For Rangers Ultra – Day 5 (see day 4 blog)
As usual, we break camp before dawn. More freeze-dried food is consumed but unlike yesterday, a shower is possible. I take the opportunity – if anything it will help me thaw out the cold night.
At 7 am the race starts. The field head out the way they came in, but today it’s uphill. As the runners disappear from sight, we hear chatter on the radio that lion and rhino have been moved off the track. Today is another great opportunity to get up close and personal (safely) with the wildlife and the rangers. I’m jealous I’m not out there running. I think back to a few days before when I was running across London bridge and I told myself that I’ll give it a shot next year. I’m still not sure but I keep it and the front of my mind today.
We load the truck and head out to do our job. We have to follow the full route today and will need to make sure the markings are clear. We’re using chalk dust because it has the lowest impact on the environment. It’s a dirty sticky job but someone has to do it. We really don’t need the runners going the wrong way and adding extra steps (or miles!) to an already long route.
We take a shortcut so we can see the first runners and to my surprise, Kenneth and Bryan (with costume) are in the top 10. We’re only in the first few kilometers of the race and there is still a long way to go. It’s a beautiful sight as they head up the track: the sun is low and the earth is a deep red, the grey rhino costume bobs and rolls its way out of sight.
On our way to Checkpoint 1 we pass a heard of buffalo. The rangers will have to keep an eye on them because they can be stubborn and agressive if they feel like it. The rangers monitor the course at regular intervals and the runners are loving it. These guys spend all day smiling and greet every runner with a wave and a ‘jambo’ and ‘asantee’. The bush in Borana is a little thicker than Lewa, so there are more rangers are on hand today. It’s great to see them and see what they do every day.
As we pass through Checkpoint 2 we hear a lion had to be moved on, and as we pass Checkpoint 3 we drive through a herd of elephants. It’ll be a busy day for the rangers.
The final stint into base camp is downhill and as the camp is on an open plain it gives us plenty of time to get ready to welcome everyone. We can see them from at least two km away and it seems to take forever for some runners to come down the hill. While we wait, two giraffes come to the edge of camp and we see two herds of elephant in the distance.
Today is the first day we really see the race medics in action; from day two runners feet are really beginning to break down. These guys are incredible. They are open and welcoming and nothing is a problem for them. They perform miracles with blue tape and provide all manner of minor procedures. They work late into the evening and are always the last to arrive at the mess tent for dinner. Their food is more interesting than the runners, as they don’t have to carry it like the runners do. They have some luxury items like hot chocolate. I think they deserve it.
Tonight is going to be a cold one, so some clever person decided to set a fire. Many runners, staff and medics gather around to share stories from the day.
Spirits are high and everyone has settled into their routines. It’s been another great and challenging day.