The 4 Deserts Race Series management team works year-round planning and executing as many as five races per calendar year. Management team members attend races to coordinate on-the-ground operations.
Mary Gadams
Founder, 4 Deserts Race Series and Roving Races
Samantha Fanshawe
President of Events
Riitta Hanninen
Head of Events
Carlos Garcia Prieto
Course Director
Zeana Haroun
Event Manager, 4 Deserts Race Series
The 4 Deserts medical committee is comprised of medical doctors from the United States who provide guidance and oversight into 4 Deserts Race Series medical operations. Medical doctors on the committee regularly attend 4 Deserts events as Medical Directors overseeing medical teams that handle day-to-day medical activities and care during the races.
Brian J. Krabak, M.D., M.B.A.
Chief Medical Director
Grant Lipman, M.D.
Medical Director
Brandee Waite, M.D.
Medical Director
Avinash Patil, M.D.
Medical Director
The 4 Deserts Race Series seeks volunteers from around the world to assist in race operations. Volunteers are selected based on a comprehensive set of criteria; selection as a volunteer is a highly competitive process. The volunteer experience is life-enriching and unique, and volunteers form an important component of the spirit of the race. Volunteers can be friends or family members, would-be competitors, outdoor enthusiasts, or those who simply aspire to volunteer at a world-class event. Many volunteers return to races year after year. Of many hundreds of 4 Deserts volunteers, we would like to highlight a special selection who have worked with us over many years. Learn more about being a 4 Deserts volunteer.
Tony Brammer
Eric Marxmiller
Sanae "Sandy" Kondo
Ahmed "Dolfen" Ismail

Samantha Fanshawe President of Events

As President of the 4 Deserts Race Series, Samantha Fanshawe has something of a natural flair for being a citizen of the planet. She was born to British parents in Peru, and went to school in Pakistan for a few years before the age of 11.

After graduating from the University of Leeds with a joint honors degree in Maths and Biology she took some time out to see the word, including working in Sydney, Australia, before returning to the United Kingdom for two years in business development of corporate clients in the recruitment industry. She was then transferred to Singapore with the same company for a regional management role before moving to Penang in Malaysia and then Hong Kong.

Along the way she mastered the art of dragon boat racing, competing in Dragon Boat World Championships. Sam is an all-around sportswoman, a keen squash player and fan of running, hiking, horse riding and mountain biking. It was while in Asia that she took up running a bit more seriously, starting with more than a dozen half-marathons, and then completing the Singapore Marathon, sprint triathlons, adventure races and ultramarathons such as the Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker, the Gobi March, Vibram Hong Kong 100-kilometer and Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset.

Sam volunteered in the Gobi March 2005 when it was held in the Turpan Basin in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of far western China. Despite it being the hottest event on record, she fell in love with the spirit of 4 Deserts and soon came on board as a staff member. Sam has worked more than two dozen races in a management capacity.

Alina Brown Event Director, 4 Deserts Race Series

Alina Brown has worked in North America, Asia, Africa and Europe and has a decade's worth of practical experience in sports and event management. A life-long competitive swimmer, Alina co-founded her high school women's water polo team and later co-captained the women's varsity water polo team at Princeton University. As a water polo player and competitive triathlete at Princeton, Alina wrote an Anthropology thesis exploring adventure racing's status as a rite of passage. She also possesses a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Western Washington University.

Alina's passion for sport and adventure has found its way around the globe. Her first job as a new graduate took her to northeast Thailand where she couldn't be satisfied running half-kilometer laps through underdeveloped parkland. Instead, she took up Muay Thai and coached the Khon Kaen University men's water polo team (becoming the only woman to have ever done so). While living abroad and working in other professional capacities, Alina obtained her surf lifesaving certification in Australia, ski-mountaineered Mt. Cook, New Zealand, summited Mount Kenya and trekked Nepal's Annapurna Circuit. She has also served as the two-term president of a triathlon club and volunteered on several international adventure races.

Alina is an Ironman triathlete and multiple marathon, half-marathon and ultra-distance finisher. Her achievements include being named a USA Triathlon All-American (2006 & 2007) with top finishes as the overall champion of more than 5,000 competitors at the Seattle Danskin Women's Triathlon 2006; fourth woman overall at the Vibram Hong Kong 100km in 2011; and first woman overall at the Full Moon Desert Marathon 2012 in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Alina enjoys many athletic pursuits, including running, hiking, mountain biking, orienteering, rock climbing, scuba diving and yoga. Her certifications include First Aid and CPR.

Alina has worked on the management team at more than ten RacingThePlanet / 4 Deserts events and is responsible for the 4 Deserts series.

Riitta Hanninen Head of Events

Riitta Hanninen's passion for the great outdoors can be traced back to her childhood in the pristine environment of Finland. Thousands of lakes and vast forests lying just beyond her doorstep inspired a life of sports and a love of the outdoors.

After graduating with a degree in Tourism and Event Management from Jyvaskyla University of Applied Sciences, Riitta moved to Asia to pursue a career in international business and event management. She worked in corporate events for four years before moving into sports event management.

A resident of Hong Kong since 2004, Riitta has competed in numerous trail-running and action sport races including the Hong Kong Trailwalker (2005, 2008 and 2009), where she finished in the top three of the women's category on two occasions. She has also had successes in other races throughout Asia as a member of the champion mixed team in Taiwan in 2006 and as first and second runner-up in Hong Kong in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Riitta has also competed in many dragon boat and outrigger canoe races. She earned third place in the women's local surfski category of Hong Kong's Dragon Run in 2010.

Riitta has worked on the management team at nearly twenty races since she joined the 4 Deserts Race Series in 2010.

Carlos Garcia Prieto Course Director

Spaniard Carlos Garcia Prieto has worked as the Course Director at numerous 4 Deserts Race Series events and more than a dozen ultra distance events in total. A qualified architect, Carlos established his own design company after graduating from the Higher Technical School of Architecture at the University of Madrid in 1990. He has worked for more than a decade designing commercial spaces and public architecture.

Carlos' skill and knowledge of course design is an obvious by-product of his experience as both a designer and competitor. He completed his first 4 Deserts race in 2007 and soon after decided to tackle the complete 4 Deserts Race Series. He is a 4 Deserts Club member, having successfully completed the Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2007, Gobi March (China) 2007, Sahara Race (Egypt) 2008 and The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2008. He has also completed the Marathon des Sables, Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, Grand Raid Reunion, RacingThePlanet: Vietnam 2008 and a number of other ultra marathons.

A lover of the outdoors and pursuer of sporting challenges, multilingual Carlos has now worked as the Course Director for nearly ten 4 Deserts Race Series and Roving Race events. He has also set a number of 100-kilometer courses in the Sahara, Namib and Kalahari Deserts.

Carlos is an active member of the ultra marathon community. He regularly talks on ultrarunning and is a contributing editor for leading sports publications in Spain and Italy..

What does this 4 Deserts enthusiast say he loves most about the events? "In the 4 Deserts you are never alone. You can run alone, but you will always find someone that will give you a hand."

Zeana Haroun Event Manager

Zeana Haroun joins the 4 Deserts Race Series with a background in event coordination and a fondness for adventures. Born in Sierra Leone to an American mother and Lebanese father, the adventures started early. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in International Development, and then went on to further her studies with a Masters in Public Health from the University of Liverpool.

She left the US in 2003 for a 3 month internship with The U.S. State Department in Switzerland eleven years, three countries and countless adventures later she still hasn't returned. Her experience in Switzerland, Singapore and Hong Kong, work with the US and Australian government and coordination of the growth of start-up, high-level international school have tested and proven her abilities to manage and coordinate all different types of events.

Zeana has always enjoyed running and started pushing things a bit further with her first marathon 6 years ago in Singapore. Since then she has participated in many other races, marathons, half marathons, ultra and multi-stages around the world and has supported fellow runners by officially pacing several races. She enjoys pushing limits and seeing just how far the mind will let the body go.

Mary Gadams Founder

Mary Gadams resides in Hong Kong after having lived in the United States, Spain, China, France, United Kingdom and Korea. Mary received an undergraduate degree from Creighton in the United States and a master's degree as an Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Fellow from the London Business School in the United Kingdom. Her previous work experience is in investment banking and strategy. Shortly after the Asian financial crisis, Mary worked as a global strategist in the chairman's office and restructuring office of The Samsung Group in Seoul, Korea where she worked on special projects including mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, venture capital and global strategy. Mary began her career in investment banking in the United States and left as a vice president to pursue language and graduate studies in Europe.

In the mid-90s, Mary saw a need for a global event series that captured the best aspects of all the events in which she had competed. Her vision was to create a series of events that would encourage people to push themselves beyond what they ever dreamt possible. In 2002, she created RacingThePlanet - now known as the 4 Deserts Race Series - a world-class footrace series taking place in the most challenging, pristine and culturally-rich locations in the world. The four annual events would take place across the world's most varied terrain and would be located in the driest, windiest, hottest and coldest deserts on Earth. The races were named the Atacama Crossing (Chile), Gobi March (China), Sahara Race (Egypt) and The Last Desert (Antarctica). The series has since been named by Time magazine as one of the world's Top Ten Endurance Events, alongside such races as the Tour de France, Dakar Rally and Vendee Globe. In addition, there is a fifth event known as the Roving Race that moves to a new location each year.

The 4 Deserts Race Series has donated more than US$750,000 to various charities as part of its events, with competitors raising millions more for charities of their choice. The 4 Deserts primarily supports education and healthcare initiatives in the areas where its races are held.

Brian J. Krabak, M.D., M.B.A. Chief Medical Director

Brian Krabak, M.D., M.B.A. possesses a heavyweight sports medicine resume that includes spells as an Olympic physician, but what really drives the Chief Medical Director of the 4 Deserts Race Series is his passionate desire to help athletes of all abilities and ages.

In addition to an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a medical degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo, Dr. Brian Krabak holds an MBA from Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore. He completed a residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Tufts University-New England Medical Center and then a Sports Medicine fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. He is board-certified in Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Medicine. Dr. Brian joined the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Sports Medicine Faculty in 2007, moving to Seattle from Johns Hopkins, where he was faculty in Sports Medicine. Currently a team consultant for University of Washington Athletics, Seattle University Athletes and a Team Physician with USA Swimming, he has also worked as a doctor for the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials, 2010 Vancouver Olympics, 2004 Athens Olympics and 2002 Winter Olympics. Throw in some time looking after the medical needs of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, and you've got a compelling mix of abilities and experience.

Dr. Brian was the medical director at the Gobi March 2005 and has worked as the chief medical director of the 4 Deserts Race Series ever since.

Grant Lipman, M.D. Medical Director

Dr. Grant Lipman is a 4 Deserts Race Series veteran. He was part of the medical team at the Atacama Crossing 2006 and has since been the Medical Director at more than ten 4 Deserts events.

Dr. Grant is at the top of his profession, and an avid outdoorsman. He is the Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine at Stanford University Hospital and Associate Director of Stanford's Wilderness Medicine Fellowship. Dr. Grant's distinguished career saw him studying environmental science while an undergraduate at Connecticut College before becoming a medical student at St George's University in Grenada. After training in Emergency Medicine at St. Luke's - Roosevelt Hospital, New York City, he opted to turn his back on big city life, heading back to the west coast to complete a Fellowship in Wilderness Medicine at Stanford University.

He now sits on the executive board of the American College of Emergency Physician's section of Wilderness Medicine, is a textbook author and lecturer on wilderness medicine subjects, and an editorial board member of peer reviewed journals.

The South African-born doctor likes most outdoor activities, in particular, climbing volcanoes - he has been to the top of some big 6,000 meter ones.

Brandee Waite, M.D. Medical Director

Multi-faceted and multi-talented, Dr. Brandee Waite is a woman who approaches every task with enthusiasm and optimism. That is why she has been a member of the 4 Deserts Race Series medical crew since 2005.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area, Dr. Brandee attended Stanford University where she received a Bachelor's Degree with Honors in human biology. From there it was medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, and a residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Stanford University Medical Center.

Following her residency, Dr. Waite joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute for a fellowship in sports medicine. A contributing author on several musculoskeletal / sports medicine research projects and texts, Dr. Brandee is currently a medical doctor at the University of California at Davis.

Our Dr. Brandee also spent a year teaching fitness classes at a resort in Mexico and on an international cruise ship. She is an avid dancer and continues to teach weekly kickboxing and step aerobics classes in addition to working full-time as a physician. She has worked on more than fifteen 4 Deserts Race Series events.

Avinash Patil, M.D. Medical Director

Avinash Patil, M.D. has managed to successfully combine his two great passions - medicine and the outdoors. When he is not working as an emergency medicine doctor with Stanford University, he is working as a commercial whitewater rafting guide and travelling to exotic locations around the world.

Dr. Avi graduated from the University of California at Davis with honors in both Physiology and Economics. He then went on to graduate from the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, followed by both a residency and fellowship at Loma Linda University and Children's Hospital. Dr. Avi has put his medical skills to use in India, where he has worked twice as an instructor; Honduras, where he taught resident physicians; and the Salomon Islands, Peru, Ecuador and Kenya, where he provided medical care to local residents.

Dr. Avi has received numerous awards throughout his career, including the Clinical Teacher of the Year Award (as clinical educator of the year), voted by residents at Stanford University, and the Nurses' Award at Loma Linda University Medical Center for compassionate care and professionalism. He was also awarded a medical mission fellowship in 2001 with which he travelled to Siuna, Nicaragua.

Dr. Avi focuses his interests on international and tropical medicine, wilderness medicine and EMS/pre-hospital care. He has worked as a member of the 4 Deserts Race Series medical team for more than a half dozen races.


Tony Brammer from Manchester in the United Kingdom is himself a member of the 4 Deserts Club. The father of two set out to complete one race in the 4 Deserts Race Series. He achieved that goal at the Sahara Race (Egypt) 2005, but then carried on through the Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2006, Gobi March (China) 2007 and The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2008. Apparently retired from the whole 4 Deserts thing, the company partner has now been a management volunteer at many more races than he competed in (more than 15) and assumes the vital role as a checkpoint captain. It has become somewhat of a family affair as he has introduced both his wife and daughter - who now make regular appearances on the volunteer teams.

Tony truly is a "legend in his own lunchtime", a man whose sense of humour means he is always able to raise a smile (as well as the odd eyebrow).


Our volunteers are a truly versatile bunch of people from a diverse range of backgrounds. Eric Marxmiller for example was born in Silicon Valley, California, he studied digital media arts at university but left after a couple of years to gain some hands on experience in small business operations and pursue the dotcom dream. When that particular bubble burst, he went back to school to train as an emergency medical technician.

Now Eric works for American Medical Response in San Mateo County as an emergency medical technician. Somehow, he also finds the spare time to work with Rock Med - part of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco - and serve as operations manager with Sahara Relief. During the summer, Eric heads to Alaska to join his father and brother at a family owned commercial salmon fishing business. During whatever down time he squeezes into his schedule, he enjoys long walks on the beach.

If you think Eric sounds like a multi-faceted and adaptable guy with just the kind of background and life experience we look for in our volunteers, you'd be absolutely right. We've had him along to nearly ten 4 Deserts Race Series events.


Our volunteers come from many different backgrounds and they all have something special to offer. Sandy Kondo from Urayasu-shi in Japan, for instance, is a natural organiser with a flair for multi-tasking. Sandy works for the South African embassy and oversees the 4 Deserts Race Series office in Japan, assisting our many competitors from that nation. She's got a track record in event volunteering, having worked on the Comrades Marathon in South Africa and Tokyo Marathon in addition to volunteering on-site for many 4 Deserts races.

Sandy has completed a 68 kilometer ultramarathon in 2010 and RacingThePlanet: Jordan 2012.


Ahmed "Dolfen" Ismail is a business owner and member of many Egyptian communities through which he has adventured throughout his home country. Dolfen plans adventure and outdoor excursions for locals and tourists to Egypt, from hiking in the mountains and valleys to off-roading through the famous Sahara Desert and diving in the Red and Mediterranean Seas.

In his spare time, Dolfen is a volunteer for CARE Egypt. While working with CARE he helps in planning a yearly adventure route, managing teams and ensuring multimedia coverage. He is not always on the organizing side; he participated in Rally des Pyramid in 2007 and was a member of the management team of two other rallies in 2009. He has also joined a global event in which he cycled from Milan, Italy, to Dusseldorf, Germany, a total of 700 kilometers.

Dolfen is an enthusiastic 4 Deserts Race Series volunteer. We first met him at the Sahara Race (Egypt) 2010 and he has returned to many more races since then, sometimes working as a checkpoint captain. We hope to see him for many more years to come.
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