RacingThePlanet is Turning 20!
RacingThePlanet and the 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series was founded in February 2002. The first 4 Deserts race, the Gobi March, was held in September 2003 near Dunhuang, China. This inaugural race introduced trail running to China. Less than a year later, in July 2004, the series expanded to the Atacama Crossing in Chile, and then in September to the Sahara Race in Egypt. The Last Desert in Antarctica was inaugurated in January 2006. Due to the political instability in North Africa, the Sahara Race was relocated to Jordan and then Namibia, and the Gobi March from China to Mongolia.
In February 2008, a fifth annual race, called the RacingThePlanet Ultramarathon, was added to the calendar. This race, of a similar format, moves to a new country each year while highlighting the natural and cultural features of each location. The first RacingThePlanet Ultramarathon, titled RacingThePlanet: Vietnam, routed competitors through the rice terraces of Sapa in northwest Vietnam. RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009 then skirted Fish River Canyon and Skeleton Coast of Namibia. Then came races in Australia (2010), Nepal (2011), Jordan (2012), Iceland (2013), Madagascar (2014), Ecuador (2015), Sri Lanka (2016), Patagonia (2017), New Zealand (2019) and Georgia (2021). The 13th RacingThePlanet Ultramarathon took place in Lapland in 2022 and in 2023 as we reach 20 years we have selected to return to Jordan to celebrate our anniversary.
By the end of 2022, RacingThePlanet will have staged 71 races over 20 years. More than 10,000 participants from around 100 countries have participated in the 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series and the RacingThePlanet Ultramarathon including people from all walks of life.
The races have garnered media coverage from around the globe. TIME magazine ranked the 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series as one of the Top Ten Endurance Events in the world for two consecutive years, and the races have been covered through online, print, social and television media including BBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, ESPN, Bloomberg, National Geographic, The New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Outside, Runner's World, NHK and Trans World Sport. A documentary called “Desert Runners” won acclaim at various film festivals around the world and is currently available on Netflix. More than 30 books have been published by participants in the races.
Central to RacingThePlanet has been its ethos to support local charities. RacingThePlanet has worked closely with the Y.L. Yang Education Foundation and Operation Smile in countries around the world, raising more than US$1 million. An array of charities have been supported over the years.
RacingThePlanet has donated tents and raised money to support people affected by natural disasters that have occurred in countries where races are held, including major earthquakes in China, Chile, Ecuador and Nepal.
The pandemic brought RacingThePlanet to a halt in 2020 but the spirit never evaporated and a virtual race was launched raising money for charities in the locations where our races are held. In August 2021, we relaunched the races with RacingThePlanet: Georgia followed by the Namib Race later in the year. The year 2022 brought a full schedule of races back to the calendar.
To further the understanding of human endurance, RacingThePlanet has supported prominent medical research projects in its races. Our world class medical teams have supported the races since inception and contributed to a wide range of medical research projects.
Finally, the racers in RacingThePlanet have raised millions for charities around the world through their own fundraising efforts.
RacingThePlanet: The 20-Year Race will celebrate racers, volunteers, medical teams, media teams, local teams and staff as we relive the memories of the past 70 races in 17 countries around the world.