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Stage Updates

Pre-Race Update: October 4 2014


There was an air of excitement and energy pervading the quaint town of San Pedro de Atacama this morning as 163 competitors from 36 countries came together in this final day before the 10th anniversary edition of the Atacama Crossing opens.


Many had been here for several days, experiencing Chilean life and dining in the local restaurants. “It was my first time experiencing chocolate sauce on steak, a heavenly combination!” said Ireland's Ruthann Sheahan.


“San Pedro is an incredibly chilled out and very welcoming place,” said British competitor Paul Smith who is based in Singapore where he works as a lawyer. “It’s a good place to put your feet up for a couple of days before running across the desert.”


Gathering around the glistening pool of the Hotel de San Pedro this morning, 4 Deserts Founder Mary Gadams led the competitor briefing with Samantha Fanshawe and Alina Prendville of the 4 Deserts offering more information on the coming week’s racing. It was a scene of keen anticipation, with competitors eager to get out into the wilderness and start the challenge.


Special mention was made of several competitors in this year’s race including the blind athlete Vladmi dos Santos of Brail who is taking part in the Atacama Crossing for a second time, this time with his guide Erin Leighty of the United States. There was also mention of the 23 people taking on the 4 Deserts Grand Slam, an attempt to finish all of the desert races in one calendar year.


Once the briefing ended it was time for the competitor check in, where bags were checked for all mandatory items. The lightest pack of the day belonged to Sweden’s Edward Hult who works for EF Education First in the United States; his bag weighed in at a mere 5.5-kilograms. At the other end of the scales was Hirotomo Yoshizawa, an engineer from Toyko and first-time 4 Deserts competitor, who had the heaviest pack at 15-kilograms.


By the afternoon, competitors were boarding buses and heading out on a two-hour journey through stunning desert scenery with vast mountain ranges and river crossings. The sun had been out all day in clear skies with temperatures opening in the morning at 30 Celsius and rising to 38 degrees in the sun by noon.


By the time everyone arrived at the first campsite, the temperatures had cooled significantly to 20 Celsius. Tonight’s first campsite is named Rio Grand and lies at the altitude of 3,300 meters in the Arcoiris Valley—named after its rainbow-colored hills spanning iron red, sulfur yellow, blue green and gypsum white.


The mood at the camp has been happy and upbeat, with competitors taking photographs of themselves against the backdrop of the 100-meter peaks in all four directions. Right now, they are at the highest point of the course—and throughout the week will be gradually descending in altitude. 

Tomorrow’s opening stage, Navigation by Rock, is a 36.2-kilometer course opening with a difficult opening section of undulating terrain before moving through more moderate sections of rolling hills and a dry gorge. Competitors will experience a total elevation gain of 245 meters and an elevation loss of 973 meters throughout the day. The stage begins at 8am.


Stage 1 Update: 5 October 2014

Chema Fernandez and Emily Woodland Win Stage 1


The Spanish double Olympian, Jose Manuel "Chema" Martinez Fernandez, has won the opening stage of the Atacama Crossing, finishing today’s opening 36.2-kilometer course at 11:18:47.


This is Chema’s third 4 Deserts race of the year as he takes on the 4 Deserts Grand Slam. “The first two hours I felt good, because I took it easy on the hills and rocks,” explained the Spaniard as he came over the line. “For the last hour I decided to go faster. My legs felt heavy in the final four kilometers.”


In second place was Herbert Lehner of Austria, a first time 4 Deserts racer who finished at 12:04:24. He was followed by British competitor Jonty Cowan in third position at 12:09:20. When asked how he was feeling, Cowan—who is racing in his first 4 Deserts race here in Chile—said he was: “Surprised! For the past few weeks, I would seal up a room, turn on fan heaters for an hour, then train on a turbo trainer.”  


British competitor Emily Woodland put in a tremendous performance in the women’s division, coming across the line at 12:22:58—in a remarkable fifth place overall. This is Woodland’s third 4 Deserts race. Second-placed woman was Ireland's Ruthann Sheahan who finished at 12:33:37, followed by London’s Catherine Simpson at 12:56:30.


The day awoke early after cool temperatures overnight. The evening wind had fortunately died down with temperatures falling to approximately 10 degrees Celsius and dipping down to 5 degrees Celsius just before dawn.


The atmosphere at camp this morning was relaxed and excited. Competitors were huddling around the campfire in the morning, sipping on coffee and eating all manner of warming meals.


Sweden's Edward Hult and Italian competitor Marco Giordano were found standing outside their sleeping bags and saying “I think these weren’t rated low enough.” To which, the avid outdoorsman Jonathan Mills replied, “No such thing as cold weather: only inappropriate clothing.”


By 8am, the 160 competitors were gathered at the start line amid the glowing red landscape of this otherworldly setting.


Today’s course was a 36.2-kilometer winding journey down through canyons and spectacular rock formations, with loose gravel and larger rocks serving as the running surface. Competitors were able to run beside petroglyphs dating back to the Incas—and many said they were amazed by this setting.


“I haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Danish competitor Johnny Nielsen. “It’s beautiful. I took 250 pictures today!”


It was a stunning day with clear skies and slight gusts of wind offsetting the bright sun to a comfortable 28 degrees Celsius in the shade.


However, the combination of altitude and hot air packed into the canyons made for a tough opening stage. The overall change of altitude during the day was 3,263-meters to 2,627-meters—and the last four kilometers featured a particularly difficult uphill section until past Checkpoint 3.


Poland's Andrzej Gondek—who is taking on the Grand Slam here in Chile—said he found the course challenging. “I thought the first day at only 36-kilometers would be easy, but I was wrong; the heat and terrain were very hard today.”


Competitors appeared over the finish line throughout the afternoon, with the final competitor Shigeru Tomiyama arriving at 18:50pm—at which point, every single person in the camp dropped everything they were doing and headed over to applaud his perseverance and running spirit. 


The general mood tonight at camp has been a mixture of cheerfulness and general bewilderment at just how hard this opening stage was, considering that it was the first day and a shorter distance—yet such are the effects of the high altitude in the Atacama Desert.


Tonight’s camp, titled Inca, is located above Salar de Atacama, with a spectacular view of the mountain range, Volcan Licancabur, glowing in the distance. People glance over the landscape as they type their blogs about the difficult yet rewarding day behind them.


Tomorrow’s second stage, The Slot Canyons, moves by the Rio Grande River and Dead Valley to “Laguna Cejar” in the Salar de Atacama—the largest salt flat in Chile. It is a 44.8-kilometer course opening with difficult sections and finishing with a moderate 20-kilometers through varied terrain. 

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Stage 2 Update: 6 October 2014

Frontrunners Sustain Lead In The Slot Canyons

Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez of Spain has kept his strong lead in the second stage of the Atacama Crossing, crossing over the finish line in first place today at 12:30:16.

There were changes in the field behind him, however, with British competitor Jonty Cowan moving ahead to finish in second place with a time of 13:26:41.

He was closely followed by Felix Allen—also of the United Kingdom—who completed the course at 13:31:31.

Emily Woodbury of the United Kingdom sustained her incredible pace, holding onto her role as first placed female again today with a finishing time of 13:47:53.

Ireland’s Ruthann Sheahan has also kept in steady second place, completing the course at 14:00:01. British competitor Catherine Simpson came in third at 14:45:09.

The stage opened this morning with clear skies and cool temperatures, although slightly warmer than yesterday. Competitors seemed to have rested well, with warmer overnight conditions and a minimum of just 10 degrees Celsius. While many competitors were quiet this morning, they were nonetheless eager to start the day’s stage.

As competitors jostled around the starting line at 8am, Emily Woodland was given her leader’s bib as well as race leader, “Chema” Martinez Fernandez. We overheard someone say to a friend, “As an Olympian, he should start with a time penalty to give us at least a chance!”

Today’s course opened with a run down to a canyon, followed by a cold river crossing of about 500 meters. The runners had to be very careful to avoid slipping and losing glasses or hats or soaking their backpacks. “The river was cold,” said women’s leader, Emily Woodland. “It definitely woke me up!”

“The first two to three hours, with the river crossing, were phenomenal,” said British competitor, David Shakrob. “It was beyond beautiful.”

Wet shoes and shorts quickly dried however as runners approached the Salar de Atacama – the famed salt flats. From here, any coolness from the water soon evaporated. “I think there’s steam coming off my feet,” said Ruthann Sheahan as she later came into a checkpoint.

A highlight of the stage was running down enormous sand dunes. People let loose and joyfully ran down them, laughing all the way down. However, next they had to contend with the final kilometers until “the last tree in the desert,” which involved moving through an exposed, hot environment.

Many competitors said it was a particularly hard part of the day. “That was a tough day,” said Steven Shapland. “There were some really tough climbs out there.”

The final competitor over the line and heading into camp was Mariano Burundarena of Argentina.

Camp 3 is set up on Laguna Cejar and overlooking two salt flat lakes— with sweeping vistas of mountains on four sides.. The shallow, salt-water pools are fed by sinkholes—adding more otherworldly beauty.

The mood at camp has been more subdued this evening, perhaps because of the heat of the day. However, once everyone cooled down, people became more chatty. The camp layout is intimate tonight, with tents closer to each other and groups of people huddled around, talking and laughing. With a pleasant nighttime temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, people are wearing shorts at night for the first time.

With the withdrawals of the day, a total of 146 competitors now remain in the race. Tomorrow, they face the third stage. Named The Atacamerios Trail, it is a 40.6-kilometer course through the flat area of the salar and through Laguna Liona. Competitors will see a total elevation gain of 261 meters and a loss of 150 meters.
Stage 3 Update: 7 October 2014

The Challenging Atacamenos Trail

The Spanish double Olympian, Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez, has managed to keep his strong lead in the third stage of the Atacama Crossing—despite the difficulty of the day’s course and high temperatures. He finished the 40.6 kilometer route today at 12:32:35.

There was a slight reshuffle behind him at the front, with Austrian competitor Herbert Lehner pulling ahead to finish the course in second place at 13:16:05. Jonty Cowan of the United Kingdom took third spot at 13:28:08

In the women’s division, Emily Woodland and Catherine Simpson came over the finish line hand-in-hand, finishing the day’s demanding racing together at 14:21:38.

Ireland's Ruthann Sheahan finished just half an hour later at 14:51:19 while Mexico’s Isis Breiter was the third-placed woman over the line today.

It has been a challenging day’s racing for many. Competitors awoke this morning after a warm evening that became much colder in the dawn light. Competitors were huddled around the fire in the morning as they waited for the 7:30am briefing. During this briefing, it was advised that if anybody wasn’t feeling confident, they shouldn’t run as this third stage would be hard.

Dubbed The Atacamenos Trail, it was a demanding 40.6 kilometer route. A total of 143 set out from the 8am starting line and along an exposed road. From here they ventured into cracked, off-road dirt and crusty mud that was filled with thick, low underbrush. The area had once been a lake after the ice age and it proved to be tough to run on, as feet would break the crust and sink in with every step.

As British lawyer Jonty Cowan, pointed out: “I actually looked at the camp cars going by and thought how stupid I am to be running here when there is this nice paved road right next to me.”

But then came the oasis, which provided a brief and much needed respite for eyes that were tired of looking at the bright sand—with lush vegetation to inspire the senses. “The oasis was nice,” said Felix Allen of the United Kingdom. “Lots of greenery, it felt like being in a jungle for a brief while.”

But as racers soon come to realize, this lush area was located at the very bottom of a canyon, meaning that there was a steep and challenging climb back up again.

From the top, competitors made their way across sand dunes, with the last section made harder by intermittent views of the camp while cresting each successive dune along the cliffs.

The course ended with an extremely steep, 150-meter uphill section, with the finish line right at the top. Loud cheers were heard throughout the camp as each person scrambled up the incline and crossed under the banner.

The last finisher of the day was Frank Pearce of the United States who finished at 19:19:35.

There were 140 finishers of the 143 competitors who started this morning. One of these withdrawals was Heather Bond of the United States who is here to raise money for charity with her brother Ian. “Regardless whether I’m running or not, it will be me supporting my brother all the way,” she said.

By the time all the competitors arrived at the Volcan Licancabur campsite, the Cybertent was offering music for the first time—allowing everyone to relax and enjoy the time writing to their family and friends back home.

The difficulty of today’s stage was clear from the campsite filled with people hobbling and shuffling around. The temperatures were also high, reaching around 40 degrees Celsius at Checkpoint 3.

Yet despite this, there were fewer withdrawals than yesterday—revealing how people are starting to acclimatize and get into the flow of this race.

By the time the sun left the sky, people were moving into their tents early in order to get a strong night’s sleep. Tomorrow’s Stage 4 is called The Infamous Salt Flats, and as the title suggests, includes sections through the Salar de Atacama. It is a 44.2 kilometer course and will start at 8am.

Stage 4 Update: 8 October 2014

Front of the Race Tightens Amid The Infamous Salt Flats

Jose Manuel (Chema) Martinez Fernandez has won the fourth stage of the Atacama Crossing, coming over the finish line at 13:09:22 today.

He was followed very closely by second-placed Herbert Lehner of Austria—a first-time 4 Deserts racer—who finished just ten minutes behind Chema at 13:22:13, making the gap between the frontrunners much closer.

Jonty Cowan of the United Kingdom held steady in third place, finishing the 44.2-kilometer course at 13:35:04. “That was the hardest six kilometers of my life,” said Cowan as he came over the line.

The women’s field was equally compelling with Emily Woodland keeping her lead and completing the course at 14:07:17. She was followed just ten minutes later by Ireland's Ruthann Sheahan at 14:17:20.

The third-placed woman was Catherine Simpson at 14:26:36. As she came over the line, she commented on how one’s sense of time and distance seems to change in this landscape.

“If you were in the United Kingdom and looked over there,” she said, pointing. “It would be about one mile, but the Atacama seems to bend time.”

The day opened this morning following a pleasant night with temperatures around 10 to 14 Celsius with some wind. There was also the extraordinary opportunity to watch the lunar eclipse from the camp—in one of the most alien settings on our planet.

Then, a total of 138 competitors gathered for the 8am start. When asked if he was ready for this stage, South Africa’s Paul Gillot said, “As ready as one could be. Ready for Checkpoint one, then ready for Checkpoint two, and so on until the finish.”

Today’s course, named The Infamous Salt Flats, was a mostly flat route featuring exposed terrain all the way through. This stage is known as the “mental stage,” since the relatively easy and flat terrain makes the day challenging in terms of sustaining one’s motivation.

“Today I ran as if there was only me and the heat,” said Zachary Goldman of Spain.

As the course title suggested, the salt flats were the hardest part of the course; competitors were met with a 14-kilometer a hot stretch of crusty, barren land before arriving at Checkpoint 3. Race leader Chema of Spain commented that it was very hot and difficult—as evidenced in the gap closing behind him on this stage.

Claude Begin of Quebec meanwhile said, “I trained for this by running on the beach, intentionally going into the sea water and back onto sand again. I was still surprised at how hard the course was.”

The day’s total elevation loss was 2,453 to 2,315 meters—with a total of 131 finishers.  Temperatures had varied from 10-14 degrees Celsius in the morning and 31 Celsius in the shade in the afternoon and reaching 41 degrees Celsius in the sun.  

The final competitors into camp were Lourens Roets of South Africa, Paul Gillot of South Africa, Leo Fang of China, Samantha Harper of Canada, Frank Pearce of the United Kingdom and Kim Sellentin of Australia.

Australian competitor Michael Thomas said the highlight of the day for him was, “Taking my shoes off and realizing there was no sand in them!”

It was also the 40th birthday of New Zealand's Inia Raumati today—who managed to come in 40th place. A doctor from New Zealand, Raumati was sung to as he arrived at all the Checkpoints during the day, which was entertaining for all around him.

This evening, competitors were eagerly checking in with their families on their blogs and reading the latest results. There is a strong and concentrated field in this year’s race, with most competitors running well out on the course and everyone at camp looking strong and fresh considering the distance they have already covered.

As the evening progressed, the campsite became progressively quieter as people mentally prepared for The Long March tomorrow. Stage 5 is a 77.8-kilometer course that may see competitors continuing overnight.  It begins at 8am.

Stage 5 Update Part 2: 10 October 2014

Festive Atmosphere at Final Campsite

The Long March came to a close at 08:10 this morning—two hours before the cut-off time—as the final competitor, Mike Smith of the United Kingdom, crossed the finish line just over 24 hours after the start of the 77.8 kilometer course. 

It had been a long stage for many as they crossed the otherworldly setting of the Atacama Desert at night, pushing their bodies to extraordinary new frontiers, with just the moon and glow sticks illuminating their way. Cheering for the finishers continued throughout the overnight stage, with drumming, music and loud encouragement offered to racers as they moved into sight and the final few hundred meters. Volunteers danced to keep themselves warm in the chilly desert air. 

The results are now online, showing racer leader Chema Martinez Fernandez nearly five hours ahead of the field. Emily Woodland has also put in an extraordinary result, so far coming in fifth overall position as well as first-placed woman. For many here today, it was simply the joy at finishing this arduous stage. 

Competitors spent the day relaxing in the sun and making the most of the scenery all around them at this final campsite next to Moon Valley. Last blogs from the field were sent, with some Long March finishers getting very emotional, with tears falling as they read their latest messages of encouragement from family and friends willing them on from all around the world.

 In the evening, founder of the 4 Deserts Race Series Mary Gadams brought out a special Atacama Crossing birthday cake, which was positively devoured in a matter of seconds after being cut. Competitors literally jumped at the opportunity to supplement their emptied-out food resources with this much-deserved treat. It was hard to believe how quickly they grouped about the table and then quickly dispersed, leaving nothing but crumbs.

 The atmosphere in the evening remained cheerful, with lots of happy chatter about both the experience of the past week and what tomorrow morning will bring. A pleasant warm breeze of around 20 Celsius and an extremely clear, starry sky is making this a beautiful last camp night.

Tomorrow’s final stage is called Final Footsteps to San Pedro. It is a timed stage and a 9.3 kilometer course through the Moon Valley and then into the square of San Pedro de Atacama for the finish line.


Stage 5 Update Part 1: 9 October 2014

Race Leaders Complete The Long March

The Spanish double Olympian has done it. Chema Martinez Fernandez won The Long March this afternoon, completing the 77.8 kilometer course with a time of 7:55:24.

“Today I feel better,” he said as he came over the finish line. “In the final stage, I wanted to run under eight hours and I did. I want to run with the best in the world and now in the long races in the desert I feel good.”

Herbert Lehner of Austria was the second over the line, finishing with a time of 9:16:01. He was followed an hour later by Jonty Cowan and Félix Allen who arrived in joint third position with a time of 10:10:42. “I can't believe we're here,” said Allen. “That was long!”

In the women's category, Emily Woodland and Cat Simpson—both British racers—arrived over the line hand-in-hand with fellow Brit James Watkins in sixth position overall and an impressive time of 10:54:30. The three shared an emotional hug at the finish line.

The 77.8-kilometer Long March started at 8:00 this morning with 129 competitors heading out into the challenging course. They have been moving through a range of amazing scenery, from moon-like valleys to sand dunes and endless plateaus whitened by salt crust and pure Atacama Desert.

After the race leaders arrived in the afternoon, there has been a steady flow of people appearing over the line. Many competitors are still out on the course now—moving under the glowing light of the full moon. They will be continuing through the night; all are now between Checkpoint 4 and Checkpoint 7 and camp.

It has been a day of truly positive spirits throughout the course. The mood at camp is festive with drums and music playing at the finish line where competitors are congregating to cheer their friends and fellow racers over the finish line to much cheering and applause.

British competitor Jonathan Mills came over the line and said it has been the hardest week of his life. He lay down on the mat in the checkpoint tent to rest after finishing.

Other competitors are sitting around the campfire eating, telling stories about the day and soaking up the warm rays of the fire. The camp has been designed in the shape of the number 10 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the race.

Part 2 of this update will be posted when all the competitors complete the course on Friday.

Stage 6 Update: 11 October 2014
Chema Martinez Fernandez and Emily Woodland Win Atacama Crossing 2014
The tenth anniversary edition of the Atacama Crossing came to a celebratory close in the town of San Pedro de Atacama today with Spain’s extraordinary double Olympian, Jose Manuel "Chema" Martinez Fernandez, completing the 250 kilometer course with an overall time of 25:57:58.
“I feel good,” he said as he crossed the line. “This race was harder than the other deserts so far, cold at night and hot in the day, and everyday there was a surprise. But it was the most special to me and it was my favorite, I think because I enjoyed the moment; the running, the camp, the people. My experience with the 4 Deserts has been fantastic: where is the Roving Race next year?”
Emily Woodland won the women’s division, coming in as fifth overall and gaining a time of 34:18:39. The British racer has proved herself to be a force to be reckoned with here in the Atacama.
Coming in second place overall was Herbert Lehner of Austria, who was competing in his first 4 Deserts race and finished the course with a time of 30:54:58. He was followed by Jonty Cowan of the United Kingdom, with a time of 31:31:07.
Second-placed woman, Catherine Simpson of the United Kingdom, finished with an overall time of 36:09:06. “This is the first of the 4 Desert races I had a pleasure to do,” she said. “While the altitude, the heat, and terrain were very difficult, I felt surprisingly well throughout the race… I think the best part of this event was how well everyone bonded and how emotional people were at the finish line.”
The third-placed woman was Ruthann Sheahan of Ireland who completed the course in an overall time of 36:27:00.
Team Corre 1Km+ of Spain were celebrating their win at the finish line. The trio includes Jose Luis Gomez Alciturri, Jesus Molina and Juan Carlos Albarran and together they are taking on the Grand Slam this year. They have proved their adept teamwork considering that this year featured the most teams of any 4 Deserts race to date—at six in total.
"It is more exciting with more teams—and we are very happy,” said the members of Corre 1Km+. “It was more difficult than the other deserts but we are happy.”
Today’s final stage opened with a staggered start slightly later than the rest of this week, with the first competitors leaving at 9:30 following by those at 10:00. It was a timed, 9.3 kilometer stage that culminated in the picturesque town square of San Pedro.
As competitors weaved their way into the adobe lined streets, they found a truly festive scene awaiting them, with a live band playing Chilean music and pizza and soda laid out. A crowd of family, friends, staff and volunteers had also gathered to welcome the racers in.
The first across the line was Gregory Lafitte of France at 10:16. Just behind him was United States’ Johnny Brooks at 10:18. Fellow American Julia Metcalfe was the first woman to join the celebrations.
Then came the race leaders, with Chema racing in at 10:33 waving the Spanish flag to an incredible atmosphere.
The celebrations have continued in the town square today and later this evening, the official banquet and awards ceremony will be held at the race hotel. They will be celebrating what has proved to be an exceptional tenth anniversary edition of the race in this stunning desert.
Post Race Update: 12 October 2014

The Awards Banquet
It was an evening of great celebration last night as the awards banquet was held and competitors were able to look back at this amazing week to the accompaniment of fine food.
The banquet was held in an outdoors area in a beautiful local restaurant, with plenty of wine and a plate full of beef, salmon, chicken, and quinoa for every single hungry soul.
First came the medals for the race leaders. Chema Martinez Fernandez has won his second 4 Deserts race of the year here in Chile in his bid to finish the Grand Slam—and there was much applause when the Spaniard took to the stage to receive his medal.
There was equal applause for Emily Woodland of the United Kingdom, a seasoned 4 Deserts racer who put in a phenomenal performance here in the Atacama as winning woman and fifth competitor overall.
Herbert Lehner of Austria was awarded his medal for coming in second place on this, his first ever 4 Deserts race. Catherine Simpson of the United Kingdom was awarded second-placed woman, also a newcomer to the series. She told us she was considering heading off to do a marathon in two weeks.
Jonty Cowan was then honored, who came in third place overall, but who had already left in order to get back to his young children in the United Kingdom. Ruthann Sheahan was awarded her medal for third-placed woman after a tremendous week of racing.
The Spanish team Corre 1km + were given sustained applause for their efforts in winning the team’s division and of their fine example of teamwork. It was a big win considering the five teams who started the race last week—and the Spaniards are taking on the enormous challenge of the Grand Slam this year.
Then came the age category awards. In the 29 and under division, Chilean student Gustavo Soffia took the award, with American Julia Metcalfe taking the women’s medal.
In the 30 to 39 division, rescue swimmer Andres Lledo Lopez of Spain won with Mexico’s Grand Slammer Isis Breiter winning the women’s field.
Of the 49-49 age range, Felix Allen of the United Kingdom won while veteran racer Karen Wei of Canada won the women’s medal.
Canada’s Paul Borlinha, another Grand Slammer, won the 50-59 age range together with Paula Mitchell of the United States.
This year’s Spirit Award was awarded to South Africa’s Paul Gillot, a metallurgist with Randgold Resources in Johannesburg. He exhibited an amazing spirit throughout the race.
The Sportsmanship Award was given to Erin Leighty, a 29-year-old wildland firefighter from the United States who was the guide for blind competitor Vladmi dos Santos. She came up to the stage together with Vladmi, while he made a speech about how she kept him going, inspired him through her perseverance and bravery. He then kneeled as a symbol of appreciation. She said this was the greatest experience of her life.

At the end of the evening, a presentation of beautiful photos taken by Thiago Diz was shown, making audience gasp, laugh and cry. The banquet concluded around midnight.
Today, some competitors have opted to stay on in San Pedro and will be going for an astrology tour to Alma. Others have started to travel back to their 36 respective nations with the memories of the spectacular Atacama Desert etched into their minds.
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