For Rangers Ultra – Day 4 (see day 3 blog)
We get up early, before sunrise. The camp is quiet, almost eerie. Perhaps the runners are nervous and rightly so. 220 km of Kenya bush lay ahead. 220 km of dusty tracks and climbs, and if luck is with them plenty of wildlife.
The starts at 8 am with the race briefing at 7.15. Staff from Lewa arrive to see everyone off and slowly the anticipation builds as the runners leave and head for the start line just outside of the camp. Kenneth is wearing the rhino costume and is at the head of the field with his toe on the line. The crowd count down from 10, the Kenyan national flag drops and the runners are off.
I’m on base camp duty so we break down flags, timing chips, water and few other things and head for Checkpoint 1 and 2. At Checkpoint 2 we meet Murray and his family; they sponsored the water at this stage. They’ve come along to cheer the runners. There a pan on the tailgate of the truck and sausages are sizzling. I’m offered one but politely decline as we dash on to set up Checkpoint 3, which overlooks the iconic Pride Rock. As we leave I wonder if the runners are beginning to sizzle.
After a few brief minutes setting up the next checkpoint, in the view of pride rock, we make it into base camp and are greeted by five rangers. The camp is in a beautiful wooded dell by the ngare ngare river and it will be the first shade the runners see all day. Not long after we’ve started to boil water and get up a medical tent, the rangers start clapping. We look at each other with surprise and then dash for the line to clap the first runners home.
The first of team rhino home is ‘Speedy’ Dave, with Liz and Enda not too far behind. Over the next few hours the runners come in and about 4 pm after 8 hours on the course Cathy, Kenneth, Bryan and Oli arrive with the costume. It’s a successful day for them and a great achievement.
As afternoon turns to evening everyone goes about their business – eating more freeze dried food – some even take the opertunity to cool off in the river.
We discover a little later that this camp also has a hot shower powered by a fire: it’s a special treat and a great reward for runners after a testing day one.