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Jungle Ultra 2016 Race Report – Stage Three

It’s been a baking hot day today in Peru. The runners started out in fairly cool conditions and made a 5km dash along a rocky road strewn with loose stone and crisscrossed by streams to reach a zipwire across a river too wide and fast flowing to be traversed on foot…

7th June, 2016

Stage Three – Logging

Hopefully hammock erecting skills have now been refined into a fine art; there’s a rumble of thunder in the distance and our runners will need to get their shelters put together quickly to stay dry and comfortable tonight.

It’s been a baking hot day today in Peru.  The runners started out in fairly cool conditions and made a 5km dash along a rocky road strewn with loose stone and crisscrossed by streams to reach a zipwire across a river too wide and fast flowing to be traversed on foot or by swimming.

A steel wire cable hangs over the white water supported by a simple but sturdy A-frame at each end.  On the cable hangs an open car; a small platform able to carry three people at any given time.  A team of four of our Peruvian race team wait at each end ready to pull the car and it’s contents over by hand using tow ropes.  It is back breaking labour as the sun gets higher above them and each runner takes time to thank them for their effort.

The trip over the river provides a short but welcome break before the runners make their way onto a sun-drenched plane and then winds their way back into thick jungle.  Another dose of yesterday’s skin-soaking humidity and strength sapping mud.  Awaiting them on the other side of this gruelling stretch is a long stretch of local road.  The rains have been kind and avoided this particular area in the last day or so and this road represents the race’s most stable and comparatively smooth running surface to date; the road’s one small mercy as it also forced our runners into a long, long climb up away from Pilcopata, the largest local town, and off towards tonight’s home at the tiny, traditional village of Santa Rosa.

The sun beat down on this seemingly endless hill and the gradient began to take it’s toll on the field.  The front-runners, the Peruvians, Vicente Garcia, Vivien Laporte and Mark Denby came in well clear of the rest today as the sun drained the last dregs of energy from legs already exhausted by the climb out of ‘Pilco’.

The final few kilometres were a steady descent almost equal to the climb that preceeded it but, though a break from the uphill running, this meant extra pressure on tired knees.

Still, the slope down into Santa Rosa presented a tempting opportunity to run across the finish line today and many of the runners, no matter how tired, let the handbrake off and rolled down to their new home for the night.

The Running for Rangers team are starting to feel the burn too today but their team spirit will stand them in good stead.  They still manage to raise a smile and a wave for the media team every time they get caught on camera out there and have been keeping their spirits up with their own set of inter team rules and regulations and forfeits for those who break them.

We spent a little time with Sam Taylor and his team after yesterday’s stage.  The 10 of them are determined that they will all cross the line at the end of stage 5 even if they have to carry each other through.  One team member added that this included carrying them over in pieces if necessary.  We’re hoping it doesn’t come to that but we’re pretty sure they’re serious.

Mark Harber has been dubbed ‘snakeman’ by the race team after his second run in with a scaly creature.  Today he encountered a large snake in the jungle and even got a couple of photos as it darted out of the undergrowth and grabbed itself a frog from nearby.  Mark has been showing the photo around, though not all of the runners are too eager to see what’s living out there.

One unexpected casualty today was the experienced ultra-athlete Shaun Marsden.  Shaun has had a busy race calendar and it looks like a mix of race fatigue and heat stroke stopped the man who came third in the Ice Ultra 2016 from completing our Jungle course.  This is a first DNF for Shaun and is bound to take it’s toll but we’re certain he will bounce back from this and come back stronger.

Pete Ryan made one final stand today, staying on his feet and pushing on alone and in the dark, fighting his own battle against the heat and his own legs to claw his way to the end of the stage.  Pete may not be at the start line tomorrow but he leaves the race with his pride intact.

After such a tough day there are a few runners tonight mulling over whether or not to try and continue tomorrow.  We’re sure a good night of sleep and a good meal will help them but only time will tell.  In any case, they will have done themselves proud.

The medics have a busy clinic tonight, the combination of jungle mud, grit and moisture followed by a hot grinding run has further broken down already battered feet and there are sore knees and bruised and rubbed shoulders to be tended too also.

Though relatively short tomorrow’s stage is made up almost entirely of twisting jungle trail and will be a serious test for all who get themselves to the start line again tomorrow.  We’re already hugely proud of this group of runners and hope you’re as excited as we are about following their story.

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