The Lull is what we call this stage. It’s a not particularly witty reference to this stage’s ability to ‘lull’ runners into a false sense of security. It’s the shortest stage and could, therefore, be mistaken for the easiest. This is a misjudgment.
Leaving Santa Rosa, the runners ran straight into the dense, sodden and boiling jungle that will be their home for almost the entire day. In this environment, the body sweats constantly in an attempt to regulate temperature but it has little to no effect. Isolation is a factor too. It becomes difficult to gauge distance when there are no landmarks to see and this preys on the mind. All the while you could be 50 metres away from the next runner and never see them on the twisting trail.
The first two-thirds of this trail are made of regular sharp climbs and sudden, steep descents on a trail where the mud has made traction incredibly difficult. This hot, sweaty grind all leads to a crossroads; a final checkpoint where the runners either miss the cut-off and take the short course route to their camp for the night or are sent out again to take on the Queen/King of the Hill stage. A seemingly endless climb which rewards the runners with an occasional, beautiful view of the surrounding jungle before they scramble their way back down to the hammock stations.
The ascent is incredibly steep in places and, by the time the front runners have churned up the trail, the clay-like earth beneath the leaves is extremely slippery. A false move can mean sliding down and undoing the last few hard strides.
Judging distance is extremely difficult in this terrain. Your speed is down to a crawl in places and the canopy obscures any landmarks that might give a sense of scale. This makes stage four, mentally as well as physically, a serious contender for the toughest stage of the race.
Fabian Breitsamer thrived on today’s technical terrain and claimed a first stage win coming in just ahead of Sondre Amdahl. There was friendly competition through the day between these two as the experienced Amdahl ran shoulder to shoulder with the young German runner. Tommy Chen came in third.
The consensus around camp is that The Lull is the most picturesque but also the most brutal obstacle they’ve taken on so far. It’s meant for some strained emotions as well as muscles around camp with a feeling of trepidation ahead of tomorrow’s long stage. When an impromptu game of football kicked off among the Peruvian race team at the campsite tonight, nobody joined in.
The last runners are crossing the line now to a round of applause from the entire camp. They are Steve Hill and Martin Mienczakowski who have dug deep and put in close to a 12-hour shift today. That’s everyone back to camp safely again.
The fourth camp is Villa Carmen Biological Reserve, a beautiful conservation lodge with hammock stations, creek showers and toilet facilities. This will be their home tonight and again after the race.
They’ll need their rest tonight. Tomorrow is The Long One. They’ve come so far and there is only one stage left to go, but it’s the longest of them all. The final stage begins at 5am local time (11am BST).