It rained overnight last night. In fact, it continued to rain until early in the afternoon today. What had been a consistent drizzle as the runners took to their hammocks last night, became a steady shower which lasted into daylight before developing into full on jungle rain early in today’s stage. This made for broken sleep for many f the runners, especially those who haven’t yet entirely mastered the art of hammock hanging.
That didn’t stop high spirits at the start this morning as all but one runner took to the line. Terrence McDonagh has unfortunately withdrawn due to illness. He’s fine and we have no doubt we’ll see him at another race. One runners pack took the decision to break just before the start of the race and between him and Adam Kimble, our new race director in training, they managed to fix the misbehaving backpack with seconds to spare.
The stage began at 7:30am with a long winding section of winding road which lead through a number of small villages, giving the runners a chance to see a little of rural Peruvian life up close. Not that we imagine they were looking around too much, what with the pouring rain and hard, rock-strewn road surface which was battering their already painful feet.
After reaching CP2 the runners were treated to a change of pace. A sharp left and they were off-road and into the jungle. The first obstacle they face was a river crossing. Usually only a couple of feet deep, this river had swollen massively due to the thunderstorms our runners had spent the night watching light up the horizon. Ropes had been put in place by our team to prevent anyone being swept up by the current and a safety team was sent in to assist the runners.
What followed was the first stretch of jungle proper. A baptism of fire. If a wet one. That stretch today was knee deep in mud in places and criss-crossed throughout by swollen, angry streams which are usually babbling brooks. This slowed the pace of all the competitors and an increase in swearing was definitely noticed.
It’s a quirk of ultra-runners that the harder something is, the more they seem to enjoy it and today was no exception. Despite some rumblings about the mud and raging rivers, most of the pack seem to have thoroughly enjoyed their rain forest adventure. Though we’ve yet to see a runner who hasn’t fallen in the mud at least a handful of times. These slips and falls take their toll, twisting joints and stressing muscles not so often called into action. It’s also made for some muddy kit and those who haven’t fully waterproofed their gear are now trying to dry their sleeping bags and spare clothes in the humid jungle.
Still, in the middle of the afternoon the first blue sky of the day was spotted overhead and the rains finally stopped. This brought out the beautiful, incandescent blue butterflies which are native to the area and a flock of macaws was spotted flying over our camp at Tono.
Tono camp is waterlogged due to the earlier deluge making conditions difficult for the runners but spirits are still high around the hammocks. The medics are getting increasingly busy as blisters start to appear, caused by constantly wet feet and shoes full of grit. These will only worsen as the race goes on. We’ll all, team and runners alike, have our fingers crossed tonight that the rain stays away.
At the front of the race today, Martin Lambertson again put in an amazing performance finishing in first position and looking calm and strong as he reached the finish line. Frode Lein again took second, despite some illness early in the day, but a new runner pushed into the third spot today. Mael Jouan of France took the third position today and creeped closer to taking it overall. Britain’s Rob Wood will have a fight on his hands to hold that spot.
Hilary Clinton is still first female but now eight overall. Second and third are probably the two most chipper runners on the course, Canadians Carolin ‘I can’t get enough of the jungle’ Botterill and her friend Jo Bauswein.
The high rivers we mentioned earlier have led to some last-minute course changes tomorrow. The runners were to enter an area where the rivers were even deeper and faster flowing and our safety team have reached the conclusion that it is too risky. Consequently, the runners will instead cross the biggest of those rivers twice by zipwire before running through the local villages of Patria and Pilcopata where we hope there’ll be some spectators to cheer them along the way. Or at least to stare at them bemused as they lumber through town.