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    Sahara Race Jordan 8 Mar 2015
    Gobi March China 31 May 2015
    RacingThePlanet: Ecuador Ecuador 26 Jul 2015
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The Returners

As buses pushed their way through the streets of Amman and into the wild expanses of Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert region, our team strategically scatters itself on the various vehicles to talk to the huge number of multi-race competitors returning to this year’s Roving Race.


More than 70% of competitors have competed in previous RacingThePlanet/ 4 Deserts events and for many it was the twin allure of the Roving Race and the historic setting in the Middle East that pulled them here.


British competitor Colin Lyall tells us, “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit the Middle East and a unique RacingThePlanet event.” Rob Graham of South Africa, who takes at least one challenge per year, said that it is the physical and mental test as well as the exotic location.  “This one ticks all the boxes,” he says. “It’s also how race organizers try to explore new places and provide spectacular courses.”


For California-based Jack Fierstadt, who has competed in a huge number of ultra events (including the Gobi March, Sahara Race, Atacama Crossing and RacingThePlanet:  Australia 2010), Jordan was simply a no-brainer. As a massive fan of Indiana Jones, he says that the thought of finishing in the ancient city of Petra did it. “I couldn’t think of a better way to finish the race.”  


Friendships also bring people back to these races. Jack’s good friend of 36-years, Howard Cohen is an experienced endurance racer.who has won his age group in previous RacingThePlanet races and is aiming to do the same here in Jordan.


Others have a competition to take on with their own limitations. Andrew Espin, a data analytics consultant in South Africa, competed in the Sahara Race and the Roving Race in Namibia and Nepal, but wasn’t able to complete last year’s course in the Himalayas due to sickness. “So, I have business to finish!” he reveals.


This is the interesting thing about RacingThePlanet events; they are just as enjoyable and enticing for those who are unable to complete the courses, as those who earn the top positions. Colin Lyall entered the Gobi March 2007 and the Sahara Race 2008 as a means to stay fit and raise funds for charity.  He explains that he was unable to finish both, but is back again with as much enthusiasm about chasing that elusive goal. “My motivations have not changed as my target has always been to finish the race!” he says. “And I love the overall craziness of the event compared with real life!”


For 60-year old Gordon Oldham, who takes on his sixth RacingThePlanet/ 4 Deserts challenge here, the mindset has stayed the same over the years. “I am no more relaxed today than when I did my first race,” he informs us. He adds it’s “pure masochism” that brings him back. When asked for stories from his years of racing, he leaves us with this rather cryptic nugget of wisdom:  “Never trust a fart in the desert!”


With others, it’s the profound meeting with the very meaning of their existence that hits them every time they descent into these wild, faraway lands. As Jack Fierstadt concludes, “When you are out there: it’s all about survival.  Everyone is going in on a level playing field, and it makes you realize what is important in life.”


Photo: Jesse Yoo returning for his sixteenth RacingThePlanet event, while Sandy Kondo has volunteered at six and particiapted in two.


By Clare Morin