As President of the 4 Deserts Race Series, Samantha Fanshawe has something of a natural flair for being a citizen of the planet. She was born to British parents in Peru, and went to school in Pakistan for a few years before the age of 11.
After graduating from the University of Leeds with a joint honors degree in Maths and Biology she took some time out to see the word, including working in Sydney, Australia, before returning to the United Kingdom for two years in business development of corporate clients in the recruitment industry. She was then transferred to Singapore with the same company for a regional management role before moving to Penang in Malaysia and then Hong Kong.
Along the way she mastered the art of dragon boat racing, competing in Dragon Boat World Championships. Sam is an all-around sportswoman, a keen squash player and fan of running, hiking, horse riding and mountain biking. It was while in Asia that she took up running a bit more seriously, starting with more than a dozen half-marathons, and then completing the Singapore Marathon, sprint triathlons, adventure races and ultramarathons such as the Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker, Gobi March, Vibram Hong Kong 100 and Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset.
Sam volunteered at Gobi March 2005 when it was held in the Turpan Basin in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of far western China. Despite it being the hottest event on record, she fell in love with the spirit of the 4 Deserts and soon came on board as a staff member. Sam has been to more than thirty 4 Deserts races in a management capacity.
Riitta Hanninen's passion for the great outdoors can be traced back to her childhood in the pristine environment of Finland. Thousands of lakes and vast forests lying just beyond her doorstep inspired a life of sports and a love of the outdoors.
After graduating with a degree in Tourism and Event Management from Jyvaskyla University of Applied Sciences, Riitta moved to Asia to pursue a career in international business and event management. She worked in corporate events for four years before moving into sports event management.
A resident of Hong Kong since 2004, Riitta has competed in numerous trail-running and action sport races including the Hong Kong Trailwalker (2005, 2008 and 2009), where she finished in the top three of the women's category on two occasions. She has also had successes in other races throughout Asia as a member of the champion mixed team in Taiwan in 2006 and as first and second runner-up in Hong Kong in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Riitta has also competed in many Dragon Boat and outrigger canoe races. She earned third place in the women's local surfski category of Hong Kong's Dragon Run in 2010.
Riitta has worked on the management team at more than fifteen 4 Deserts / Roving Race Series events since she joined 4 Deserts in 2010. She is responsible for the Roving Race Series.
Zeana Haroun joins the 4 Deserts Race Series with a background in event coordination and a fondness for adventure. Born in Sierra Leone to an American mother and Lebanese father, the adventures started early. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in International Development and then went on to further her studies with a Masters in Public Health from the University of Liverpool.
She left the United States in 2003 for a three month internship with the U.S. State Department in Switzerland − eleven years, three countries and countless adventures later she still hasn't returned. Her experience in Switzerland, Singapore and Hong Kong, work with the United States and Australian governments and coordination of the growth of start-up, high-level international school have tested and proven her abilities to manage and coordinate all different types of events.
Zeana has always enjoyed running and started pushing things a bit further with her first marathon 6 years ago in Singapore. Since then she has participated in many other races, marathons, half marathons, ultras and multi-stages around the world and has supported fellow runners by officially pacing several races. She enjoys pushing limits and seeing just how far the mind will let the body go.
A bit of local knowledge is always handy when it comes to the tough task of devising a 4 Deserts course, but it's a real bonus when the person charged with that responsibility actually lives in the area. As far as the Atacama Crossing goes, they don't get much more local than Javier Aguilera.
Javier, who has worked with the event since its inception, lives slap bang in the heart of the desert, in San Pedro de Atacama. Born in the mining town of Chuquicamata, Javier studied public relations in Viña del Mar and has worked in tourism for nearly two decades. The father of three loves climbing and has tackled nine peaks over 6,000 meters high.
Although Javier will be using his extensive local knowledge to draw up a breathtaking and challenging course for this year's Atacama Crossing, competitors will be hoping he's not incorporated too many of his beloved mountains into the mix. They'll just have to wait and see.
Jaime Caceres Hidalgo loves music, the outdoors, adventure and astrology. Sounds like just the right kind of guy to have in charge of a desert camp, doesn't he? Those passions aside, Jaime is also pretty switched on when it comes to the all important task of running an efficient and organized operation and supporting tired competitors out in the wilds.
Born in the Chilean capital of Santiago, Jaime studied computer programming and worked in the city for a while before coming to the conclusion that urban life wasn't for him. Having spent all his childhood holidays in the country, he was drawn north and ultimately settled in San Pedro de Atacama. Married with two daughters, Jaime now farms and works as guide in the area. He's managed our Atacama Crossing camp for the past seven years, so competitors, staff and volunteers alike are in very good hands.