The events that combine to make the 4 Deserts Race Series are:
The Atacama Crossing crosses Chile’s brutal Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth. The Atacama Desert has a unique landscape of salt lakes, volcanoes, lava flows and sand dunes. Moreover, owing to its otherworldly appearance, the landscape has been compared to that of Mars and has been used as a location for filming Mars scenes, most notably in the television series Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets.
The Atacama Crossing is gruelling because of its terrain, harsh climate and altitude that averages 2,500 meters (8,000 feet) during the race. The race typically begins at its highest point of more than 3,000 meters in the Arcoiris Valley.
San Pedro de Atacama is the host town of the Atacama Crossing.
The race takes place in various locations around the Chinese area of the Gobi Desert, and is usually held in June. in 2012 it took place around the region of Kashgar within sight of the Pamir Mountains to the west visiting such landmarks as Heaven's Gate. 2013 will be the 10th edition of the Gobi March and a brand new course is being planned.
The Gobi March's challenges include the changes in temperature from the hot highlands to the oppressive cold in sand dunes, the open sun, potential sandstorms and variety of terrain – soft sand-dunes, rocky tracks, steep hills, ridges and riverbeds.
A Shanghai-based competitor died of heatstroke after competing in the 2010 Gobi March. His brother (who was not at the race) claimed Racing the Planet was "reckless" to set such a course for non-professional athletes, and ill-prepared.
The Sahara segment takes place, usually in October, in the hottest desert in the world. Competitors have to contend with a variety of terrains, both rock and sand, but will face endless miles of sand dunes up to 122 metres (400 feet) high. Daytime temperatures reach 50 °C.
In 2012 the race took place for the third time in the Western Desert around the region around Al Fayuum, Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area and The Valley of the Whales or Wadi Al-Hitan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Due to political unrest the 2014 edition of the race was moved to Jordan where it crossed four deserts; Wadi Rum, Kharaza, Humaima and Wadi Araba before finishing in the ancient city of Petra. The 2016 event was relocated to the Namib Desert where it is expected to remain for some time.
The race uses a polar expedition ship as its base, traveling to the different course locations on the Antarctic Peninsula and offshore islands based on the prevailing sea and weather conditions, with competitors transferred from ship to shore by zodiacs. Since 2010, this segment has been held biannually in order to minimise its environmental impact, and usually takes place around the end of November.
The unique challenges of The Last Desert (Antarctica) include having to cope with the severity of the weather conditions that can include gale force blizzards and temperatures down to −20 °C (-4 °F). Competitors also have to deal with the unpredictability of daily stage lengths and start-times, as the prevailing environmental conditions dictate where and when stages might begin.
Fifteen individuals from around the world completed the inaugural event in 2006 becoming the first in the world to complete a 250 km footrace on the Antarctic continent. The Last Desert 2010 took place in November of that year in King George Island, Deception Island, and Dorian Bay. The Last Desert 2010 was featured 3 times on IMG's Transworld Sport.
The Roving Race Series was introduced in 2008 as the 4 Deserts saw a desire for multi-day, multi-stage races in new countries. The concept was to supplement with 4 Deserts Race Series with one-off races in new locations each year. These locations did not have to be deserts, but it was preferred that they would retain some of the most desirable elements of the races in the original series including locations that were off the beaten track and where beautiful, cultural and physically challenging courses could be set. So far, Roving Races have been held in Vietnam (2008), Namibia (2009), Australia (2010), Nepal (2011), Jordan (2012), Iceland (2013) and Madagascar (2014), Ecuador (2015) and Sri Lanka (2016). The Roving Race in 2017 is planned for Patagonia.
The 250-kilometer (155-mile) races take place over seven days and six stages. A campsite is raised each night for competitors where they are provided with a place in a tent to sleep, access to hot water, a campfire, medical assistance and the CyberTent where they can view and send messages to family and friends and update their race blog.
Competitors race from campsite to campsite each day following marker flags that have been planted the preceding day. They must pass through a series of checkpoints where they collect drinking water and can seek medical treatment.
Other than the access to the services described competitors must race completely self-supported, carrying all their food, supplies and equipment for the week. Each competitor must carry a selection of mandatory items at all times to help ensure their safety out on course.
Competitors must start each stage at the appointed time and on certain stages cut-off times are set which racers must meet in order to remain active in the event.
The results of the race are based on the cumulative time taken for the competitor to complete all the stages, and a competitor must successfully pass through every checkpoint in order to collect a finisher's medal.
Should a competitor withdraw from a particular stage, they may not continue in the race.
About 50% of competitors choose to support causes when racing at the 4 Deserts.
Because of the remote locations of many of the races RacingThePlanet choose to support a specific charity at almost every event, that provides support to the local community in which the event takes place. The company has a long running partnership with Operation Smile, and has raised over US$500,000 for the charity for projects in Vietnam, China and Egypt, often funding missions and surgeries in the local communities through which competitors race.
The company has donated books and sports equipment to schools in Xinjiang province where the Gobi March is held through the Esquel Y. L. Yang Education Fund who they have also supported for a number of years.
In 2008, the Gobi March took place just one month after the devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province on 12 May, so that year RacingThePlanet put together a special auction whereby friends and families of competitors could bid to buy a hot shower for three competitors at the end of the 90 km Stage 5 of the event. An unheard of and never-to-be-repeated luxury. The auction raised almost US$30,000 for the Red Cross disaster fund.
Again in 2010 another earthquake affected a country that plays host to a 4 Deserts race. The Chilean earthquake of 27 February occurred just one week before the start of the Atacama Crossing. RacingThePlanet and the community of competitors and friends raised US$15,000 for Habitat for Humanity in the weeks to follow.
4 Deserts Champions are crowned in the male and female categories at the end of every edition of The Last Desert (Antarctica). Since 2010, champions have been recognized in an official Awards Ceremony at the conclusion of the Antarctic race; champions from previous years have been crowned retrospectively.
4 Deserts Champions are determined by adding the finishing rankings of every The Last Desert competitor over each of the four races in the series. For this reason, only 4 Deserts Club members are eligible for the award. The lowest aggregate score in the male and female categories is named a 4 Deserts Champion.
In 2010, Ryan Sandes of South Africa recorded the lowest and unbeatable aggregate score of 4 points as he had won each of the 4 Deserts races he had entered. In 2012, Spanish racer Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito and German competitor Anne-Marie Flammersfeld repeated this feat by winning all four races in the same calendar year and qualifying for the 4 Deserts Grand Slam.
4 Deserts Champions:
Male: José Manuel Martínez Fernandez (Spain)
Female: Isis Breiter (Mexico)
Male: Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito (Spain)
Female: Anne-Marie Flammersfeld (Germany)
Male: Ryan Sandes (South Africa)
Female: Mirjana Pellizzer (Croatia)
Male: Dean Karnazes (United States)
Female: Laura Corti (Italy)
Male: Francesco Galanzino (Italy)
Male: Yi Chieh (Kevin) Lin (Taiwan)
Female: Lisanne Dorian (United States)
The 4 Deserts Club recognizes competitors who have completed all four races in the 4 Deserts Race Series.
As of May 2015, there are 171 members representing 35 nationalities in the 4 Deserts Club. Nationalities represented include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea (South), Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and the United States.
4 Deserts Club Members:
Juan Carlos Albarran (Spain), Frederic Asseline (France), Asger Bech-Thomsen (Denmark), Paul Borlinha (Canada), Isis Breiter (Mexico), Chris Calimano (United States), Beatriz Camiade (Mexico), Olle Chen (Taiwan), Yao Chen (Taiwan), George Chmiel (United States), Arthur Chu (Philippines), Stefan Danis (Canada), Juan Ferrero (Argentina), Brett Foote (Australia), Beatriz Garcia Berche (Spain), Michael Gilgen (Switzerland), Jose Luis Gomez Alciturri (Spain), Andrzej Gondek (Poland), Belinda Holdsworth (United Kingdom), Kyungpyo Hong (South Korea), Shing Hing Hung (Hong Kong), Linh Huynh (Canada), Feibao Jin (China), Jagdeep Kairon (India), Tomotaka Kamei (Japan), Miki Komaba (Japan), Sanya Kongmunvattana (Thailand), Gibeum Lee (South Korea), Daniel Lewczuk (Poland), Andres Lledo Lopez (Spain), Jose Manuel Martinez Fernandez (Spain), Matthew McLellan (Australia), Raul Narvaez (Chile), Kozo Niidome (Japan), Takashi Okada (Japan), Atul Patki (India), Inia Raumati (New Zealand), Yoshihiro Sato (Japan), Shui Fuk Sin (Hong Kong), Francisco Somoza (Argentina), Megan Stewart (New Zealand), Rob Trepa (United States), Richard Wang (Hong Kong), Shigeru Watanabe (Japan), Marek Wikiera (Poland), Bo Xing (China)
Vincent Antunez (United States), Jess Baker (Australia), Cécile Bertin (France), Annabell Chartres (New Zealand), Gyouyoung Choi (South Korea), William Coffey (Ireland), Christian Colque (Argentina), Alper Dalkilic (Turkey), Greg Donovan (Australia), Matthew Donovan (Australia), Jeison Duarte da Costa (Brazil), Fergus Edwards (Scotland), Guy Evans (United Kingdom), Anne-Marie Flammersfeld (Germany), Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito (Spain), James Gaston (United States), Tara Gaston (United States), Roger Hanney (Australia), Nahila Hernandez San Juan (Mexico), Kate Hogan (United Kingdom), Mie Iida (Japan), Michelle Kakade (India), Ali Kedami (Lebanon), Sanghyeon Kim (South Korea), Dan Leiner (Luxembourg), Kumi Murakami (Japan), Garry Prendiville (Australia), Luigi Santaguida (Canada), Ron Schwebel (Australia), Peter Sexton (United Kingdom), Seiji Shishido (Japan), Simon Southgate (United Kingdom), Leonard Stanmore (Canada), Shayne Stoik (Canada), Colin Suckling (Australia), Sandy Suckling (Australia), Jacqueline Terto (Brazil), Olivier Thiriet (France), Charl Van Der Walt (South Africa), Seung Chul Youn (South Korea)
Diego Carvajal (United Kingdom), Devrim Celal (Cyprus), Thaddeus Lawrence (Singapore), Mayuko Okabe (Japan), Lucy Tang (United Kingdom), Alain Wehbi (Lebanon)
Paul Acheson (United Kingdom), David Annandale (United Kingdom), Simone Bishop (South Africa), Raffaele Brattoli (Italy), Helen Carter (United Kingdom), Eric Chang (Hong Kong), Robert Coyne (United States), Alexandre de Gouyon Matignon (France), Kimberly Dods (South Africa), Jacqueline Eastridge (United States), Gunnar Faehn (Norway), Emanuelle Gallo (Italy), Samantha Gash (Australia), Shane Knowler (New Zealand), Stan Lee (Canada), Maria Luisa Malvestiti (Italy), Michael McKerrow (United Kingdom), Robyn Metcalfe (United States), Ashkan Mokhtari (Iran), Terumasa Mori (Japan), David O'Brien (Ireland), Rory O'Connor (Ireland), Ricky Paugh (United States), Mirjana Pellizzer (Croatia), Linda Quirk (United States), Lucy Rivers Bulkeley (United Kingdom), Ryan Sandes (South Africa), Paul Skipworth (United Kingdom), David Smale (United Kingdom), Greg Tamblyn (Australia), Philip Tye (United Kingdom), Marco Vola (Italy), Neil Wilkie (United Kingdom)
Peter Bocquet (Australia), Carlos Dias (Brazil), James Elson (United Kingdom), Frank Fumich (United States)
John Barratt (Canada), Nicola Benetti (Italy), Mark Bishop (South Africa), Tony Brammer (United Kingdom), Laura Corti (Italy), Carlos Garcia Prieto (Spain), Evgeniy Gorkov (Russia), Dean Karnazes (United States), Hyo Jung Kim (South Korea), Kah Shin Leow (Singapore), Paul Liebenberg (South Africa), Harold Roberts (United Kingdom), Martyn Sawyer (United Kingdom), Kyung Tae Song (South Korea), Peter Wilson (Australia)
Byeung Sik Ahn (South Korea), Alexander Bellingham (United Kingdom), Francesco Gian Galanzino (Italy), Jacob Hastrup (Denmark), Joseph Holland (Canada), Yoshiaki Ishihara (Japan), Kazuo Isomura (Japan), Sung Kwan Kim (South Korea), Dong Uk Lee (South Korea), Moo Woong Lee (South Korea), Thomas Roende (Denmark), Ji Sung Yoo (South Korea)
Joel Burrows (United States), Vincent Carroll (Ireland), Matthew Chapman (Australia), Lisanne Dorion (United States), Nancy Fudacz-Burrows (United States), Masashi Hayakawa (Japan), David Kuhnau (United States), Derek Kwik (Hong Kong), Kevin Lin (Taiwan), Alasdair Morrison (Scotland), Gunnar Nilsson (Norway), Satoru Otsuka (Japan), Scott Smith (United States), Chuck Walker (United Kingdom), Brent Weigner (United States)
The 4 Deserts Grand Slam has been so named by competitors attempting to complete all the events in the 4 Deserts Race Series in one calendar year.
The first Grand Slam was first attempted in 2008 when five competitors set out to complete the task and two were ultimately successful. The first two competitors to be named Grand Slammers were famed endurance athlete Dean Karnazes of the United States and Paul Liebenberg of South Africa. In 2010, fourteen competitors attempted to complete the feat and nine, including the first three women, were successful. The Grand Slam has become increasingly popular in the years in which all 4 Deserts take place.
4 Deserts Grand Slammers:
Juan Carlos Albarran (Spain), Asger Bech-Thomsen (Denmark), Paul Borlinha (Canada), Isis Breiter (Mexico), Chris Calimano (United States), Arthur Chu (Philippines), Brett Foote (Australia), Michael Gilgen (Switzerland), Jose Luis Gomez Alciturri (Spain), Andrzej Gondek (Poland), Kyungpyo Hong (South Korea), Linh Huynh (Canada), Daniel Lewczuk (Poland), Andres Lledo Lopez (Spain), Jose Manuel Martinez Fernandez (Spain), Atul Patki (India), Inia Raumati (New Zealand), Rob Trepa (United States), Marek Wikiera (Poland)
Jess Baker (Australia), Cécile Bertin (France), Gyouyoung Choi (South Korea), Christian Colque (Argentina), Alper Dalkilic (Turkey), Greg Donovan (Australia), Matthew Donovan (Australia), Jeison Duarte da Costa (Brazil), Anne-Marie Flammersfeld (Germany), Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito (Spain), James Gaston (United States), Tara Gaston (United States), Roger Hanney (Australia), Sanghyeon Kim (South Korea), Dan Leiner (Luxembourg), Ron Schwebel (Australia), Shayne Stoik (Canada), Seung Chul Youn (South Korea)
Paul Acheson (England), Samantha Gash (Australia), Peter Jong (Australia), Stan Lee (Canada), Terumasa Mori (Japan), David O'Brien (Ireland), Linda Quirk (United States) Lucy Rivers-Bulkeley (England), Philip Tye (England)
Dean Karnazes (United States), Paul Liebenberg (South Africa)
Times are shown in hours:minutes:seconds
Overall results are calculated differently for The Last Desert (Antarctica) as weather and sea conditions make it difficult to cover a full 250 kilometers. In these cases, overall rankings are based on total distance covered rather than overall time.