Atacama and Gobi Desert, 34 y.o.
…the four most extreme and inhospitable environments on Earth…
I have always been drawn to nature and exploration. Right from a very young age my family instilled in me a deep passion and an honest sense of respect for the wilderness. For some reason the big Deserts always fascinated me the most and my curiosity often brought me to wonder about those vast and desolate parts of the world, their magnificent expanses and their powerful energy. The opportunity to explore these extreme environments with just my own two feet was something unique which I dreamt of since before I even started running, actually. In the fall of 2018, coming off my Badwater win, I decided to embark in the 4Deserts Crossing challenge: running across the 4 most extreme and inhospitable environments on Earth. The Atacama in Chile (2018) as the driest, was the very first desert. The Gobi in Mongolia (2019) as the windiest, was the very second.
With the first 2 projects successfully completed the focus now is set on the hottest: the Sahara (2020) and then the coldest: Antarctica (2021). To me it's a quest to ever changing horizons. I am driven by a powerful sense of freedom and a sheer thirst for adventure, being able to explore my limits while exploring the extreme nature all around me, I consider it a blessing and a true journey of the self. As a matter of fact I consider ultrarunning somewhat of a spiritual practice, some sort of movement meditation. It's only when you push past your physical limits that the magic happens: those are unique moments, where there is no doubt nor fear, just full presence. You open up to a more aware and conscious version of yourself, connecting both body, mind and soul. That's when you come to appreciate and find that deeper connection with the powerful and unforgiving beauty of the nature all around you... its most extreme side only emphasizes the experience.
"Some beautiful paths cannot be discovered without getting lost"
2018: After many months of hard work we (my crew and I) were ready to begin what has become the actualization of a vision: the Atacama Desert Crossing x 700miles (1.200km) across what is known as the highest desert and the driest region on earth. At 8am Chilean time we embarked in this incredible journey starting from the Valle de la Luna and heading south with 3 off road vehicles, hundreds of gallons of water and all the food/supplies we needed were organized perfectly by our "hefe" Zahel Quesada, which led us through this inhospitable region.
The infinite, majestic and breath-taking landscape was the scenario of this incredible adventure. In the beginning, on the map, we had figured an almost 700 miles (1200km) route but, once on the road, we had tomade slight adjustments in order to avoid Chilean Army restricted areas and whole valleys sprinkled with land mines.
In the end, I covered 550miles (925km) in 8 days, 12 hours and 50 minutes. It was by far the most challenging endeavour I have ever undertook but what I learned is that only pushing the envelope you allow yourself to live fully, to find out how far you can actually go, and that there are no boundaries to what the human spirit can envision and ultimately achieve. Filled with Love and Gratitude, capable of dwarfing all the pain and physical discomfort, when I reached the imaginary finish line of Copiapo', I immediately started thinking about the next chapter…
2019: The Gobi is many things: beautiful, remote, dramatic, but most of all, unforgiving. This Desert only gives hard blows, heavy (strenuous) head winds and deep sand makes running a consistent hard effort... Completing this run was a more gruelling physical and mental challenge than I could have ever imagined. Sounds of wild horses, sheep and camels were the only distractions to an otherwise seemingly endless plateau, so wide that is hard to describe since I never experienced something similar before: Stunning. Scary. At times mind boggling. Without the encouragement from my team and friends, succeeding would have been impossible. After running for 23 days, 8 hours, and 46 minutes covering a distance of 1703 kilometres, I made it. After the Atacama, crossing the Gobi desert represented the 2nd chapter of a lofty project.
Not just a record setting attempt and a unique challenge of its kind, this is also the realization of a dream I had almost 10 years ago when I envisioned to take on the infinite vastness and solitude of the 4 major deserts on the planet. It was a wild dream, I reckon that, but for some reason it was so clear, so vivid, it called me to the point that I was willing to give up everything to pursue it. And so, I embarked on this journey, a transformational journey. At the time I didn't let other people opinions define me and I didn’t let my past confine me. I believed in myself and took charge of my life with confidence and determination. What I found out in the process is that there are no limits on what we can achieve and what we can become!