Sometime around sunset, a member of our Namibian team commented that we had been hugely lucky to see elephants for the last 2 years in a row, but that we shouldn’t expect it to happen again. Lightning striking the same spot twice is one thing but 3 times? Impossible.
Nevertheless, around 9:30pm, some cracks and crashes could be heard in the trees about 25m outside our camp. Before long a mother and her calf could be seen feeding among the last green trees clinging to life at the side of the dry Ugab riverbed. Eventually, around 7 or 8 elephants made an appearance. They are bewilderingly soft-footed and gently passed the camp at a distance respected by both the runners and the elephants alike as we stood and watched in awe. Lightning strikes 3 times.
Our nocturnal visitors were a big topic of conversation as the runners milled around this morning waiting for the stage to begin. You could be forgiven for thinking that the reason we have the runners take on this stage in the midday sun is that we are sadists. Whilst that may be true, we are in fact looking out for them. Tonight’s camp is on a wide-open plain with no shade at all, so holding them in the Ugab valley, which has plenty of shade among the rocky outcrops and green trees, is an act of mercy.
Stage Four may be the shortest but you’d be foolish to underestimate the Damara Dash. It may only be 22km but there are stretches of soft sand and the entire course is slightly uphill. Today has also been the hottest day so far by a stretch. Today was also the King and Queen of the Desert Stage with the 10km between CP1 and CP2 forming a time trial for the runners. Despite the intense heat, a good number of runners pushed themselves to the limit to win. In the end, Namibian runner Wim Steenkamp was crowned King and Kazia Ozechowska was the Queen. Anthony Jouannic gets an honourable mention for coming with a couple of minutes of the indestructible seeming Wim. In the end, the Wimmer takes it all. Sorry – The Race Director insisted I use this joke.
Every runner who set off this morning made it across the line today. There is a fight at the front of the race but the battle to reach the line from the back of the pack is one that takes an immense amount of effort. Dale, Isabelle and Phil March – along with Jason Carpenter who is walking the course and keeping them company – took some time to rest along the way at checkpoints and, under the watchful eyes of our team, all crossed the line t applause from the other runners and an epic whoop from Adam Kimble our new RD.
Wim not only took King of the Desert today, but also took the stage win and opened up a lead over Julen Urdaibai of almost 30 minutes. That’s a comfortable cushion to take into the long stage but 92km is a long long way. Anthony Jouannic took 2nd place today and seems to have found a reserve of strength which has moved him up to 4th overall ahead of compatriot Mael Jouan. 3rd today went to Kazia Orzechowska who still looks infuriatingly fresh for this stage of the race. She is now in 3rd place overall and only 39 minutes of CR pace. If her legs feel up to it in the morning, and there is no sign that they won’t, expect a big, big push from her.
2nd and 3rd women today were Eliza Miles and Bronia Lewis once again. Eliza and Bronia now sit in 10th and 15th overall respectively
Our alarms will be going off at around 2:30am local time tomorrow as we get mobilised for the long stage. At 4am local time they start the monster 92km final stage. There will be a short course option at 70km tomorrow for those who don’t leave CP7 by 9pm. There will likely be another cut-off at CP4 for those whose pace of advance is too slow to make reaching CP7 by 9pm impossible. This will depend on the strength of the runners tomorrow and we’ll do our best to keep you updated throughout.
Communications tomorrow, particularly towards the end of the course, are the most challenging of the race and there is a chance we’ll go dark until the following day, but the live tracker will be updated right to the end.
Wish them luck. They’ll need it.
Stage Four Times:
|4||Julen Calzada Urdaibai||2:52:00|
|7||Marc Antoine Colonna||3:08:00|