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RacingThePlanet Limited
Privately held
Industry Outdoor gear retail
Founded Hong Kong, (2002 (2002))
Founder Mary K Gadams
Headquarters Hong Kong
Area served
Key people
Mary K Gadams, CEO; Samantha Fanshawe, Vice President; Kathy Lau, Vice President, Eric Lahaie, Vice President
Products RacingThePlanet, 4 Deserts, The Outdoor Store
Divisions RacingThePlanet, The Outdoor Store
Subsidiaries RacingThePlanet (UK) Limited, Expedition Foods

RacingThePlanet is an organizer of off-trail and rough-country endurance foot-races,[1] including the 4 Deserts. The company also operates an outdoor products store and a dried foods company.[2]

The 2011 Kimberley Ultramarathon was the subject of a parliamentary inquiry in Western Australia after a number of competitors suffered life-threatening burns when a bushfire overran a part of the route.



In 2007, RacingThePlanet became a case study for the Harvard Business School and is one of the few case studies to be repeated yearly.[3]


In 2009 RacingThePlanet launched an online retail store specializing in selling the outdoor apparel, equipment and nutritional products required for endurance racing. By 2010 the store had grown to stock a much larger variety of products for all Outdoors pursuits. Later in the year, The Outdoor Store became the largest online outdoor gear store in Asia and had distribution hubs in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom allowing global distribution.


In 2010 a record nine competitors completed the 4 Deserts Grand Slam, including three women who are the first to have achieved the feat - Samantha Gash of Australia, Lucy Rivers-Bulkeley and Linda Quirk.

A Shanghai-based competitor died of heatstroke after competing in the 2010 Gobi March. His brother claimed Racing the Planet was "reckless" and ill-prepared.[4]

2010 also saw the first 100 km race organised by the company - the [5] which took place in the desert around Hotan in China's souther Xinjiang Province.

In 2010 Ryan Sandes of South Africa was crowned 4 Deserts Champion having won all four of the races he competed in, and Marjiana Pellizer of Croatia was crowned women's champion.

On September 2, 2011, at the 100 km event in the Kimberly, Western Australia, Turia Pitt, 24, and Kate Sanderson, 35, were left with severe burn injuries when fire swept through a rocky gorge during the outback race. Two men - Michael Hull and Martin van der Merwe - suffered less serious burns. RacingThePlanet has not compensated the victims or contributed to their medical treatment, including to Ms Pitt whose expenses exceed $2 million.[6] In November 2012, the Government of Western Australia made ex gratia payments of $450,000 to each of the women.[7]

Originally launched in English, in 2011 the Outdoor Store expanded capability to include Traditional and Simplified Chinese, as well as French, Spanish and Italian.

List of events

RacingThePlanet has currently organised 34 races in total. The events are split into two categories, but with all of them sharing certain characteristics.

Those characteristics are that each race is held in a remote but historically or culturally rich location; that the races are rough-country i.e. they take place in wilderness environments across a variety of terrains, mostly off-trail; that competitors must race self-supported carrying all their own food, fluids and equipment for the race; and that the number of competitors accepted on each race is limited to ensure that the pristine environments remain that way, and so that competitors do not feel that they are part of so large a group that they do not get the opportunity to experience the solitude of the location.[8]

There is no prize money at any of the events, but those who successfully complete the race are presented with a medal at the finish line.

The current categories of races include:

4 Deserts


Year 4 Deserts RacingThePlanet
2003 Gobi March 2003
2004 Atacama Crossing 2004
2005 Gobi March 2005, Sahara Race 2005
2006 Atacama Crossing 2006, Gobi March 2006, Sahara Race 2006, The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2006
2007 Atacama Crossing 2007, Gobi March 2007, Sahara Race 2007, The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2007
2008 Atacama Crossing 2008, Gobi March 2008, Sahara Race 2008, The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2008 RacingThePlanet: Vietnam 2008
2009 Atacama Crossing 2009, Gobi March 2009, Sahara Race 2009 RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009
2010 Atacama Crossing 2010, Gobi March 2010, Sahara Race 2010, The Last Desert (Antarctica) 2010 RacingThePlanet: Australia 2011 Taklamakan Ultramarathon 2010
2011 Atacama Crossing 2011, Gobi March 2011, Sahara Race 2011 Kimberley Ultramarathon RacingThePlanet: Nepal 2011
2012 Atacama Crossing 2012 RacingThePlanet: Jordan 2012


Since 2004, RacingThePlanet has developed a number of their own products and merchandise for use in endurance racing.[9] In 2009, it launched an online retail store, The Outdoor Store, which sells equipment, clothing, footwear and nutrition products for the sport.

Corporate information

The CEO is Mary K Gadams, who is also the company's founder. RacingThePlanet is headquartered in Hong Kong where they also have a showroom for The Outdoor Store. There is a second distribution centre and office in Yorkshire in the United Kingdom, which also has a showroom.[10]

There are 16 country managers who represent the company in Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa, Taiwan and Spain.[11]

Charitable causes

About half of the competitors at RacingThePlanet events are supporting charitable causes through their participation. RacingThePlanet puts no limits on the type of causes that are supported.[citation needed]

Because of the remote locations of many of the races RacingThePlanet choose to support a specific charity at almost every event, that provides support to the local community in which the event takes place. The company has a long-running partnership with Operation Smile,[12] and has raised over US$500,000 for the charity for projects in Vietnam, China and Egypt, often funding missions and surgeries in the local communities through which competitors race.[13][14][15][16][17]

The company has donated books and sports equipments to schools in Xinjiang province where the Gobi March is held through the Esquel Y. L. Yang Education Fund who they have also supported for a number of years.[18][19]

In 2008, the Gobi March took place just one month after the devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province on 12 May, so that year RacingThePlanet put together a special auction in which friends and families of competitors could bid to buy a hot shower for three competitors at the end of the 90 km Stage 5 of the event. The auction raised almost US$30,000 for the Red Cross disaster fund.[20]

Again in 2010 another earthquake affected a country that plays host to a 4 Deserts race. The Chilean earthquake of 27 February occurred just one week before the start of the Atacama Crossing. RacingThePlanet and the community of competitors and friends raised US$15,000 for Habitat for Humanity in the weeks to follow.[21]

RacingThePlanet events

4 Deserts

Main article: 4 Deserts

The 4 Deserts was recognized by Time magazine in 2009 and 2010 as the world's leading series of rough-country endurance footraces.[22] The 250-kilometre (160 mi) races take place over 7 days and 6 stages. A campsite is raised each night for competitors where they are provided with a place in a tent to sleep, access to hot water, a campfire, medical assistance and the "CyberTent" where they can view and send messages to family and friends and update their race blog. Competitors race from campsite to campsite each day through a series of checkpoints where they collect drinking water and can seek medical treatment.[citation needed]

The results of the race are based on the cumulative time taken for the competitor to complete all the stages, and a competitor must successfully pass through every checkpoint in order to collect a finisher's medal.[citation needed]

The 4 Deserts series comprises the Atacama Crossing (Chile), the Gobi March (China), the Sahara Race (Egypt) and The Last Desert (Antarctica). If a competitor completes the series they gain membership to the 4 Deserts Club. There are currently 87 members of the 4 Deserts Club. The man and woman with the cumulative highest ranks across the four races at the finish line of each edition of The Last Desert (Antarctica) is crowned the 4 Deserts Champion. The 2010 4 Deserts Champions are Ryan Sandes of South Africa and Mirjana Pellizzer of Croatia.[citation needed]

A new phenomenon was started by competitors in 2008 now called the 4 Deserts Grand Slam. This refers to competitors attempting to complete all four of the races in a calendar year. Only nine competitors—6 men and 3 women—have so far managed to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam.[citation needed]


The annual roving race is called RacingThePlanet. It follows the same format as the 4 Deserts events, but moves to a different location every year. Spaniard Salvador Calvo Redondo has set a record by winning all three editions of RacingThePlanet.

RacingThePlanet: Vietnam 2008

The first roving race took place in the far northwest of Vietnam. The event got underway in Si Ma Cai after an overnight train ride from Hanoi. Competitors faced a 100-kilometre (62 mi) course on Stage 1. Record floods and cold had hit the area turning the race into the greenest, muddiest and wettest to date. The area was full of hill tribes from the Flower H'Mong and the Red Dao to the Black H'Mong. Competitors stumbled upon a large festival at the last campsite.


Date: February 2008

Men's winner - Salvador Calvo Redondo, Spain, 28 hours, 17 mins 50 secs Women's winner - Stephanie Case, USA, 32 hours 53 mins 22 secs (3rd overall)

54 competitors began the event, 47 competitors finished, and 20 countries were represented.

RacingThe Planet: Namibia 2009

The second race was in southern Namibia starting on the edge of the Fish River Canyon and ending in the town of Luderitz along the Skeleton Coast.

The event featured specially built ladders to climb out of the Fish River Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world, and a 100-kilometre (62 mi) "Long March". Competitors spent their last night of the event on the Skeleton Coast, in an area which had been off limits to visitors for many years. The champion was Spain's Salvador Redondo Calvo who handed South Africa's Ryan Sandes, the previous 4 Deserts Champion, his only defeat in a RacingThePlanet event - Ryan finished in second place. Famed Italian runner Marco Olmo finished third. Lucy Hilton of the United Kingdom won the women's division in a time of 29:17:45. The team division was won by an Israeli team. Blind athlete Kyoung Tae Song of Korea finished last in a time of 78:21:40.

The Namibia course is considered by those competitors who have completed the 4 Deserts and the other roving races as the most challenging. Renowned British mountaineer and adventurer Annabelle Bond took part in the race.


Date: May 2009

Men's winner - Salvador Calvo Redondo, Spain, 25 hours 47 mins 32 secs Women's winner - Lucy Hilton, United Kingdom, 29 hours, 17 mins 45 secs (4th overall)

214 competitors began the event, 167 competitors finished, and 38 countries were represented.

RacingThePlanet: Australia 2010

The third edition of the roving race took place in Western Australia, in the Kimberley region between Kununurra, the Gibb River Road, Emma Gorge and El Questro Wilderness Park. Permission was sought to enter and race across aboriginal lands, as well as through El Questro's wilderness reserves. The logistical challenges of holding the race were many, including having to helicopter in all the equipment and water for one campsite that was completely inaccessible by any other way. Late flooding had meant that certain parts of the course had to be changed and the Gibb River Road was unpassable for certain stretches, again adding to the logistical challenges.

The week before the race the Icelandic volcano eruptions ruined the travel plans of many European competitors, with a number unable to get to Australia. The climate was much more humid than many competitors were used to and a number of very experienced endurance athletes struggled with the conditions on Stage 1. Once again Salvador Calvo Redondo won every stage of the race.

The number of hospital admissions of dehyrated participants lead to Western Australia Police contacting RacingThePlanet. Until the hospitalisations neither WA Health nor the WA Police had known about the event.[23]


Date: April 2010

Men's winner - Salvador Calvo Redondo, Spain, 31 hours 25 mins 00 secs Women's winner - Lia Farley, United States, 32 hours, 34 mins 18 secs (3rd overall)

185 competitors began the event, 117 competitors finished, and 35 countries were represented.

Racing the Planet: Australia 2011

Competitors Kate Sanderson, Turia Pitt, Michael Hull and Shaun van der Merwe were burnt when they encountered a large wildfire. They were gravely injured; Kate Sanderson's injuries lead to the partial amputation of her left foot. The Western Australian government held an inquiry into the planning and actions of RacingThePlanet. The "Inquiry into 2011 Kimberley Ultramarathon Event" was handed down to the WA Legislative Assembly on 16 August 2012.[24] The inquiry found that the "organisers were not legally liable or to blame for shocking burn injuries to competitors".[25] However the report stated the company "did not take all reasonable steps to maintain the safety of competitors, staff or volunteers."

A spokesman for RacingThePlanet said that while "the fire and its consequences are tragic and regrettable" they "were not reasonably foreseeable".[26] However, the inquiry found that the company was aware there had been fires in and around the course on the day of the race and should have recognized the risk posed to competitors, staff and volunteers."[27][28][29]

In addition it found "the company did not adequately consult with relevant authorities such as St John Ambulance, and did not make arrangements for the use of a helicopter. The report also found the company failed to test its communication system prior to the race.[30]


Date: September 2011

Men's winner - none, event abandoned Women's winner - none, event abandoned

RacingThePlanet: Nepal 2011

In 2011 the race took place in the Annapurna region of Nepal, outside the town of Pokhara. This was the most mountainous of RacingThePlanet's events so far, with a total elevation gain and loss over the course of 18,700 metres (61,300 feet), with the highest elevation that competitors reached being 3,200 metres (10,500 feet).

The course began at Mardi Kholas and wound its way through the foothills of the Himalayas through Beni, Poon Hill, Birethanti and Begnas Lake.

The local race director was Karma Sherpa, a three time Everest summiter who helped set the course on tracks used for generations by local Nepalese farmers to reach their crops and water.


Date: November 2011

Men's winner - Ryan Sandes, South Africa, 25 hours 15 mins 25 secs Women's winner - Stephanie Case, Canada, 30 hours, 15 mins 09 secs (8th overall)

220 competitors began the event, 168 competitors finished, and 38 countries were represented.

RacingThe Planet: Jordan 2012

The Roving Race moved to Jordan in 2012, taking in the areas of Wadi Rum and finishing in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Petra.

The course started in Wadi Rum and took competitors through four deserts world famous for being the area of operations of Lawrence of Arabia. The terrain was a varied landscape of canyons, cliffs, sand dunes, and gorges before finishing outside the treasury of Petra.

The local manager and logistics team were members of the Bedouin community who have lived in the deserts for centuries.

The race had the lowest retirement record of any RacingThePlanet event, with 92% of competitors finishing the race.


Date: May 2012

Men's winner - Paolo Barghini, Italy, 27 hours 11 mins 03 secs Women's winner - Katia Figini, Italy, 29 hours, 37 mins 03 secs (5th overall)

153 competitors began the event, 131 competitors finished, and 38 countries were represented.


  1. ^ Isenberg, Daniel (21 January 2011). "The Kitchen is the new Garage: Entrepreneurship Around the World". Forbes. 
  2. ^ "RacingThePlanet's corporate "About" page". 
  3. ^ "CASE (FIELD) Will RacingThePlanet Ltd. Reach the Finish Line?". Harvard Business Review. 
  4. ^ O'Brien, Amanda (9 September 2011). "Extreme race firm 'reckless in past'". The Australian. 
  5. ^ "CASE (FIELD) Taklamakan Ultramarathon". 
  6. ^ "Ultramarathon Survivors Return to Kimberley". TheAge. 12 Aug 2012. Retrieved 7 Dec 2012. 
  7. ^ "Burn victims to receive $450,000". TheAge. 14 Nov 2012. Retrieved 7 Dec 2012. 
  8. ^ "What is RacingThePlanet?". 
  9. ^ "RacingThePlanet from Hong Kong". 
  10. ^ "About Us". 
  11. ^ "Contact Us". 
  12. ^ "RacingThePlanet partners with Operation Smile in Egypt". 
  13. ^ "A Bigger Brighter Smile". 
  14. ^ "Operation Smile in Kashgar". 
  15. ^ "Action Outreach Partners with Operation Smile to Help Children in China" (PDF). 
  16. ^ "Operation Smile's Missy Dibona's Vietnam Blog". 
  17. ^ "Putting the smile back on Egypt's children, one surgery at a time". The Daily News, Egypt. 
  18. ^ "Team Esquel Partners for Seventh Year". 
  19. ^ "Money to be raised for earthquake victims". 
  20. ^ "The fifth Gobi March is completed". 
  21. ^ "Competitors to run in memory of quake victims in Chile's Atacama Crossing 2010". 
  22. ^ "Top 10 Endurance Competitions". TIME/CNN. 
  23. ^ Sutherland, Mick. "WA Police Service statement to Inquiry into 2011 Kimberley Ultramarathon". Legislative Assembly of the Parliament of Western Australia. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  24. ^ "Committee Details". Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  25. ^ "Kimberley Ultramarathon inquiry: Burns race organisers 'cleared of blame'". The Telegraph. 16 Aug 2012. Retrieved 7 Dec 2012. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Inquiry Into 2011 Kimberley Ultramarathon Event (PDF), Perth: Economics and Industry Standing Committee, Government of Western Australia, 23 May 2012 
  28. ^ Opening Statement of Mary Gadams on Behalf of RacingThePlanet Events Limited to the Economics and Industry Committee - Inquiry into the 2011 Kimberley Ultramarathon (PDF), Peth: Economics and Industry Standing Committee, Government of Western Australia, 2 May 2012 
  29. ^$file/Final+Transcript+-+John+and+Ann+Storey+-+20120424.pdf
  30. ^

External links