Women can compete on equal terms with the guys. That’s the inspiring message brought home by Dawn Westrum (USA3), one of two women to compete in the world’s toughest adventure race for the first time in 10 years. Westrum may have been eliminated at 06:00 this morning as the last-ranked athlete, with 375km still to go, but she has surpassed expectations, not least her own.
“I’m not even disappointed. I never thought I’d get this far. I had a great race and got further than I thought I’d ever go.”
During one two-day period, which included a non-stop spell through the night, Westrum hiked 115km, a quarter of the total distance she covered on foot.
Race Director Christoph Weber was among the first to celebrate her achievement: “She’s proved that she can hike hard and make intelligent decisions in the air and that women can be really strong in this race.”
What makes her achievement all the more remarkable is that Westrum, a former US soldier, has only been flying six years. But what she lacked in experience, she more than made up for in determination and spirit.
“I kept pushing my goals,” she said. “I had been thinking, ‘maybe I get to Germany, maybe I get to Italy,’ but I just kept on going.” Westrum eventually reached Turnpoint 7, the Matterhorn. The last two days saw her finish in style as she enjoyed epic flights over Switzerland, including a 100km flight over the Tessin mountains.
“After Gerald Gold (AUT2) overtook me I just thought, ‘you know what, this is my last day, I’m not racing,’ so I flew over the Aletsch Glacier. It was so beautiful and I just hung out there, cruising along. It was the perfect ending to a great race,” she said.
Another athlete to surpass expectations was the New Zealander Nick Neynens who made an extraordinary comeback. On day 1 he was the first to launch but finished the day in last place after a disastrous route decision. He spent the first few days at risk of elimination but clawed his way back to re-emerge in the top 10 after an epic 170km flight on Day 8, which included a direct line over the Swiss mountains at 3,600m. Watch it here.
“The race was just fantastic. I feel great,” he said after making goal at 06:30 local time today. “I wasn’t worried about elimination,” he added. “I just walked as fast as was sensible, and over the race the flying just got better and better.”
By early afternoon 11 athletes had made Monaco, a record for the race. But there were still another 11 athletes on course, hoping to make the finish before the clock stops at midday Friday, with nine in with a chance of making it. But for those trailing at the back such as American adventurer Dave Turner (USA4), who had 150km still to go, the odds are not looking good.
Head over to Red Bull MOBILE Live Tracking to find out who will be the Last Hero Home.
ABOUT THE RED BULL X-ALPS
The 2015 Red Bull X-Alps is the seventh edition of the world’s toughest adventure race in which athletes must hike or fly 1,038km across the Alps from Salzburg to Monaco in the fastest time possible. The race started on July 5, 2015. It’s an epic undertaking that can involve hiking up to 100km of mountain terrain in a day – or flying at altitudes in excess of 4,000m. The race demands not only a very high level of endurance fitness but expert paragliding experience. The 2013 edition was the fastest on record with 10 athletes reaching Monaco. It was won by Christian Maurer (SUI) in 6d 23hr 40m.
New in 2015 is the one-day Powertraveller Prologue on July 2 which was won by Paul Guschlbauer in 2h 21m. Stanislav Mayer (CZE) was 2nd in 2h 22m and Gavin McClurg (USA2) came 3rd in 2h 24m. Athletes started and finished in Fuschl am See, passing the Turnpoints of the Zwölferhorn and Schafberg peaks. The first three athletes each gained an additional Led Lenser Nightpass and a five-minute headstart on the main race start.