The long stage lived up to it’s name once again.
Alarms were set for 3am across camp and among the race team. An assembly of sleep deprived and trepidatious people gathered outside our camp at Villa Carmen at 4am ready for the final stage brief of the race. They’d been warned what lay ahead. A stage with a bit of everything. Stretches of jungle, long winding roads and a seemingly endless stretch along a wide river-bed where they stumbled over wet rocks for kilometre after kilometre. For the long course runners, the final challenge would be a hill climb who’s ascent is difficult but not so hard as the mud-slicked trip back down, especially for those tackling it in the dark. Their nerves were justified.
At 4:30am we called out the final countdown and the procession headed out in the dark. In the dark they ran through the streets of Patria and Pilcopata first to subdued cheers from the sleepy Peruvians, disturbed in their morning routines by the crazy corredores. They then each got to watch what turned out to be a beautiful sunrise, full of vivid colour, as moisture boiled of the jungle canopy and formed low drifting clouds.
The middle of this stage is a long section where there is no trail as such, but where the runners follow the route of a river, trudging mile after mile in running water. It’s a difficult section on any day but when you are on the last stage desperate to reach a hot meal and your hammock it is mentally draining. It is impossible to maintain a fast pace and your perception of time and distance is skewed.
While the runners are out suffering on the course, the race team are in the main square of Pilcopata preparing for their arrival. Each year the local municiplidad put up flags and bunting and help us to arrange food stalls and drinks at the finish to welcome the runners home. This year we had perhaps our biggest ever turnout of spectators at the finish line too and they stayed well after dark to see everyone across the line.
Still, it’s a long, long day put their and the stamina of the spectators is only so long. The young ones hang around for a while hoping to pick up leftover trail snacks and glow sticks, a rare and precious commodity for the children of the Kosnipata region. As the night drew on the crowd at the line thinned down to a vigil of runners and race crew. Our safety teams and driver began to converge, the runners who were still able to stay awake stayed out to watch their new friends in and our RD, as always, held his place by the finishing beacon.
It was a long watch this year. The final runners on the long course only narrowly beat the cut-off and were progressing steadily through the pitch-black jungle by headtorch, under the watchful eyes of our sweeper team.
Emotions are always high at the line and this year was no exception. Whether short course or long course finisher, this race will take everything you can give and the sense of achievement in coming though it is massive. As I’m sure family and friends will hear as their loved ones return from Peru, there were plenty of tears at the finish last night. And plenty of elation and relief too.
At the front of the race today there was a change in fortune for the runners. After 5 days of dominance from Martin, Frode and Mael, today two of the Japanese runners teamed up and made a push for glory. The time they would need to make up to take a podium spot was all but insurmountable but they pressed on nonetheless and sealed a commanding stage win. Takao Kitada and Katsushige Hoshino finished the day in joint first position wearing beaming grins and carrying a Japanese flag through the Peruvian streets between them.
Not too long later Martin himself arrived having pushed himself through the final two checkpoints as well. As he tumbled to the floor, simultaneously exhausted but also reaching for a beer, he asked how far ahead the Japanese were. The answer reassured him and he was happy he had done enough. He was right. Martin Lambertsen is the winner of Jungle Ultra 2019.
The race for second and third was a straight fight between Norwegian Frode Lein and Mael Jouan of France. Frode had started the day with a good lead but also deeply calorie deprived after a few days of sporadic illness. Mael on the other hand was looking strong and enjoying the pace. After Frode missed a turn for CP2, Mael was able to pass him and then steadily open a lead as the stage went on, eventually overturning the lead Frode had before the stage started and opening the gap further as the day went on. Mael Jouan finished Jungle Ultra 2019 in second position.
Frode is an extremely tough runner and despite the dehydration and lack of food he fought through to take third position overall.
Hilary Clinton continued her amazing race on the last day, spending much of her time with the consistently strong Dan furlong. Hilary is an excellent runner and a deeply humble one. Talking to her, you could be forgiven for concluding that she might be up against something bigger than her. Not a bit of it. She takes first female and 8th position overall. We expect big things from her in the future.
As the night wore on in Pilco, the runner continued to appear out of the darkness As midnight passed we had only 3 runners left to come. Our Lebanese team had stuck together throughout the first 3 stage, but yesterday, Amin Maalouf made a push for the long course and on the final stage he did the same, claiming his place on the jungle ultra leader board.
The last two had narrowly beaten the cut-off at CP3 and pushed determinedly on. Both of these runners have been stoically pushing on from the beginning. Despite niggling knee problems, they pushed through the pain and pressed on towards the finish. At around 1am local time they arrived, around 21 hours after starting their journey. David Guetz of France and Emilian Coitoru of Romania are the last full course finishers of Jungle Ultra 2019.
Further down the course, Carolin Botterill finished her 5th Jungle Ultra in a row. Surely nobody can know this course better than her now. She is supportive to the runners around her, unflappable under pressure and an inspiration to everyone new to the course. She received a standing ovation at today’s medal ceremony and it was very well deserved.
And with that, the 2019 edition of the Jungle Ultra is over. Thank you for sticking with us throughout. It’s been a tough tough year for everyone, potentially the wettest we’ve ever had, but this group of runners, medics and race team have been exceptional.
Thank you for taking this journey with us.
Until next time.
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|Julen Calzada Urdaibai||11:02:00|
|Marc Antoine Colonna||15:08:00|