By way of recap, our first three runners had all run heroically to hang on to the front-loaded team from Edmonton, and we were only 5 min and 12 seconds back from the lead.
Leg 4 - Duncan Marsden - Fastest Leg - 52:37
|Eyes on the Prize|
It's quite a surreal feeling when you get to the end of your leg and there's no-one to hand off to. Of course, you know it's possible but you never think it will happen to you. I kept looking for my runner amongst the crowd of bodies milling about and there was no-one. I kept expecting him to burst out of the crowd, take the hand off and go, but nothing. I jogged through the chute and Aaron was there with the bad news. "He's not here", he said. Three small words. Crushing. "What do you want to do?" Aaron asked me. I really didn't know. I was shattered, my legs could barely hold me up and all I could think was that I was facing another 18k straight uphill. I didn't want to admit to myself that I'd have to do this on my own so Aaron drove ahead while I continued to plod onwards, watching the guy I'd worked hard to pull back into sight disappear again. Aaron pulled on his running shoes and took the hand off. I jumped in his car, drove up the road about a mile, grabbed some Gatorade and took the hand off again. The plan was for Aaron and Natalie to go back to the start of leg 5, get the number for the leg, and bring it to me and then see who (between me and Aaron) would finish the leg.
I was not enjoying myself. I had nothing. The hills were terrible and for the first time in the race I got overtaken. Matt Norminton of the Running Room passed in his car. "What's going on?" "We had a no-show". To his immense credit, Matt immediately pulled over, jumped out with a gel and water and handed them to me. "What else do you need?" he asked. "Gloves? Hat?" That's one of the things I love about running. He could see I was struggling and even though I was the opposition, he had no hesitation in helping. Thanks, Matt.
After about 8k, our runner turned up. To his credit, he ran a storming last 10k and brought what I had lost right back down. But the damage was done. The gap was now 7 minutes and 40 seconds.
Leg 6 - Travis Cummings - 33:47 - 2nd fastest
Travis was a hero. Having already run leg 1, he flew down leg 6 in the second fastest time of the day. Unfortunately, the guy who ran faster than him was from the leaders and, given that he was fresh, he ran 2 minutes and 50 seconds quicker than Travis.
By the end of leg 6, we were 10 minutes and 35 seconds behind. We had our best runners to come but this was looking insurmountable. The leaders had beaten us in 5 of the 6 previous legs and we had a serious deficit to pull back. We rang ahead to the remaining runners "Run like the wind. Every second counts" but it was more in hope than in expectation.
To be continued...