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03/25/2019 Interview > Student

Title

The Youngest to Conquer the 4 Deserts Grand Slam 2018

Yoo Dong-hyeon (Department of Electrical Bio-Engineering, 1st year)

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Contents
An ordinary young man serving in the military was fascinated by a magazine that he read by chance, which covered the story of three first reserves (military reserve force) who completed a marathon in the Gobi Desert. “What brings these people to the desert? Why would they do such a thing?” Many questions emerged in the young man's head, which later led him to chasing some life-changing experiences. The young man in the military was Yoo Dong-hyeon (Department of Electrical Bio-Engineering, 1st year), who became the youngest male in the world to complete the Grand Slam, at the age of 22.
Yoo Dong-hyeon (Department of Electrical Bio-Engineering, 1st year) shared his story of the four deserts that he conquered, on March 22, 2019.

The rocky beginning
 
Yoo was strongly drawn to the idea of participating in the race, but by the time he found out about the four deserts race series, he only had three months to prepare. He was still serving in the military, so he needed permission for overseas travel. Moreover, he had to receive donations to cover the races' costly entry fees. He mostly received sponsorships from companies, individual donations from seniors that he knew from high school, and from colleagues from the military. It was Yoo’s first time participating in a marathon, so he needed to exercise and enhance his stamina before the real events began. Many factors were in the way of his participation, but fortunately, with great luck, all was set and he was signed in.
 

The courses of the desert race

The Sahara Race was first in the 4 race series that began in late April until early May, and took place in the Namib Desert in Skeleton Coast National Park on the coast bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The Gobi March takes place in Central Mongolia during the hot summer months, and the course brings runners through vast green grasslands, stupas, and temples. His favorite race was the Atacama Crossing in Chile. The course consists of infamous salt flats, huge sand dunes, canyons, and glittering night skies. It was also the most memorable because his shoes got ripped and his feet bled due to the piercing salt from the region. However, the place had the most beautiful night skies with thousands of visible stars. The Last Desert in Antarctica had 10 courses including many tracks that visited islands and bays. 

During the Atacama Crossing, hardened salt pierced through shoes and left the participants in pain no choice but to speed through the desert.
(Photo courtesy of Yoo)

The magnificent night skies of (top) the Sahara and Atacama Deserts
(Photo courtesy of Yoo)
Yoo Dong-hyeon (center) happily crossing the finishing line of the Atacama Crossing alongside his friends.
(Photo courtesy of Yoo)

While running

During the race across the desert, Yoo met many people of various backgrounds and nationalities. Among them, there was a visually impaired man and a person with one leg. While Yoo had been complaining all throughout his life about things small and big, his new friends were relaxed and seemed happy. “I learned to be thankful for what I had and to be more relaxed in my life.” 
Walking through Antarctica, the Last Desert
(Photo courtesy of Yoo)
Groups of penguins welcoming the marathoners to Antarctica
(Photo courtesy of Yoo)
The tent mates slept together in one tent after the race was over for the day.
(Photo courtesy of Yoo)
If the runners finished the race early, they would gather around near the campfire with their dinner in hand, and talk about the many ongoing global issues.
(Photo courtesy of Yoo)

After the marathon 

“What does a marathon mean to you?” After hearing this question, Yoo took his time to answer. “Marathon is now what I live with every day. I used to give up easily, but now I know that hard times pass, and regardless of the speed or the time it takes to get there, I can finish the race.”
Yoo completing his marathon journey after the race of the Last Desert 2018
(Photo courtesy of Yoo)
Yoo hugging fellow runners after the first Sahara race ended
(Photo courtesy of Yoo)
The 4 Deserts Grand Slam crew at their last destination
(Photo courtesy of Yoo)
 
Although he is very proud of his achievements, Yoo also felt hollow after the marathon. Looking for more challenges, he is planning on participating in a triathlon held in Korea, as well as going on a cross-country bike trip across America through a contest being held in July 2019. 

With his glowing eyes full of excitement, he advised, “Do not hesitate. It is easy to be frightened by the titles like the race of the polar regions, but human beings are stronger than you think. I hope you challenge yourselves to grow bigger.”
 


Kim Hyun-soo        soosoupkimmy@hanyang.ac.kr
Photos by Lee Hyeon-seon
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