Jungle Marathon - Race Report
The lovely thing about arriving 2 days early before you set off for a race is the time you spend getting to know some of the competitors. The little town of Alter do Chao was a hub of excitement in the days leading up to the race start. The boat left the wharf at midnight and we were expected to be there by 10.00pm. At 9.30pm Geoff and I rocked up to an excited crowd all ready to board. The media were present, a lovely group of people from Japan were making a documentary on this most extreme endurance race in the world. They had 3 competitors but were also keen to add a further touch of interest and interview Geoff and I and follow our progress throughout the race. Goodness knows if they will ever get around to making a doco about it but it was fun all the same.
We arrived at home base, greeted by the local kids and villages and dragged all our gear up the back to the “camp ground”. Toilets were dug, hammocks were hung, gear checks were completed after several hours and then it was free time to enjoy the beach and dinner. The warning about the beach was about stingrays. One had to shuffle in shoes to ensure that, if you did disturb a ray, you only touched its wing and not stand directly on the barb. So shuffle we did. One competitor was stung the night before the race but he was on the start line the next morning. A tough nut.
Next day was full of briefings. The jungle survival briefing was funny and lesson 1.01 on snake identification was intense. Overall, if you get bitten by a snake, see if you can identify whether it is poisonous or not and head for the nearest check point. We were shown how to make fire (just in case), what to do if you get seriously lost (yep there is a difference), how to get fresh water, then more interestingly, flora and fauna – what you could and could not touch. Later that day we had medical briefing, mostly on the topics of drinking too much and not drinking enough, peeing, foot care, snake bite procedure, and general hazards in the jungle. There were 10 medics, all volunteers from the UK. Fabulous people and identifiable by their bright red shirts. The last there was the race briefing and obtaining your number. The first day was a full onslaught of everything the jungle had to offer and we were all excited.
Night routine began, repack pack for next day’s racing, eat dinner, hang pack up a tree to ensure no nasties crawl inside during the night, eat, clean teeth, hop into hammock, sleep.
Total sleep: 0 hours. Not a good start to the day.
Day 1 – 22.77 jungle ks – these are different to normal ks – usually a lot more difficult
4 Check points – all compulsory – 15 mins stops
Run time 5 hours 55 mins
Today was hills, swamps, hills, jungle trails, water crossings and a few hills thrown in for good measure. These people have never heard of switchbacks, so when there is a hill to climb it is straight up – usually short but very very steep. This is the day you learn about lifting your feet. The trip hazards are serious not in the fall but what you fall into so this is quickly learnt skill. You can’t see the jungle floor as it’s covered in leaf litter so you need to be vigilant and watch every step. Animals have dug holes which you can’t see, there are large and small fallen trees to cross so you need to make sure you look before placing your hands anywhere and if possible go around. Don’t’ sit on the ground without clearing a space first – in fact don’t sit unless you have something to sit on. This is a great first day, lots of running, the temperature around late 30s very manageable and finished with a 4k run along an open sandy road to the finish line. I finished mid field and watched the others drift in over several hours. Usual routine at night and bed when the sun goes down.
Total hours sleep: 2.
Day 2 - 24ks
3 checkpoints – all compulsory 15 min stops – mainly flat course.
Run Time – 4 hours 59 mins
Wake up at 5.00am for a 7.00am river crossing start. Didn’t worry about the bities in the water as there was a 1 in 55 chance in getting attacked by caiman – pretty low odds. This was a relaxed running day. We were in snake territory but never saw a thing. It was good to be middle of the pack so everyone in front had scared them away. Only one steep hill, and a beautiful 3k down hill run on the other side. The trails had been cleared the night before and ribbon markers showed the way so easy to follow. Night was the usual routine and our toilets were amazing. We also had a shower – talk about 5 star accommodation. Small blisters appearing on heel so drained it and taped it.
Total sleep: 1 hour. Recovery is not looking good but I am still happy.
Day 3 – 38k
4 checkpoints No compulsory stops.
Run Time – 9 hours 29 mins
The toughest and longest day so far with each check point being spaced further and further apart. The day started with a 300m river crossing which I really enjoyed and come out in the top half of the field. I then followed the leading woman through to the first check point. As check points were not compulsory we all left fairly soon but I left my poles behind so had to go back and get them. Not that it made much difference in time. It was straight up the mountain to the top – remember no switchbacks. Coming to the top of the mountain and into check point 2, I was beginning to feel the lack of sleep catching up on me. It was very hot, I tried to pee but only managed a teaspoon of what looked like lion brown so even though I was not thirsty I knew I was dehydrating. I had my blisters re-taped and set off again but this time at a slower pace. Up and up we climbed further to the top and this time into open space. It was fiercely hot with little shade. I ran as much as I could to get out of the sun and had a fabulous 3k down hill section in which I passed a couple of runners to their surprise. I was feeling cooler but still very tired. Then onto a dusty open road to walk up to the next check point. After cooling down there, we headed back into the relative cool of the jungle. My pack was giving me grief on one shoulder and I was now getting overheated which exacerbated the tiredness. I had to stop and rest mid check point at the top of yet other hill (what else), before continuing to check point 4 much deeper in the jungle. After rest and tons of water, I set off feeling rather good but that soon faded. The Japanese camera crew followed me out running behind me and beside me as much as he could asking questions – it was all very amusing. The 3k to the end turned into 5k. I was struggling by now with extreme tiredness and just wanted the camp to appear so I could eat and crawl into hammock. Another stream crossing and a gross uphill climb saw me entering camp a little dejected but safe at least. Geoff followed 2 hours later.
Usual routine: 1.5 hours sleep.
Part 2: So endith my run