If you think about it, challenging yourself, testing your limits and mental and physical capacity is something that’s fundamentally human. We do it in all sorts of ways, large and small. Competitive sports, the mission to send a man to the Moon, building the first steel bridge crossing the Mississippi River – these are all particularly prominent examples of our innately human desire to find challenges and find ways to master them.
What about racing through the desert? What about racing by foot across the Sahara Desert or the Gobi Desert? Certainly, that sounds like a challenge. In fact, it’s something that many particularly motivated (not to mention in-shape) athletes have been doing since 2002.
The organization is called the 4 Deserts Race Series. It’s arguably one of the most prestigious and toughest outdoor foot races in the world, and it’s attracted hundreds of competitors from around the globe.
The idea of the 4 Deserts Race Series is fairly simple, even if it is more complicated to plan and execute… Give participants the opportunity to participate in an extended, multi-day footrace in desert environments on four different continents. Those deserts being the Atacama Crossing in Chile, the Sahara Desert in Egypt, the Gobi Desert in China and the last race, which crosses the Aitcho Islands in Antarctica.
Participants of the 4 Deserts Race come from all walks of life. Some are bankers, some are outdoor enthusiasts, others are firefighters and athletes. Similarly, some participants choose to race in only one desert challenge, while others strive to become part of the 4 Desert Champion Club (those who have the highest cumulative rank of each of the 4 Deserts events). Still, others seek membership in the 4 Deserts Grand Slam club, which are those participants who are able to complete all four races within one calendar year.
Why would anyone want to participate in what sounds like such a grueling and exhausting undertaking?
Besides seeing new landscapes, besides meeting people from brand-new, entirely different cultures, the 4 Deserts Race Series offers one more compelling reason for participants – namely, the idea of giving back to the community and supporting charitable efforts, a philosophy which is ingrained in the ethos of the race series. Not only does the Race Series itself support causes like Operation Smile and Room to Read, participants can also race in the name of a charity of their choosing
It’s something that’s been motivating 4 Deserts Race competitors since 2002. This year, as example, Andrew Espin, manager of Australia’s Decision Inc., competed in the Race Series in support of St. Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children.
In 2009, Canadian developer Louie Santaguida raced in the Gobi March in China as a way to raise funds for the Covenant House, a hospital for children. Santaguida would go on to race in three more challenges: the Atacama Crossing in Chile in 2010, the Sahara Race in 2011 and finally, the Antarctica Race in 2012. Not only would Louie Santaguida’s participation vault him into the privileged 4 Deserts Club, his participation would also allow him to raise a total of $50,000 for the Covenant House.
In Louie Santaguida’s words, “It truly was an exhilarating experience.”
Santaguida adds, “The training, the epic races themselves, the meeting of friends from all different parts of the world – racing in those four challenges truly was a life-changing experience for me. But, the fact that I was able to participate in the 4 Deserts]race and raise money for the Covenant House at the same time made the experience even more memorable.”
Louie Santaguida adds, “I’m not sure if my body is still up for it, but participating in the series would be something I would love to do again.”
For more information on the 4 Deserts Race Series and to learn more about how you can become involved, visit the 4 Deserts Race website at http://www.4deserts.com/