RTP’s The Last Desert – Antarctica is less than a week away

Every single entrant in this race, and there are 56 of them, must have completed at least 2 of the other Desert races – Atacama, Gobi and/or Sahara. Some will have done the 5th one too – this year that was Kimberley in Australia.

Now all that remains for the supreme test of endurance and stamina is the invitation only Last Desert (Antarctica) race.

22 Nations will be represented and it is an incredibly talented field. Some of the world’s best endurance athletes will be there.

Ultra-running superstar Ryan Sandes (28) of South Africa and Sahara Race 2009 champion Paolo Barghini (50) of Italy start as favourites for the race title, in a field that includes five other competitors who have finished in the top 10 in at least one other 4 Deserts event.

Leading the charge for the women are Mirjana Pellizzer (47) of Croatia who was placed second in the Gobi March 2008, Sahara Race 2008 and Atacama Crossing 2009, and Diana Hogan-Murphy (33) of Ireland who won the Gobi March 2009 and was placed third in the Atacama Crossing 2010.

The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2010 also represents the final challenge in a year-long campaign for 9 competitors still hoping to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam.

At the beginning of the year there were 14 people, of which 3 were women, who intended to go for The Grand Slam Challenge. There are still 9 remaining in the field including the 3 women, Linda Quirk (57) of the United States, Lucy Rivers-Bulkeley (33) of the United Kingdom and Samantha Gash (26) of Australia. The kudos for completing this last challenge gives membership to the exclusive 4 Deserts Club. There are only 48 people in that Club so far…

Competition levels have been extremely high this year. For the first time ever there are two competitors, Stan Lee (50) of Canada and Peter Jong (35) of Australia, who began the year with the intention of  completing all 1,250km of RacingThePlanet’s events. Only The 4th Desert (Antarctica) eludes them and that comes up on the 17th of this month.

“The Last Desert this year promises to be an outstanding race. The pressure is very much on Ryan Sandes as he set himself the goal to become the first in the world to win all 4 Deserts as well as being crowned 4 Deserts Champion,” said Mary K Gadams, RacingThePlanet’s founder and CEO.

This event is the only multi-stage footrace to be held on the continent. The 6 stages take place over 7 days, with competitors traveling by ship between course locations that are dictated by the prevailing sea, ice and general weather conditions.

“The terrain and weather conditions can derail the finest athletes, it’s not just about having the legs to run all day, it’s about being able to keep going through knee-deep snow, with a blizzard blowing in your face, at minus 20 degrees Celsius whilst having your feet encased in snowshoes, and your body wrapped in layers of thick Arctic-weather clothing. This is where everything these competitors have learnt in the other 4 Deserts comes into play, but they have to adapt that to a completely new environment.”

Remember that all the other events are held in searing heat. It might be summertime down in the Southern Hemisphere – but that doesn’t make much difference to the freezing conditions down at the Pole.

And the Charity that RTP will be supporting down there? RacingThePlanet’s formula is to help the people in the region that they are holding an event in. Not many people down in that part of the world! But there is always something that needs help and for this event RTP will be making a donation in support of Project Kaisei / Ocean Voyages Institute.

Project Kaisei, the ocean clean up initiative of Ocean Voyages Institute, is based in Sausalito, California and Hong Kong, and was established to increase the understanding and the scale of marine debris, its impact on the ocean environment, and what solutions can be introduced for both prevention and clean up.

A worthy cause indeed.

Good luck to the competitors and the organisers in the forthcoming days. It’s going to be a tough race on everyone. But certainly best of luck to all 56 runners.

We leave you with this cautionary video from Google Earth Hero: Project Kaisei:

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