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The Atacama Crossing and the Iditarod – 2 ultra-extreme events

“Only those who risk going too far, can possibly find out how far they can go,”

Nahila Hernandez San Juan

RacingThePlanet’s first desert, the Atacama Crossing, in Chile, a grueling 250km self-supported footrace, has just ended and The Iditarod Trail is drawing to a close. These are two of the most extreme ultra-events in the world.

RacingThePlanet’s first desert, the Atacama Desert in Chile, a grueling 250km self-supported footrace, has come and gone. The Atacama, a 600 mile strip of land on the Pacific Coast, is the driest desert in the world. Finished on 12th March, and won by 29 year old Dane, Anders Jensen, in a time of 30:49:05, it was, as always, a splendid event.

“I feel awesome,” said Jensen as he crossed the finish line in the ancient town of San Pedro de Atacama. “I’m feeling much better than after winning the Sahara Race 2010. The competition was much tighter and I found this race harder.”

Samantha Fanshawe, Event Director for RacingThePlanet said, “Anders Jensen is a deserving champion and an impressive athlete. He faced stiff competition every step of this race from Martin Chinchilla, and after losing his lead in Stage 5 to Darren Nichols he really had to dig deep to maintain his position. Once again The Long March proved the key turning point of the race. “

Mexico’s Nahila Hernandez San Juan (36) won the women’s division, claiming first place with a time of 38:16:25, and 12th position overall. “Only those who risk going too far, can possibly find out how far they can go,” she said. “I’m very happy about winning the race.”

Six competitors successfully set out to finish the 4 Deserts series, which, including the Atacama, are the Gobi March (China), the Sahara Race (Egypt) and The Last Desert (Antarctica). The new members of the prestigious 4 Deserts Club are: Diego Carvajal (27), Lucy Tang (43), Mayuko Okabe (29), Alain Webbi (42), Devrim Celal (40) and Thaddeus Lawrence (38).

110 people started the race and 87 finished, but there are no losers in a race like this… getting to the start line can already be classified a win!

In the meantime the Iditarod is underway and has been fiercely fought with the first runners home and dry in Nome with John Baker, Ramey Smyth and Hans Gatt coming in first, second and third. 10 runners in total have come in to Nome, there are still 38 out there but closing in fast. 14 have withdrawn. Lance Mackey, who has won the past 4 consecutive races, is lying in 16th place at the moment. He is out of White Mountain and just has to pass the checkpoint at Safety before he reaches Nome.

John Baker’s win was enthusiastically welcomed and ensured that this Iditarod would be remembered for several reasons. Firstly, it has returned the Iditarod championship to a village in rural Alaska. Secondly, it has brought to an end Lance Mackey’s astounding 4 year reign – an achievement that will probably never be bettered. Thirdly, John set a new record of 8 days 18 hours 46 minutes and 39 seconds which shattered the previous race record for the fastest time from Anchorage to Nome.

And finally, Ramey Smyth who chased John to the posts, is the son of  Bud Smyth who competed in the very first Iditarod in 1973. With the passing of the torch from one generation to the next, the dream of Joe Redington Sr, the volunteers and the mushers that successfully pulled off that first Iditarod has been achieved. The dream was to bring attention to the important role that sled dogs played in the history of the North and to rekindle the interest of sled dogs in the rural villages of Alaska, where the arrival of the snow machine was slowly causing sled dog kennels to disappear.

This year’s race has been much easier than in previous years. The lack of precipitation has kept the trail fast, much faster than the mushers have been used to in former races.

The race is not over yet – 38 mushers are still striving for the finish line… Making it to Nome is what every musher wants, but every person who attempts the Iditarod is a winner, whether they finish or not. They dared to dream… and for that we commend them.

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2 Responses to “The Atacama Crossing and the Iditarod – 2 ultra-extreme events”

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  1. RacingThePlanet’s ultra marathon season is beginning again | Xtremesport - 2012 | 8 February

    […] Atacama is an area of outstanding beauty. So strange and alien is it that in recent years, NASA has been […]

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