This day, devoted to the sixth and final stage, began early in the morning after just a few hours’ sleep. Most competitors had the opportunity to rest all night as well as part of the previous day. Stage 6 was supposed to be easier, rather than a foot fight through hostile jungle vegetation, but I found it quite long and arduous because of my complete fatigue built up during the preceding days. The lack of sleep and rest, the constant hot sun, and trekking through the sand had tested my body far more than anything else I’d ever experienced.
Nevertheless, I started the morning with a jog, as I longed for the finish line that promised a buffet of fresh food including spaghetti and chicken with ketchup. I mention the ketchup because I put it on everything. At various villages throughout the course, chickens roamed near the trail, and I mentally conspired to use my favorite stick as a spear to hunt one of them. But the chicken would have to wait until the finish line.
When my body remembered its extreme fatigue, I ended my jog and went back to trekking, again using my stick for extra propulsion. After many hours of struggling through my body’s pain, I finally saw the finish. I had actually planned to run across the finish line, but by the time I reached it, I was amazed that I was even able to hobble.
After seven grueling days in the jungle, I joined the 60 percent of competitors that had completed this race. My reward for such an accomplishment? A buffet lunch and dinner, a T-shirt, a medal, and, yes, my favorite stick that I got to keep. I was not going to let it go, this new friend of mine, after it had helped me through the harshest of terrains and climates. Of course, there was the pesky little problem of getting it through U.S. Customs, but I would deal with that obstacle later.