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30 August 2014, Pre-Race Update

RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 kicked off to a start at 09:00 as 4 Deserts Founder Mary Gadams gave an introduction to the event with President of Events Samantha Fanshawe, Event Director Riitta Hanninen and Medical Director Avi Patil going through all the fine details of the race rules and safety elements.

Competitor Check-In then opened, with things moving smoothly until the final competitor completed check-in at 13:45. There were some nerves emitting from first-time racers while veterans of the series exuded a palpable sense of calm.

As Australia’s Ashley Burke stood in the check-in area, he explained that this is his first race in the 4 Deserts Race Series. "It’s my first time at a multi-stage race,” he explained. “I've done one 100-kilometer ultra day race. "I started as a hiker and then got into running."

As competitors pulled the contents of their carefully packed bags out onto the floor, staff checked they had brought all the mandatory gear items. Brandon Kahler, an educator from the United States also taking on his 4 Deserts debut here in Madagascar, pulled out a small robin toy from his bag. “This is Robin,” he informed us. “He's the mascot from a Grade 2 class and he travels with people. I've taken him to Antarctica and the North Pole already and now Madagascar.”

All eyes were on the scales to find out who had the race’s heaviest and lightest packs. 4 Deserts veteran Blair Turnball, a Kiwi based in London, came in with the lightest bag at 5.5 kilograms. Having taken on five previous races in the series, including two Roving Races, Turnball has honed his bag packing down to a fine art form.

There was an even more experienced veteran of the series who took the award for the heaviest pack of the day. Stan Lee of Canada, who has completed an astounding eleven 4 Deserts races, had packed six cans of Coke—which may explain the 19.5-kilogram weight. But clearly, this dentist and highly seasoned ultramarathon athlete has a plan for how he’ll use those drinks.

There were interesting gear moments throughout the day, people were eyeing the impressively large marshmallow rice puff deserts that appeared from one pack while Yoshizo Yokoyama earned applause for his cow costume, which he remarkably competed in during Sahara Race earlier this year.

By 15:15, buses and cars were leaving The Grand Hotel and stopping along the route to pick up more competitors from the Note Blue and Suarez Hotel. It was a gorgeous drive through the towns and along the stunning coastline of this northern part of Madagascar.

An hour later, race participants were arriving at Camp 1 where a local Malagasy band was playing and singers and dancers welcomed the competitors to the beach setting. As the sun dipped into the Indian Ocean, competitors took a walk to the pier to see the sun set and mentally prepare for tomorrow’s start.

31 August 2014, Stage 1 Update


Ryan Sandes Wins Stage 1



Ryan Sandes has won the opening stage of RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014, crossing the finish line of the first stage this morning in a time of 03:09:00. This is Sandes’ eighth race in the 4 Deserts / Roving Race series following the South African’s epic crowning as the 4 Deserts Champion—having completed all four races in the 4 Deserts Race Series with the highest cumulative ranking—in 2010.



Coming close behind Sandes in second place was Wataru Iino of Japan, a first time RacingThePlanet competitor who finished the course with a time of 03:14:00. He was followed by Ralph Crowley of the United States, who is taking on his fourth RacingThePlanet / Roving Race, finishing the course with a time of 03:34:01. In fourth place on this opening day was British competitor Andrew Fargus, who recently finished in an impressive 11th place at Marathon des Sables in 2013 and is taking on his first Roving Race.



In the women’s field, China’s Huang Lingyun put in a strong performance as the leading female today, coming across the finish line at 13:01 with a time of 05:01:40. Huang was the third-placed female in Gobi March 2013 and also witnessed the Roving Race up close when she worked as a volunteer at RacingThePlanet: Iceland in 2013.



Several other women were close behind—all of them newcomers to the RacingThePlanet series and telling of the high Replica Breitling Super Ocean number of women taking on this year’s Roving Race and their impressive racing credentials. French competitor Isabelle Dufour came in as second placed woman just minutes later in a time of 05:05:07. A development manager at How Choong Development in Reunion Island, Dufour has completed many long distance races before coming here to take on her first Roving Race. Third placed woman, meanwhile, was Susan Riggio of the United States who is taking time off from her work as an adventure guide to tackle the wilds of Madagascar.



It was an early day for many this morning as competitors first began to emerge from their tents at 05:00—with nerves in the air for many. By 07:30 President of Events Samantha Fanshawe led the first stage’s race briefing.



The day’s course was described as “moderate difficulty,” starting on the pristine beach and then heading inland for several kilometers. The Bay of Diego remained in sight for much of the day and cheap replica watches competitors were admiring the stunning views and startling beauty of Madagascar as they moved through this opening day.


1 September 2014, Stage 2 Update

Sandes Sustains Lead on Second Stage With Changes in Women’s Division

Ryan Sandes has effortlessly kept his lead in RacingThePlanet: Madagascar, finishing today’s 46.3-kilometer second stage with a time of 4:40:00. “I liked the course today,” said the South African as he bounded across the finish line. “The landscape was more varied than yesterday with the river crossings.”

Japan’s Wataru Iino held his strong second place position, finishing just under half an hour behind Sandes with a time of 5:13:39. Third-placed Ralph Crowley also retained his third position, completing the course with a time of 5:42:11.

There were some changes at the front of the women’s field. Maki Izuchi Suban of Japan, who is tackling her first 4 Deserts / Roving Race in Madagascar, took first place in today’s course, completing it in a time of 6:28:45. She was followed by Huang Lingyun, who was the first woman on Stage 1, who completed today’s stage in second place with a time of 7:06:58. Isabelle Dufour and Susan Riggio tied for third place, completing the course in a time of 7:16:59.

It was a gorgeous sunrise this morning as competitors awoke on a campsite set on the beach and looking over the turquoise Indian Ocean. The race kicked off at 07:00 on this pristine beach—before leading competitors to some truly iconic Madagascan sights such as a baobab forest and over various rivers. As with yesterday, villagers were a feature throughout the day, cheering on this cast of competitors from all ends of the Earth.

Competitors moved through five checkpoints—with many finding the route challenging but also glad for the diverse terrain and scenery and less sand than yesterday. After Checkpoint 4, participants crossed rice paddies as they headed in for the finish line. It was a particularly muddy moment for many—with some competitors losing their shoes in the mud and others finishing the day barefoot having abandoned any attempts to put their mud-filled shoes back on.

There were varied accounts on whether or not the rice paddies were a good thing. “I loved the rice paddies,” enthused Blair Turnball, a veteran 4 Deserts racer hailing from New Zealand. “Some people didn’t like them,” he added. “But I loved them!” His sentiment was shared by Canadian competitor Cynthia Fish who came across the finish line saying, “This is so fun!”

Tonight’s campsite is set in an open area with brush, palm trees and a small village nearby. The tents are set up in a horseshoe shape. The general mood at camp this evening has been upbeat—with many feeling that they are now starting to get into their stride. As the sun went down at 17:45, the temperatures cooled quite significantly.

The last two competitors crossed the line at 21:39. Most people have opted for an early night, settling into their tents and getting ready for their third day in this magical scenery.

2 September 2014, Stage 3 Update

Sandes and Izuchi Suban Continue To Lead

South Africa’s Ryan Sandes crossed the finish line of the third stage of the Roving Race today, completing a dazzling course with a time of 03:45:04.

The 32-year-old has sustained his strong lead throughout the race, effortlessly moving through Madagascar’s picturesque landscape with legs that seemingly know no tiredness.

In second position, Wataru Iino of Japan held strong finishing just fifteen minutes after Sandes with a time of 04:01:30. Andrew Fargus of the United Kingdom kept his third position with a time of 04:11:46.

In the women’s division, Japanese competitor Maki Izuchi Suban sustained her lead in the third day of racing completing the course with a time of 05:24:59. China’s Huang Lingyun came in as the second placed woman with a time of 05:46:16.

The day opened with clouds obscuring the sun, a relief to many although soon enough the clouds departed revealing another day of strong sunshine. There was a cool breeze; however, which helped keep body temperatures down. With yesterday’s high of 36 Celsius, many were aware of the need to keep extremely well hydrated. Yet even those who had finished yesterday’s stage in the evening were looking fresh and well rested this morning.

Today’s 42.1-kilometer course, named The Red Tsingy Valley, led competitors into the heart of Tsingy canyon—towers of limestone that are one of Madagascar’s most famed sights. Italian competitor Renzo Moltrasio, who has completed more than fifty marathons and ultramarathons, was amazed by the scenery: “I loved the canyon,” he said. “The rocks, the river, it was all so beautiful! I took my time to enjoy the scenery.”

Scottish engineer Thomas Watson was equally thrilled. “I love scrambling and getting right into the rocks,” he said.

The day’s course began by following a dirt road to a fishing beach. From here, it continued along the beach before entering the Red Tsingy zone. Competitors then moved back onto a dirt road with a series of wide river crossings leading to camp. The sight of the water, and the chance to get their feet wet with the final 300-meter river crossing and its knee-high water levels, came as a welcome relief to many.

By the afternoon, many competitors were heading back to the river to swim and wash their clothes. They were instructed to use a shallow and protected area, as crocodiles also frequent the river.

At tonight’s campsite, named Savannah Sanctuary, a sense of relief, exhaustion and adrenaline has been hanging in the air—together with drying clothes draped from makeshift washing lines. There were nine new withdrawals today and the mood at camp has been tired but positive.

Tomorrow’s stage is called Route to the Sacred Lake and is a 40.3-kilometer journey with easy to moderate sections. It will take competitors along a plateau and into valleys before finishing by Lac Sacre.

3 September 2014, Stage 4 Update


Competition Heats Up in Fourth Stage



There were changes in the front of the Roving Race today—with Japanese competitors throughout the course pushing ahead in striking ways.



Japan’s Wataru Iino moved ahead of Ryan Sandes in the final moments of todays’ 40.3-kilometer course—coming across the finish line just ahead of the South African. Iino’s time was 03:14:30 while Sandes completed the course in 03:15:43. Iino remains just under an hour behind Sandes in the overall times.



Andrew Fargus, a former professional triathlete from the United Kingdom, kept a steady hold of his third position, finishing the course with a time of 03:27:18.



The women’s division has also seen changes in the results board.



Race leader Maki Izuchi Suban of Japan has kept her pace at the front, winning today’s stage with a time of 04:47:18—and currently in 15th overall position. She was followed minutes later by fellow Japanese runner Mayumi Watanabe who completed with a time of 04:50:04.



America’s Susan Riggio however has taken the overall second place in the women’s division—coming in third today with 04:59:41.



Huang Lingyun, who had put in such a strong performance in the opening stages, had moved back in the field after yesterday’s third checkpoint where she fell and injured her arm. She has continued in the race today, still putting in a strong performance with her arm in a sling.



It was a day of joyful running for the cheap rolex replica runners out on the course. The 08:00 start saw competitors heading out onto a much easier stage than previous ones, moving into a plateau and following the shimmering Sacred Lake.



The local Malagasy children, who are rapidly becoming a highlight of this Roving Race, were out on the course in full force today. At Checkpoint 3, there were more than 40 school children cheering loudly for every competitor that came past. As America’s Margot Walters said, "People were cheering... you just felt like a star!"



A cast of volunteers was stationed at various places between Checkpoint 3 and 4, to help direct competitors through the trail to make sure nobody got lost. The final competitors coming into the finish line at 18:16 included Brazil’s Mayra Johnson, Kumi Murakami of Japan and Brandon Kahler of the United States.



It was a calm and quiet scene at rolex replica watches the Ankharana Farmlands campsite this evening, with all of the competitors back at camp and getting an early night as they contemplate tomorrow’s immense Long Stage.



Dubbed The Long March through the Grey Tsingy Reserve, tomorrow’s stage takes competitors along a dusty road through villages before entering the Ankharana range, where they will follow the line of the Grey Tsingy and through a sugar cane agricultural area. Many of the competitors will be racing through the night.


5 September 2014, Stage 5 Update – Part 2


The Long March Concludes



The 76.9-kilometer The Long March through the Grey Tsingy Reserve came to a conclusion just after noon today with all 191 active competitors of RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 reaching Camp 6.



It had been a long night for many out on the field as they pushed through their physical and mental limits to complete the course. “The last 20 kilometers was the best surface I could imagine,” said Australia’s Matthew Chapman as he came across the finish line. “It was like moon sand. It didn't make it easier though!"



Competitors were met with all manner of landscape, scenery, and wildlife along the course. With lots of red dust, river crossings, muddy fields, and hot temperatures, Hong Kong-based Martyn Sawyer pointed out that it was, "one of the dirtiest 4 Deserts / Roving Race courses I have done."



A highlight this morning was the wedding proposal that occurred on the finish line. At 10am, Hiroki Kimura and Nanna Okubo from Japan appeared to promptly step over the finish line to become engaged – moving into a whole new journey in their lives. The last competitors then arrived just after noon, with the campsite gathering to applause their arrival.



Everyone spent this rest day at Camp 6 by a local village, surrounded by lush Malagasy fields and agricultural lands. Competitors enjoyed the sunshine and strong breeze throughout the afternoon that was keeping the Rolex Replica Yachtmaster watches camp cooler. The local camp team played their drums and enjoyed their second last day with this international crowd.



At 3pm, the management team gave a briefing for tomorrow’s sixth and final stage – which will be timed. The start will be staggered, starting at 7am, 8am and 8:30am, based on competitors overall times.



Things are certainly heating up in the competition.



South Africa’s Ryan Sandes has now only a 20-minute lead to Iino Wataru of Japan (Sandes and two other competitors got a time penalty for missing a checkpoint).



Andrew Fargus has kept a strong hold on third place as has Ralph Crowley in fourth position. Those in fifth to seventh places, however — Peter Osterwalder, Aaron Heather and Israel Moosery respectively — have mere seconds between them.



Things are also fairly close in the women’s division also with leader Maki Izuchi Suban just an hour ahead of second-placed Mayumi Watanabe — both hailing from Japan.



Stage 6 is named Final Footsteps to Ambilobe and is a 10-kilometer course that will culminate in a finish line in the town of Replica Rolex GMT Master II watches Ambilobe, located approximately a four-hour drive south of Diego. The international and local staff and volunteers as well as competitors family and friends will be gathering at the finish line around 10am to welcome everyone in.



RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014, the largest and most international sporting event in northern Madagascar, concludes officially tomorrow evening at the Grand Hotel in Diego Suarez. It has been an eye opener for both competitors and local people, bringing together cultures and showing the international participants the basic and poor yet happy way of life that the locals here lead.



4 September 2014, Stage 5 Update – Part 1



Sandes and Iino Complete The Long March through the Grey Tsingy Reserve



Race leaders Ryan Sandes and Iino Wataru have completed the epic 76.9-kilometer long stage of the Roving Race this afternoon, coming the finish line just seconds apart from one another.



Iino, a 34-year-old engineer from Japan, won the stage today with a time of 6:47:23. “I sprinted past Ryan just before the finish line," he said as he came into camp—while the staff and volunteers marveled at his performance in the long stage of his first 4 Deserts race.



Ryan Sandes came over the finish line second with a time of 6:48:15. The South African running star is still enjoying nearly an hour’s lead in the overall results. The 32-year-old attested to the grueling nature of the day’s course as he completed the stage. "Tough day at the office,” he said. “Really felt the last 20 kilometers."



British competitor Andrew Fargus and Ralph Crowley from the United States were close behind, continuing to hold their third and fourth places, respectively.



The stage began at 08:00 this morning with a total of 194 competitors tackling the 76.9-kilometer expanse of Madagascan terrain. Despite the colossal journey ahead of them, the atmosphere at the start line was light and excited. There was even some dancing with American competitor Lubov (Luba) Vaughan leading an enactment of Reel 2 Reel’s hit, ‘I Like to Move It,’ as featured in the soundtrack of the film, Madagascar.



By noon, the temperatures had reached 36 degrees Celsius with 40 percent humidity. A total of 185 competitors had moved through Checkpoint 2 by this stage and many were commenting on the temperature. American competitor Nigel Vaughan, who is based in New Jersey, came into the checkpoint and said: “I got to Staten Island, made a left and ended up here.”



Meanwhile, Gitte Hansen of Denmark, who has run a total of 45 marathons prior to this Roving Race, said, “I've now seen sides of me that I never knew I had,” as she moved through a checkpoint.



As evening fell, many competitors were still out on the course—moving through the numerous checkpoints including one tent where they will be able to get a short rest if needed. They will be making their way to the finish line throughout the night.



Part 2 of this update will be released on Friday as the stage comes to a close.


6 September 2014, Stage 6 Update

Ryan Sandes and Maki Izuchi Suban Emerge as Race Champions

Ryan Sandes has sealed his victory at the seventh Roving Race at RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014 this morning with an overall time of 22:46:42. This is the South African’s sixth win at a 4 Deserts / RacingThePlanet race.

Coming in second place overall was Japan’s Wataru Iino, a newcomer to the series who has impressed everyone with his compelling performance this week. The 34-year-old engineer came over the finish line again today just behind Sandes with an overall time of 23:09:59, approximately 25 minutes behind Sandes for the week’s total tally.

Ralph Crowley of the United States finished in third position overall, completing the course in a time of 26:47:05, and upsetting the top three positions as third place runner Andrew Fargus of the United States, who put in a very strong performance all week, was unable to do today’s final stage due to a knee injury. New Zealander Aaron Heather moved up into fourth overall position by the end of this sixth stage, finishing with a time of 28:11:39.

Maki Izuchi Suban won gold in the women’s division. She completed the course with an overall time of 32:35:38 and ranked 15th overall. The second-placed woman, also from Japan, was Mayumi Watanabe who finished the series with a time of 33:41:52 and 18th overall ranking. Susan Riggio of the United States took third place, finishing with a time of 34:44:20 and also remaining high in the rankings in 23rd overall position.

A total of 190 competitors set out from the staggered start times this morning—tacking on the final 10-kilometer course. They were all dancing to The Final Countdown and a very loud countdown before they headed off.

As they began to arrive in the streets of Ambilobe they were met by huge crowds of locals who had gathered to cheer them on. There were also friends and family, staff and volunteers and fellow competitors congregating to welcome them.

After celebrations at the finish line, with treats and drinks and much congratulating, competitors were then taken back to Diego Suarez, where they will enjoy showers, rest and tonight’s Awards Banquet by the poolside.

September 7, 2014, Post-Race Update


The Awards Banquet



It was a night of great celebration on Saturday night as more than 300 people—spanning competitors, international volunteers, staff, family and friends — gathered by the poolside of the Grand Hotel in the center of Antsiranana / Diego Suarez. Everyone converged at 19:30 to celebrate the conclusion of the 2014 Roving Race.  


The evening opened with a special ‘thank you’ to the more than 100 staff members and volunteers who have made this event on northern tip of Madagascar happen. They include the hardworking and supportive cast of volunteers - most of whom already have a number of races under their belts. There was also the all-star medical team from the United States and Canada / Australia, a highly experienced course team, and the hard-working Malagasy teams who set the campsites up every day astonishingly quickly.


Medals were then bestowed upon race champions.


Great applause was given to racing star, Ryan Sandes of South Africa, who earned 1st place for his sixth time in a 4 Deserts / RacingThePlanet event. There was equally strong applause for newcomer, Maki Izuchi Suban of Japan, who won the women’s division.


Fellow Japanese competitor Wataru Iino was then awarded his silver medal, coming 2nd overall in this, his first 4 Deserts / RacingThePlanet challenge.


2nd placed female was yet another racer hailing from Japan, freelance photographer Mayumi Watanabe who is based in Tokyo.


Coming in third position overall was America’s Ralph Crowley, a 29-year old who was putting in his fourth appearance with the 4 Deserts Race Series and wowed the field with his strong performance. 3rd-placed woman was Susan Riggio, also of the United States.  


Then came the awards for the age categories. Peter Fleck, a 24-year old resident of South Africa, was the winner of the 29 and under, while Canada’s Melissa Gosse won the women’s age group gold having completed the entire race in sandals.


In the 30-39 age range, James Tyrrell emerged as champion - another South African who works as a game ranger. The women’s winner in this category was Echo Gong of China / Hong Kong, a newcomer to the series.   


In the 40-49 range, New Zealander Aaron Heather won the category, with Margot Watters of the United States claiming women’s victory.


4 Deserts Club member Nicola Benetti of Italy was champion of the 50-59 age group, with French competitor Isabelle Dufour winning the women’s division.


Finally, Roland Breitenmoser of Switzerland won the 60-69 age range, with another experienced 4 Deserts Club member, Robyn Metcalfe of the United States, claiming the women’s prize.


The special awards were then given out to those competitors who have made a strong impression on all involved in this year’s Roving Race.


The Spirit Award was given to Lorence Johnston, a Brit based in Hong Kong, who took part in his first race in the 4 Deserts Race Series here in Madagascar. Lorence stood out for his positivity throughout the race, including creating a checkpoint ensemble with more than twenty people partaking in the rendition of a Simon & Garfunkel song, writing a fabulous blog, entertaining fellow competitors and generally enjoying the experience tremendously—and infectiously transmitting that enjoyment to all around him.


The Sportsmanship Award was given to Huang Linyan (also known as Ella) who despite her dislocated elbow mid-way through the race, kept going. She put in an amazing performance as a leading lady on the first few stages – but was one of the last ones to finish on Stage 5 due to her injury. Yet, despite being competitive, she never thought of quitting. Ella came third in the Gobi March 2013 and was a volunteer in RacingThePlanet:  Iceland 2013.


Once the awards were given out, a lively evening ensued in Diego Suarez with many celebrating until the early hours the next day. Madagascar has been an amazing host country for the 2014 Roving Race and continues to impress many participants who are still traveling in the country. The race has been a chance for a cultural exchange between the Western world and this remote island on the African coast. The local Malagasy have been thrilled to meet visitors from over 40 countries, while experiencing the Malagasy way of life has provided a break and an inspiration for the race participants from their technology-powered, modern lives.  


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