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Staff & Volunteers

1 of 3Riitta Hanninen
Event Director
Finland, Resident in Hong Kong

2 of 3Mary Gadams
Founder
United States, Resident in Hong Kong

3 of 3Samantha Fanshawe
President of Events (off-site)
United Kingdom, Resident in Hong Kong

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 been on the management team at more than two dozen 4 Deserts events since she joined the company in 2010.

Mary K. Gadams founded RacingThePlanet in 1996 and the 4 Deserts in 2002. Mary worked in investment banking and strategy, including as a global strategist in the chairman's and restructuring office of the Samsung Group in Seoul, Korea, working on special projects including mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, venture capital and global strategy. She also spent eight years with a large investment bank in the United States.

Mary has lived in six countries and been involved in a significant number of sporting events. She was team captain of three Eco-Challenge teams, with a best finish of sixth in the ESPN X Games, and has completed dozens of marathons and ultramarathons, including the Boston Marathon (three times) and the Marathon des Sables multiple times with a personal best in the women's division of 26:30. Mary's ultramarathon experience spans the Western States Endurance Run (100 miles), the Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race, the London to Brighton Race (55 miles), the Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker (100km), the Texas Trail Run (50 miles), the JFK 50-Miler, the Atacama Crossing and the Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset. She has also made it to the summits of Mt. Toubkal in Morocco, Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia, Japan's Mt. Fuji (twice), Mt. Fansipan in Vietnam and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Mary earned a Master's Degree from London Business School and an undergraduate degree from Creighton. She also studied Chinese in Shanghai, China, French in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France, Spanish in Seville, Spain, and Korean in Seoul, Korea.

There have been 37 events in the first 10 years of RacingThePlanet and Mary has been at every single event. As of January 2013, Mary is no longer involved in the management of RacingThePlanet Events Limited but rather in a voluntary capacity. Mary is currently working with her husband to regenerate a native rainforest by planting 30,000 trees; she is also involved with charitable activities.

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 HK 100, 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 the 4 Deserts and soon came on board as a staff member. Sam has been to more than thirty 4 Deserts races in a management capacity.

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