My Next Desert Challenge – Running 250km through the Atacama Desert for The Sunflower Fund

Exactly 100 days from today I will embark on my next desert running challenge – the 7-day 250km Atacama Crossing from 4-10 October 2015 through the Atacama Desert in Chile!


I have completed various multi-stage desert races over the past few years – Kalahari, Sahara, Namib, Gobi, Burkina Faso and Antarctica – using my participation to support the fundraising and awareness-raising efforts of non-profit organisations and social causes in Africa.

My participation in the Atacama Crossing will once again be a special and challenging running experience, and one with a real purpose.

Firstly, the Atacama Desert is like no place on earth. Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean in the west, and the Andes mountains in the east, it is the driest non-polar desert in the world with an average rainfall of less than 1mm each year. In addition, its jagged, rust-colored ravines, white salt pan and volcano-topped horizons give it a Mars-like feel, and combined with high altitude and the challenges associated with a self-supported desert race, will present the 150+ competitors with a serious test of endurance.

Secondly, I will achieve a unique milestone by completing the Atacama Crossing. The race forms part of Racing the Planet’s 4 Desert Series – Sahara, Gobi, Antarctica and Atacama – and having already completed the other three races, this is my fourth and final leg to join the “exclusive” 4Deserts Club. Only six South Africans and 174 runners in total have completed all four desert races over the past decade.

Thirdly, my participation in desert races provides me with an opportunity to support non-profit organisations and social causes making a difference in society, and I am dedicating this race to the work of The Sunflower Fund in South Africa. Having participated in their “Everest Challenge” in March 2015, I’m excited to continue my association with this special organisation.

Sunflower Logo+strap-2 [Converted]

The Sunflower Fund’s vision is to give all South Africans diagnosed with leukaemia and other life-threatening blood disorders the chance of life, irrespective of their race and financial circumstances. Leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called “blasts”.

The Sunflower Fund’s mission is to educate and recruit a viable number of well-informed potential bone marrow stem cell donors who are ethnically diverse, in an effort to save the lives of those needing a transplant when suffering from life-threatening blood disorders like leukaemia.

There are only 68 499 people registered with the South African Bone Marrow Registry, an unacceptable number for a country with a population of more than 50 million people. An average match ratio is 1:100 000 within a specific ethnic group, and as a result, much more needs to be done to grow the number of stem cell donors.

I will therefore use the period before and during the Atacama Crossing to support The Sunflower Fund in raising awareness about the registration process and encouraging South Africans to become involved.

All it takes to register is a normal blood test! It does NOT involve drilling into your bones to remove bone marrow.

The Sunflower Fund also hosts various events and campaigns throughout the year, such as the Everest Challenge, to raise money which enables it to pay for people’s test costs to join the Registry. It costs The Sunflower Fund R2 000 per person for the test, and I encourage you to make a donation in support of this important cause.


Please mark the date – Wednesday, 16 September 2015 – when people living in and around Johannesburg will have the opportunity to become a stem cell donor and included in the South African Bone Marrow Registry. To participate, you have to pre-register by Friday, 11 September 2015.

Click here for more information.

I’m excited about supporting The Sunflower Fund over the next few weeks, and invite you to join me on this journey.

Follow updates on my blog, Facebook and Twitter, and via The Sunflower Fund’s various online platforms.

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