The Last Desert (Antarctica) is underway, but not without difficulty

RacingThePlanet’s Last Desert race held in Antarctica is traditionally the most difficult of all their events. Not because of the cold and the snow, but because of the unpredictability of the weather.

Stage One on King George Island was on hold because of really strong winds, but eventually got underway much later in the day which meant a late finish. Competitors had 9 hours to see how many full 14.5km loops they could do, but at least the race had begun which was a relief for the 56 racers who had been on the boat for 3 days, cooped up and psyched for the race to begin.

Ryan Sandes from South Africa, whose goal is to win this race thereby becoming the first competitor to win all 4 Deserts in the same year, was leading by one hour at the end of Stage 1 still had time to admire the landscape: “The scenery was insane and it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever run in. While running I could see birds flying everywhere, frozen blue lakes and never ending white frozen landscapes. There were times I forgot I was running a race… “

Most competitors only got to bed at midnight after Stage 1, so a 4 a.m. start for Stage 2  was going to be quite a challenge.

They were awoken at 4 a.m. but only to be told that the start was delayed again due to strong winds. At 8 they were re-awoken with the news that the race was going to begin at 11 and was expected to last 15 hours. It was stopped almost immediately because of a storm moving in and the competitors repaired to the boat to sit out the blizzard. It continued later in the day.

Stage 3 was held on Deception Island in conditions of light snowfall and wind. The situation is unique – it is in the crater of an extinct volcano and so the sand, where you can see it, is black, otherwise everything else is blindingly white. The stage was planned to last until 21:00 if the weather held. “Four seasons in one day!” is how Mary Gadams described yesterday’s weather on Deception Island, but ultra-marathoners are a breed apart and the race was completed with Ryan Sandes still holding a compelling lead over Italian Paolo Barghini.

The top three in the women’s section  are closely stacked: Diana Hogan-Murphy of Ireland, Samantha Gash of Australia and Mirjana Pellizzer of Croatia are fighting it out.

The competition, like all RacingThePlanet events, is scheduled to take place over seven days and some 250 kilometers. Unlike the previous events this one is entirely reliant on the weather! it is a world class extreme sporting event.

Competitors must carry all their own equipment and food, and are only provided with water and a place in a tent each day. However they are supported by professional medical and operations teams.

The 4th Stage involves a 14 hour crossing to Dorian Bay, and it’s hoped that the race will begin between 09:00 and 10:00. ..

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