Part 14. Stage 5 – The Overnight Stage

That morning has arrived.

The “Overnight” stage that starts at the same time both in Japan and the opposite side of earth, Chile.

Today’s three objectives:

1. To reach the goal by the time Toshiwo’s funeral starts 14 hours later.
2. To do our best while valuing the ranks.
3. To reach the goal in costumes if we have the chance (smile in any situation!)

The starting point of stage 5 was a fascinating place (which was also the camp of stage 4). It reminded me of Uyuni salt lake.

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On the day before, we had a conversation like this:

Shin: “This is really beautiful. Hiro, let’s step into it.”

But I had experience at the Gobi Desert when I had an infection which begun from a small blister.

Me: “We should be careful! We should be prepared for tomorrow, so let’s not go in it.”

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We just took photos at the very edge.

But, as we started stage 5…

Hey, the course dives right into the lake!

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For the first three steps I thought, “Today’s a 76km stage. If I get my feet wet from the beginning, who knows what kind of trouble will happen, such as a blister. I should be careful not to get my feet wet.”

After the fourth step, though, I was already thinking “I better enjoy this!!”

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Team KIZUNA floating over the lake. (From left: Kuro, Shin, and me)

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(Shin carrying the banana, with Kuro to the right.)

We were able to run through a marvelous sight.

Because our pace was faster than ever, the runners we saw on the way were quite different.

We even outran Vlad, who was our tent mate and also ranking No.2 among all racers.

(However, he outran us again, and lead us by more than 3 hours in the end!)

I wasn’t able to sleep much for three nights in a row, but our team was in great shape.

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We ran through various landscapes.

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Our shoelaces became crusty because of the salt lake at the beginning of stage 5.

We squashed salt crystals like these with our feet.

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We even had a surprise soda pop present! It was warm, but it was so delicious. Cheers!!

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What was strange is that the usual symptom of a desert race, the swelling of our legs and hand that we didn’t experience for the past 4 days, suddenly occurred to all of us on our fifth day.

It’s a symptom that occurs when your body’s salt content is too high, or when your stomach is in bad condition and cannot take in water to the rest of the body.

“Maybe Toshiwo went back to Tokyo for the wake.”

Every one of us was keeping a very good pace. The goal was near.

Our team rank must have increased drastically.

“OK, let’s do it!!”

The time had come.

The time had come to cross the goal in costumes.

The idea was to cross the goal in costumes when we are confident we will be world champions, and goal in Toshiwo’s team uniform on the final day’s goal.

Therefore, the only chance to cross the goal in costumes was at stage 5, which is today.

And finally, we reached the goal at 16th place for stage 5.

Our record was 11 hours 30 minutes, much earlier than our original target of 14 hours.

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We were so satisfied.

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“Our championship for the team race is almost for sure. We are even doing well across the entire race!”

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Kuro, who always stood in front to lead our team’s pace.

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Shin, who had the least running ability among us, but always pushed himself.

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And me, who always had difficulty in explaining what a radish was.

Three middle-aged male runners in costumes immediately burst into tears after reaching the goal. Alina, the race director, understanding the whole situation, cried together and hugged us.

“Toshiwo, I did it! We made it to the funeral.”

(Continue to Part 15)