There was a lot of trepidation around camp at Villa Carmen on the morning of The Long One. Over 65km of tough trail lay ahead of them on what was shaping up already to be a hot and sweaty day. This is a big day for the race team too, after 4 long days of keeping this race moving the biggest day stretches our logistics to the fullest.
At 5am, in darkness, the runners set off on the road, many of them knowing the sun would have set again before they got to the finish. They started the course by running along the road through the centre of Pilcopata. We’re teasing them at this point, letting them see where the finish line will be later. It must be incongruous for a group who have been in remote jungle camps for the last few days to suddenly find themselves transported to civilisation. At one point, they run past the hotel which, for the last 4 nights of the race, serves as Race HQ. All the team who weren’t already on the course lined the street to send the runners off with a round of applause.
The long course consists of a long stretch of road before the runners begin a long stretch which follows a river, repeatedly crossing it and occasionally marching along the river bed. It’s slippery, uneven work on a good day, 5 days in to the race it’s often more than the runners’ sore ankles, knees and hips can take. At the marathon point, 42km, there is a checkpoint which serves as the cut-off. Anyone who reaches this point after 3pm must take the short route back to Pilcopata by road. For those who are quick enough to get there before the cut-off the reward is another exceptionally steep climb and descent in the thick jungle. By all reports the mud on that mountain meant the descent was more a case of controlling your slide down through the trees than marching.
In the main square in Pilco’ our flags were set up on each side of the road and a few rows of seats placed in the shade outside a small local shop/bar. The Race Team gathered here around midday to await the runners. In previous years this vigil has continued as late as 1am the following day.
The wait for the front runners was brief; Sondre, then Fabian, then Tommy Chen made their way over the line a little after 2pm. Sondre is therefore the overall winner of the Jungle Ultra 2017 with the young German, Fabian Breitsamer in 2nd (in his first multi-stage race) and Tommy Chen 3rd.
The other runners were spread thinly across the course coming in steadily over the next 8hrs. As each crossed they were handed a celebratory beer and took up a seat with the others to cheer in the runners who came next.
The last two runners through the long course were Jeff Lau and Carolin Botterill. Jeff Lau managed to get through the entire event with a large teddy bear clipped to the front of his pack. His pace had been slow and steady throughout the race but through sheer determination he made it to all the way. He couldn’t have asked for a better supporter through stage 5 than Carolin who was competing in the Jungle Ultra for the third time. In her previous 2 attempts Carolin has been forced to take the short course option at least one stage. Not so this year as she completed the full course. We’ll need to make it longer if she comes back again.
The last person over the line can sometimes find things a little quiet when they arrive. Understandably many of the runners will want to go to sleep before once the sun has set. This year though a full house of runners, race team and medics were at the finish line for the back-marker, Steve Hill, who drew the loudest cheer of the day.
Steve has had trouble with his feet since Stage One after his trainers split early on, consequently each day has been a long slow, slog. Steve has approached each stage with good humour and an unwavering drive to get to the end no matter how long it took him. At 21:34 he made it, even managing a sprint finish, with a horde of local children to usher him between the flags and to the end of his journey.
In defiance of how tired the runners obviously were, they stayed in the square into the night to trade stories about the race and to congratulate each other. Tomorrow, they’ll gather again for a celebratory lunch, some local dancing a culture and, of course, the medal presentation. The party after that is likely to be something of a feat of endurance itself.
It’s been another amazing Jungle Ultra and BTU would like to say a special thankyou to the whole Peruvian team without whom this race would be impossible. To JC, Bertha, Gloria, Alfredo and the dozens of drivers, trail setters, trail sweepers, zipwire crew members, boat crews and the rest. They’ve worked long long hours in very tough conditions to keep this race moving. Massive thanks are also owed to Nadia and the Exile Medics crew. Anyone who has met these guys on our races will know just how invaluable they are to us. They’ve kept many a runner in this, and other races and they often have to leave camp many hours ahead of the race and even camp overnight in the jungle at times in order to be in position when the runners come though. Nevertheless they are always a welcome and friendly site for the runners when they encounter them at checkpoints.
SHORT COURSE RACE RESULTS:
FULL COURSE RACE RESULTS: