Philippe Gatta
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Ultra Distance & Trails Running: Desert

Trail in the Sinai desert, Egypt (© P. Gatta).
Trail in the Sinai desert, Egypt (© P. Gatta)

Introduction

After have run 50,000 km (31,075 miles) around the world, Philippe presents several ultra distance races.

Ultra distance and Trail in Mountain: Ultra distance and Trail in deserts: Others Ultra distance and Trail races:

Ultra distance races and Trails map (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech).
Ultra distance races and Trails map (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Marathon des Sables / Marathon of Sands: Sahara, Morocco

With more than 700 runners coming from 35 countries, the Marathon des Sables is probably the most famous running race in the desert. Its name is a bit misleading as the race is much longer than a Marathon. In fact the Marathon takes places on the 6th day when runners have already made 160km. Distance and heat are not the only challenges, the runners also have to carry their backpack with gear, sleeping bag and food for 7 days.


Race Information:

Philippe on the trail to the old mine (© P. Gatta)
Philippe on the trail to the old mine (© P. Gatta)

Sandstorm in the dunes (© P. Gatta)
Sandstorm in the dunes (© P. Gatta)

Sahara Race: Sahara, Egypt

The Sahara Race is a 250 km (155 miles) running race which takes place in the Sahara desert, 130 km Southwest of Cairo, Egypt. There are 6-stages in 7 days: almost 4 Marathons in 4 days, then 86 km, a rest day and a final short stage of 2 km.

The race starts at the lakes of Faiyum in the Wadi El Rayan area, then goes South across dunes. It crosses the Valley of Whales (Wadi Al-Hitan) and finishes at the Pyramids of Giza.

Overall the concept and difficulty of the race is very similar to the Marathon des Sables.


Information:

Sahara Race (© P. Gatta)
Sahara Race (© P. Gatta)

Atacama Crossing: Atacama, Chile

The Atacama Crossing is a 250 km (155 miles) running race which takes place in the Atacama desert in Chile. There are 6-stages in 7 days: almost 4 Marathons in 4 days, then 75 km, a rest day and a final short stage of 8 km.

The race starts in the Rio Grande Valley, 40 km Northwest of San Pedro de Atacama at an elevation of 3,050 meters. Then it crosses several canyons, salt flat of Atacama.


Information:

Anna during the long stage of the Atacama Crossing. Licancabur volcano behind (© P. Gatta)
Anna during the long stage of the Atacama Crossing. Licancabur volcano behind (© P. Gatta)

Gobi March: Xinjiang, China

The Gobi March is a 250 km (155 miles) running race which takes place in the Gobi desert, around Kashgar. Kashgar is on the western part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, near the border with Tajikistan. There are 6-stages in 7 days: almost 4 Marathons in 4 days, then 76 km, a rest day and a final short stage of 16 km.

The race starts in Gazi, a small village Southwest of Kashgar at an elevation of 1,800 m. Then circles around Kashgar, crossing canyons, fields, villages, and hills.


Information:

Gobi March (© P. Gatta)
Gobi March (© P. Gatta)

Desert Cup: Wadi Rum desert, Jordan

The Desert Cup is an unsupported race of 168 km (4 marathons) non-stop. The runners have to carry their gear and food and must complete the race within 62 hours.

The first editions of the race took place in Jordan. The trail went through 104 km of soft sand in the Wadi Rum desert, then 24 km of various trail and 41 km of mountain track. The race ended in the beautiful archaeological site of Petra. Marco Olmo won the 2000 edition in 21 hours 41 minutes.
Then the race moved to Mali for following editions.


Race Information:

Wadi Rum (© P. Gatta)
Wadi Rum (© P. Gatta)

Petra (© P. Gatta)
Petra (© P. Gatta)

Totem Pole Race: Monument Valley, USA

The Totem Pole Race is a 200 km trail in Monument Valley. During 6 days, the race goes around Cooper Canyon, San Juan River and Mystery Valley.


Race Information:

Totem Pole Race: Monument Valley (© P. Gatta)
Totem Pole Race: Monument Valley (© P. Gatta)

Totem Pole Race: Monument Valley (© p. Gatta).
Totem Pole Race: Monument Valley (© P. Gatta)

Trans Sinai: Sinai desert, Egypt

The Trans Sinai is a race starting in Sharm El Sheikh and ending at the Monastery of St. Catherine at the foot of Mount Sinai. The 5 stages offer a variety views along the Red Sea, the desert and the Mountains around St. Catherine.


Race Information:

Trans Sinai, Egypte (© P. Gatta)
Trans Sinai, Egypte (© P. Gatta)

Trans Sinai, Egypte (© P. Gatta).
Trans Sinai, Egypte (© P. Gatta)


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