The final day and we had a very, very early start. The whistle went off at 4:30am and off we went in the dark. The initial route took us along the main road through Pilcopata and the locals were all out cheering us on, despite the early hour. It was a great start for the final day, and we headed on through and then out of the town with headtorches on. The road continued on and on, and gradually the dawn started to break. I am not a fast runner and most of the runners were out ahead of me within a few miles, but Fred caught up with me and suggested we run together which made for a great last day as this was going to be a very, very, very long day of running. Eventually we turned off the main road (track) and then headed off onto smaller road (track), across fields and eventually hit the river. We had been advised in the pre-race talk that today there would not be any jungle, but that there would be a 10k run along the river and here we were at the river.
Running along the river meant crossing back and forwards in the water, jumping from stone along the sides and then back and forwards along the river. The day was now bright and sunny and to start with the river was fun to be in. But the river went on and on and on and we found ourselves a half dozen group spread out along the river all cursing the race organisers for this section of the route. I have no idea of how long we were criss-crossing along the river but after what felt like forever, we finally reached the end of the river section. The relief! We then headed off along track before we found ourselves running within full jungle foliage – we had not been told about any jungle today! And then we headed into another river within the jungle, and we started to realise that this was going on and on and on and even more cursing of the race director took place. We were all very tired. This was the final day, and we were ready to finish racing.
On and on went the river and then finally we were out and then we were onto track and then more formal track/road. Fred and I were still together and found ourselves at the back of the race. To have a running buddy after mostly running by myself was a great last day so thank you to Fred for being such great company. We reached the last checkpoint just as dusk was arriving and we knew that we had just 10k along the road to the finish. We were optimistic about our speed of running along the road and off we went from the checkpoint in high spirits. But the road went on and on as it got darker and darker and out came the head torches. We were high up the side of the valley, but we didn’t seem to descend in fact at some points we were heading back uphill despite the promise at the final checkpoint of no more climbing. Every time we looked down and thought we could see the finish, the route carried on and the lights below disappeared behind us. The road zig-zagged back and forth across the side of the hill and around the hill and went on and on. We were tired, everything ached, and we wanted to finish but still there was no sign of the finish. Not far behind was an official race van, trying to stay out of sight and not give us any benefit from its headlights, but we knew it was there which I found somewhat disconcerting.
And then finally we could see Pilcopata in lights, we turned onto a big bridge to go across the river, we were being sign-posted by police and locals and there was the finish in front of us in the town centre. We had just completed the Jungle Ultra 2023!
Lots of cheering and big hugs were given by everyone, drinks were handed out and we all devoured the best tasting pizza ever. None of us could quite believe we had really finished. Just one final runner to finish, Gabriella Mathisen from Norway, who was the only female runner to be completing the long distance. She was on her own in the dark on a very hilly longer section. And then here she was being cheered on by everyone as she collapsed through the finish. What an amazing race for everyone and we were all at the finish.
That all happened yesterday. Today was a shower, a great breakfast and then the formal presentation ceremony in the town square with the town officials followed by a leisurely barbeque. A great way to celebrate the end of a great race.