Stage 6 Drake Beach to Drake Beach
The last stage of any multistage race is always going to have a party atmosphere. For many runners, six tough days in Costa Rica comes to end. For others, some sadness that one of the most incredible journeys they have experienced comes to an end.
A later start of 0715 allowed the runners some additional sleep. No change for me. I was out on the course at 0500 with the race team to mark the course. After just a couple of km’s I stopped on the river section. Here the participants had to run several km’s straight down. It was always going to be a great photo opportunity.
My plan today was to run the whole stage capturing as many images in as many locations as the race unfolded. Once the lead lady caught me, I would then run in to the finish with her, leap frogging her to allow for as many photos as possible.
Today’s course? I N C R E D I B L E. Wow, it was all that I had come to expect of South America and Costa Rica. In just 23.7 km’s it managed to encompass everything from the previous five stages and then add more… a long run down the river was followed by a short technical climb and then a beautiful waterfall. From here the course slowly climbed up through rainforest and then we circumnavigated our way back to the coastline to make our journey back to Drake beach by running along beaches, through rocky coves, forest and then the finish line on the beach. It was a beautiful course, echoed in the words of Marcelo Jimenez Roqhuett ( from Cartago, Costa Rica)
“It was hard today but inspirational. We are tired and weak at this stage of the race. Every time you reach you find more energy to carry because the surroundings are so beautiful. I forgot my pains today and had so much fun on the course. Pura Vida”
In reality the overall top 3 in the men’s and ladies categories was not going to change today. So, if they wanted they could kick back and enjoy the stage. I am not really sure Dave James knows how to kick back… either that or he is so quick that his ‘kick back’ is way faster than anyone else.
In the early stages when he ran to me he was smiling. Dave’s stomach issues of the previous day had gone. Behind Ismael was chasing and then the usual suspects, Jose and Henry. It’s worth pointing out that on this stage many of the ‘race staff’ take part too, so you often get some fresh-legged runner mixing it up at the front.
I waited till about ten runners came through and then ran with them. It was tough going with the water level getting above waist height in places. Lead lady Gemma Slaughter was obviously kicking back a little and planned to enjoy this stage to the max… she was whoop whooping as she ran, keen to maximize the last day.
The waterfall section certainly added some difficulty as tired legs tried to navigate rocks and slippery surfaces. Race staff helped out as and when required. I moved on ahead running quite hard to gain an advantage of the runners behind me. Now running up forest trails surrounded by lush vegetation the trail moved in and out of shade. The canopy makes the running temperature so much more preferable.
Then some gravel road with a couple of water crossings before finally making the first beach section. The remainder of the run now was all about weaving in and out of coves. Soft sand allowing our feet to sink before the next stride is made. At all times lush green vegetation lines the beach to our right. On the left the waves lap the beach making that wonderful sound.
I keep leap frogging runners all the way back to the finish but ultimately always caching back up to Gemma.
Any opportunity on the beach to dip in the water and cool off is taken. Not sure if finally everyone is starting to acclimatize but certainly the heat seems less brutal today. Our hydration and sweat rate contradicts this.
The midway feed station arrives and it’s welcome. A liter of liquid does not last long out here! Back on the trail a small climb awaits. I run ahead, get a vantage point, and capture some images and then chase.
Two Scarlet Macaw are heard. We stop, look up and see these two magnificent birds in the canopy. Wow. Flashes of red and yellow and that noise… it’s quite special.
After several more coves the finish straight awaits. Just a hundred meters or so down the final stretch of beach. It’s an emotional moment for every participant. Six grueling and beautiful days in the Costa Rican heat and humidity come to an end. The local cheers, the Coastal Challenge crew applaud and whoop whoop. Every runner is a winner on a day like this. All races have a top 3 but it makes no difference today. The line today is all about the experience; the friends that have been made, the suffering, the high points, the low points, the struggles, the views, the scenery and ultimately the memories.
The Coastal Challenge has tested every participant in so many ways. For many the experience was considerably harder than they had initially anticipated but the mind is a wonderful thing. When the legs won’t work, the mind can take over and will you to the finish. Many participants have had to dig deep multiple times to conquer the terrain and humidity that has been placed in front of them.
Only last night, at the end of stage 5 one runner battled with fatigue, exhaustion and darkness to make the finish line. As the final meters of the course lay ahead of her she received a standing ovation from every member of the race team and every other participant. Ultimately, these runners are the heroes and the story of The Coastal Challenge. It’s about the battle within that makes the medal around the neck that so much more rewarding.
A full selection of stage 6 images are available HERE
- Dave James 2:17
- Ismael Dris 2:29
- Rob Harsh 2:43
- Gemma Slaughter 3:09
- Angela Meyer 3:35
- Irene Hale 3:35
MEN: 1. David James, USA (26:54) 2. Ismael Dris, España, Equipo Trail (29:17) 3. José López, Costa Rica, Talamanca Health Center (32:59)
LADIES: 1. Gemma Slaughter, Canada, imagine1day, (39:42) 2. Angela Meyer, USA (41:32) 3. Irene Hale, USA (41:38)