Saturday, 3 February 2018

Himalaya 100 mile stage race

What's that coming over the hill………...Oh it’s another hill
The Himalaya 100

It was the 29th of October and the last fews days had been a foggy haze. Not just because the air
pollution was extremely high in Delhi, but I had also travelled on several planes, trains and
automobiles to reach the startline of the toughest footrace on earth.
The Himalaya 100 mile stage race. 100 gruelling miles over 5 days, on challenging mountainous
terrain through the Himalayas, with views of 4 of the 5 highest peaks.

We arrived at Lake Mirik with a day to spare, which we spent resting, eating and getting to know
our fellow walkers and runners. People from all around the world, different cultures and creeds,
gathered to experience the best of the Himalayas. We all attended the race briefing and the
excitement began to build. It felt like Christmas eve!
By the time we had packed several bags (the only complicated part of the whole race!) it was late
and so with tired eyes we all dragged ourselves to bed and hoped for a few hours sleep.

Lake Mirk

Day 1 Maneybhajang - Sandakphu
On the start line at Maneybhajang we were all greeted with a traditional Nepalese bagpipe blessing
and Mr Pandey, the eccentric yet lovely race director, gave us a motivational speech. At 8am on the
dot, he blew his whistle to signal the start.   
Running this was never going to be easy, but I hadn’t expected to stop within the first 10 minutes.
Out of breath and wheezing, I clasped my chest.

Please note reader - the starting altitude was 6,600ft with a climb up to Sandakphu, finishing
at 11,815ft. Which doesn’t compare to the highest point I could run to locally in Kent a mere 804ft!
Luckily I wasn’t the only participant now walking, I struck up conversation with a fellow runner, Helen.
We ran, walked and practically crawled up those mountain roads together.
The spectacular views on day 1.

Fortunately the aid stations were every 2 miles and we used them to refuel. No fancy gels here, just biscuits, salty potatoes, bananas and water. At one checkpoint I was greeted by local school children wanting high fives and photos, which was a welcome break on a long day.

Greetings from school children, whilst eating salty potatoes.

We plodded onwards and upwards and suddenly it got dark and cold. Singing and trying to keep our

spirits up we eventually crossed the finish line after 10 hours!
I ate as much food as I could stomach and found my bed in the Sherpas huts, no 5 star
accommodation, only basic beds. It was freezing and I think I was in shock, never had I thought it
would be this hard!

Day 2 Sandakphu - Molle - Sandakphu
Day 2 was an early start, but watching the sunrise over Mt Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and
Kanchenjunga mountain range was stunning and totally worth getting up at 4.30am.
Views of Everest over breakfast.

I was feeling fairly good and determined to run more of the 20 miles today, I set out again with Helen and after a few hours of gentle jogging and walking we arrived at Molle. The sun was shining, which highlighted the beautiful scenery surrounding us.

Day 2 out and back to Molle.
 As we headed back to Sandakphu the song “Four seasons in one day” actually became a reality, with sunshine, rain, high winds, sleet and then snow all showing up.
Day 2 completed with Helen.

The finish line was transformed into a winter wonderland and I was relieved to finish in daylight.
Food was available straight away and after a quick change of clothes we all attended the marathon
race briefing for the following day. I’m nervous and cold, my knees hurt and self doubt started to creep
in. After more food we all retired to bed, but it's was only 7pm! Climbing into my expensive sleeping
bag with a Sigg water bottle filled with hot water wrapped in a sock certainly helped keep me warm,
but I slept badly, kept awake by rats scratching around the huts for food.

Day 3 Sandakphu to Rimbik
Everything was hurting, my knees were swollen and I didn’t sleep much at all. I go back and forth in
my mind over whether I should take part in the marathon day and eventually decide to join the
walking group and enjoy a day of sightseeing through the forest.

This is the day I proposed to Caz, watching the most spectacular sunrise together we held hands and
both felt lucky to be in this moment. Caz said YES and after a brief interlude we joined the walking
group in a white knuckle ride down the mountains in a jeep, we reached a small trail path and are
then escorted down the mountains towards Rimbik, with a lunchtime stop off around a lake and a
visit to a monastery. It’s beautiful and although my knees still hurt the soft ground is a welcome break
from the rough mountain roads.
Day 3 Caz agreed to marry me.

I completed 13 miles of walking with a smile on my face and no regrets and a new fiance!
Thankfully we have a lovely room and I managed to get washed using a technique called
“Sexy Jug Dance” The method had to be used as the shower was so rubbish and there was only
a jug to hand. We ate and enjoyed the company of our new German friends, laughing and planning
future adventures together.

Day 4 Rimbik - Palmajua
Today I feel refreshed and ready to run and I’m so happy that I can actually breathe!
Caz joins me and soon we are running through rural villages and greeting all the locals.
Couples that run together, stay together.

Crossing over a river and back up towards Pamajua, It's incredibly beautiful and although the route is undulating tarmac, we make fast work of the 13 miles and still stop to take a lots of photos and enjoy the run.
Finishing hand in hand.

It really is the best day and all the support is amazing.
Back at Rimbik we are treated to a cultural night with traditional Indian music and dancing and some
fun sketches from all nationalities. I’m feeling emotional and can’t believe tomorrow is day 5! It feels
so surreal, it’s been 2 years in the planning and it’s nearly over! I smile and drift off to sleep after
another “Sexy Jug Dance” shower and enough food to sink a small ship.

Day 5 Palmajua - Maneybhajang.
Starting at our finish line from yesterday, it's a mere 17 miles to Maneybhajang and the finish line.
Unfortunately I’m feeling rather unwell and by 2km I’m practically last and very tempted to quit.
Mentally and physically this foot race has proved harder than I thought it would be.
I’ve trained hard, completing 21 marathons and 4 ultras and even attended 6 weeks of training with
reduced Oxygen in a chamber. I have a coach, a sports physio and a sports psychologist that all
helped me to the start line, I couldn’t let them down, I couldn’t let myself down.
Day 5 feeling ill, but determined.

At 5km I recall some of the mental training I was given prior to the race and I start to visualize myself finishing the race. I give myself a proper talking to and decide to sing “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor to help lift my spirits. It does, much to the dismay of the locals.
Somehow I reach 8km and catch up with my running buddies. It was such a relief to have their
company and although I wanted to run I had already been sick twice and knew it wasn’t going to
happen. With the company of friends and gorgeous weather, we walked and talked mile after mile
and soon we realised that the finish line was just around the corner.
We all joined hands and ran towards it smiling, laughing and crying together.

Myself, Helen and Sally finishing the H100.

It was all over and just a few hours later the emotion hit me like a truck, I cried and slept for heavily until the race awards that evening and then I clapped and cheered for all my new running and walking buddies that had achieved their dreams. We all sat down for a our last meal together, sharing contact details, photos and memories.

It had been an emotional journey, yes it was a race but also an experience.
I couldn’t have trained any harder or better and although it wasn’t the race that I had planned,
it was the race that showed me true friendship and courage.
The backdrop of the Himalaya’s was an ideal place for a proposal, something we will both remember
and treasure for the rest of our lives and the friends I made on the mountains got me to the finish line
every single day.
Jurgen, Lizzie, Caz and me.

The memories and photos evoke strong emotions already and I truly believe that the
Himalaya 100 is not only the toughest footrace on earth but also the most beautiful.

For race enquiries or registration for Himalaya 100 2018 email Mr Pandey

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