[3 October 2015, San Pedro de Atacama] – Competitors from nearly 40 countries will race across the Atacama Desert during the coming week, carrying their own equipment and food over a grueling 250-kilometer course.
Now in its 11th year, the 4 Deserts Race Series began hosting the Atacama Crossing in 2004. The race returns with an exciting field of 168 competitors, who will set out on the course Sunday, 4 October, and cross the finish line in the historic town of San Pedro de Atacama on Saturday, 10 October. Competitors will start out at the highest point of the course, an altitude of 3.3 kilometers above sea level, and gradually descend to 2.5 kilometers as they cross the Atacama Desert, known as the driest place on the planet.
The race takes runners through an incredible moon-like landscape, including salt lakes and flats, sand dunes, canyons and valleys, and villages dotting the path of Incan roads dating back hundreds of years. The Licancabur Volcano rises in the background for most of the course.
The otherworldly beauty of the desert is perhaps what draws competitors such as Ashkan Mokhtari back to the Atacama Crossing year after year. 2015 marks Mokhtari’s seventh year in a row to return to Chile, and upon completion, will be his 18th 4 Deserts/RacingThePlanet event since he began competing in 2008.
Racers represent 37 nations, with four teams included among them. Kam Hung (Camel) Fung of Hong Kong is the first amputee to ever compete in a 4 Deserts/RacingThePlanet event. Part of the team “Five Legs Never Quit,” Fung set a goal to raise HK $3 million for the Hong Kong Amputees Association.
Other notable competitors include Germany’s Mike Kraft, an ultramarathoner and accomplished climber who has reached the summit of the highest mountain on every continent; American Shiri Leventhal, women’s champion of the Gobi March (China) 2013 and top three finisher at the Great Wall Marathon; and New Zealand’s John and Daniel Bonallack, a father-son team who have together conquered endurance races in Greenland, Brazil and Egypt.
After crossing the finish line at the Atacama Crossing (Chile) 2015, seven competitors will become members of the prestigious 4 Deserts Club, meaning they have completed the Sahara Race (Egypt), Gobi March (China), Atacama Crossing (Chile) and The Last Desert (Antarctica).
The 4 Deserts Race Series tests competitors physically and mentally, as they must carry their own food and equipment for seven days across inhospitable terrain. Volunteers and staff provide drinking water and tents each night for competitors to rest, and a robust medical team keeps them safe as they cross through dozens of checkpoints during the week.