The Final Stretch

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The fifth and final stage of the Pathfinder Marathon starts with a vertical climb out of the Marineris Valley—that’s 13,610 m of pure elevation for our racers. Today, 14 of the original 40 women are left to take on the final stretch. The ascent is treacherous and gruelling for the racers that have spent the last 8 days pushing themselves to the absolute limits physically, mentally and emotionally. 

The climb is led by Geneva Liu (winner of stage 4) followed closely by Elaine Nguyen of KMH.

Halfway up the sheer cliffs of the Melas Chasma, Sara Hampton of San Olympus took a DNF after needing multiple rest breaks on the way. As the distance increased between her position and the main group of runners, the exhausted 35 year-old made the decision to tap out.

A broken ledge near the peak caused Arivalagi to lose her footing. and fracture her wrist as she broke her fall. The 23 year old decided to continue racing after being patched up by a medic drone. “The rest of the course is just straight running. I didn’t come this far just to give up now—I just need to pace myself,” said Arivalagi. 

 Racers make the ascent up the cliffs of Melas Chasma.

Racers make the ascent up the cliffs of Melas Chasma.

Luisa Murilla, the winner of Stage 2 and 3, is still hurting from her fall in stage 4. She made her way slowly up the side of the Melas Chasma and pulled herself over the peak triumphantly despite being at the very back of the group. 

Stage 5 continues along the along the edge of the Melas Chasma towards Marineris where racers will cross the finish line. The final stretch of the course offers breathtaking panoramas of the terrain the has been covered in the last week.

Murilla can’t catch a break in this stage as a collision with fellow Europa racer, Reyhan Naghiyeva, left cracks in both of their faceplates. The two women were forced to stop running in order for their helmets to be patched and evaluated. Both were deemed safe to continue by race officials.

Three more racers were unable to finish the race and took DNF’s with Marineris in sight. “I can’t believe I was so close to the finish line, but it’s not worth killing yourself over.” said Mahawal, “Oh well, there’s always next year!” she adds hopefully.

Liu maintained her strong lead throughout the entire stage to arrive first in Marineris amongst thunderous applause with the time of 8h 3m. Nguyen followed 46 minutes after to take second place for Stage 5.

Although Liu has taken the stage, it doesn’t mean she’s won the race. Judges will be evaluating the racers and awarding points for each stage based on their finish times. We’ll find out when the judges hand out the prizes at the awards ceremony—it’s been a thrilling week! Stay tuned.

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