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P R O J E C T S

RUNNING ON ANOTHER PLANET

What happens when we break the thin line that divides the soul from the body and find ourselves testing both these two worlds? This is a photographic story of what happens when a "simple" activity like running turns into an extreme challenge against nature and against ourselves, taking the name of ultramarathon. 250 km in self-sufficiency, running through the deserts of India and Iran, between joy and despair, life and death. 

The World Running Academy Extreme Races was born in 2013, founded by extreme ultra-marathon runner Paolo Barghini who for several years has been involved in organizing ultramarathons in the world.

The events have an overall average duration of eight days, five of which include stages of 35-40 km, while the remaining three include a long 65 km stage, a rest day following and then a short one (usually 20 km). During the "long one" the athletes also come to run 24 hours without ever sleeping. The organization of the competition provides the athletes only with water (rationed day by day) and tents for the night. During the entire course of the event the participants carry a backpack of maximum 8 kg containing food, competition equipment (shirts, shoes) and camping equipment (cutlery, torches, sleeping bag, mattress, etc.).

In 2018 the competitions took place in the Thar desert, on the border between India and Pakistan (MARU, Maharaja Rajasthan Ultramarathon) and in the Dasht-e Lut desert, in Iran (ISRU, Iranian Silk Road Ultramarathon), where in 2003 it is a soil surface temperature of 70.7 degrees was detected, the highest ever recorded.

The ISRU arrived in September 2018 at its third edition. The difficulties of this race are innumerable starting from the great hostility of nature that presents an extremely arid territory (in the month of September temperatures of 62 degrees are reached), not very ventilated and with the presence of quicksand near the salty rivers that cross the rocky desert. The conformation of the territory and the absence of flora and fauna, make the race of dasht-e Lut an incredibly hard but equally fascinating challenge. 

The first edition of the Maharaja Rajasthan Ultramarathon is inaugurated in April of the same year. The race crosses the Indian part of the Thar Desert, starting from the city of Bikaner until it reaches Jaisalmer, "the golden pearl". That of the Thar is now known throughout the world for being the desert area with the highest population density in the world, which has made this edition very interesting as regards the relationship between runners and local populations.

Being the first edition many athletes have been caught unprepared to run in a place with very changeable weather conditions. Temperatures ranged from 30 to 40 degrees with a constant humidity of 98%.

However, the humidity was not the only problem: very strong winds, torrential rains and sand storms turned the race into hell.

Many experienced athletes have had to give up the continuation of the race after finding excessive physical difficulties.

Registration for these events is open to men and women from all over the world: Iran and India have hosted runners from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Uganda, Lebanon, Germany, Italy, France, Germany, Norway and USA.

In the daily stages are 35-40 km usually divided into 4 checkpoints. The long ones are exhausting: they last on average 65-70 km and consist of 7 checkpoints. The alarm is set at 4:00 am to leave at 6:00 am. The fastest riders manage to complete it in 12-14 hours while the last ones even run 24 hours, reaching camp 7 at six o'clock the following day. The Runners are constantly followed by 4x4 staff and doctors.

In these competitions the finish position takes second place. An experience of this kind unites the people involved in an incredible way, creating a family atmosphere that makes the race intimate and special.

Athletes, however, often find themselves running alone, miles away from those in front of them and those following them. This leads them to challenge themselves, more than others, in a constant battle of psychological and physical resistance.

​©DanieleFrediani2020

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