Monthly Archives: February 2013

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Gobi March – 10th Anniversary Edition


A Magical New Course Set to Celebrate 10 Years of the Gobi March

After more than seven years of setting courses for RacingThePlanet, Pierre Beguin thought he had seen it all. But as he and event director Riitta Hanninen descended into Mysterious Rock Valley while plotting the 2013 Gobi March course, they knew they were about to set a new standard in the 4 Deserts series.


“It’s full of bizarre rock formations as far as the eye can see,” Riitta explains of the visual feast that awaits competitors in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Province, best known as the home of Mongol empire leader Genghis Khan.

The move to Bortala Mongol and Yili Kazakh Autonomous Prefectures this year was inspired by the ten-year anniversary of the race. “We decided to find a different course to celebrate,” she says. The region, a secret of long-term local manager Medina who lives and works near there, was selected for its remoteness and untouched beauty.


Indeed, the mysterious valley is just one of the many highlights of the course this year. Starting at the foot of the Altai Mountains, the seven-day adventure weaves its way through the Tian Shan mountain region (literally “heavenly mountains”), with almost celestial views of Lake Sayram at 2070 metres elevation along the way.

While the Gobi March desert races have become known for offering a cultural experience amongst the Mongol, Uyghur and Kazakh minority groups that live there, the isolated location this year promises even more unique insight. Sharing an international border with Kazakhstan to the north and west, the region has become well known for the colorful culture of the remote villages. “People in this part of the province don’t get to see visitors often, especially international visitors,” says Riitta.

Along the 250 kilometre / 155 mile journey, competitors can expect anything from grasslands, Gobi (a mixture of dusty and stony desert), farmlands, dirt tracks, riverbeds, rolling hills, mountain valleys, plains and plateaus. “With a landscape that is positively alpine and a climate to match, competitors are going to have a stunning experience,” she says.


With sensory and cultural overload promised along a fresh course, it seems the tenth year of the race will be bigger and better than ever before.

By Rachel Jacqueline

The 10th edition of Gobi March starts on the 2nd of June 2013 and along with the Atacama Crossing (Chile), Sahara Race (Egypt) and The Last Desert (Antarctica) they make up the 4 Deserts Series. To register for the event complete an online application at or for more information, email us at



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The Pilgrim Challenge kicks off XNRG’s race season

Pilgrim ChallengeExtreme Energy’s 2013 race season got off to a record-breaking start last weekend, with Danny Kendall shaving 17 minutes off the previous course record to finish the 64-mile, 2-day ultra-marathon course in 8 hours 49 minutes and 21 seconds, and Annabelle Stearns breaking the women’s record to finish in 10h23.07.

Where last year’s Pilgrim Challenge was memorable for its snow, this year’s race will be remembered by many for its deep, shoe-sucking mud.

“My favourite comment this weekend was from a smiley cyclist who very cheerily told me to ”Embrace the mud”. Great advice – there was little else you could do!”, recalled Extreme Energy Envoy Michelle Double (3rd lady, 12h05.25)

The Pilgrim Challenge course follows a section of the historic North Downs Way from Farnham to Merstham, and heavy going at the end of day one saw runners digging deep into their energy reserves. The same muddy conditions made for a challenging start to day two, but with the evening entertainment from motivational speaker, ultra-legend and Enduroman-record breaker Andy Mouncey fresh in their memories, 150 of the 217 registered walkers and runners battled on to make it to the end of the gruelling course.

18 hours separated the first of the runners and the last of the walkers, with the final finisher coming home to resounding cheers after an impressive 26 hrs 49 minutes out on the course. From veteran UTMB points-collectors to ultra-marathon virgins, the field included walkers and runners at every stage in their ultra careers, with a 44-year age gap between the oldest and youngest finishers. As second-placed lady, Jennifer Bradley (11h37.17), put it:

“This weekend isn’t just about the racing … XNRG create a really inclusive, encouraging atmosphere for everyone and it was a lovely moment when Andy’s talk was halted about 8pm to cheer in Day one’s last three finishers (still smiling!) who must’ve been out there for 12 hours.”

Extreme Energy Race Director, Neil Thubron, said, “Our largest field, a course breaking winning time, the longest time out on the course for a finisher, and an awesome overnight just created the perfect ultra trail running weekend and a great start to the year. We were inspired by the efforts of all competitors and humbled by the fantastic feedback we have received. The course is tough enough with some very large climbs over the 33 miles each day, but add to that very wet and muddy ground to suck away your energy and you have a very challenging 2 days work!”

The Pilgrim Challenge is the first of six ultramarathons organised by Extreme Energy in 2013, and every Extreme Energy ultramarathon challenge is all-inclusive – minibus transfers to and from the race; overnight accommodation; square meals in the evening and morning and checkpoint food and drink are all included.

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Jez Bragg completes 1900 mile New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail

Jez Bragg from the UK, has completed the fastest traverse of the  1,898mile North-to-South Te Araroa Trail in a Record-Breaking 53 days.

You can read all about it and find plenty of links to articles on Jez’s own blog.