Sahara Race - Jordan 2014
250km running race from Wadi Rum to Petra, Jordan

Jordan 2014: 250km running race from Wadi Rum to Petra (© P. Gatta)
Jordan 2014: 250km running race from Wadi Rum to Petra (© P. Gatta)

The Sahara Race - Jordan 2014

The Sahara Race is a 250 km (155 miles) running race which usually takes place in the Sahara Desert in Egypt. Because of political issues in Egypt, the 2014 edition moved to Jordan. The race kept the name even though we did not run in the Sahara Desert. The 2014 edition started in the beautiful Wadi Rum desert, then crossed 3 more desert: Kharaza, Humaima and Wadi Araba to finish in the ancient city of Petra. There are 6 stages in 7 days: almost 4 Marathons in 4 days, then 87 km, a rest day and a final stage of 7 km.

The Sahara Race is self-supported, which means that we have to carry all our clothes, sleeping bag, mandatory equipment, medical/safety kit and 7 days of food in our pack. RacingThePlanet only provides us with water and the tents for the nights. According to the rules, competitors must bring at least 14,000 calories. As always, I brought much more, around 21,000 calories (4.3 kg). The rest of my pack includes the clothes, sleeping bag, medical and safety kit weighted 3.5kg, making a total of 7.8kg without water.

The concept and difficulty of the race is very similar to the Marathon des Sables and all 4 Deserts races organized by RacingThePlanet: the Sahara Race, the Gobi March, the Atacama Crossing, Jordan, Madagascar and the Last Desert in Antarctica.

There is a great variety of terrains, dirt road, soft and hard sand, riverbeds and canyons. The temperatures are much cooler than in other desert races which is more pleasant for running but the nights are pretty cold.

Ancient city of Petra (© P. Gatta)
Ancient city of Petra (© P. Gatta)



All competitors arrived in Petra a couple of days before the race, leaving enough time to visit this great place. On Saturday we had the race briefing, equipment review, check-in and then we went to the first camp in the Wadi Rum desert. The race started the Sunday morning and ended the following Saturday.

Competitors list (© P. Gatta)
Competitors list (© P. Gatta)

This race was a bit special as I started already tired from the Great Himalaya Trail and a trail running trip in Patagonia just a month before. However it was still a pleasure to participate and meet many friends again.

The Sahara Race - Jordan 2014

February 15: Briefing and transfer to Camp 1

The Saturday morning, 185 competitors coming from 35 different countries left Petra and arrived in camp 1 after 2.5 hour of bus and a short Jeep drive. It was cold and rainy, giving the desert an unsual look. With the rain going through the tents and the wet sleeping bags, the first night has been uncomfortable.

Cloudy day at Camp 1 of the Sahara Race Jordan (© P. Gatta)
Cloudy day at Camp 1 of the Sahara Race Jordan (© P. Gatta)

February 16, Stage 1: "Lawrence's playground" - 39.7km

Like many other competitors I had a very bad night. It rained most of the night and my sleeping bag was soaking wet. I was freezing and ultimately did not sleep much. It was still cloudy and rainy when we took the start.

Start of the stage 1 of Sahara Race (© P. Gatta)
Start of the stage 1 of Sahara Race (© P. Gatta)

The bad weather was good for two reasons though: the rain packed the sand and running by 10 degrees was easier than by 45c.

End of the first stage (© P. Gatta)
End of the first stage (© P. Gatta)

I ran the 20 first kilometers then started to have serious pain in the legs so I had to slow down during the rest of the stage. I finished in thirty rank something.

Camp 2 (© P. Gatta)
Camp 2 (© P. Gatta)

It rained in the camp the entire afternoon. The Bedouin tents were completely wet and so was my sleeping bag and clothes. The camp was a bit hectic because of this unsual weather... We spent most of the afternoon around the campfires trying to find some warmth.

February 17, stage 2: "Wadi Rum rock formations" - 36.6km

I froze all night again, shivering like crazy! Fortunately the sun came back and we could really appreciate the scenery of the Wadi Rum desert.

Stage 2 (© P. Gatta)
Stage 2 (© P. Gatta)

Legs were still painful. Results of the 2,000km run in the 4 previous months.

Stage 2 in the Wadi Rum (© P. Gatta)
Stage 2 in the Wadi Rum (© P. Gatta)

I kept going anyway, hoping not to be injured for my Lhotse expedition planned the following month.

Narrow canyons near the end of the stage 2 (© P. Gatta)
Narrow canyons near the end of the stage 2 (© P. Gatta)

Despite the pain in the legs, the moral was good and I enjoyed being here, the Wadi Rum desert is amazing!!

Stage 2 in the Wadi Rum (© P. Gatta)
Stage 2 in the Wadi Rum (© P. Gatta)

February 18, stage 3: "Camel racing in Twaissah" - 37.2km

What an amazing stage! The first 20 km were just amazing, the Wadi Rum is definitively a beautiful desert.

Canyons at the beginning of stage 3 (© A. Gatta)
Canyons at the beginning of stage 3 (© A. Gatta)

We started in a narrow canyon with some scrambling.

In the narrow canyons, Wadi Rum cliffs in the background (© P. Gatta)
In the narrow canyons, Wadi Rum cliffs in the background (© P. Gatta)

Right after the canyons we saw a camel giving birth in front of us.

Soft sand after the canyons (© P. Gatta)
Soft sand after the canyons (© P. Gatta)

The canyons were followed by another beautiful 10km of orange sand surrounded by high cliffs.

Hard white dry salt lake (© P. Gatta)
Hard white dry salt lake (© P. Gatta)

After the dry salt lake, the scenery was not as nice as we entered in the Kharaza desert but the sunset from the camp was amazing.

A competitor arriving at the end of stage 3 (© P. Gatta)
A competitor arriving at the end of stage 3 (© P. Gatta)



February 19, stage 4: "The rock Bridge" - 39.3km

I thought I was okay when I took the start but had pain in the legs after 8km. So I listened to music and enjoyed the view.

Great atmosphere in the tent as always (© P. Gatta)
Great atmosphere in the tent as always (© P. Gatta)

We felt a bit more in a desert today as it was much hotter than the previous days.

First section of the stage 4 (© P. Gatta)
First section of the stage 4 (© P. Gatta)

Then we crossed the Rock Bridge.

The Rock Bridge (© P. Gatta)
The Rock Bridge (© P. Gatta)

February 20, stage 5: "The Long March on the Turkish road" - 86.3km

From RacingThePlanet's newsletter (edited):

The much anticipated Long March started with 182 competitors at 8:00. Everyone was excited for the final push but hesitant about the news of a recently formed river crossing in the canyon.

Philippe Gatta was already enquiring after what food will be at the final finishline. Linh Huynh of Canada who has previously completed the Antarctica Ice Marathon as well as the North Pole Marathon was looking forward to the day. "I have never hurt this much but am so excited", she said. Jordanian Mohammad Al Swaiti in 4th position was looking to see who is in front and behind him to know how hard to push today.

The weather looked promising with blue skies and breeze as the competitors left the finish line, descending into Wadi Ahaimer canyon where they will be running for the next 20 kilometers until starting the long section on the famous Turkish road.

The Canyons, stage 5 (© P. Gatta)
The Canyons, stage 5 (© P. Gatta)

We left the camp in a nice sunny day, hotter than the previous ones. We had to take more water as the first 21km were in a canyon and even though there was a check point, there were no water provided. The canyon was narrow, beautiful and shady which was good news. The terrain was rough and I was so glad to not have any blisters.

The riverbed after the Canyons (© P. Gatta)
The riverbed after the Canyons (© P. Gatta)

I started slowly and was 45th at the first check point. No pain in the legs anymore and not tired! I ran a bit faster and passed 20 people in the hottest section of the canyon and the following riverbed. We got a succession of canyons, riverbeds and rocky terrain up to check point 4.

Rocky pass, stage 5 (© P. Gatta)
Rocky pass, stage 5 (© P. Gatta)

Then we climbed 710m in the heat up to the old Turkish road.

View from the old Turkish road (© P. Gatta)
View from the old Turkish road (© P. Gatta)

After the sunset I ran 20km with Sandy (1st woman) and kept on running. I was feeling good and enjoyed most of the stage. I ran all the way to the end, passing another 20+ people and ending 13th in 12hours something. I was so happy that the long march went so well for once.

Sunset on stage 5 (© P. Gatta)
Sunset on stage 5 (© P. Gatta)

Alex arrived just 10min after me. We had a quick cold dinner and went to bed in a tent with half of the wall on. It was windy and cold but we were so happy to be at the camp. I almost didn't sleep - as always after a long run. A mix of too much fatigue, tired muscles, excitement and adrenaline.

Finish line of stage 5 (© P. Gatta)
Finish line of stage 5 (© P. Gatta)

February 21: rest day

We spent the day resting, talking and having fun.

Sunset from the last camp (© P. Gatta)
Sunset from the last camp (© P. Gatta)

February 22, stage 6: "The final footsteps to Ancient Petra" - 5.6km

The last day was short and not timed so we could enjoy the last kilometers in Petra.

Beautiful rock formations (© P. Gatta)
Beautiful rock formations (© P. Gatta)

After a few kilometers around amazing rock formations we entered in the Siq and finished in front of the Treasury of Petra.

Finish line of the Sahara Race
Finish line of the Sahara Race (© P. Gatta)


More information and the complete results are available on The 4 Deserts web site.

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


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