Sahara Race 2018 LIVE: 29 April - 5 May 2018
Skeleton Coast, Namibia
"I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke that I was not happy." Anonymous
Competitors arrived in Swakopmund on Thursday and Friday, many visiting Africa for the first time. Competitors were most intrigued by Swakopmund, a coastal city in Namibia, west of the capital, Windhoek. Its sandy beaches face the Atlantic Ocean. Established by German colonists in 1892, the city’s colonial landmarks include the Swakopmund Lighthouse and the Mole, an old sea wall.
Many competitors reunited with friends, and many made new friends. The general discussion was gear and expected weight of the backpack. The topic of weather came up frequently. In all, spirits were high.
Saturday morning saw an hour-long briefing on everything from checkpoints to camp rules to race etiquette. Competitors then shuffled through various stations to collect passports, to review medical forms and to have their gear and food inspected.
Soon lunch was made available and competitors boarded buses en route to Camp 1, close to the Skeleton Coast and deep in the oldest desert on Earth -- the Namib.
Competitors arrived at camp and quickly got situated in their respective tents before having a final dinner before an early rest. Some competitors managed to visit the CyberTent to send blogs and emails or read emails from family, friends and colleagues. Competitor Matt Burke put it bluntly: "Hello all! We made it to the start line today around 4pm. If I had one word to describe this campsite then it would ‘windy’! But beautiful desert all around us."
Overall a good start to the first race of 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series 2018.
Tomorrow's Stage 1 will start at 9 am with a distance of 43 kilometers (or 25.5 miles).
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Competitors awoke to sounds of the African Himba tribe singing and dancing in the campsite. Competitors slowly got out of their tents to gather around the campfires for both warmth and to prepare their meal for the day.
Samantha Fanshawe, the race director, gave a briefing on the day's stage before telling everyone to gather around the startline for a 9 am start.
The Himba Tribe assembled around the startline for traditional dances and to wish the competitors luck on their journey through their ancient homeland, the Namib Desert, the oldest desert on Earth.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and the competitors were off on Stage 1 of the first race of the 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series in 2018.
Course: Stage 1 was 43 kilometers (26.5 miles) which gave competitors a taste of the Namib desert. The weather was 27 C (77 F) with mist and a tail wind.
Marisa Holman, United States (Marisa had to withdraw in 2016 and 2017, but ended up meeting a stranger in Swakopmund who will soon become her husband, a New Zealander. Marisa will join the 4 Deserts Club in 2018):
"... about 2.5k from the finish line I saw another competitor in front of me who looked a little down. I stated chatting and walking with him. It is his first 4 Deserts race so I shared some of my “suffer-management” tactics and told him about my Namibia love story. He thanked me for giving him energy to finish and said he wanted to reciprocate and give me a boost so he sang to me a Korean pop song as we walked through the finish line. He had an amazing voice and it totally made my day. These are the moments I love about these races. "
Sandy Suckling, Australia (Sandy has won numerous ultramarathons):
Life is pretty simple here eat sleep run eat run drink and do again and again…ha ha ha..
Matt Burke, UK (Matt completed the Gobi March):
As to the desert, it’s absolutely stunning. Even during the low points all I had to do was look up and all around at the mazing vistas to raise morale.
Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito from Spain – 3 hours 28 mins
Ollie Stoten from the United Kingdom – 3 hours 38 mins
Wong Ho Chung from Hong Kong – 3 hours 40 mins
Takyua Wakaoka from Japan – 3 hours 45 mins
Ben Dame from Germany – 4 hours 16
Isabelle Sauve from Canada – 4 hours 22 mins (8th overall)
Sandy Suckling from Australia – 5 hours 18 mins (19th overall)
Jacqui Bell from Australia – 5 hours 44 mins (29th overall)
Christina Khinast from Austria – 5 hours 44 mins (30th overall)
Marisa Holman of the United States said it all: "The Namib desert both takes from you, but also gives back. The sunsets are beautiful and last night the moon was full and super bright. If I keep investing in Namibia, I know it will reward me."
Stage 2 of the Sahara Race (Namibia) 2018 is done and dusted -- ALL competitors again completed Stage 2. The final competitors reached Camp 3, the Skeleton Coast Camp, at 18:36 – nine and half hours after the start.
The temperatures on Stage 2 were lower at 19C (66.2F) and the wind was less strong. There are a few more blisters and sore bodies at Camp after 83kms (51 miles), while some who had a slow start yesterday had a better day today, but everyone is in good spirits. Competitors enjoyed eating and chatting with fellow competitors.
There is a tight race at the top with Vicente Garcia Beneito of Spain, Ho Chung Wong of Hong Kong and Ollie Stoten of the United Kingdom, all vying for that top spot. Ho Chung Wong spent his day analysing his strategy to gain time on Garcia Beneito.
In the women's division, Isabelle Sauve of Canada already has a good lead on Sandy Suckling of Australia and Jacqui Bell, also of Australia. However, Sandy has deep experience and The Long March could be a significant factor in who takes first place. Jacqui Bell, at just 23 years old, is aspiring to become the youngest ever to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam and is showing a very impressive performance in her first 4 Deserts race.
For Stage 3, similar temperatures and wind conditions are expected which is considered to be quite a tough stage running on the beach past seal colonies and ship wrecks before turning against the wind for the final section into camp. There are a few competitors who are already thinking about The Long March on Stage 4 – the day after tomorrow – and will be taking it easy tomorrow to conserve their pace.
We have selected a few quotes from competitor blogs which sum up Stage 2:
Kevin Brownsey, United Kingdom: "The desert is an amazing place. Miles of dunes and undulating terrain then beach and ship wrecks then miles more dunes. I've been surprised by the running surface, very rocky and uneven, was hoping for a nice soft thin layer of sand."
Jacqui Bell, Australia: " What an incredible day, there was a lot more sand dunes today and like every-day the scenery is unreal ! Anyway time to sign off and enjoy the evening around the camp fires and just hanging out with everyone - bizzar that we have all known each other just 3 days but it feels like one big family!"
Matt Burke, United Kingdom: "The course is just amazing, so beautiful and feel very lucky to be running here."
Scott Baldridge, United States: "Today I saw a jackal which tried to come into camp this morning, a lizard I almost crushed with my poles accidentally and a family of seals on the beach."
David Cermak, United Kingdom: "These races are always a great experience – lots of pain to push through, but meeting new people, experiencing a new culture and seeing some amazing scenery are why I keep doing them."
Pia Allerslev Uth: "Every time it gets a little hard, it helps to take into account all the money we have collected (for charity). In fact, they have revealed that the route will probably reach 257 km !!!!! So hope you're ready to cough a little extra (-;" [Note: This has been translated from Danish, so excuse the English.]
Stage 3, called the "Skeleton Coast Run," began at 9am. The marathon distance stage of 42 kilometers (26 miles) was the last stage before The Long March. Competitors experienced magnificent colours and vast salt flats deep in the Namib. They ran along the infamous Skeleton Coast with hundreds of seals and saw ancient shipwrecks scattered along the coast.
All but one competitor completed Stage 3 -- Jin Woo Lee of Korea had to withdraw. The overall first place prize is turning out to be an epic battle between Vicente Garcia Beneito of Spain, Ho Chung Wong of Hong Kong and Ollie Stoten of the United Kingdom. All are within 25 minutes of the leader and anything can happen on The Long March.
In the women's division, Isabelle Sauve of Canada again took first place and seventh overall. However, Sandy Suckling and Jacqui Bell, both of Australia, represent some of the toughest women in the field. The Long March is known to be a possible game changer.
Stage 4, The Long March, will be 84 kms (52 miles). It is the toughest stage of the Sahara Race 2018, and will be staggered start at 8 am and 10 am.
Below are the some quotes from the blogs:
Marisa Holman, United States: "Feet are a bit of a mess but I have been getting lots of TLC from the doctors. Other than that the body is becoming a machine now and does what it is supposed to."
Keith Gayhart, United States: "Halfway home. Challenging day. We started out in heat and finished with a tough 10K slog up a rocky, featureless hill. In between, we enjoyed a 16 mile trek through soft sand on the Skeleton Coast. Save for my presence, completely unspoiled. Seals, dead and alive, and shipwrecks. At one point, the vista was so beautiful, even I stopped to snap a picture."
Matt Burke, United Kingdom: "Today the desert bit back hard. We had a 30km section running along the beach which was beautiful if only we didn’t have to run with backpacks on. Saw some shipwrecks and a lot of hyena and jackal paw prints but no actual sightings. The final 10km section was back inland against the wind which was tough. Anyway, morale remains high even though my body is definitely beginning to feel the aches and pains! "
Zeana Haroun, United States: "Its been a great couple of days and i am ready for tomorrow – the big one!! I may crash and burn but have had an epic time up until now, so taking it by the moment and enjoying how so very fortunate i am to be here."
Robert Bennett, United States: "Well today was hands down the hardest marathon I have ever done. We ran out to the coast, so lots of beach sand. Gorgeous scenery where the desert meets the ocean – and I did see the seals! And man they smelled even worse than I do which is a feat that should be impossible three days in. Also saw a shipwreck which reminded me of middle age men attempting to run ultra marathons."
David Cermak, United Kingdom: "This is the most desolate place I have ever been. It’s just sand and rocks. Nothing lives here on land except a few scavenger birds. But there I life in the sea. About half of our run today was along the ocean and I saw several colonies of seals. So interesting Mother Nature. Life that can live in the salt water sea yet nothing lives on land without fresh water."
Kevin Bass, United States: "The run along the Skeleton Coast was amazing, but I could not help myself from thinking of a lawn chair and ice cold beer, even a Coke would do."
Sandy Suckling, Australia: "To some up today in one word Brutal comes to mind. 43km of rocks sand more sand rocks and did I mention sand… well it is a desert after all what was I thinking. On the last 10km of torture on my poor feet trying to run in rubble on a never ending trail to camp I tried to draw strength from messages that I have read and wondering how everyone is… thought about friends and family and what they would-be saying to me now.."
Stage 4, The Long March, got underway in two tranches: 8 am and 10 am. This was done to keep the competitors closer together during the 84 (52 miles) kilometer stage. The Long March is the most difficult stage of the Sahara Race 2018. Competitors got all they asked for as they traversed the majestic wide open plains of rocky and sandy terrain in the area of the Koigab River Bed, around an area called Springbok Wasser.
Competitors were rewarded with lush green fields from the recent rare rain in the Namid Desert. The race was close at the top, but overall competitors marched stoically to the finish line. There were two withdrawals during Stage 4: Steven Shapland, United Kingdom and Mel Winder, New Zealand. No doubt they will be back to finish the course.
(1) Tie: Vicente Garcia Beneito, Hong Kong / Ho Chung Wong, Hong Kong, 8:11
3. Ollie Stoten, United Kingdom, 9:36
4. Robert Bennett, United States, 10:30
5. Takuya Wakaoka, Japan, 10:37
6. Nyikolaj Roskovics, Hungary, 10:39
7. Michael Mclean, Canada, 10:54
8. Hichame Moubarak, France, 11:18
9. Taewook Bin, Korea, 11:25
10. Matthew von Ertfelda, United States, 11:29
68, Isabelle Sauve, Canada, 11:35
39, Christina Khinast, Australia, 13:38
22, Bea Garcia, Spain, 15:35
79, Sandy Suckling, Australia, 15:41
85, Ruth Upsdell, New Zealand, 16:21
27, Zeana Haroun, United States, 17:01
The full results are available on the website: https://www.4deserts.com/sahararace/results
Some insights from the blogs:
Marisa Holman, United States:
"There is something so special about watching someone finish a marathon in all their passion, happiness and physical exertion. Multiply those feels times 100 when you see your fellow competitors cross the finish line of the long stage in a stage race. Only those that are there in that remote desert know the immense challenge and when there are others grinding this out longer than you, there is nothing but respect and happiness."
Matt Burke, United Kingdom:
"Great camaraderie on the course amongst all the competitors."
Robert Bennett, United States:
"How to describe the Long March? I have heard soul shattering. Crushing. Complete and utter destruction. Suffice to say if you don’t know who you are at the start, you will most assuredly have a sense at the end one way or the other."
Sandy Suckling, Australia:
"Its amazing out here people that are complete strangers are just there when you need them."
Zeana Haroun, United States:
"As we came up to the top of one hill, the scenery completely opened up to the vast Namib views which almost made me feel like I was on another planet, the red domes against the clear blue skies and the patches of green grass speckled with yellow and purple flowers."
Keith Gayhart, United States:
"We found ourselves in a series of long valleys, ringed by rolling hills and buttes. The desert floor was covered in a blanket of green grass."
Read all the competitor blogs available on the website: https://www.4deserts.com/sahararace/blogsShare
Stage 5, Dune Day, concluded at a remote fishing village called Torra Bay on the Skeleton Coast. The fishing village is only open two months each year -- competitors were provided with special permission to use the facilities in the "off-season." The stage saw two withdrawals, but overall the competitors loved the stage including the endless sand of sea and sand dunes.
The overall leaders, Vicente Garcia of Spain and Ho Chung Wong of Hong Kong ran in together to finish first in the stage. While the women's leader Isabelle Sauve easily won the stage. Full results are provded below for the overall ranking after five stages.
Tomorrow is Stage 6: The Final Footsteps in the Namib Desert. Competitors will run or walk a ceremonial 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) to the finish line where beer, soft drinks and food will be in abundance.
The Stage 6 schedule will have competitors starting at 8am and finishing by 11am. Competitors will then have a 3- 4 hour bus ride back to Swakopmund. The Awards Banquet will be held on Saturday night in Swakopmund.
Below are the rankings after Stage 5:
1. GARCIA BENEITO, Vicente Juan, Spain, 22:39:05
2. WONG, HO CHUNG, Hong Kong, 22:39:05
3. STOTEN, Ollie, United Kingdom, 24:39:01
4. WAKAOKA, Takuya, Japan, 27:23:38
5. ROSKOVICS, Nyikolaj, Hungary, 28:11:32
6. MCLEAN, Michael, Canada, 28:30:45
7. SAUVE, Isabelle, Canada, 29:36:55
8. RIVOLA, Roberto, Switzerland, 30:19:41
9. DAME, Ben, Germany, 31:28:05
10. GAWRON, MICHAL, Poland, 31:57:58
1. SAUVE, Isabelle, Canada, 29:36:55
2. KHINAST, Christina, Austria, 38:05:01
3. SUCKLING, Sandy, Australia, 38:37:20
4. UPSDELL, Ruth, New Zealand, 44:18:05
5. DUBE, Monique, Canada, 44:18:05
6. BELL, Jacqueline, Australia, 44:32:05
7. HAROUN, Zeana, United States, 45:29:40
8. RYDER, Samantha, United Kingdom, 45:40:16
9. GARCIA BERCHE, Beatriz, Spain, 45:55:24
10. SAUERBACH, Florentina, Germany, 46:57:45
Some insights from competitor blogs:
Keith Gayhart?, United States: "We could see the ocean below, parallel to the line of dunes, It’s a sight I’ll never forget."
David Cermak, United Kingdom: "Wonderful tent mates and a race full of incredibly accomplished people."
Robert Bennett, United States: "I will leave you with this. I had simple goals for this race. I wanted to see my friends, meet some amazing people, and push my boundries."
Jacqui Bell, Australia: "The food and beer at the finish line is calling my name…. well I don’t drink beer but am thinking after this my first ever beer is necessary haha."
Marisa Holman, United States: "This has been hands down the hardest 4 Deserts race for me. I am not sure I can pinpoint the reasons why, except by how much adversity I personally faced with and had to overcome. It was very much taking it checkpoint to checkpoint and drawing upon all of the epic support from the volunteers (esp Deo, Carmen, and Bev!), the doctors (Curly for the tough love, Brian for his amazing energy, everyone who worked on my feet to try to make the discomfort less), my amazing tenties for the unwavering support, lots of laughs, all of my friends and family for all of the email and blog comments- I drew upon these so so much during those many hours of solitude, and last but not least my amazing and supportive fiancé, Dusty, who always knows what to say to support and motivate me to achieve my goals."
The final Stage 6 started at 8am after Namibian camp manger Francois Snyder thanked everyone at the start line for coming to Namibia and supporting the country. The cheerful group of competitors started the final stage that lead them through the Skeleton Coast covered with whale bones and shipwrecks through dunettes and a salt lake to the final finish line.
A Namibian chorus made up of the local Nambian camp team and members of the native Himba tribe sang and danced as competitors crossed the finish line.
All competitors finished by 10:30am. Vicente Garcia Beneito of Spain was first followed by Ho Chung Wong of Hong Kong and then Ollie Stoten of the United Kingdom, all about three minutes apart.
In the women's division, Isabelle Sauve of Canada was first followed by Sandy Suckling of Australia and Christina Khinast of Austria.
Mike Mclean of Canada was very happy with his medal after having not been able to complete the Atacama Crossing -- the medal represented two years of training.
Ho Chung Wong of Hong Kong was excited and said: "After MDS, where I came in 10th, I thought I was an experienced desert racer but Vicente Garcia Beneito is very experienced. I need to train differently for the Gobi March and it will be fun to race again against Vicente."
David Cermak of the United Kingdom had tears in his eyes and said "it was a beautiful course and an amazing week."
Shaun Henderson of Ireland who had to withdraw on Stage 5 sat at the finish line and said "now I know where I will be next year" -- he plans to return.
Marco Vola of Italy plans to retire from stage racing after the Sahara Race 2018 -- he had a beautiful race and did well so it is the perfect way to end his long career in stage racing.
Bea Garcia of Spain chose this race to celebrate her 10th stage race -- an amazing feat for someone who is diabetic. She was all smiles as she crossed the finish line.
The four members of the Korean special forces did a celebratory military salute at the very end. They were led by Dong Hyeon Yoo.
Competitors will soon be back in Swakopmund preparing for the Awards Banquet tonight.
At the Awards Banquet last night, the following awards were presented to competitors in the Sahara Race 2018.
1. GARCIA BENEITO, Vicente Juan, Spain, 23:23:32 (Champion)
2. WONG, HO CHUNG, Hong Kong, 23:41:16
3. STOTEN, Ollie, United Kingdom, 25:24:10
Age Group Awards
29 and Under, YOO, Dong Hyeon, Korea, 39:06:28
30 - 39, WAKAOKA, Takuya, Japan, 28:19:09
40 - 49, ROSKOVICS, Nyikolaj, Hungary, 29:04:19
50 - 59, RIVOLA, Roberto, Switzerland, 31:18:16
60 - 69, VOLA, Marco, Italy, 43:22:04
70 and Above, KAWASHIMA, Yasuichi, Japan, 51:28:30
Women's Division Awards
1. SAUVE, Isabelle, Canada, 30:33:11 (Champion)
2. KHINAST, Christina, Austria, 39:19:13
3. SUCKLING, Sandy, Australia, 39:43:37
Age Group Awards
29 and Under, BELL, Jacqueline, Australia, 46:03:12
30 - 39, UPSDELL, Ruth, New Zealand, 45:34:29
40 - 49, RYDER, Samantha, United Kingdom, 39:19:13
50 - 59, DUBE, Monique, Canada, 45:43:28
60 - 69, O'KIELY, Lishe, Canada, 48:50:39
Spirit Award: JEKAL, Soyoung, Korea
Sportsmanship Award: GOOCH, Christopher, United Kingdom
Congratulations to all who competed in the Sahara Race 2018. We will see many of you at the Gobi March (Mongolia) which begins on 29 July 2018.