Matt Cavanaugh, an active duty US Army Strategist and living kidney donor, has kicked off 1K4D: his attempt to become the first living kidney donor to finish the full Racing the Planet 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series. Matt’s 1K4D challenge is being sponsored by the National Kidney Registry.
The 4 Deserts, widely recognized as the most prestigious footrace series in the world, includes four races totaling 1,000 kilometers: the Namib Race in Namibia (May 1–7), the Gobi March in Mongolia (June 19–25), the Atacama Crossing in Chile (September 25–October 1) and The Last Desert in Antarctica (November 22–December 1). Competitors in the races traverse 250 kilometers in seven days over rough country terrain with only a place in a tent and water provided.
Matt has been active in fitness and athletics his entire life. In September 2021 he donated one of his kidneys to a stranger and started a donation chain. In an attempt to shatter the misperception that kidney donation imposes physical limits on donors, Matt will attempt to complete a “Grand Slam”—completing all four races in a single year.
Only 78 people have finished all four races in one year, and Matt would be the first to do it on one kidney, months post-donation. In preparation for the first race, Matt has trained extensively with 114 workouts spanning 188 hours covering 1,352 miles.
“I’m not Superman,” wrote Matt in his first blog post about his 1K4D challenge. “I’m below-average height, below-average weight. Nobody has ever thought of me as physically superior in any way. So why run so far, for so long, across such empty terrain? Because I believe it only takes one. One person to change a life, one person to change the way people think. Kidney donors know what I mean.”