The quest to become the first female in the world to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam Plus in support of the LymeLight Foundation
In the 14 years of the 4 Deserts race series, an annual event of ultra marathons held across the globe in desolate and challenging terrain, there have only been three men to complete the Grand Slam Plus. The Grand Slam Plus is a series of five 250k (155 mile), multi-day foot races across the roughest terrain in the world. It includes the 4 Deserts Grand Slam plus the Roving Race – in the same calendar year. Jax Mariash Koudele (representing U.S. and Canada and raised awareness and funds for the LymeLight Foundation) become the first female ever to complete this grueling challenge in 2016. She additionally became the second female in the race series history to win all of the 4 Desert races in a fiscal year and was crowned the 2016 4 Deserts Female World Champion.
In 2016, the Grand Slam Plus races begin with the Roving Race in Sri Lanka on Feb. 14, followed by the 4 Deserts races on the hottest (Namibia), windiest (Gobi March), driest (Atacama Crossing) and coldest (Antarctica) deserts in the world. Each race consists of seven days out in the desert moving camp to camp each day. The race format starts with four stages (days) in a row with 22-28 miles per day. On day five, racers run approximately 50 miles (known as the Long March) followed by a rest day. On the 7th day, athletes complete the 250k (155 mile) journey with a 10k jaunt to the finish line.
In addition to the terrain being so challenging, the race is also made more arduous by the requirement that athletes be self-sufficient, carrying everything they need to survive on their backs. The only support from staff is hot and cold water, medical treatment, and a tent space to share with nine other competitors. The race format is so grueling and the terrain so undulating that it is not uncommon for racers to walk away from an event feeling super human. Mariash hopes that her achievement of completing the Grand Slam Plus, others will find inspiration in her passion for the outdoors and will get outdoors themselves. She is also hoping that her efforts will help make a difference in the lives of those children suffering from Lyme, helping them more quickly get back outside.
About the 4 Deserts Event Series:
The 4 Deserts Race Series is widely recognized as the most prestigious outdoor footrace series in the
world. The series consists of the Sahara Race (Namibia), Gobi March (China), Atacama Crossing (Chile) -and The Last Desert (Antarctica). In February 2008, a fifth event, called the Roving Race, was added to the 4 Deserts calendar. Competitors in the 5 races traverse 250 kilometers in seven days over rough country terrain with only a place in a tent and water provided. They are supported by highly qualified staff, all with experience in hiking, marathons and ultra marathons, and medical teams specializing in wilderness medicine.
The 4 Deserts Race Series was founded in Hong Kong in February 2002 by American Mary Gadams. A former investment banker and strategist by day, Gadams was a well-known figure in adventure and endurance sport with finishes in numerous marathons, ultra marathons and wilderness competitions around the world. A list of quick facts on the 4 Desert Race series dives into various facts of the series over the past 14 years.
Event Dates, Locations and Results:
· Sri Lanka: Feb. 14-20, 2016 - 2nd female overall
· Sahara (Namibia): May 1-8, 2016- Female Champion
· Gobi March: June 19-25, 2016 - Female Champion
· Atacama Crossing: Oct. 2-8, 2016- Female Champion
· Antarctica: Nov. 18-24, 2016 - Female Champion