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Saturday 19 November 2011: Pre-race Stage Update
Just prior to 8am, competitors began streaming in to the Fulbright Banquet Room at the Fulbari Resort for the official competitor briefing. The room was abuzz, full of old friends catching up, as Nepal 2011 is a reunion for many 4 Desert alumni. Derek Kwik, Dave Kuhnau, Chuck Walker and Joel Burrows learned they would be reunited as tent-mates, after first racing together back in 2004. The camaraderie in the room really was a show of how becoming race companions for a week can lead to being friends for life. "It is great to have all us old guys together again" said Joel. Grand slammer, Philip Tye remarked, "Once you've been at a few of these races, it is just as much about catching up with friends as it is about getting out on the course".
Competitor briefing began with RacingThePlanet CEO and founder, Mary K. Gadams, advising "I would definitely find a seat, as this is not going to be a short briefing". While Nepal 2011 follows the same format as a 4 Deserts race (7 days, 6 stages, 250km), it has a larger number of competitors, and the terrain and weather will be different than what is normally encountered in a 4 Deserts race. The course will reach a maximum altitude of 3200m (10,500 feet), and the total elevation gain across the week will be 9000m (29,500 feet).
Event Director, Sam Fanshawe, spoke after Mary for over an hour on the course, race rules and logistics. She reminded competitors about the primitive and extremely remote nature of the race and course. A new rule for this race is that if a competitor withdraws at any point, they will not be allowed to continue again in any of the following days. Following Sam was Medical Director, Dr Brandee Waite, who covered topics such as altitude sickness, sanitation, safety and hydration. The competitors sustained great concentration throughout the entire briefing, with all taking seriously the challenge they are about to embark on.
After the briefing, the 22-strong volunteer team swung into action to get competitors' bags and gear checked prior to lunch. Sleeping bags, jackets, blister kits and food were strewn everywhere as each mandatory item was checked off. Most backpacks weighed in around 11kg, a little heavier than in 4 Deserts races. Volunteer Andrea Horden said "Some of these backpacks are looking very heavy. Competitors are packing extra warm clothes in anticipation of cold nights, rain gear for the possible wet weather and extra food for energy". Volunteer Bev Brammer was however still impressed with how small some of the packs were. “It's smaller than my handbag!” she said of Blair Turnball's backpack. Some packs even contained contents similar to those of a handbag. The glamorous Simone Bishop remarked “I have my mascara, lipstick and all the important stuff and a face mask for the long day." Katrina Follows felt slightly left out; though she did point out the crystal sequins on her gloves. "Every girl has to look good out there". Asked if she has packed make-up, Katrina said “No, I'll just borrow Simone's!”
A consistent question from competitors throughout the morning was, “What is the weather going to be like?” The fog was still dominating the landscape this morning as it has been all week. There was certainly concern about the rain and also the cold. Volunteer Amy Tye said "Everest is supposed to be the biggest mountain on Earth, but we can't find it! Someone said it popped out from the fog for a second, but it's hiding again." Much to everyone's delight, after lunch before heading to Camp 1, the sun began shining for the first time all month.
Sunday 20 November 2011: Stage 1 Update
South Africans Conquer Stage 1 of RacingThePlanet: Nepal
Ryan Sandes of South Africa has won the opening stage of RacingThePlanet: Nepal. The 29-year old effortlessly crossed the finish line at an altitude of 978 meters at 10:08am, just three hours after setting out from the start line.
“That was absolutely stunning,” he said of the inaugural course in this historic Roving Race that takes place in a mountainous region for the first time. Sandes has emerged as a serious talent since he won the Gobi March in 2008; he went on to be the first person to win every race in the 4 Deserts series.
Sandes was followed an hour later by another South African, Chris Edwards (35), who works as the head of prime services at Absa Capital in Johannesburg. This is Edwards’ second RacingThePlanet event after completing the Roving Race in Australia last year.
The first woman over the finish line was Canada’s Stephanie Case (aka Ultra Running Girl as she’s known on her blog). She completed the race in good spirits at 11:18am, all this despite an unfortunate run-in with a leach en route to Pokhara (the juicy details are on her blog). The UN and human rights lawyer based in New York was first-placed female in RacingThePlanet: Vietnam in 2008, and took second place in the RacingThePlanet roving races in Namibia (2009) and Australia (2010).
It was a tremendous opening day with clear blue skies and perfect racing conditions. The night had been somewhat damp with condensation covering tents, but overnight temperatures were a pleasant 7 degrees Celsius. The skies cleared by the time the sun rose, revealing tremendous views of the surrounding peaks.
The race kicked off at 7am as Nepalese music played and 220 competitors set out to cheers and applause. Local Nepalese media were there to witness the historic race, and paid particular interest to British competitor Jennifer Murray. The 71-year old earned a world record for being the first female to fly in a helicopter around the world, and was attracting due respect from local journalists.
Stage 1 was a relatively short course at just 27 kilometers, although it immediately put competitors to the test with steep climbs. The course followed the famed Mardi Khola River, which supplies most of the water to the Pohkara Valley. Competitors started the day on a jeep road heading through a village, before veering up a trail to a pass and the second checkpoint at an elevation of 1,783 meters.
Then, it was down into the valley, dropping 1,258 meters in the descent. Ryan Sandes was the first competitor past Checkpoint 3 at 9:29am, saying that he was thoroughly enjoying the views. The checkpoint was located by the village of Birethanti and offered sight of the majestic snowy peaks of Annapurna South and Fishtail Mountain.
At the nearby campsite, RacingThePlanet CEO Mary Gadams was also admiring the blue sky and awe-inspiring views. “This is the first time I've seen Fishtail Mountain,” she said. “From this campsite, it certainly is an impressive sight.”
By 12:10pm, 45 competitors had finished, and were able to rest their legs and soak up the setting. Jeroen Touw of the Netherlands crossed the line at 1pm, saying, “The weather is spectacular! It feels like I have no backpack at all!” He was closely followed by Americans George Chmiel, Jessie Bessett, and Michael Horvath of Team Running With Luci.
Tomorrow’s course, named ‘Bridges, Valleys and Mountain Views’ will take competitors along a 32-kilometer route along a porter trail on the side of the Modi Khola Valley. There will be significant elevation gains early on in the day, and a more gentle descent to the second campsite close to Naya Pool.
Monday 21 November 2011: Stage 2 Update
South Africa’s Ryan Sandes (29) has sustained his lead in the second stage of RacingThePlanet: Nepal. He completed the 32-kilometer course in just over three hours, arriving at 10:43am.
Sandes was swiftly followed by Michael Ormiston (39) who crossed the finish line at 10:57am. “The course was amazing, but it’s getting hot out there,” said Ormiston. Following close behind in tied third place were Italians Emmanuele Gallo (38) and Stefano Gregoretti (37). Gallo works as a ranger in the Maritime Alps in Northern Italy, and was finding the terrain easy to navigate.
There are exciting developments in the women’s field. Motivational speaker and adventurer Katrina Follows (37) took the lead early in the day, finishing the stage at 11:31am. However, close behind was Australia’s Samantha Gash arriving at 11:33am. Gash has come in second place on both days, yet holds first position with the fastest combined time.
The day began in a picturesque campsite next to Naya Pool. Competitors were enjoying the tremendous setting, and agreeing that the presence of animals on Day One offered some particularly amusing moments.
As South Africa’s Kim James explained, “We got held up by hundreds of sheep on the course. Then, there were mountain ponies. We lost half an hour because of local animals!”
Sydney’s Stuart Brown chimed in that he was stuck behind a cow for part of the course. And by the end of Stage 2, the animal theme was continuing, with America’s Brian DeBruin crossing the finish line complete with a dog companion.
There were pleasant overnight conditions, with people leaving tents open to overcome the condensation issue of the previous night. By the time the sun had awoken the sky revealing the staggering views of snow-capped mountains, 220 competitors set out from the start line to the soundtrack of the Black Eyed Peas.
Today’s course was named ‘Bridges, Valleys and Mountain Views’ and the stage offered exactly that, a diverse blend up and down hills and over two cable bridges. The day began with a large hill that many competitors found bracing. But despite the difficulty of the elevations, there was a collective agreement that the stunning views made up for tricky footwork.
Douglas Girling, who lives in Pohkara, commented that despite living in the region, he has rarely seen these parts of Nepal and was thoroughly enjoying the experience.
The large bridge two-thirds of the way through the course brought equal reactions of excitement and trepidation. It had been thoroughly inspected by an engineer and deemed entirely safe, but still brought an added jolt of adrenaline into the mix.
When asked how they were enjoying their day at Checkpoint 3, John Power of Ireland said, “Awesome! I'm loving the views and the bridge was amazing.” His wife Sophie admitted that she was “running on empty”, having been sick the previous day. “But it's beautiful.”
Japan’s Kozo Niidome was the last competitor past checkpoint 3 at 1:42pm and after a joyous yell of “Go Japan!” then pointed out that the bridge was “very high, very scary.”
For those who were struggling, it was the positive comments of friends and fellow competitors that pushed them through. Mark Lehmkuhler from the United States competed in the Gobi March last year with his friend Damien. The pair are both racing in Nepal, and Mark pointed out that Damien has a tendency to eerily emerge at the perfect moment, and tell him, in a Yoda-esque manner, exactly what to do: “Mark, take your electrolytes.”
The weather continued to be beautiful throughout the day, with clear blue skies and warm racing conditions nearing 20 degrees Celsius. 192 people crossed the finish line, and competitors are now settling into the Lundi Shera Phant campsite and getting as much rest as possible.
Tomorrow’s third stage sees the distance starting to increase, with a 38-kilometer course and a significant elevation gain of 1,478 meters.
Tuesday 22 November 2011: Stage 3 Update
Ryan Sandes Sustains Strong Lead In Uphill Stage 3
Ryan Sandes (29) of South Africa has sustained his lead of RacingThePlanet: Nepal, finishing the 38 kilometer third stage at 11:18am. He now has a 90-minute lead over the rest of the field.
Stefano Gregoretti (37) was the second person to finish the stage. As he reached the mountaintop camp he explained that he strategy was to run all day, allowing
him take tomorrow’s downhill stage more slowly. New Yorker Ryan Bennett (29) earned third place, followed by Australia’s Michael Ormiston (39).
Samantha Gash (27) of Australia won the stage in the women’s division, reaching the camp at 12pm. Gash was the youngest woman to enter the prestigious 4 Deserts Club in 2010. However, the competition is strong behind her, with Stephanie Case less than half an hour behind as second placed female.
The stage, named ‘On the Trail to Ghara’, was a 38-kilometer course that offered views of the Kali Gandaki Nadi River from Annapurna South. It was a very runnable stage for the first 30 kilometers, described as “Nepali flat” along a jeep track in the shade. Yet there was still an elevation gain of 1,478 meters, with the final hill proving challenging for some.
The day was once again glorious, with blue skies and a strong sun shining. As the 190 competitors surged over the start line at 7am, Chris Sharrock (54) was grinning and looking in fine form. Mark Jaget (44) of the United States was getting a strategic position at the front, ready for a good day’s run. The competitors who had withdrawn were taken to Camp 5, which is based in local teahouses. They will reunite with competitors after this two-day odyssey up and down a large elevation.
The first checkpoint was located just outside of the town of Beni. The Nepalese people, who have been proving to be one of the most extraordinary elements of this race with their boundless enthusiasm and warm hospitality, were there to welcome the racers. Volunteer Alex Leckie stood in the town at a makeshift water station with several sherpas and a great crowd of curious residents.
It was a grueling uphill final end to the stage. 24-year olds Caileigh Lombard and Jim Serpless, the two youngest competitors, came into Camp 4 together in 44th place. Caileigh said, “The last 4.5kms were the toughest of my life, but it has been a great day.”
The competitors were given a strong reception upon arrival at the finish line, with a local school there to give garlands to people who crossed the line. There were also birthday celebrations for 28-year old Erin Sprague of the United States.
Competitors are now enjoying the remarkable setting of this highest camp in the race and its extraordinary setting. They are also preparing their minds and bodies, for tomorrow’s technical stage dubbed ‘The 1000-Year Old Gurung Steps’. The first 10km will see competitors gain over 1000m in altitude, while the second half of the stage has them descending over 2,700 meters via over 3,000 stone steps to Camp 5.
Wednesday 23 November 2011: Stage 4 Update
Endless Steps and Extraordinary Turnarounds in Stage 4 of RacingThePlanet: Nepal
Ryan Sandes has held onto his lead of RacingThePlanet: Nepal, finishing the fourth stage in a time of 03:47:00. “Those stairs were tough and I twisted my ankle twice but I still feel good,” said the South African as he crossed the line.
Hong Kong-based Michael Ormiston (39) was the second person to cross the finish line. He is here to raise funds for the Child Welfare Scheme, and was followed by the former pro basketball player Luke Carmichael (43) of the United Kingdom.
There was a turnaround in the women’s division, with a spectacular performance by Katrina Follows (37) of the United Kingdom. Follows was the second person through the first checkpoint, only nine minutes behind frontrunner Ryan Sandes. Follows has scaled the 7 Summits and conquered Everest, so this experience may have come into play. As she crossed the finish line, she simply said, “Please tell me I can buy a Coke”.
The second woman across the line was Stephanie Case (29), a UN and human rights lawyer for a diplomatic advisory group in New York.
The day dawned clear again after a stunning night atop Ghara, the highest campsite of the course at 1,792 meters. The stars were out in full force, and cooler temperatures brought many competitors out of their tents by 4:30am to warm up by the campfire. Overnight, a group of 20 Sherpas had quietly moved out of the camp and up into the course, to help competitors along the way. There was also a helicopter, making sure that all would be safe on this challenging day.
Today’s course, dubbed ‘The 1,000 Year Old Gurung Steps’, was a 27.2-kilometer course that began with a steep ascent to Gorepani, situated at the base of Poon Hill and the highest point of the course at 3,200 meters. Then came the infamous steps, a steep descent that required careful maneuvering.
A total of 179 competitors headed out from the start line. By 9:50am, 100 people were through the first checkpoint. There wasn’t a lot of banter as they came through; competitors were tired after the 1,200-meter climb. But when America’s Douglas Girling appeared in 23rd place, he cried, “I have seen 35,000 steps, not 3,500!”
Once they navigated the descent, it was an easier finish for competitors, over two cable bridges to Tikkadhunga and then a flat section into the village of Birethanti. Paul Nugent commented, “One job I wouldn’t like is that of a Sherpa. I cannot believe the loads they are carrying up the stairs.”
American Sean Abbott was struggling with an illness throughout the day, but the 29-year old is determined to push on. He explains that his bank will match his fundraising for the charity Seeing is Believing if he is able to finish the course.
The competitors are now enjoying the beautiful setting of the village of Birethanti at the foot of the Modi Khola Valley. The village has transformed into a RacingThePlanet community, with practically every teahouse bed taken by competitors. Volunteer Alex Leckie pointed out that the village is a stunning setting (she’s had the lucky job of passing through quite a few villages and teahouses). “It is situated on a river, split on both sides and has these views of Fishtail Mountain that are spectacular as the summit catches the first and last light.”
Such an aesthetic appreciation could not quite be shared by all, particularly those who had to focus on descending the brutally difficult steps for most of the day. As James Fairweather pulled into the village, he said, “I was cursing all the way down the stairs. The real highlight was having Marshall Ulrich fill my water bottle at checkpoint 2.”
Ulrich, an esteemed endurance athlete, had to withdraw due to a stomach bug, but went out early to help support competitors at the second checkpoint. A total of ten competitors who had pulled out of the race had decided to stay on and offer support. These include Estuko Chida, Jennifer Murray, and Manabu Yamayoshi.
As competitors dug into their surprise hot meal of local dal baht there was a consensus that it was delicious. Gareth Andrews said, “It's the best thing that has happened in four days". Nicholas Gordon pointed to his friend and said, “Sebastian’s plate doesn’t even need cleaning.” Bill Abbott simply noted, “All that is missing is a glass of red wine.”
A good night’s rest will be needed by all tonight as they prepare for tomorrrow’s long stage. Dubbed ‘The Long March in the Foothills of the Himalayas’, the 72-kilometer course begins with some challenging terrain through forests.
Thursday 24 November 2011: Stage 5, Mid-Stage Update
Sandes Conquers The Long March in the Foothills of the Himalayas
Ryan Sandes (29) has won the 72-kilometer Long Stage of RacingThePlanet: Nepal, completing the course just before 5pm today. “The first four sections were great,” he said. “It was slow-going and technical. At one point I thought I was going to be running through the night.”
There was a close finish for second and third placed competitors, with Italy’s Stefano Gregoretti (37) just beating Australian Michael Ormiston (39). The latter fell to the floor with absolute relief as he completed the long stage. Coming in a close fourth position was Ryan Bennett of the United States—who took second place at the Sahara Race, and gave a great performance today, his finish pushing him up a few points.
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day was Stephanie Case (29), who was the first woman over the line and the 5th placed overall for the stage. The Canadian was crying with joy as she completed the course. Case has been suffering from a stomach bug like many out on the field, but managed to pull in an epic performance.
She was on an absolute high, and even later when she was in the medical tent having her back taped up from chaffing, she was saying, “I wish it was 20k longer! The longer, the harder, the better!”
Competitors had enjoyed a good night’s sleep in the relative luxury of the real beds in teahouses, and a hot meal of dal last night in the village of Birethanti. But there was still a sense of trepidation mixed with sheer adrenaline as the 176 competitors started Stage 5 at 7:15am. Several people had pulled out, including Alex Chapman.
Today’s Long March in the Foothills of the Himalayas is a 72-kilomter odyssey that will see many competitors racing through the night. The first section included some difficult terrain. By 8:45am, Sandes was passing through Checkpoint 1 and only ten minutes later the two frontrunners in the women’s division, Sam Gash and Stephanie Case, had arrived.
As 61-year old Peter Clarke passed through the checkpoint at 9:40am, he commented, “It has been the most spectacular views of any RacingThePlanet event and the nicest people ever.” This was backed by Mark Macy of the team Straw Dogs, “Best race ever,” he enthused. “Loved the Dal Bat meal last night. Feeling so much better today!”
The second checkpoint brought competitors to a tiny village called Tulatek. Despite the difficult first stage, many were enjoying the tremendous views all around. As Japan’s Yataka Fujioka came through the checkpoint he said the course wasn’t as difficult as he was expecting.
There was, however, a long climb up to the fifth checkpoint. As race leader Ryan Sandes appeared at this halfway point 35 kilometers into the stage, he prophesized, “You're going to get some grumpy people coming up that hill!”
Three people have dropped out so far; Patty Nooney (54) at Checkpoint 1, followed by Mark Lekhlumer (47) and Jan Peter Firnges (41) at the second checkpoint.
Ten competitors who had dropped out earlier in the week have stuck with the camp. Marshall Ulrich, Derek Kwik and Monica Otero have been tremendous, helping around camp as well as cheering on the racers and offering great moral support. The Americans on the course are also wishing one another a happy Thanksgiving!
By 7:35pm this evening, 125 competitors had passed through the fifth checkpoint. The most recent were Lee Moo Woong, Jack Mortassagne and Chuck Wilson. As Sarah Diaz came through she said her “favourite part is at night.”
The sun has now set over the staggering views of the Annapurna foothills, and competitors are moving through the remainder of the course following glow-sticks and the light from the star-studded sky.
Friday 25 November 2011: Stage 5 Update
A total of 170 competitors have finished the Long Stage of RacingThePlanet: Nepal.
South Africa’s Ryan Sandes (29) sustained his impressive lead, finishing the 72-kilometer course in a time of 09:15:00. Behind him there was intense competition from second and third placed Stefano Gregoretti (37) of Italy and Australia’s Michael Ormiston (39). While Gregoretti’s long legs allowed him to cross the finish line first, Ormiston won the overall second place with an overall time of 26:40:55, just three minutes faster than Gregoretti.
There was also fierce competition in the women’s division, with Stephanie Case of Canada winning the top slot with an overall time of 28:52:50. Second placed Samantha Gash of Australia earned a total time of 29:30:40. Case was amazingly the fifth placed competitor in the Long March stage, and completed the long course with an inspiring sense of spirit.
The Skelligs Chocolate Race Team are starting to congratulate themselves as champions of RacingThePlanet: Nepal. The Irish trio consists of Eoghan Carton, John Murphy and Adrian Quinn, all army engineering officers in the Irish Defence Forces. The team is raising funds in Nepal for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.
It was a cool and misty night as many of the competitors pushed on through the course, following the winding dirt roads and glow sticks marking the course. The moisture made for slick trails, but as the sun dawned over the stunning Begnas Tal Lake, many of the competitors were concluding the epic stage and pulling into camp.
“It has been hard, but absolutely amazing,” summed up South Africa’s Nicola Eckstein. “If I said I've loved every minute that might be a lie, but almost every minute! At times I've had to dig deep, but I got here. It’s been a fantastic week.”
The last two competitors across the finish line with husband and wife Katie and James Johnston, Singapore-based Brits who are raising funds for the Child Welfare Scheme.
Competitors are now socializing in the camp, or making up for sleep and rest in their tents. Tomorrow’s final stage is a short, 13-kilometer course through rice fields and jeep trails. They will cross the finish line of this inaugural Nepalese race in the cultivated fields of Pokhara.
Saturday 26 November 2011: Stage 6 Update
South African Ryan Sandes Claims Victory in Nepal
It was a triumphant finish for Ryan Sandes (29) this morning, as he crossed the finish line of RacingThePlanet: Nepal. It was the South African’s fifth win of a RacingThePlanet event, and he won two hours ahead of the field.
Coming in second position was Stefano Gregoretti (37), who put in a strong performance today after falling back to third overall position in yesterday’s stage. He crossed the line just three minutes after Sandes, and earned second place overall. Michael Ormiston (39) of Australia came in third place.
Stephanie Case (29) of Canada won the women’s division after putting in an exceptional performance throughout the race. Samantha Gash (27) of Australia earned second place, and Katrina Follows (37) won third placed female.
The winning team was Skelligs Chocolate of Ireland, followed by team Running with Luci from the United States.
This final day began with a scenic treat as competitors were rowed across Begnas Lake to the start line. The final 13-kilomter stage started at 9:10am, with 130 meters of elevation gain to conquer. There were close rankings between competitors, so it was an exciting finish.
As competitors pulled into the final section close to the Fulbari Resort & Spa of Pokhara, there was Nepalese music playing and a great atmosphere with friends and family cheering competitors in at the finish line.
By 10:40am, 55 competitors had come to the end of the race, and were delighted to find the tables of sodas, beer and pizzas awaiting them. As British competitor Nick Ashley-Cooper came over the line by midday, he pronounced the race his best so far, “Nepal is tailor-made for this kind of thing.”
It was a moving moment as Douglas Maclagan, founder of the Child Welfare Scheme appeared in view; many children and colleagues cheered him on. There was more emotion as the members of Team Running with Luci appeared next with the American flag in hand. There were family, friends and members of the American charity, the MAGIC Foundation who had flown in for the occasion.
By 1:10pm the race officially ended with final competitor Hugh Kerridge crossing the finish line. Competitors are now scattered around the hotel, enjoying the bliss of their first showers in a week, and settling into the absolute luxury of this hotel after a week spent pushing their absolute limits. The awards banquet takes place this evening at 7pm.
29 November 2011, Post-Race Update
After the triumphant celebrations at the finish line of RacingThePlanet: Nepal 2011, competitors were soon back in the luxurious setting of the Fulbari Resort & Spa. After well-deserved showers, an awards celebration was held in the evening to bestow medals upon the winners and awards for the standout individuals of the race.
Ryan Sandes (29) was the race champion with an overall time of 25:15:25. This is the South African’s fifth win at a RacingThePlanet / 4 Deserts event. He was followed in second place by Italy’s Stefano Gregoretti (37) who was competing in his first RacingThePlanet event. Coming in a close third place was Michael Ormiston of Australia, enjoying his second race in the series here in Nepal.
Stephanie Case was awarded a medal for her excellent performance winning the women’s division. The 29-year old, New York-based human rights lawyer came in eighth overall ranking with a total time of 30:15:09. Samantha Gash was second placed female with a time of 30:47:17. Taking third slot in the women’s field was adventurer Katrina Follows (37).
Medals are also awarded for the winners of each age category, and in the 21-29 age division, Sean Abbott of the United States and Caleigh Lombard of South Africa were the champions.
The 30-39 age range saw South African Chris Edwards come in top position, with Dubai-based Victoria Leckie wining the women’s division.
New Zelander Blair Turnball was the winning man in the 40-49 division, together with Mirjana Pellizzer of Croatia taking the women’s gold.
RacingThePlanet veteran Stan Lee of Australia swiped the men’s medal for the 50-59 age range, with Sissel Smaller of Norway taking the women’s medal. Meanwhile Yoshiaki Ishihara of Japan was overall winner of competitors aged 60 to 69.
American endurance star Marshall Ulrich was awarded the Spirit Award. Despite pulling out early in the race due to sickness, he went on to provide incredible support for volunteers, staff and competitors; working at checkpoints, giving out water, and even acting as a human marker overnight during the long stage. His fantastic support and positive attitude was an inspiration for all.
The Sportsmanship Award was given to Switzerland-based Belinda Holdsworth. She was chosen for her tireless support for competitors through the tough times, and constant positive attitude. She was willing to be disqualified from the course by not making cut-off times, in order to support another competitor.
Everyone was in high spirits for the awards ceremony; a fitting end to what has a truly unforgettable Roving Race.