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Ultramarathon runners begin 75.7-kilometre stage
Posted: April 10th, 2013 @ 11:14am
Day 3 of the 28th Marathon des Sables was going just fine Tuesday for Kingston ultramarathon runner Martin Mack. "The weather was not hot and the terrain was somewhat flat," he wrote.
Then, just before the day's first checkpoint, "they stuck another mountain in the trail."
Mack ended the third day of the gruelling six-day race across the Moroccan Sahara Desert in 485th place, eight positions down from the end of Stage 2 in a dwindling international field that began with 1,198 competitors.
Organizers can count on the withdrawal of more runners after today's fourth stage, a 75.7-kilometre monster from Taourirt Mouchanne to Jebel el Mraier. It's more than twice as long as the previous two stages combined.
(To give you an idea of what that's like, a person running from Kingston to Ivy Lea and over the bridge would find himself just a wee bit outside Watertown, N.Y. after 75.7 kilometres; in Morocco, race organizers have warned competitors they'll be shutting down the fourth checkpoint after 16 hours and anyone who hasn't reached it will be disqualified.)
In an email to family and supporters after Tuesday's stage, Mack wrote that he ran for most of the ascent to the first checkpoint, but after that runners then encountered another mountain.
"This time it had more sand, which was difficult to climb," the Kingston building contractor wrote. "Just before (the second checkpoint) the weather changed. It got hot and humid."
Between Checkpoints 2 and 3, Mack continued, the heat "was crazy."
"I was slowing down so as not to run out of water again," he wrote. "There was a lot of sand after the last mountain, which made it impossible to run.
"I really dislike sand."
Mack wrote that though it was only six kilometres from the third checkpoint to the finish line of Tuesday's 38-kilometre segment, the course took runners along salt flats and into a valley "with no air."
"The salt beds are like concrete, radiating the heat back onto you," he wrote, "so you're getting heat from the sun and from the salt flat at the same time."
Though 37 competitors - including two Canadians -have dropped out of the race, Mack reports that all seven of his tentmates are still in it.
"My body is holding up somewhat okay."
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