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NEXT ROVING RACE IN SRI LANKA (Starts on 14 Feb 2016)
Returning Competitors

When Luxembourg’s Daniel Leiner decided to compete in his sixth event in the 4 Deserts/Roving Race Series, the physiotherapist decided on RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015, where he’ll compete with his wife Renee Leiner Welter, and their 25-year old son Tim, who is making his 4 Deserts/Roving Race Series debut.

“The highlight of the race will be competing with my family, it’s the first time we have run together,” Leiner said. “It will be a big highlight if I beat my son!”

Leiner, who completed the 4 Deserts Grand Slam in 2012 and the Roving Race in Iceland in 2013, is one of the many former competitors who are back for more at RacingThePlanet: Ecuador 2015. In fact, sixty-nine percent of the competitors are returning competitors (including Renee, who previously completed the Sahara Race 2012 and RacingThePlanet: Iceland 2013), including 19 members of the 4 Deserts Club. 

Asked why he chose Ecuador for his sixth race, Leiner, who was relaxing ahead of the journey to Camp 1, the Foothills of Cotopaxi, said: “It’s the location. It can’t be as cold as Iceland, my last RacingThePlanet race and I’ve previously visited South America before.”

Location was also a big draw for Canadians Paul Borlinha and Stan Lee, two competitors who have completed the Grand Slam Plus (the 4 Deserts in one calendar year in addition to the Roving Race), with Borlinha having accomplished the feat last year and Lee in 2010.


Borlinha and Lee were sitting by the fire on the eve of Stage 1, in the green highlands below Cotopaxi.  “It was Ecuador that brought me to run another Roving Race,” Borhlina said. “Its landscape is different from any other Roving Race that I have taken part in. It certainly is not another dry desert. It will be tough and pushing myself hard adds to the enjoyment. This was also the first time I could bring my wife to the start of the race and we were able to spend eight days climbing Cotopaxi and we also went to the Amazon. That bought me brownie points!”

Lee also commented on the beauty of the country, saying that he had always wanted to visit Ecuador and in the lead-up to tomorrow’s start, he had climbed Cotopaxi to help him acclimatise.

“I’m looking forward to going through the villages, meeting some of the indigenous people from this area, they may even sell me a bottle of Coca-Cola!” said Lee, who is attempting his 12th 4 Deserts / Roving Race Series . “It will be a highlight racing in a place where the temperatures are lower than the races I’ve been used to.”

With Borlinha, Lee and Leiner all having previously completed the 4 Deserts, the Roving Races offer them an opportunity to continue to race, while experiencing a new country.

“I did think I would sign up for another race [after completing the 4 Deserts], but only a Roving Race,” Leiner said. “I would never go back to the same place twice. There are so many places and races to go to in the world, why go back?”

Lee agreed, saying he always knew he would do another race, while Borlinha was in a slightly trickier situation, having been away for much of 2014 as he tackled the Grand Slam Plus. “I had to give my wife a few months’ rest before I mentioned doing this race!” he confessed.

The weather conditions were one of the much-discussed race factors for the experienced veterans, with altitude being another.

“The high altitude will be the biggest challenge,” said Lee, who lives in Victoria, British Columbia. “I’ve come from sea level to 14,000 feet in a short time. The possible rain and temperatures will be something to think about.”

“The weather can't be as bad as Iceland – that was worse even than Antarctica,” Leiner recalled. “But the changes and extremes in the weather will be a challenge. Being the Andes, you never know what the next 10 minutes will bring.”

With the 144 competitors receiving their pre-race briefing in the host city of Quito, many of the competitors were interested in hearing about the course, with one of the highlights being Stage 5’s Long March, which begins in the mountains.

A definite highlight will be leaving the high altitude on Stage 5,” Borlinha said.

For returning competitiors, there is something different that continues to pull them back into attempting another race. For Lee, it is simply finishing the challenge he has set for himself.

For Leiner, who, like many competitors, uses the races to raise money for charity, being able to fundraise for an important cause is a strong motivating factor. When Leiner completed the 4 Deserts in 2012, he raised 30,000 Euros for the charity Den I Syndrome De Marfan, which supports those with the genetic disorder Maran syndrome.

For Borlinha, it’s the race’s human element that motivated him to keep racing. “[It’s] the people you meet on the races, the locals, the new friends and all the many old friends [which is] the most rewarding thing about these races.”

And with the majority of the competitors returning to compete in Ecuador, Borlinha is certain to find more than a few old friends.


By Melanie Ho


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