One word. ELEPHANTS!!!
It being the short day we had a fairly lazy start today. People pottered through pre-race rituals which are usually performed like a well-oiled machine. We lingered over breakfast and took the time to reset, re-pack and re-enter the world feeling a little refreshed. At 9:15am Kris started the stage brief explaining to the runners where the course would take them and the expected temperatures for the day. After explaining that we would likely see the hottest day so far a murmur of excitement started to spread through camp. The media team caught wind of the whisperings and grabbed their cameras, charging up the dry river bank and through the scrub-bush onto another open river bed running parallel. And there waiting for them was a procession of desert elephants, marching slowly and gracefully along the opposite bank.
The runners followed on, jogging, hobbling and limping up the dusty slope and before long the whole camp was lined up pulling out cameras and smartphones. It felt like a good omen. It was something we’d all hoped for since we first set foot in the desert and here they were wandering right passed our campsite on the one morning where we had the time to pause for a while and watch them in awe.
Today’s half-marathon was run through the hottest part of the day meaning that the rest day was still seriously tough. Karl turned from runner to race crew today and headed out to man a checkpoint alongside the medics, all other runners took to the start line. To add to today’s excitement the 10km stretch between CP1 and CP2 was our Red Jersey stage. As each runner left CP1 their departure time would be logged and the arrival time would be noted as they made it to CP2. Currently our spreadsheet geek is still collating the numbers so this result will be published alongside the final results at the end of the race.
As expected, the first man over the line today was the seemingly invincible Vicente Garcia. Only a few minutes separated him from the next runner, a reborn and rejuvenated Majo Srnik who has recovered spectacularly after hitting a wall on stage one. Another new name in the top three today was Chris Haigh who put in a huge half marathon performance. There are now a number of runners gunning for a podium spot over tomorrow’s monster long stage. Vicente looks destined for first place but the next positions could change over a stage which will likely take even the fastest runners 10 hours and more to finish. Today was also the Red Jersey stage. The 10km stretch between CP1 and CP2 was timed and the fastest male and female sprinter would receive the prestigious King/Queen of the Heat T-Shirt. These accolades went to Majo Srnik and Sarah Watson!
Dale Thomas was unfortunately forced to withdraw today as an injury to his hip meant he was unable to continue marching. There are a couple of other runners being monitored by the medics tonight also. They are safe and well and in good hands but will be making a decision on whether to continue in the race when they wake up in the morning.
And it will be an early start. The runners take to the line tomorrow at 5am. They have 89km of long winding trail ahead of them. The early start hopefully means that they have a significant chunk of trail finished before the worst of the heat. At the 25km mark we will be removing anyone from the race who is not averaging at least 3.5km/h. These runners will then be shuttled to the finish line. At the 67km mark stands Hyena Rock and the aptly named Hyena Camp. Any runner arriving at this point after 9:15pm will be held there to camp until 4:00am the following morning at the latest. Once rested they will be allowed to take on the final 22km of trail to the finish line.
It’ll be a long, long day tomorrow. There will likely be withdrawals but we are prepared for that. Comms have been difficult up to now and they are likely to be even harder tomorrow as all hands will be required for race logistics. We’ll update you all again as soon as we are able. Keep an eye on the trackers and wish the runners good luck. It’s a long trail tomorrow but it’s the final challenge before the finish line. This is where you earn your medal.
[arve url=”https://youtu.be/BddT9Kiach4″ title=”Desert Ultra Interviews – Russel Jackson” /]