02 Apr Oman Desert Marathon Stage 2
Having put the first stage behind us. Moving deeper into the desert and farther away from real beds and real food. This journey afoot is beginning to take shape. Like the dunes themselves, things are under constant shift from the elements and outcomes uncertain.
Two racers have left the race after stage 1 after battling with the struggles of the first day, but this stage proves to be more forgiving. The course is slightly shorter than the first, and offered longer reprieve from the bottomless sand of stage 1. A 6:30 start offers contestants a jump on the scorching daily temperatures. Unseasonable warmth was pushing mid-thirties by 10 am. Hot for this time of year in 2018, even by Omani standards.
Stage 2 course is well layed out for faster travel and plenty of terra firma. Out of the gate there are roughly 2km of very soft rolling dunes. Filtering out the leader pack from the group quite quickly. This transitioned into and welcomed stretch of flat desert. Firm pebbly footing peppered with low scrub vegetation. This continued for 5-6 km and athletes are able to cover a fair bit of the course in the cool morning temperatures. It will take back to the soft dunes with an uphill bias for two km until the midpoint water station. The runners were looking fresh, smiles lighting their faces, and a friendly banter of laughter seasoned the morning outing. Now full of cold water and wet with a good soaking for the second portion of the day are ready to unfurl. More soft dunes pressed downward to another stretch of firm valley floor this terminated by a steep cirque. A 100 meter climb to the upper ridge of the dune is by far the worst climb of the day. The track traces southward along the ridge, offering a mix of both soft footing and solid windswept surfaces. A gentle descent pressed gradually to the valley floor. The final 5 km of the course is solid ground but the oppressive temperatures will be keeping many from maintaining a running pace. This proved to be a punishing finish to today’s leg.
Prolonged exposure is proving to be taxing on one’s nutrition strategies and energy management. As the sun dips below the amber dunes, we prepare for the next stage, knowing’ that the best and the worst still lie ahead.
For more updates follow our blog and our Facebook page. Next week we will discover stage 3.