The Namib Race is a 250-kilometer / 155-mile, six-stage, seven-day, ultramarathon across the oldest desert in the world, the Namib Desert in Namibia. It is part of RacingThePlanet’s, 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series, which is the most prestigious footrace series in the world, ranked by TIME Magazine as the “World’s Top Endurance Races” and profiled on BBC, ESPN, NatGeo, CNN, ABC, and NBC Sports. The 4 Deserts cross the driest, windiest, oldest, and coldest deserts on earth; four hostile environments on four different continents.
The Namib Race is part of the 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series which is organized by RacingThePlanet. We like to think of the RacingThePlanet / 4 Deserts Ultramarathons as their own unique category or genre. The races do not fit into the classic definitions of ultramarathon, adventure race or expedition race. Instead, we refer to the RacingThePlanet / 4 Deserts Ultramarathons as "self-supported rough- country endurance footraces which can be completed either running or walking."
The race is 250-kilometer / 155-mile foot race. It is split into six stages which take place over seven days. At the start of each stage all competitors start together and keep going until they reach the end of the stage - at this point the clock stops timing and competitors can rest and recover overnight before starting the next stage.
The general format is that Stages 1 to 4 are each 40 kilometers / 25 miles. Stage 5, the "Long March", is 80 kilometers / 50 miles which takes place over two days (24-30 hours). Stage 6 then takes place on day 7 and is less than 20 kilometers / 12 miles.
The race is self-supported so competitors must carry their own personal gear, food and clothing in a backpack – the equipment list includes all items that must be carried. The only assistance provided to them is checkpoints along the course (every 10 kilometers / 6 miles), water (plenty) for drinking and preparing food, tents to sleep in at night, and medical and management support.
The Namib Race is part of the 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series which take place in the largest deserts in the world - they represent the driest, oldest, coldest and windiest places on Earth. The Namib Race takes place in the oldest desert in the world, the Namib Desert. The Namib Race replaces the Sahara Race, the original 4 Deserts Race in Africa which started in Egypt in 2004. It has since been temporarily moved to Namibia due to the instability and safety concerns in North Africa and the Middle East. In 2020, the race is being held for the fifth time in Namibia. The course has been set up to pass through one of the most beautiful, pristine and untouched places on Earth showing off desert landscapes at their best.
You may complete the Namib Race (Namibia), Atacama Crossing (Chile) and Gobi March (China/Mongolia) at any time. There is no specific order in which you must do the races, and you do not have to complete all three. However, if you are interested in competing in The Last Desert (Antarctica), then you must have successfully completed at least two of the other 4 Deserts in order to qualify.
There is no qualification required to take part in the Namib Race, but competitors must be healthy and maintain a certain level of fitness. All competitors are required to submit a medical form with information on fitness level, a form with emergency contact details and a stamped doctor's certificate two months before the race.
The typical competitor is a high achiever - someone who believes in maximizing every opportunity in life. Our competitors generally work full-time, some have families, many perform community service, and all lead healthy lifestyles. Our competitors consist of medical doctors, professors, investment bankers, small business owners, actors, entrepreneurs, journalists, top athletes and coaches, military professionals, managers, students, entrepreneurs and stay-at-home moms and dads. We have many father/son, father/daughter, mother/son and brother/sister competitors. The races are international with at least 40 countries represented in each race. At a normal race, 20-25% of competitors are women and 75%-80% of competitors are men.
The Namib Race consists of six stages that take place over seven days. Competitors typically arrive two days before the start of the race and are free to leave any time after the race concludes. We recommend that you do not to miss the fun part - the Awards Banquet! So it is anything from eight to ten days depending on travel time and additional time for acclimatisation.
A full itinerary can be viewed on the Namib Race website.
The race is set up to allow for generous cut-off times – they are based on a 4km / 2.5 mile per hour pace. In general, 20% of competitors will run most of the course, 60% combine running with walking, and 20% will walk the entire course. A competitor that can complete 40 kilometers / 25 miles in 8-10 hours should be able to meet the cut-off times.
Our competitors are busy people and we do not expect them to train all the time, but a minimum amount of training is expected. Some competitors complete the race with minimal training; others want to win and spend many more hours training. Each competitor has his or her own goal. We simply want people to finish.
There are a number of resources available to help people prepare and train for the Namib Race; some of these are listed below:
- Expert articles prepared by doctors, health and sports professionals on a variety of topics related to training, preparation and medical care. All of the articles are available on the RacingThePlanet website and in a special Competitor Area of the Namib Race website.
- The expert article titled Preparing for a 250km Race is a particularly useful to help get started.
- Competitor blogs are a great way to collect training tips to implement into a personal training plan. The blogs also provide a way for competitors to share questions and advice with one another.
Contact us for more information or to get connected with other competitors.
RacingThePlanet / 4 Deserts Ultramarathons are very popular some races sell out more than six months in advance. We recommend that prospective competitors complete an online registration as early as possible and at least six months before the start of the race. Places are confirmed upon receipt of the deposit payment. Once the race is full, new applications will be added to the waiting list.
The entry fee for the Namib Race includes almost everything once you arrive at the race hotel in the host town of the race – so from the arrival at the event hotel on the Friday before the race start until departure on Sunday after the race conclusion. Specifically, this is:
- International staff and medical support throughout the race
- Mineral water for the duration of the race
- Campfire with hot water available for cooking / making warm drinks in the mornings and evenings for the duration of the race
- Transportation to Camp 1 and from the finish line to the race hotel
- Two nights hotel accommodation (one night pre-race and one night post-race, double occupancy) Pre-race and post-race breakfasts and one pre-race lunch
- Awards Banquet ticket (including dinner, awards presentation and photo slideshow)
- Finisher's medal
- Official race shirt or jacket
A fully qualified team of medical doctors from North America, many of whom have attended a number of RacingThePlanet / 4 Deserts ultramarathons over the years, work at each race. Most doctors are emergency physicians with affiliations at Stanford University and other reputable medical schools.
During the race, there is a medical doctor at most checkpoints to offer assistance and care on the course. There is also a medical tent located at every campsite where competitors can seek medical assistance or advice. Note that this is a self-supported race, so each competitor must bring the mandatory medical items listed on the equipment list.
Competitors must carry ALL mandatory equipment items, including food and electrolytes, at all times during the race. An equipment list with mandatory gear requirements can be found on the equipment page of the Namib Race website. The equipment list has also a section of optional and recommended gear items.
When full, most competitor backpacks range in weight from 7-15 kilograms / 15-33 pounds, with the average backpack weighing 9 kilograms / 20 pounds (without water). Note that the backpack weight will decrease each day as food is eaten and items are used along the course.
At the end of each stage, competitors, volunteers and staff gather in incredible campsites managed by a local camp team. The desert campsites are typically located in spectacular places with clear views of the night skies. Competitors sleep in tents of up to ten people. There are also camp fires in the mornings and evenings to prepare food and mingle with new friends.
You only need to get to the race hotel in the host town of the race. After that all logistics for getting to the start line and from the finish line are managed by us for you.
For the Namib Race the host town is Swakopmund which is served by Walvis Bay Airport – just 40 minutes away by road. The most direct route is first to fly to Johannesburg or Cape Town in South Africa and then take a direct flight to Walvis Bay. To get there from the capital of Windhoek it is a 40 minute flight (to Walvis Bay) or a four-hour drive.
We provide information on common flight routes and a local contact to help you make arrangements once you get to the country of the race. This includes additional nights in a hotel, airport transfers, domestic flights and any additional travel arrangements. Once you have confirmed your place by paying the entry fee, we will send you more information on travel arrangements.
The Namib Race website is updated daily during the race with real-time breaking news, stage updates, results, competitor blogs, features, and hundreds of photos and videos. In particular, there is a LIVE page so that you can easily find all this information. Supporters can follow the race by:
- Visiting the official Namib Race website.
- Signing up for Breaking News.
- Reading the Namib Race blogs.
- Viewing photos and videos.
- Becoming a Facebook friend.
- Tweeting with us on Twitter.
- Send a message to a competitor during the race by going “email a competitor” on the results page.
- Contacting 4 Deserts staff to attend the finish line and post-race Awards Banquet.
We typically accept 16-20 volunteers for the Namib Race each year. Those interested in volunteering should complete a volunteer application as early as possible. We accept volunteers on a rolling basis and receive many more applications than we can accept. The volunteer team works hard during the race, but the job is fun and very rewarding. Many volunteers return to our races year after year.
Each RacingThePlanet / 4 Deserts Race highlights the very best of the area - the most spectacular, unspoiled scenery and culture in the country. The hope is to share the beauty and special feelings so that we can work to preserve the landscape and culture for generations to come. At the Namib Race, competitors will experience the friendship and warmth of the local people and the most stunning desert landscapes including:
- Rolling dunes that can be seen for miles
- Waves crashing onto the desert sand where it meets the Atlantic Ocean
- Local tribes at each camp cheering you on
- African sunsets in the big open skies
- Some the highest dunes in the world
Many say that the best part of the race is meeting other competitors and making new friends from all over the world. Many competitors meet up after the race, stopping to have dinner when passing through another competitor’s hometown or getting together regularly for social events. Others choose to register for additional races as teammates. Some competitors have even met their future spouses!
Absolutely - we encourage it. Giving back is one of the primary themes of the RacingThePlanet mission. Many of our competitors have raised significant amounts of money for charities all over the world.