As the morning of Stage 4 dawned, most of us had awakened exhausted from Stage 3’s extreme difficulty. My 10-hour sleep didn’t seem to help, and I felt I needed another 10 just for decent recovery.

But fortunately Stage 4 turned out to be much shorter and not as difficult. We had some much-needed respite, as sections of the course ran through villages and away from the jungle treachery. Even so, armed guards were placed at certain points near the beginning of the course because of additional jaguar sightings. Although I didn’t see any, my time had come for something potentially worse for a long distance runner – foot blisters.

Wet feet
This was something nearly all of us had to deal with, and a common problem even since Stage 1, because the humidity as well as swamp and creek crossings kept our feet wet throughout most of the marathon. I think I’d been able to delay my blisters until Stage 4 because of the time and care I’d taken to balance over roots through the swamp crossings each day. This kept my feet relatively dry (less drenched, anyway), though they were still wet. Of course, crossing the way I did slowed my progress, but may have helped my feet.

But now that I had blisters and also needed to move faster through the jungle, I took less care to keep my feet dry and ended up suffering like the others.

Time to eat
Stage 4 was a milestone for me. For the first time, I was able to complete a stage a few hours before dark, which finally gave me time to eat my food and rest for Stages 5 and 6. All the previous days had been so rushed, that I could hardly find the time to eat properly. After my meal, the medics taped most of my toes (and both heels) to prevent further blistering. I could now face Stage 5 with my feet well prepared.