9th June, 2016
Stage Five – The Long One
Due to the cloud cover around Pilcopata over the last couple of days messing up the satellite uplink and cutting off our supply of internets we’ve been unable to keep you guys properly updated. Know that we were trying though! What follows are the blog entries written on the night of Stage 5 and the morning after when the runners had woken up and were gathering in town for the awards ceremony and local lunch. The ceremony, chaired by the Mayor of Pilcopata and broadcast on local radio, was a triumphant affair complete with more brass band fanfare and prizes of local crafts and medals for the race winners.
Today we are all gathered back in Cusco preparing for tonights Medal Ceremony and after party. Expect a few sore heads to match sore feet in the morning!
Here is what was written on the night of Stage 5:
This blog is written under street lights beside Pilcopata’s small central square and gardens. It’s creation is accompanied by the incongruous soundtrack of a Roxy Music CD pumping out of one of our small armada of 4x4s.
Bright bunting is strewn along the dirt street and the runners who have finished so far are gathered in garden chairs on the street drinking well-earned beers, sampling street food and trading stories of their day out on the longest trail of the race.
The runners are in great spirits and have spent the afternoon making friends with the local children by handing out everything from uneaten energy bars (of which there are very few!), unused glow sticks and even compasses. The local community have been involved as well. A large contingent of Pilco’ residents were out in the square earlier to welcome the runners home and the local police force have done a grand job of providing the runners with a motorcycle escort to the line and announcing their presence to the crowd.
The local crowd has thinned out now the darkness has set in but the runners remain, listening to Roxy music under the street lamps and laughing together. The hardships of the past few days are forgotten as they welcome each other at the end, whooping and clapping. There has been laughter.
Today they have earned the right to take off battered and torn trainers for the last time and to sample food that isn’t freeze dried or vacuum packed. They’ve worked hard for their reward though.
The aptly named ‘Long One’ began at 5am with a 12km stretch of road leading to another dramatic zipwire crossing of a fast flowing white water river under the first light of the day. From here the journey contained long stretches of twisting undulating road and a relentless series of river crossings on foot. The force of the water and the uneven river bed made this never-ending stretch particularly tough and this, and the long slow hill that followed have been a common feature of conversation once the runners reached the end.
This was by far the longest stage at 70km and the time taken to complete it was obviously far greater than with previous stages. There are runners out there now who have been out there for 14hrs and a still trudging on. The first finishes however managed a spectacular feat finishing not long after noon having completed the course in around 7hrs 30mins.
It was a nail-biting finish at the top. The fastest 2 runners throughout, beside the speedy Peruvians who are generally supported runners, have been Vivien Laporte and Vicente Garcia. The day began with Vicente around 30 minutes ahead having run an incredibly quick first stage, 5 days and seemingly a lifetime ago. Vivien has since finished 2 stages faster and eaten away at the lead and today pushed himself a solid 17 minutes ahead of his rival. It was a herculean effort but not enough to keep Garcia off the top spot. Brit Mark Denby came in more than 2 hours later but still comfortably in 3rd position. Kristina Madsen came in at just under 11hrs and sealed her place as first female runner 2 hours ahead of Michelle Bowen in 2nd and Susie Chan in 3rd. Overall places will follow shortly.
Mark Harber had been dubbed ‘snakeman’ in a previous blog but we’re going with ‘nice guy’ from here after he started the day giving away some of his last food to the oldest of the Peruvian runners and ended it by handing out the all chocolate bars he was handed to help him recover to the local children.
The last runners still have a way to go but they have all come so far and we, and we’re sure you, are immensely proud of them. We’ll post further information and pictures tomorrow when everybody is home and the internet is back in service. Until then, from Pilcopata in Peru, we wish you good night!
The rest of this blog is written over breakfast in a small café near our hotel the next morning…
The last runners got home safe and well but extremely tired at around 1am nursing a sprained ankle and a lot of blisters. It was lonely out there in the dark, for them and the medics manning the final checkpoint who walked in with them, but they crossed the line displaying nothing but stoic determination and a hint of relief. They had been on their feet for 20 solid hours, the last 7 or so in total darkness.
The runners stayed in the central square for as long as possible but tired bodies get cold quickly and as 10 and 11pm went by a number of them had to go back to warm clothes and hammocks. The last runners though were part of the Running for Rangers team and they, the race team and a few more stubborn individuals kept vigil under the street lights with beer and snacks saved for the late comers.
It was 1am when the last head torch lights were spotted outside town and those left waiting in the town ran out across the bridge leading out of Pilcopata to accompany them over the line. It was an appropriately emotional ending to what had been an incredible day and an incredible race.
This morning the runners are glowing. They have showered and slept. Nobody forced them out of their hammocks in the small hours this morning and they’ve had time to grab breakfast, have showers and put on clean clothes. There are a lot of smiles in Pilcopata this morning.
In an hour or so the runners will all gather together for an award ceremony and a lunch together with the whole of the race team. Medals and T-Shirts will be given out and the winners will be crowned by the Mayor of the district.