Part 9. Know Your Enemy, Know Thyself, and You Shall Not Fear a Hundred Battles

There were about 150 entrants for this year’s Atacama 250km Desert Marathon.

Among them, the 4 teams running the team race were England, Germany, Scotland and Japan (us, team “KIZUNA”).

The ancient strategist Sun Tzu once said “Know your enemy, know thyself, and you shall not fear a hundred battles”.

As soon as all the race entrants were fixed, we thoroughly checked the other teams’ past race experiences.

The Scotland team was a 4-member team mixed of men and women.

The team’s past results showed that they aim to complete the run rather than to rank high.

The 3 member team from Germany had a so-so result, but had one 55 year old member. From his past record, they wouldn’t be a threat to our team, because the slowest member will define the team’s pace.

However, the 3-member team from England was totally unpredictable.

No desert race records could be found.

But the team’s name shows they must be triathletes.

We have to judge when we see them on-site.

Besides checking out other teams, we prepared a strategy for this race.

“In the Atacama Desert Race, you must run for 40km a day for the first four days (stage 1-4).  Then you need to run 80km a day in the overnight stages on day 5 and 6 (stage 5).  Day 7(stage 6), you must run 10km and reach the goal.

The distance between teams will probably widen after day 3, when the food gets consumed and the equipment gets lighter.

So our pace should be like this:

On day 1-2 (Stage 1-2), we should reduce our pace.

Then on day 3, we should slowly increase our pace.

On day 4 we should start running at a full pace, and on day 5-6′s overnight run (stage 5) we should push as hard as we can.

From past team race results, if runners can rank within the top 50 in the individual race, they could probably win the championship for the team race.

Our individual results were pretty good – In the Sahara race, I ranked No.8, Kuro ranked No.28, and Shin ranked No.40. And our capability has increased since then. If we are able to run at a reasonable pace, we could possibly win the race.”

From the past desert races, the stages that the ranks change the most were:

- Stage 4, when runners start getting fatigued, and equipment starts getting light(Day 4)

- Stage 5, when runners must run the longest distance (The overnight Day 5-6)

In fact, when I ran the Sahara desert in 2011, it was stage 5 where my rank dropped.

The Italian team who won the championship for the team race was only No.2 at stage 3.

Among all teams, all members of the unpredictable England team are beginners for the desert race.

They will probably speed up from the beginning, but we should keep cool and speed up from the latter half.

The body structure of us Japanese are much smaller than Western racers, so the fatigue from carrying the equipment will probably be a lot more than them. 

In the later stages, the food would be consumed and the equipment will get lighter.

Then we can run fast. That’s when we can take advantage over the Western racers.

Again, maybe I am thinking too much on my own…

The Atacama Desert 250km race was about to start.

(Continue to Part 10)