RACE COVERAGE

All in the Family at The Atacama Crossing

When Greg Nance casually suggested to his father that they both compete in the Atacama Crossing 2018, Mike Nance was unsure whether he wanted to make the commitment. “I’ve done a lot of running and hiking in my time -- much of it long ago -- but never anything of this magnitude,” Mike Nance said.

But despite his reservations, the appeal of the unique landscape of the Atacama Desert pulled him towards the week-long race. Still, he had reservations. “I was dubious that it was realistic for a 65-year-old like me. We continued to bat it around until I finally committed to doing it this past May. There was no better time for me to ever do this and that I should give it my best effort.”

A few months after that decision, both Mike and Greg Nance arrived in San Pedro de Atacama ready to tackle Mike’s debut in the 4 Deserts Race Series and Greg’s second race, after having run the Gobi March. While father and son did not run together -- at different paces, Greg finished 15th, while Mike finished further back -- they did connect over evening campfires and alongside their tent mates each night.

That experience of sharing what happened on the course each day was one of the Nance family’s favourite parts about the race. And although they didn’t run alongside each other, competing at the same RacingThePlanet event added to, as Mike says, “our collage of adventures”.

Families have always been a large part of the 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series with family members competing alongside one another, as part of a team or with one member racing and another member as one of the race’s volunteers. The races can serve as family reunions or, in the case of Simone Bishop and her daughter Kimberly Bishop, to take care of unfinished business.

The Atacama Crossing 2018 wasn’t the first time South Africans Simone and Kimberly Bishop attempted to compete together. Eight years ago, the pair attempted the RacingThePlanet Ultramarathon in Australia, but didn’t finish.

“We’ve always felt there was unfinished business and when my mum realised it was exactly 10 years since she did the Atacama Crossing, which was also her first race, it prompted the idea of going back which quickly turned into us going together,” Kimberly Bishop said.

Simone agreed. “Out of the races I’ve done [the Atacama Crossing] is my most favourite. Having done it 10 years ago it felt like a good time for a reunion with San Pedro and its beautiful surrounds.” Racing this time with her daughter, Simone was looking forward to the shared experience. “Sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. I look forward to the opportunity of us being able to be there for each other and I am convinced that something as memorable as this will be very solid bonding.”

While this was Kimberly’s second RacingThePlanet event -- and her first finish -- the Atacama Crossing 2018 was Simone’s 12th event. A member of the 4 Deserts Club (completing all the races in the 4 Deserts Race Series), Simone has also competed in RacingThePlanet Ultramarathons in  Australia 2010, Nepal 2011, Jordan 2012, Iceland 2013, Madagascar 2014, Sri Lanka 2016 and Patagonia 2017.

While the pair planned to race “near” each other, they decided, as Kimberly wrote in her blog, to do the race together for reasons of their own “safety and sanity”.

As Simone and Kimberly also work together, they also were each other’s training partners, doing about half of the training together. By contrast, Greg and Mike Nance trained separately but communicated weekly on Skype to debrief training and talk through the race logistics.

“Dad has run several prep races this spring and summer so it’s been fun hearing debriefs from each too,” Greg Nance said. “I’ve fortunately been able to visit home twice this summer and we logged nice trail runs both times.”

And when it came to race preparation, both the “newcomers” were offered advice by their more experienced family member.

“[Greg] sets a very good example with his training discipline and has the valuable experience of having run the Gobi,” Mike Nance said. “He [stressed] the importance of training with my rucksack.”

Said Kimberly Bishop with a laugh: “Yes she has tried to impart some advice on training and the race. The most useful advice was about what pack to use. Having done a race just about every year for 10 years she has tried her fair share of packs and she was spot on with which one she told me to use.”

Like her mother, Kimberly most appreciated the opportunity to bond during the race and get some quality one-on-one time. “Good old fashioned bonding!” Kimberly said.