After the epic final day of the race, our team and our runners have now emerged from the Desert. Last night we all share a meal and a few drinks, and traded tales of our time in the baking Namib for as long as the fatigue allowed before retiring to soft, clean beds for the first time in almost a week ago.
Stage Five is the longest, the most remote, the most varied and the most technical stage of the race. It is beautiful and takes in high-sided canyons, open plains of scorched golden grass, sandy rivers beds and more; some of everything the preceding few days delivered.
The camp woke at 2am ready to begin at 4am. The runners were especially tired as thunder had cracked over the camp a few times in the middle of the night, a sudden and overwhelming break in the pin-drop quiet of the desert. Fly sheets were scrambled onto tents by headtorch as fat drops of rain began to fall on the parched earth. Somehow though, the rain petered out quickly and the storm moved on. A warning shot.
Beginning in the dark meant beginning in the cold and a number of runners were visibly chilly as they paced at the start line. We’d thought the temperature would rise sharply as the sun rose but, in a first for the Desert Ultra, the clouds never entirely burnt off and a strong sea breeze continued throughout the day, a considerable mercy to our runners. The temperature peaked in the early afternoon at just 32°c.
There are technically two finish lines at the Desert Ultra. The full course takes in the entire 250km and ends at a Save the Rhino Namibia Trust Ranger Station. The short course however ends at CP7, 70km in, at a spot called Hyena’s Den, a semi-circular rocky outcrop which stands out on a wide barren plain. A perfect spot for a checkpoint. Any runner wishing to take the long course needs to pass here by 7pm.
In the end, 19 runners pushed on to the long course finish line at Basecamp, while 8 runners (some of whom chose to stop before the cut-off time) ended their race at Hyena’s Den and were ferried to camp.
Massive congratulations to Jack Tunney, the overall winner and first man, and also to Kristina Madsen who was first woman and the new female course record holder, reclaiming a record she previously held back in 2018.
The overall podium was completed by Bernard Dufour of France who took the 3rd position overall, and 2nd man. 3rd man over the line was Andreas Gast, a late addition who only joined the race within a couple of weeks of it beginning.
The joint 2nd placed women in the race were Marie-Louise Alemany (#22 Mary-Lou) and Vanessa Kellie who formed a partnership early in the race and stuck together throughout. These two had each other laughing and chatting right the way across the desert, their voices carrying over the sand as they approached our checkpoints.
A special mention has to go to Kelly Lasley, the final runner to cross the short course finish line. Kelly was our back-marker from start to finish. She spent seemingly endless hours out on the course alone, spent the longest time exposed to the searing sun, and consequently had the least recovery time between stages. Yet she was never seen without a smile and always had a quip for the checkpoint teams. Our mobile Namibian team came to know her well as they watched over her at the back of the pack. One of them, Louwtjie (pronounced Loki), even walked the last 12km stretch of the final stage alongside her in the dark.
Last night we celebrated the winners and the success of the event, in Windhoek. If you had friends or family in the race, we hope you’ll raise a glass at home too. All of the runners, no matter what the result of their race, put all they had into this. For 5 days in one of the most challenging environments on earth, they came together and supported one another through their struggles.
Before we sign off, we want to thank some of the people who made this possible. Massive thanks to our Namibian team. Their incredible ability to problem-solve in extremely remote areas and to thrive in an environment that happily cooks the hapless and uninitiated makes them the backbone of the race team. Whether they are part of the team building the camps or the mobile checkpoint/safety team out on the course, they do all they do with smiles and work tirelessly to support the athletes.
Massive thanks also to our medical team without whom many of the runners would simply not have been able to continue. They are there when blisters need patching and stomachs are upset, and they are there to support if any serious incident were to occur. In either case, they are fantastically talented, calm and friendly throughout.
It just remains to thank you all for following the event. It really does help the runners to know that they are not entirely alone out there in the sand.
OVERALL RESULTS BELOW:
|Race Number||Name||Stage One Time of Finish||Stage One Time Taken||Stage Two Time of Finish||Stage Two Time Taken||Stage Three Time of Finish||Stage Three Time Taken||Stage Four Time of Finish||Stage Four Time Taken||Stage Five Time of Finish||Stage Five Time Taken||OVERALL TIME|
|22||Marie Louise Alemany||16:45:00||08:45:00||17:29:00||09:29:00||14:54:00||06:54:00||15:07:00||03:37:00||20:59:00||16:59:00||45:44|