Aquarius 24, 2077, m249
Gunvir Pachehra dominates the field, crossing the finish line in 10 hours and 07 minutes, more than an hour and a half ahead of 2nd place Fedir Pylypovych (KMH).
To put his feat into perspective, Pachehra achieved an average running speed of 36 kph over the 360 km course. The mechanical advantage of modern blades can propel a runner on Mars up to 60 kph in ideal conditions – Note: Melas Chasma was far from ideal today.
The floor of Melas Chasma is a combination of rough eroded canyon and fine ash-like particles. At many points in the race, the runners stirred up so much dust that visibility was severely reduced. Staying in front may have given Pachehra a critical advantage.
At the 100 km mark, Pachehra slipped after hitting loose debris. He skidded, fell back onto one arm, but was able to push himself back to a running position. It was only after the race when examined by medical staff, it was revealed that he had suffered an injury in that incident. Pachehra had run 260km with a broken wrist. Though he had overcome adversity to win the stage, it is unclear if he will be able to participate in the final stage on Saturni. Chasma Rim will require significant climbing before the final sprint to the finish line in Marineris.
Whether he runs stage 5 or not, Pachehra has become a hero across Mars. Such a physically demanding sport was thought to be for the young, but this year clearly defies that belief. At 40, Pachehra is not even the oldest runner in contention. Fellow Europa racer, Mathius Steinback is 53 and came in a respectable 8th today.
A total of 5 runners withdrew from the course. Most notable was David Atieno, the only VEX contender. Vallis Expeditionary Corporation is not only one of the primary sponsors of Pathfinder, it is widely considered the founding settlement of the sport.
With only 19 runners remaining, they will face the final 240 km along the rim of the Valles Marineris.