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A Family Affair

By Clare Morin

Although it often seems like one person’s struggle against the very limits of their mental and physical capacity, RacingThePlanet events are also known for their strong sense of community.

The deep bonds that form between competitors are hard to match elsewhere in life, so just imagine what it would be like if your family members were there with you, every step of the way.


This year’s Roving Race in Nepal has attracted an unprecedented number of people who are connected through marriage, family ties and good old-fashioned blood. Perhaps it’s the nature of this remarkable setting, deep in the folds of Nepal that has encouraged them to come complete with their clans.

Eager to delve into the phenomenon, we head into the sun-drenched, mini-tent city known as Camp Naya Pool that has sprung up at the end of Stage 1. Competitors are relaxing in their festival-like temporary homes and gazing at a view of some of the most striking mountains on Earth.

We find Bill and Sean Abbott, father and son in such a mode. This duo have competed in seven races together, including RacingThePlanet:  Australia, where Bill was awarded a Spirit Award. Sean is currently making a serious impact on RacingThePlanet:  Nepal, holding second place behind the mighty Ryan Sandes. So what is it like, to enter an event like this together? 

“We’re not running this together,” Bill points out. “Sean is trying to win the thing!”

“I don’t know about that,” his son quickly counters.

But it become clear just how much pleasure Bill gets in watching his son excel. “I really enjoy hearing how Sean is doing when I get to the checkpoint much later,” he says. 

Sean explains that his father, an accomplished mountaineer, was the one who instilled in him a love of running. “Dad was my original inspiration for running early on, but I actually introduced him to ultra-endurance events,” he says. 

They’re a delightful pair, but we soon leave them to seek out our next Roving Race partnership. There are a number of married couples here in the field, but perhaps none of them have as good a story as Jenna and Mark Mossiman.

We find the couple, also outside their tent, and discover that they first met at RacingThePlanet:  Vietnam—proving that true love can bloom in even the most challenging of circumstances. “He overtook me on a down slope once, and I thought he was cute,” explains Jenna. “Of course, I wasn’t looking my best.”

“We didn’t actually talk much during the race,” points out Mark.

Indeed, it was only when they returned to the hotel (and showers, one assumes) that they enjoyed their first date at a breakfast table. “Ten dates later and the rest is history,” says Stephanie Case. Stephanie was in the same tent as the duo in Vietnam. She was also Jenna’s bridesmaid, so has witnessed this RacingThePlanet love story up close.

So who is the motivating force in the couple?

“Jen motivates Mark,” says Stephanie emphatically. “Yep, I bribe him with beer,” Jenna agrees.

While Jenna and Mark are relatively new to this game of mixing marriage with rough-country footraces, Danish couple Jacob and Suzanne Hastrup have been taking part in races together for years. Jacob is a RacingThePlanet veteran, but this year is particularly special.

They quickly fill us in on their collective racing history. They completed the Sahara Race in 2005. (“That was our honeymoon,” says Jacob. “No it wasn’t,” says his wife. “You still owe me.”) Then they took on the Atacama Crossing in 2006. And then came the two kids, so Suzanne took a break.

Jacob says he is pleased to have his spouse back in the field. “It feels good to have Suzanne around,” he says. And this year, they’ve made a pact to run as a combined force. “Sometimes Jacob runs ahead then turns back and gives me a report,” says Suzanne. “We are very protective of each other, which works very well.”

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