How one athlete overcame pain, exhaustion, and self-doubt with help from his supporters – and some home-cooking from his wife
Facing elimination is a serious mental challenge to pile on top of the physical ones of the race. It can also be a fire that pushes athletes to do amazing things. Yan Chen, a member of Junming Song’s (CHN) support team, told us what it was like to see it in person.
Song landed around 15:30 on Day 3. He was being chased by Ondrej Prochazka (CZE), who then overtook Song one hour later. Shegtao said: “We were very sad because he had landed in a bad place. It would be difficult to launch again.” The team were trying to plan what they could do next, but it didn’t look hopeful.
Song and the team were so certain they would be eliminated that there were plans to join a BBQ. Then a phone call gave them hope.
“We got a call that it was still possible to avoid elimination as team CZE hadn’t pulled a Night Pass. We calculated that we could still do it.” She said: “There was still a lot of uncertainty, but there was hope. We didn’t want to leave with regrets, so we tried.”
When the team started, they had to make up 35km to catch Ondrej. A route was planned that took Song along the valleys to avoid climbing, then he started pounding out the kilometres. The team resupplied him frequently with food, drink, socks, and recharged his equipment. “He just kept going!” Chen said.
Song found it difficult in the beginning – with all that distance stretching out in front of you into the night, it must have been daunting. The team kept him in good spirits and the kilometers kept falling.
“He only stopped once,” Chen said, “to get some real, hot food cooked by his wife.” Whatever was in that home-cooking obviously did the trick. When they saw Ondrej moving at 04:29 – at a speed of 9km/h – Song began to run. He ran the last 1h 30m and the elimination was decided by just 5km.
Song’s team say that he has some pain in his ankles, but hope that a gentle walk today will help improve things. They are a true support team!
Top image © zooom / Lukas Pilz