Home Blog A Glimpse of Desert Racing – Part 1

A Glimpse of Desert Racing – Part 1

by Azlan

There’s marathon, ultra-marathons, and then there’s desert racing.

Earlier in March this year, I was excited at being able to attend an information session titled “From Marathons to Deserts”. It was organised by RacingThePlanet (RTP), the company which runs the 4 Deserts Race Series. The session included talks by Samantha Fanshawe, President of the 4 Deserts Race Series and Matthew Moroz, an experienced ultra-marathon runner representing Team GB (Great Britain).

Prior to the session, I had a rough idea of how desert races worked. Its multi-day race format is similar to the Sabah Adventure Challenge which I have been participating in. The session was targeted at runners who were interested in transitioning from a marathon to an ultra-marathon. However,  there were also runners like myself who had existing ultra-running race experience.

Also in attendance for the session were Ian & Wei Chong (Nuke Optics Athletes) who were preparing to compete in the gruelling Marathon des Sables (a similar race format to the 4 Deserts) in order to raise money for the Save Our Street Dogs Charity. You can find out more about them in an interview article here.

Ian and Wei Chong flying the flag proud and high at the Marathon Des Sables finishing line.

Ian and Wei Chong flying the flag proud and high at the Marathon Des Sables finishing line.

I first got to know of the 4 Desert races series when I looked up Ryan Sandes race accomplishments. Before he became an ultra-running elite, Ryan Sandes was a relative unknown who made his mark on the ultra-running scene by being the first person to win all editions of the 4 Deserts events in a single attempt. He also happens to the only person to win on every continent in the world.

Ryan Sandes will return to his desert racing roots and compete in this years Roving Race in Madagascar.

Ryan Sandes competing in Antarctica. Photo: RacingThePlanet

Ryan Sandes competing in Antarctica. Photo: RacingThePlanet

Some time earlier in July, another 4 Deserts information session was to be held at Singapore Polytechnic. This session focused specifically on the 4 Deserts Race Series. Though the idea of me racing a 4 Deserts is highly unlikely (due to financial constraints and what not), I was keen to learn more about desert racing, so I came down to attend the session. It helped that I was able to visit my Alma Mater (Singapore Polytechnic) as well. For this session, participants were given an introduction of the 4 different races that make up the 4 Deserts Race Series.

  • The Atacama Crossing (Chile)
  • The Gobi March (China)
  • The Sahara Race (Egypt)
  • The Last Desert (Antarctica)
  • The Roving Race (A race of a similar format which moves to a new location each year – in 2014 that is Madagascar and 2015 it is Ecuador.)

Each race consists of 6 stages of up to 250km which spans across 7 days, the longest day usually covers the length a double marathon (about 80km). The session included insights to how best to prepare for these race, as well as tips for completing the race, such as nutrition intake and what equipment to use. Many of these can be found online in this article.

The session was supplemented by a training run at Macritchie the following Saturday and a functional training session on Sunday.

A Glimpse of Desert Racing - Part 1

Wei Yong, founder of TLC, addressing the audience before handing it over to Samantha.

A Glimpse of Desert Racing - Part 1

Samantha Fanshawe, President of 4 Deserts Events

A Glimpse of Desert Racing

Participants of the weekends trail running session.

If you enjoy watching documentaries, more specifically, running ones, then you may want to consider getting a copy of The Desert Runners Movie. The film chronicles the journey of 4 non-professional runners, each attempting to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam. The grand slam is the completion of 4 races in a single calendar year. Dean Kazarnes, a famed ultra-runner, was the first runner to do so. Do check out their Facebook page as they sometime have discount codes for use.


Here’s some related videos which will hope to spark your interest in desert running!

Ryan Sandes




Samantha Gash

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