Today is Stage 6 – the final day of 4 Deserts Sahara Race

This evocative photograph was taken by Zandy Mangold:

Racing The Planet, Sahara Ultramarathon. Photo By Zandy Mangold. © 2010

Today is the last day of the 4 Deserts Sahara race. The day began with a fabulous sunrise and, even more welcoming, a breeze! There are still 107 runners in the race which means only 49 have withdrawn. Very sadly 75-year old Jack Denness is one of them. He was aiming to become the oldest competitor ever to finish a 4 Deserts event, but was forced to pull out because of the heat. Andrew Espin of South Africa, quoted in our last article, has also withdrawn.

Make no mistake, this is a tough race, as extreme as they come, but not tough enough to stop one competitor proposing to another. Romance under such conditions? Now that’s stamina!!!

Stage 6, today, is a short course of less than 3 kilometers / 1.8 miles and will see a victory lap around the Pyramids finishing on a ridge with the Pyramids in the background. All competitors will have the unusual privilege of being bussed from where they spent last night to within reach of the pyramids.

The bussing will be much appreciated after the long march yesterday. It had taken Korean church pastor Dongchae Shin 33 hours, nine minutes and 10 seconds to complete this 94.5km-long section (59.1 miles). He was greeted with a standing ovation from fellow competitors and event organisers alike.

Among the more amazing performances was American emergency nurse Tina Aultman who raced the last 50km of the stage in her socks. Aultman crossed the line with Korean Bong-Ha Kim and Michael Herbert from the US. “This was hell, but I’ve realised I’m stronger than I thought I was,” Herbert said.

While challenger Ryan Bennett managed to keep pace all day, he couldn’t break race leader Anders Jensen who kept his unblemished record alive in the Sahara and claimed the win on Stage 5.

The 29-year-old from Denmark was relishing the return of the breeze to keep the temperature down a little and took 11 hours, 38 minutes and 36 seconds to cover the stage, with Bennett crossing a mere two minutes and 44 seconds behind.

Such was Jensen’s focus, when asked by event staff whether he had seen the fossils for which the Wadi el Hitan area is world-renowned, he answered “no, where were they?” Lowe was a little more observant: “One of them was right there – I can’t believe they’re just left out like that. The others were more difficult to see.”

Singaporean competitor Choon Poh Pooi summed up the feelings of most of his comrades on this remarkable stage: “Very tiring, but very beautiful and worth it.”

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