Atacama Crossing – final leg of my 4 Deserts quest

The 11th edition of the Atacama Crossing, a 250km self-supported foot race, will be held from 4-10 October 2015 in the Atacama Desert in Chile.

The Atacama Crossing forms part of Racing the Planet’s 4 Desert Series, named by TIME magazine as one of the Top 10 Endurance Competitions in the world. I have already completed the other three races in the series – Sahara (2011), Gobi (2012) and Antarctica (2014) – and this is therefore 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.

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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 more than 15 million years old and the driest non-polar desert in the world with an average rainfall of less than 1mm each year. Some weather stations in the desert have never reported any rainfall. The weather is so arid that even the mountain peaks that reach over 6 500 meters have no glaciers.

In addition, the Atacama Desert’s 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 all competitors with a serious test of endurance.

The entire race will be held at over 2 300 meters above sea level, with the highest point more than 3 000 meters (10 000 feet) above sea level. Living and training in Johannesburg (at 1 500 meters above sea level) will hopefully help me in quickly adjusting to the altitude challenges of the race.

Click here for highlights of the 2014 Atacama Crossing.

Approximately 200 competitors representing more than 40 countries are expected to compete in the 2015 Atacama Crossing. As a self-supported race, competitors must carry everything they need for seven days on their backs. The average backpack weighs 8-10 kilograms. Competitors are only provided with water (1.5 liters approximately every 10 km) and an overnight tent to sleep in. No luxuries – running water, bed, “real food”, etc. – for a whole week!

My participation in the Atacama Crossing will once again be a special and challenging running experience, and also one with a real purpose. As many other competitors, I am also supporting a specific cause or charity and will be dedicating my participation in the Atacama Crossing to the work of The Sunflower Fund in South Africa. The 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.

Supporting the work of The Sunflower Fund provides me with all the necessary motivation to complete the fourth and final leg of the 4Desert series.


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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