re-sized SR Desert photo 4

Testing both strength and stamina under the Sahara sun…

The Sahara Race, a seriously extreme endurance race, has got off to an excellent start…

At the start of the race special recognition was given to Alasdair Morrison of Scotland and Ji Sung Yoo of South Korea, the only competitors in the race who have completed all the 4 Deserts. However five more competitors will join the 4 Deserts Club, if they complete this current Sahara Race.

The oldest competitor, 74-year-old Jack Denness of the UK, said: “It is fantastic to be here. I love it. It is great for my ego as even the front runners give me lots of respect because of my age.”

Whilst we wined and dined most of a blissful sunny Sunday away, 130 intrepid adventurers set off under clear blue Sahara skies on a sandy, rocky route that had been classified as moderate.

“The magic of the famous White Desert will be only the beginning of many memorable moments in the Sahara Race.” – said course director, Carlos Garcia Prieto of Spain, and indeed it was. Special permission was needed to be allowed to camp in this very special place.

SR Desert photo 4.jpg

Canada’s Trailwinders team member Lara Rintoul said: “Its so beautiful out there I’m happy not to run, as powering along head down would mean I wouldn’t see it. We’ll never be back here so we have to ensure we take it all in and enjoy it.”

The winner of the Atacama Crossing 2009, Canada’s Mehmet Danis, led the field on the first day clearly determined to make his mark early on in this event. Crossing the finish line he said: “It was a nice first half but after the third checkpoint the soft sand and heat really got to me and I slowed.”

Tobias Frenz of Germany has taken second place. He said: “The first 10km was easy then you hit the sand. I really went for it in the last 5km.” Christian Schiester of Austria is the third man across the line.

Erica Terblanche of South Africa was the first woman to complete the first stage after a very strong first day performance. Erica is a former world class adventure racer with an impressive track record in endurance running as well. She now works in the financial sector in London and when asked what her colleagues think of her unusual passion for endurance sports (she recently completed a 10,000km cycle expedition across South East Asia) she said,  “People at work have been trying to reconcile what I’m like for 20 years. I have a briefcase in one hand and a surf board in the other!”

Team Trifecta were the first team to finish.

Some competitors lost time earlier in the day because of navigational errors and the harshness of the race, the environment, and the conditions took their toll on some of the entrants and Alain Wehbi of France, Erik de Haart of Australia and  Patrick Griggs of the USA withdrew.

As night fell at the end of the first day, glow sticks were placed on the course to guide the last competitors in.

Last to come in were Jack Denness and Karen Dockwray of the UK in high spirits. As they crossed the line, 74-year-old Jack joked: “Sorry we were so long, we stopped off for a honeymoon.”

Many competitors found the first day very tough and the medical tent was busier than normal. Several people needed treatment with IV drips… Everyone was happy to sit, relax, draw breath and enjoy the excellent cuisine:

Tongue in cheek I have to admit!!!

Stage 2 has got off to a good start with Austria’s Christian Schiester leading at the first checkpoint of the day, though he’s only seconds ahead of Canada’s Mehmet Danis and Tobias Frenz of Germany…

And whilst the competitors are slogging it through the sand, the event organisers are having a little fun:

With thanks to racingtheplanet for the videos and the photograph. If you have taken the time to watch the 3 videos you will have got a very good impression of the atmosphere out there: the joie de vivre, the camaraderie, the mood of this singular event…

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