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The 4 Deserts Race Series is a series of world-class sporting events.
Each race in the 4 Deserts Race Series is a seven-day, 250-kilometer / 150-mile, self-supported footrace across one of the world's largest and most forbidding deserts: the Atacama Desert in Chile, Gobi Desert in China, Sahara Desert in Namibia and Antarctica.
Competitors may compete in the 4 Deserts Race Series in any order except The Last Desert (Antarctica) which requires an invitation. To receive an invitation to The Last Desert (Antarctica), competitors must first successfully complete two of the other races in the 4 Deserts Race Series.
Individuals that successfully complete all four races in the 4 Deserts Race Series become members of the 4 Deserts Club. At the start of 2016, membership in the 4 Deserts Club included 183 individuals representing 35 different countries.
Only 47 competitors have accomplished the 4 Deserts Grand Slam by completing all four races in the 4 Deserts Race Series in one calendar year (between January and December of the same year).
Since 2003, the 4 Deserts has presented trophies to eleven 4 Deserts Champions. The 4 Deserts Champion is announced every two years and is awarded to the man and woman with the highest cumulative ranks of each of the 4 Deserts events.
Only three people - all 4 Deserts Champions - have won all 4 Deserts Race Series events: Ryan Sandes of South Africa, Vicente Garcia Beneito of Spain and Anne-Marie Flammersfeld of Germany. The latter two competitors won all 4 Deserts races in 2012 when they completed the 4 Deserts Grand Slam.
The fastest 4 Deserts completion time is 23 hours, 12 minutes, 33 seconds by Spanish runner Vicente Garcia Beneito at Gobi March (China) 2012.
In addition to the 4 Deserts Race Series, there is an annual Roving Race that moves to a new location each year. The inaugural Roving Race was held in Vietnam in February 2008, followed by Namibia in 2009, Australia in 2010, Nepal in 2011, Jordan in 2012, Iceland in 2013, Madagascar in 2014 and Ecuador in 2015. The next Roving Race takes place in Sri Lanka in 2015.
Just three competitors have completed all five events - the 4 Deserts Grand Slam plus the Roving Race - in the same calendar year. These were Canadian Stan Lee in 2010, American James Gaston in 2012, and Canadian Paul Borlinha in 2014.
More than 100 countries have been represented at the start lines of 4 Deserts and Roving Races. Competitors have come from such places as Angola, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Belize, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Guam, Hungary, India, Jamaica, Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
At each 4 Deserts race, there are approximately 40 countries represented. Of these countries, roughly 1/3 of competitors are from North America, 1/3 from Asia Pacific and 1/3 from Europe.
4 Deserts competitors have differing goals: some competitors aim to win or place in the Top Ten, while other competitors enter with the goal of simply finishing. Roughly 20% of competitors run the entire course, while 60% combine running with walking and 20% walk the entire course.
There are cut-off times for each stage, but the times are typically generous enough to allow walkers to complete the course. The cut-off times are based on an average speed of 4 kilometers per hour / 2.5 miles per hour.
Many 4 Deserts competitors raise money for charities close to their hearts. Competitors can raise money for any charity they choose. Many raise many hundreds of thousands of dollars. The 4 Deserts Race Series also donates money and supplies to charities around the world.
Competitors must be between the age 21 and 70 to compete in the 4 Deserts Race Series. The average competitor age is 38 years.
Approximately 20% of 4 Deserts Race Series competitors are female and 80% percent of competitors are male.
Competitors come from all walks of life -- occupations include students, bankers, actors, senior managers, stay-at-home parents, insurance, recruitment, property management, professional athletes, company owners and everything in between.
At most 4 Deserts races, between 30-40% of participants are returning competitors.
At every race in the 4 Deserts Race Series, there is a team of 60-80 staff, including management, medical doctors and volunteers. Media teams from around the world also cover the races on site.
A professional medical team with a ratio of one medical doctor for every 25 competitors works on site throughout each event.
In its first ten years, the 4 Deserts received more than 10,000 competitor registrations.
The Roving Race in Iceland broke records with close to 700 competitor registrations.
In 2016, the Sahara Race is being hosted in the country of Namibia due to political instability in North Africa, the usual home of the Sahara Race.
In 2016, the entry fee for the Sahara Race (Namibia), Gobi March (China) and Atacama Crossing (Chile) isUS$3,700 per event.
Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis and entries are limited based on government and environmental concerns. You do not need to qualify for the races but must complete paperwork about your medical history, past experience in endurance races and current training. You are also required to have a medical certificate signed by a medical doctor.
The 4 Deserts Race Series is life changing for some, life-enhancing for most.
Canada's Julie Shum is an experienced traveler. She has traveled through four of the seven continents, with hopes to visit them all. Her travel has ranged from luxury trips to backpacking, and she has traveled extensively through China, "specifically to explore my heritage and culture," she explains. Julie's thirst for travel was further fueled when her brother was affected by a disease that left him paralyzed, "He used to love to explore destinations that are off the beaten path. Since he couldn't continue to do so, I now carry on that desire to go to places that are inaccessible to him and share those experiences with him when I return home.
Julie has worked as a project manager at a computer hardware manufacturer in Toronto, consulting on supply chain and logistics strategies for Fortune 500 companies. She is also the owner of a backpack and travel gear company. "The goal of my company is to promote adventure travel, global volunteerism and contribute to charities," she explains. "My company currently supports the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and a Canadian-based NGO dedicated to international youth development." Julie returns to her fifth 4 Deserts event at the Sahara Race (Namibia) 2016 after working on the volunteer team at the Gobi March (China) 2011 and 2015, Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2012 and RacingThePlanet: Madagascar 2014.