The evening before the start of the race and I can’t quite believe it. I am finally going to run the Jungle Ultra. There is nothing more I can do to prepare for this event which I entered nearly five years ago and have been dreaming about for even longer. The high altitude of Cusco has meant that of the 24 who have entered, already 2 will not be at the start line so we are down to just 22 runners. Normally there would be up to 60 runners but with the current political situation in Peru, Americans and Canadians have been advised not to travel. So we are a mixed bunch of mainly Europeans with a couple from New Zealand and a local Peruvian from the race area. Already we are a friendly and supportive group, all excited to get going.
Today was an early departure at 5:30am from Cuzco in a convoy of minibuses. The road quickly changed from busy suburban city, to quieter dual carriageway until we reached the mountains where the “fun” really started. We had been told by race director Kris King, that the journey should be quicker than normal as the road had recently been resurfaced. What this actually meant was that the road would still be very narrow, very windy and very bumpy with a very big drop to one side of the bus. Some of the road was indeed resurfaced, but some of this was still ongoing meaning that we had a delay whilst the work progressed and the direction of travel of a section of road was changed in our favour. We had a breakfast break at a small town but with all of us very paranoid about food hygiene so close to the race, tea and toast was the safest option for most.
Onwards along the “exciting” road for a couple more hours and we were now seeing the terrain in which we would be running. The views were spectacular with big drops lined in vegetation down into the valleys and a big river at the bottom. The road zig zagged round every turn of mountain side and finally we stopped at Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station, our stop for the night and the race start in the morning.
The afternoon was spent with hanging up hammocks, race briefings, kit checks and general chit chat. Race bags were checked and re-checked, notes were compared on food supplies, what we were going to carry in our packs, how hot or cold it was going to be and endless more final questioning of everything we had all prepared for. A couple of runners had not read their instructions and did not realise they were going to have to carry all their food, hammock, sleeping bag, water and medical supplies for the full duration of the race – nothing like a last-minute surprise!
By 6pm we are all tucked up in sleeping bags inside our hammocks. We have been warned of a cold night, so I am inside two sleeping bags and am wearing full thermals, a fleece top and a down jacket. I do not like being cold. Tomorrow we will be up early to be ready for a race start of 7:30am. This is it!