RacingThePlanet 4 Deserts Ultramarathon

A couple of days ago we alerted you to the fact that the RacingThePlanet Namibia endurance race was about to begin, so today we decided to remind you about the other great – in fact, perhaps the greatest of all the extreme endurance races – ultramarathon which has already started … but still has one helluva distance to go.

The Four Deserts Ultramarathon involves a six-day, 150-mile walk across each of the following: the Gobi, the Sahara, and the Atacama in Chile.

Only by completing those three can participants take part in the final stage, a walk across Antarctica, known as the ‘Last Desert’ competition.

Is Antarctica a desert? With its negligible annual rainfall it is considered a desert. Strange I know, but there we go…

This year’s schedule is as follows:

March 29 – Atacama Crossing
June 14 – Gobi March
October 25 – Sahara Race
November 29 – The Last Desert (Antartica)

The 4 Deserts Ultramarathon has an interesting history. It was launched in 2002 by Mary Gadams, an American marathon runner and entrepreneur. Her Hong Kong-based company, RacingthePlanet, had initially organized just one desert race – The Gobi March. This took place in China in 2003 with 43 entrants. The following year a second venue was added – the Atacama, high in the Chilean altiplano. And the following year – desert number three, the Sahara, was added.

In 2006 it all came together with the addition of Antarctica. All four races are held in one year.

Antarctica is not only the last contest of the year, but the “final”, and eligibility must be earned.

The Atacama Crossing has already been run (March 29th), but I am going to give you a few interesting facts about the area and the race.

The Atacama Desert is the driest place on earth – 50 times more arid than California’s Death Valley. So dry, in fact, that in some places rainfall has NEVER been recorded. It’s also the world’s largest coastal desert.

Six continents were represented: Asia, Africa, Australia/New Zealand, North America, South America and Europe. The largest contingent of runners came from England with 13, followed by the USA with 12 competiters. Spain fielded its largest contingent ever with 10.

Twenty five countries were represented altogether.

The youngest competitor was Matthew J. Bradley of the United Kingdom at 23 and the eldest was Laurence J. Brophy of Wales at 77 years old. 81% of the competitors are male, 19% are female. The first-ever competitor from mainland China, 29-year-old Yumeng Liu, took part in the competition.

Three teams competed including the Gobi March 2008 champion team, Team Aranda Aventura of Spain. The other teams include Team Lleidaextrem also of Spain, and Team Andesgear / Chile.

racingtheplanet brought us this video giving you a glimpse of the competitors, the terrain, the camaraderie and the atmosphere…

68 people completed the race (A), 12 withdrew (W), 2 were unranked (U), including Brophy, which means they didn’t complete all sections of the course, and 3 are ranked (I) which means they have not yet completed the course and are still out there!!! I trust, since this race ended on 5th April, that they are now home and dry!

A couple of trivial facts to bring this article to a close:

  1. Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2009 competitors, volunteer and staff will consume more than 7,000 litres of water over seven days.
  2. The Atacama Desert has the most lunar-like landscape on Earth and is frequently used by NASA to test its Mars rover vehicles.

Next up is the Gobi March starting 14th June… more on that later.

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