Stage One – Cloud 9
The heavens have opened over the cloud forest and woe betide any runner who hasn’t rehearsed their hammock and tarp erecting routine! There are sore legs and a few blisters out there but that’s to be expected and all in all Stage 1 has come to an end with little incident. Which is just the way we like it. The runners are weary but spirits are high.
As dawn rose over Base Camp this morning the runners were greeted to a beautiful view as the sun burned away the rolling clouds that give this area it’s name and treated us all to a startling view over kilometres of canopy. This sea of green stretching off down the valley below, broken only by the single line of the road they would take over the course of the day carving it’s winding way off to the horizon.
Shane Benzie of Running Reborn, an expert on running form and technique who has studied runners around the world, has been testing our runners, taking advantage of a unique opportunity to study some elite athletes in a unique environment. During the hustle and bustle at Base Camp this morning he could be found strapping sensors to runners’ shin to study the effect of fatigue on cadence. He is also investigating the impact of such prolonged intense exercise on the immune system.
The athletes were anxious to get moving this morning and, after each had gone through their own rituals, checks, tweaks and re-checks, they need little encouragement to gather on the start line as a band of local musicians played enthusiastically, if a little disjointedly, to call them to the course.
The Mayor of Pilcopata, the closest town to this remote vantage point, gave a speech to the runners before Race Director Kris gave some final booming words of encouragement and, at the drop of a Peruvian flag, the field of runners took their first steps of the race of a lifetime.
The pack spread quickly as the seasoned elites and Peruvians set out a break neck speed, almost challenging the media truck with our cameramen shooting from the back, and each other runner choosing their own pace; running their own race.
This stage is mainly a downhill stage but contains a relatively brief but extremely strenuous off road section comprising a rapid descent to an exposed and rocky river bed followed by an equally rapid ascent/scramble up the steep valley side opposite before the runners retake the road. Even the strongest among them gasp for breath here in the rarefied atmosphere.
Though Stage 1 largely takes place on the mountain roads which act as a lifeline for the town of Pilcopata, these aren’t tarmac surfaces and runners have to watch their step even here as stones break the mud surface and cause constant corrections of a runners stride and landing.
Today’s stage was won by Spaniard Vicente Garcia in a staggering time of 2hrs 56m 40s, an incredibly feat considering the final runners to cross the line managed a deeply respectable 6hrs 47m. The next 4 to cross the line were all members of our Peruvian contingent before Mark Denby, Vivien Leporte and Mark Harber crossed the line in 2nd, 3rd and 4th.
Mark Harber, running in support of Hope for Children, crossed the line looking strong and enthusiastically telling our team about the large snake he had just passed. First female to cross the line, Kristina Madsen at 4hr 10m 32s, came in just after saying that she’d seen no such thing only to be left pale 4 minutes later when 2ndfemale Michelle Bowen crossed the line having seen the same massive creature winding along the road.
The Running for Rangers team all made it back and finished strongly, maintaining their good humour and friendly inter team rivalry throughout, doling out props and forfeits throughout for those who break their internal rules during the race.
One runner unfortunately didn’t finish today after twisting his ankle early in the day. He’ll rest and recuperate tomorrow and may yet join the race in a day or two’s time.
The athletes are all in their hammocks now getting in some much needed sleep before tomorrow’s 7am (local time) start and another gruelling stage ahead.
We hope you’re as excited about the coming days as we are and are enjoying keeping up with the race here and sharing the experience with family and friends. We’re as proud as you are of these amazing individuals.
[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/edit?ar=1&o=U&video_id=45-7RVoJMXs” title=”Jungle Ultra Trailer” /]