Desert Ultra 2023 | Stage One Results

It was 35°c when the runners took to the start line at 07:30am and it rose steadily from there.

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This short report and the results from Stage One are being published on the morning of Stage Two after our team found a whisper of 4G among the dunes this morning.

It was 35°c when the runners took to the start line at 07:30am yesterday and it rose steadily from there into the high 40s, higher than any forecast had led the team and the runners to expect. We moved the race start half an hour earlier to try and miss some of the swelter but it made little difference to the athletes under the punishing sun. Not that it dampened spirits on the start line. The race got underway with a party atmosphere as always.

Stage One starts with a lightly chaotic 12km run to CP1. It is the only section of any BTU race that isn’t marked. The Spitzkoppe Saddle, comprising a pair of massive rounded granite hills, is clearly visible on the horizon from the start and runners are pointed towards the gap in the middle. As they make their way through the gentle undulations of the desert though, they quickly begin to take slightly erratic routes to the CP which always keeps the CP staff on their toes. Before the worst of the sun, this stretch in among large spiky shrubs, is relatively cool. From the saddle onwards though this stage is totally exposed to the sun. A relentless winding trail surrounded by rocks which absorb and then radiate out the heat from the sun, adding to the baking effect.

It’s always the case during any kind of endurance event that the runners towards the back of the pack have a very difficult time. They are exposed to the elements for the longest time which yesterday meant having to endure a gentle oven-baking as they ran for hours at a time. This resulted in four runners not being able to finish the stage and being escorted to camp and you’ll see them indicated in the table of results below. Our team have confirmed that all are well and all but one, Calvin, has started Stage Two. They may be off the leaderboard, but so long as the medical team are happy they will be welcome to participate in the race, it is always our intention to make sure that everybody gets the most out of their experience.

Jon Shield charged off the start line yesterday morning and arrived at the first checkpoint already 20 minutes ahead of his pursuers. Jon has now won 3 out of the 4 Global Race Series events and he has always tended to go out hard on day one to try and build a cushion he can defend over the rest of the race. It seemed that this race would be no different but that blazing sunshine eventually took its toll on Jon and he sensibly chose to walk from CP3 to CP4 in order to keep his temperature down. When you see his finish time in the table below keep that in mind – he was still very, very fast finishing over an hour ahead of the runner in 2nd.

Ellie Milner was the first woman to cross the line. She finished just 18 minutes ahead of Sheila Sanei in 2nd who was herself just 25 minutes ahead of Muriel Villiers in 3rd. The female podium could well be the most interesting over the coming days.

The 2nd and 3rd men to arrive, taking 2nd and 3rd overall, were Shane Thrower and Steve Williams. Steve is running the Desert Ultra for the 2nd time having crossed the line in 2nd place in 2017.

We can’t help but mention our very own Jenny Hall too. Jenny is our marketing manager and has well and truly put her money where her mouth is by signing up for the Desert Ultra. This is Jenny’s first ultra-marathon and she has been training hard throughout this year. We were all really pleased to see her finish yesterday’s stage and set out again this morning. Good luck to Jenny from all the BTU team here in the UK!

Stage Two began this morning at 0800 (0600 UK Time) and temperatures are similar to yesterday so far.

Head to our Instagram to see our daily update reel and hear about the day from Race Director Adam Kimble:

Results after Stage One:

Race NumberFirst NameSurnameTime of FinishFinish TimeM/FPositionGender Position

About the Author

Jenny Hall

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