Aquarius 18, 2077, m249
Men's Day 1 - Stage 1 - Noctis Labryinthus
Pathfinder Marathon officially began this morning with the men’s stage 1 challenge.
Over 200 spectators composed of friends, family, and media braved the journey from Mariners to the remote starting line at the western edge of Noctis Labyrinthus to cheer on the runners.
53 men representing the top contenders from the 278 original hopefuls that sought the opportunity to pit themselves against Mars. Having undergone 4 intensive rounds of screening and performance evaluations, today was when all the preparation suddenly became real. It was time to run.
Surprisingly, only a handful of Pathfinder alumni made it to this year’s race. The marathon was born on the fringe, an exclusive sport to the nomadic settlements of VEX, HDX, RSX, and KMH. Yet this year, many of their hopefuls washed out in screening. VEX, who has produced the most champions in the sport's history, has only one representative, David Atieno. Nicholas Buruk of KMH is the most experienced racer overall, having taken 3rd place in 2076 (m248).
Though runners like Buruk may have some advantage over other competitors, Pathfinder is far from a predictable sport.
Officials estimate this 150km stage to take anywhere from 1 to 2 sols to complete. The rough terrain and variable elevations present extensive options for “finding the path” to the stage’s finish line.
From the starting line, it was clear that most runners were anticipating a lot of climbing. The few that dawned their racing blades took the early lead, knowing that they would eventually need to dismount and carry the equipment for the remainder of the day.
According to Garin Papaviny, “The rough terrain increases the chances of breaking a blade. Damaging running equipment this early would spells disaster as there is no way to compete in the running stages that come later.”
By mid afternoon, the pack had dispersed into numerous paths, but the leading pack consistent of Antony Wahlgren (Novyimir), Marshall Shannon, Hugo Kopperud (Novyimir) and Owen Dubad (Mariners).
Wahlgren later lost ground after making a poor decision that left him at a dead end. Similarly, Kopperud required an extended break that saw him drop to 13th.
By 20:30, after 10 hours of competition, racers were instructed to rendezvous with their support vehicle to set camp as race-day 1 officially closed. Runners made camp to take on calories and recuperate for the race to recommence at 7:30.
- Marshall Shannon (HDX)
- Owen Dubad (Marineris)
- Raihaan El-Morad (Al'amal)
Shannon leads the pack with only 56 km remaining between himself and the stage finish line. There is more then 40 km between him and the last place runners, Mitchell (Marineris) and Samaan (Tiangong).
Marineris favorite, Dubad, is in number 2 position less than 1 km behind Shannon. Dubad had taken the gamble to run with blades from the start of the race, a strategy that didn’t work for others who failed to maintain the early lead.
“All things considered, I feel pretty strong,” Dubad said, “If we were allowed to keep racing, I would, but I’ve got a good 2 hours of work to get my gear ready for tomorrow. I’m going to descend to a lower elevation in the morning and try to close the gap with Marshall.”
All 53 runners are still in the race. It only take a wrong turn in the labyrinth to change the game, so it is still anyone’s race.
Coverage will continue tomorrow!