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CONCLUDED 19 MAY
NEXT ROVING RACE: ECUADOR 2015
Interview with Samantha Fanshawe

As the immense Long March plays out in the canyons and grounds of the ancient city of Petra, there is whole crew behind the scenes working hard to make sure that everything is going smoothly and safely.

 
Heading this crew is RacingThePlanet Vice President and Event Director Samantha Fanshawe, or Sam as she’s known to most. Sam’s job is to oversee the event in its entirety, with day-to-day operations in the hands of the event team with Event Manager Riitta Hanninen in charge and Carlos Garcia Prieto responsible for the course. “My job tasks can be anything from meeting local dignitaries, confirming the evacuation plans, to checking the toilets,” Sam explains.

 
Tracing her movements for a day, it’s clear that the job requires nearly as much stamina as the racers themselves. The day starts at 4:30am as Sam gathers the race organizers to head out to the checkpoints. Next comes a morning briefing for competitors and the starting line. “Then, I head out to rove to Checkpoint 1 before competitors get there, leaving Riitta and the Camp Team to take down the campsite.”

 
Sam works closely with an entire cast of doctors, staff members and volunteers along the course to make sure everyone is accounted for and safe, personally roving the stage until the last competitors come into camp. Then it’s overseeing the camp and cyber tent with management meetings well into the dark.  “Then it's time for some precious sleep before it starts all over again!”

 
Born in Peru and raised in Pakistan and the United Kingdom, Sam has been travelling the globe for much of her life. It was her good friend and 4 Deserts finisher Matthew Chapman whose preparations for the Gobi March in 2005 first aroused her interest. The race was being held in the Turpan Basin in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of far western China, and Sam decided to apply as a volunteer.

 
“After the first experience I was hooked,” she reminisces. “The concept of taking people back to basics to push their athletic frontiers, the desert and the people I met, all combined to make me want to be involved further.”

 
In 2008, an opportunity arose to work permanently on the RacingThePlanet team, and in the four years since, Sam has worked on dozens of races. She says that the most amazing thing has been the people and their personal stories—how the races have changed lives and allowed incredible friendships to form: “One competitor who had overcome cancer and headed to the desert to bury the cancer, literally” she says. “Another who successfully completed the race despite suffering from multiple sclerosis.”  

 
It’s also been a delight, she adds, to have one’s office literally in the world’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. Looking back at moments that stand out, she says: “Sitting on the bridge of the expedition ship heading to the Antarctic Peninsular sailing through what felt like the ice floating in a glass of gin and tonic. Or on other occasions, watching humpback whales play around the ship and the orca's hunting penguins in a large group. And of course, there are all of the amazing sunsets and sunrises I have experienced.”

 

By Clare Morin

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