The 4 Deserts Race Series is widely recognized as the most prestigious outdoor footrace series in the world. The series consists of the Sahara Race (Namibia), Gobi March (China), Atacama Crossing (Chile) and The Last Desert (Antarctica). Competitors in the races traverse 250 kilometers in seven days over rough country terrain with only a place in a tent and water provided. They are supported by highly qualified staff, all with experience in hiking, marathons and ultramarathons, and medical teams specializing in wilderness medicine.
The 4 Deserts Race Series was founded in Hong Kong in February 2002 by American Mary Gadams. A former investment banker and strategist by day, Gadams was a well-known figure in adventure and endurance sport with finishes in numerous marathons, ultramarathons and wilderness competitions around the world. The first 4 Deserts event, Gobi March, was held in September 2003 near Dunhuang, China. This inaugural event introduced trail running races to the expansive Asian country. Less than a year later, in July 2004, the series expanded to the Atacama Crossing in Chile, and then in September to the Sahara Race in Egypt. The Last Desert in Antarctica was inaugurated in January 2006. Due to the political instability in North Africa, the Sahara Race has temporarily relocated to Namibia.
In February 2008, a fifth event, called the Roving Race, was added to the 4 Deserts calendar. This event, of similar format, moved to a new country each year while highlighting the natural and cultural features of each location. The first Roving Race, titled RacingThePlanet: Vietnam, routed competitors through the rice terraces of Sapa in northwest Vietnam. RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009 then skirted Fish River Canyon and Skeleton Coast of Namibia. Then came races in Australia (2010), Nepal (2011), Jordan (2012), Iceland (2013), Madagascar (2014),Ecuador (2015), and Sri Lanka in 2016. The tenth Roving Race is scheduled for Patagonia in 2017.
By the start of 2016, the 4 Deserts had staged 47 rough country events over fourteen years with roughly 7300 competitors from more than 100 countries who have participated in the 4 Deserts and Roving Races. The races have garnered media coverage from around the globe. TIME magazine ranked the 4 Deserts as one of the Top Ten Endurance Events in the world for two consecutive years, and the races have been covered through online, print and television media including BBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, ESPN, Bloomberg, National Geographic,The New York Times, The New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Outside, Runner's World, NHK and Trans World Sport.
Central to the 4 Deserts Race Series is its ethos to support local medical and education charities. The 4 Deserts has worked closely with the Y.L. Yang Education Foundation and Operation Smile in countries around the world raising more than US$750,000. Other charities supported through the races include Royal Flying Doctors in Australia, Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care in Hong Kong, Child Welfare Scheme in Nepal, Ocean Voyages Institute in Antarctica, and Fundacion Amigos de Jesus in Chile. The 4 Deserts has also raised money to support persons affected by natural disasters that have occurred in countries where events are held, including major earthquakes in China and Chile. Finally, the 4 Deserts encourages and supports competitors in their own fundraising efforts for charities personal to them - millions of U.S. dollars have been raised by 4 Deserts competitors through its events.
Still headquartered in Hong Kong with a regional office in the United Kingdom, the 4 Deserts has a worldwide presence through representative offices in Argentina, Brazil, China, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, South Africa and Spain.
The 4 Deserts enjoys a close partnership with RacingThePlanet which sells high end outdoor gear, clothing and food through warehouses in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom., RacingThePlanet, available in English, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese, is a leading store for high-end outdoor gear, clothing and food.