Professional endurance runner Jax Mariash Koudele of Hood River became the female champion and fourth overall finisher at the Global 4 Deserts race series stop in Chile (known as the Atacama Crossing) on Oct. 8. The Chile stop is the fourth of five for Koudele this fiscal year to become the first woman in the world to complete the series Grand Slam Plus.
“I am speechless of the result in Chile. I still cannot believe it happened. The course was extremely challenging with technical terrain and consistent hot and dry sunny days,” Koudele noted.
Through the six self-supported stages, Koudele took a strategy specifically focused on time and heartrate to ensure she maintained her energy for the 250K duration. Koudele dominated the woman’s field with a final lead of four hours and five minutes over Sarah Sawyer, who came in second. Koudele spent most of the week chasing down the heavily competitive male field. On stage two, Koudele came in second for the day, pushing her to second overall. Through the week she maintained the pressure up front and settled on a positon of fourth overall with Tommy Chen from Taiwan coming in as the male leader.
Chen was followed by Neil Weir and Ben Dame. For final results, Koudele had a total time of 30 hours, 47 minutes, 54 seconds, which is the third-fastest female time in history for the Atacama Crossing. Koudele was the second female in this race last year and 14th overall with a time of 35:24. This year was an improvement by 4 hours and 27 minutes. Chen presented a winning time of 28:58.20.
Out of 121 competitors, 104 successfully made it to the finish line in San Pedro after a weeklong journey of hot weather and challenging terrain through spectacular scenery in the Atacama Desert, including visits to the Valley of the Moon and Death Valley. Competitors ran on a mixture of undulating terrain and scenery across sand dunes, salt flats, crusty mud, sand, river crossings and rocks. The event staff would only provide water, medical aid in extreme cases, and a tent to share with up to nine others. Each evening, competitors were given the opportunity to blog about their stages at the cyber tent allowing them to share their story with family and friends.
Koudele will continue on her Grand Slam Plus journey to the final stage known as The Last Desert in Antarctica starting on Nov. 18. In the series thus far, Koudele has placed second female overall in the Roving Race in Sri Lanka and was the female champion in the Sahara (Namibia stop) and the female champion in the Gobi March in China.
“I hope to be on the podium at all five races,” Koudele said. She is on track to do so. If she receives a podium position at The Last Desert, she will become a 4 Deserts Champion and also the most decorated athlete to go through the series. If she wins The Last Desert, she will be the second woman and third in history to win all four of The 4 Deserts Races and the first five-race champion ever.