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The Roving Race vs The 4 Deserts

When people first stumble across the world of RacingThePlanet, they often ask: What is the difference is between the 4 Deserts series and the annual Roving Race? We posed this question to competitors here in Jordan: What do they see as the essential differences?

For Christopher Lewis, who has competed in all of the Roving Races to date, what he enjoys about the Roving Race is how, while following the same 4 Deserts format, it sets out into all types of landscapes in the world and not just deserts.

“We’ve been to a very different type of area each time,” says the British competitor. “Vietnam for example was muddy; there’s been such a great range of geography. The two that stand out are Nepal and this one because of the scenery in both places. They were very different but equally stunning. The backdrop of the Annapurna range in Nepal and the desert in Wadi Rum have been incredible.”

For South African John Williamson, the Roving Race offers a chance for people to head to areas they may never normally travel to, and to experience that landscape and culture in an extraordinarily direct way. “I’ve never been to the Middle East and I think it’s a fantastic way to experience the Middle East and the best way to see any country,” he says. “It’s an absolutely stunning country. And the stunning thing about it is, it’s not just sand, it’s beautiful mountains, valleys and rock structures–it’s not just a desert, it’s a desert and more.”

It was the thrill of seeing the ancient city of Petra that pulled in many people to this year’s Roving Race, including South Africa’s Rob Graham. “It was Petra,” he says. “ I guess I’d like to do all the Roving Races–I did Namibia and Nepal. The scenery is absolutely phenomenal, and I’m signed up for Iceland. My favorite part of the course was yesterday—the hardest day running but I think the actual surroundings were the nicest and the camp yesterday was spectacular.”

By being in a unique setting each year, the Roving Race is of course different from the 4 Deserts by its very ‘roving’ nature. The once-in-a-lifetime aspect of the races, often draws people in. “I was choosing between the Gobi and Jordan,” explains Irene Chu of Hong Kong. “I knew that the Gobi was the permanent race so I could sign up next year if I wanted to, but Jordan is the Roving Race so I knew I had to sign up now if I wanted to come here—I wanted to see Petra and I wanted to see Wadi Rum.”

Tim Peach of the United Kingdom, meanwhile, had a different reasoning: “I laid out in front of my wife all the various manifestations of mid-life crisis, and she chose this as the cheapest option,” he tells us with a twinkle in his eye. Then, on a more serious note, he adds: “I haven’t really been to the Middle East before so it’s interesting to see a different part of the world… and just to see the natural beauty. It is stunning, although I think I’ll probably never go on a beach holiday ever again in my entire life.”

When asked what qualities make for a really good Roving Race, he says: “Hypothetically assuming that I might do another one after this… I think people tend to want to have a shock factor. Where other people go, “Wow, that’s great!”

Scotland’s Alasdair Morrison agrees that, “it’s the chance to go to unusual places that otherwise you probably wouldn’t visit. It's also a bit of a reunions race,” he adds. “I think people enjoy getting together with people they have raced with in other races.”

Here in Jordan, the reunion aspect has been one of the most enjoyable qualities of this year’s Roving Race. With a stunning 70% of returnees out on the field, it has brought about a highly sociable setting. Amid all the reunions, there were also those here to finish what they had started elsewhere.

“I had some unfinished business from the Gobi March last year,” admits England’s Muz Mohammed. “I knew a few other people who were doing it–quite a lot of people from Hong Kong–so I thought it would be a good time to catch up with everybody.”

Next stop: Iceland 2013.


by Clare Morin

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