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The Leaders

One of the impressive factors of this year’s Roving Race is that both first and second-placed winners are in their 50s—proving that when it comes to these epically long endurance feats, age is no barrier.

“I trained a lot for this race because I wanted to come here and try to win,” explains Paolo Barghini. “I am 52 and I think it was a good result,” he says. “It is not easy when you arrive at 52 to be here and to put your face at the front of the challenge, so I am happy for that!”

Germany’s Rafael Fuchsgruber is also about to celebrate his birthday next week, he earned second place at the age of 50. “After all these years, I’m still looking for my perfect race,” he had told us earlier in the race. Here in Jordan, he says found it. “That is the best race, the best week I’ve ever had,” he emphatically told us. “When doing these events, you have a crisis while running over the week, and I had my crisis the first morning. I started too hard, pushed too hard. Since then, I have been running perfect. I am having fun–I am dancing, singing and running on the trail… faster than ever before.”

Another factor that pushed Rafael was his recent experience of needing to pull out of the Gobi March 2011 because of a torn muscle, which he did before the race. “It’s a different kind of you on the race when you drop out of the important race and try to come back one year later,” he says.

Third-placed Peter Lee, meanwhile, just kept to his own pace and pulled in third place without a great degree of training. “I was on my own, plodding along,” he modestly says. “The Italian girl popped up at one point. I had plopped down and was taking sand out of my shoes–I just sat and she popped up.”

Women’s champion Katia Figini has indeed proven to be a powerhouse in this race, coming in fifth place overall and keeping the frontrunners on their toes. “Always, my goal is to win,” explained the Italian of her mission here in Jordan. She added that her other goal is to move into a role as a professional runner when she returns to Italy. With various sponsorships on the cards—we get the feeling there will be good news awaiting her.

Career aside, Katia says that these races allow you to get to know yourself like nothing else. “To see inside myself,” she says. “It makes you see what is very important in your life—actually it is as simple as water and food. When I come back to my home, I am so happy to see my bed and my bathroom… the faucet is fantastic. This is what RacingThePlanet has taught me… what is really important in life.”

Second-placed Lucy Marriott says she’s “ecstatic” to have finished. She found the second day to be among her personal best, but it was the long day where she met her greatest challenge. “The long course was quite amazing if I could have spent more time looking at the different landscapes, which I didn’t” she says. “I was cursing and crying.”

She puts it down to a combination of overheating and not eating enough. “I wasn’t
 well prepared enough for the long stage. Maybe it was an accumulation of circumstances, but I wasn’t eating enough and before I knew it, it was too late.” She says she walked the final two checkpoints with fellow racer Devrim Celal. “I kind of picked up. It’s always nice having a buddy around.”

For third-placed woman, Natalia Sierant, it was the enjoyment of knowing what to expect this time in Jordan that made all the difference. The Hong Kong-based, Polish competitor had earned women’s second place at the Gobi March 2011.  “I trained similarly,” she says when comparing the two races. “But I definitely [had a better idea of] what to bring in terms of food, what to bring in terms of luxury, camp living… I knew what works. I brought flip flops.”

She adds it was the social side of the race that made it so enjoyable here in Jordan. “I loved the social factor of this race—I knew probably 30% of the people from the Gobi March 2011 or Hong Kong, so it was definitely the experience in addition to just the racing.”


by Clare Morin

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