Inspired by a commitment to sustainable development, the Song Saa Foundation implements and promotes initiatives that improve the wellbeing of communities and natural environments in Cambodia’s remote Koh Rong Archipelago and beyond. Working towards a vision where the values of local communities are sustained, and their needs provided for, the foundation has become a pioneer of island conservation, encouraging processes that value and respect both the natural and human world.
Ultrarunner Allen Kerton is fundraising for the Song Saa Foundation by undertaking the Four Deserts Challenge, which will see him traverse 250km across each of the Sahara, Gobi, Atacama and Antarctic deserts. Madness? Quite possibly… We asked Allen why he decided to undertake such an impressive feat, and what makes the Song Saa Foundation such a worthwhile cause.
Why the 4 Deserts Challenge?
“I’ve always wanted to see how far I can push myself, both mentally and physically, and the 4 Deserts race series seemed like the perfect opportunity for this. I’ve completed many marathons, shorter distance ultra-marathons and triathlons in the past, but 1000 km through four deserts in one year is certainly the biggest physical challenge that I’ve ever undertaken. It’s been tough and required a huge training commitment from me this year – I’ve averaged 75 to 100 km of running training every week this, except for the rest and recovery periods directly before or after each race.”
How have you found it so far?
“So far, I’ve completed 3 out of the 4 desert races, and have enjoyed different aspects of each, but I would say my favourite was the Atacama Crossing in Chile. Running through the incredible landscape of volcanoes, salt flats and river canyons, together with the amazing stars at night will be something that I never forget. The Atacama Crossing has also certainly been the most challenging of the races so far. Although not as hot the Gobi March in China, the course was very challenging, with terrain that was difficult to walk on, let alone run on.”
How are you feeling as you approach the final race?
“I feel relatively relaxed about the fourth and final desert race across the Antarctic, but the conditions and environment will be very different. All of my experience this year has been running through hot and sandy/rocky landscapes, so running through freezing ice and snow conditions will be a big unknown for me. Living in Singapore, it’s been completely impossible for me to replicate any of the conditions that I’ll face in Antarctica, so I’m just hoping to be able to get through based on my general fitness and normal running technique.”
Why did you choose to support the Song Saa Foundation?
“Having been closely associated with the Song Saa Foundation since its initial opening, I knew I wanted all money raised to go towards their conservation efforts. I share the foundations commitment to sustainable development, and the positive impact that this can have to directly improve the wellbeing of local communities, natural environments and ecosystems. Donations will be used to support on the ground projects, including the creation of a mangrove nursery, marine immersion experiences for local children from the village of Prek Svay, and the operation of the Foundation’s monthly Boat of Hope missions, as well as other archipelago-based activities.”
“Throughout the race, I’ve been documenting my experiences on the 4 Deserts blog, and have received many generous donations from friends and family through my fundraising page.”
The whole Song Saa team is right behind Allen, too. The Foundation’s Executive Director Wayne McCallum added:
“Allen’s ‘4 Deserts 4 Song Saa’ is not only an incredible personal achievement (I mean, who runs through 4 deserts? right!) and an inspiration to us all; but also—from the generous donations made by so many supporters—a source of invaluable funds for our programmes.”
“Personally, like so many others, I have especially enjoyed the blogs that Allen has written whilst out on the trail. From running with hyenas on the edge of the Namib desert, to his own encounter with ‘Gobi the Dog’, his down to earth and evocative words have inspired us all.”
“As Allen prepares for his final 4 deserts run, through the cool dry of the Antarctic, we wish him well. And we hope that you will get behind his efforts by supporting the Foundation’s efforts to conserve the health and well being of the Koh Rong archipelago and its unique people.”