All this week we'll be keeping you updated on the third leg of the 4 Deserts race. Runners from around the world are taking on the grueling Sahara Desert in Egypt over a period of six stages.
Stage 5 Course:
At long last, competitors who are still in the competition will face the 95 - 100 kilometer (50 - 60 mile) “Stage 5” which takes competitors from the White Desert to the heart of the Black Desert. The terrain is lunar like, with many plateaus to traverse. A strong mind and limitless endurance will be the key to survival on this stage which is simply flat out and stony for most of the way.
The last section is sandy taking competitors to the ridge of a small village around Bahariya. Competitors will be welcomed by the children of El Ris Village before resting for the final stage. The leaders should be able to complete the section in eight hours, while those selecting to take a moderate pace can take as long as 31 hours.
Take a look at this video of athletes stretching and getting ready to race:
Stage 5 Update:
With a staggered start at the beginning, it was exciting but arduous day. The main group of runner comprising of 124 people set off at 0800, there were many mixed emotions that ranged from dread, fear, anticipation, anxiety all the way through the spectrum to elation and cheer. The atmosphere was electrifying.
Runners set off to a speedy start, with many people aiming to take advantage of the cool hours in the morning through sandy flats, before the thick heat would set in at 1130. By Check Point 20, competitors’ energy had begun to flag noticeably, and many were partnering or grouping together in order to motivate one another through the 100.2km they had to complete throughout the day.
At the first Check Point of the day, the competitors weren’t briefed on this detour, but they actually went all the way to Alaska, according to the local Egyptian team member, Wahid who declared the check point he was manning to be this Northern American State.
At Check Point 20, Laura Corti (Italy) said that she was dividing Stage 6 into three parts, something that experience has taught her through her many years of running multi-day events. Others just walked on through the day, singing marching songs or sweating through expletives. Jim Kerr (Scotland), Lee J. Kelly (UK) and Tim J. Welch stuck together throughout the Long Day, and sang numerous jolly marching songs to keep them going through the midday heat into the night. Travis D. Wilkinson (S. Africa) , James F. D’ath (UK) and Mark Dahl (South Africa) stuck together for the whole stage too. “The scenery was lacking, which was a good thing in a way because I have already used all the superlatives I can think of to describe the amazing terrain we have encountered out here in the Sahara,” said Wilkinson, “I didn’t know that the desert was so deep, but they really brought us to the bottom of it.” Raucous laughter and what they called, “abuse” flowed freely out of these three men on the course, which according to D’ath, was a good sign that they were all feeling ok.
Check Point 21 welcomed competitors at the 40% mark, and they were all feeling it by this point. The monotony of the terrain was beginning to plague the mind with its repetition, and the impending continuation of this grounding began to frustrate. Luckily, they soon passed through a lunar field of grey slatted rocks with small craggy tips surrounded by black washed sand – this meant firmer footing, although it also translated into a small uphill climb. Luckily, Check Point 22 was soon after the ascent. Front runners Dean Karnazes (USA) and Ryan Sandes (S. Africa) ran with one another the whole day, which they both appreciated immensely, “today was definitely the best day I have ever had in my entire RacingThePlanet experience,” Sandes said.
Once competitors had passed the plateau, there was a plateau down into a valley cut out as if the rocks had been parted by a divine force. Dusk descended into the evening at 6, and as the sun dipped down into the horizon and the sky lit up with an ambient glow, darkness quickly invaded the vast open space of the Sahara. And when it gets dark here, it gets really dark. Soon, the night was peppered with bright green glow sticks, and all that could be seen for miles around, was a trail of small red flashing lights from behind, and a string of white head lamps bobbing up and down through the undulating plains of the deserts, resembling a moving, linear matrix cutting through kilometers of the desert.
Many chose to stop and rest at Check Point 22 and get a nice hot meal. It was a great place to pause, with toasty fires and chairs for the competitors. “I quite like walking through the dark,” said Rob Bolton (UK), “although now that I have said it, it makes me sound a bit depressing.” As Bolton looked around the group of his fellow competitors, he asked them, “is this a group consolation meeting? If so, my name is Rob and I can’t pee,” he laughed, as he began to tuck into his dinner.
In the early evening, the top half of the field didn’t choose to stay too long, wanting to complete the Long Day in one go, rather than lose momentum by sleeping, or motivation by sitting for too long. Karin M. G Pederson (Denmark) said, “it’s a good time to appreciate the stars, I have seen so many shooting ones and it cheers me up, but it is hard to look at them with a headlamp on.” Carlos Garcia Prieto (Spain) smiled to her and said, “only one marathon to go.” Which was a comment met by many almost sarcastic laughs.
The next three Check Points were pure carnage for those who were already finding the first half difficult, but the ground team of volunteers kept morale up – and the competitors plodded along, down a ridge and straight into camp. Participants of the Sahara Race (2008) Egypt, will be arriving through the night and into the morning.
The first competitor to cross the line at Camp “El Ris”, was Peter E. Ball (Australia) at 22.14.17, as first from the main group – he was followed a few minutes later by Ryan N. Sandes (South Africa) and Dean Karnazes (USA) at 22.21.40 who were running in the top 25. Rowley Aird (UK) ran into camp as 3rd to finish for the Stage, and 2nd from the main group. Paul H. Skipworth (UK) came in next, as 3rd in the main group, he commented, “that last sandy bit was totally cruel, it was like a sand trap.