react and how you feel. Whatever goal you are thinking of right now you just have to act on it. You could be the first person to do it! Why not you?”

She finished by saying,  “Make that call, send that email. You will meet so many amazing people along the way, so be open to opportunities.”