Day 1 of our 100 mile (160 km) run through the Himalayas! Our route would take us, for the next three days, running along the ridgeline that IS the border between India and Nepal. Most of that run was along a cobblestone road – not cobblestone in the English sense, much rougher and more randomly sized stones (cobble to boulder size) pieced together into a sort of road. Tough to run on. And, basically, if you stumbled slightly to the left, you would fall into Nepal. (“Do not go to the Nepal!” race organizer Mr. C.S. Pandey warned us repeatedly. “If you go to the Nepal, I cannot help you!”)
This first day, we started in the town of Maneybhanjang (elevation 2010 m / 6600′), and had a 39k / 24 mile route that was, for the most part, a steady ascent along that “road,” with a 510 m / 1700′ descent about halfway through. That brought our total climbing for the day to 2750 m / 9000′ before we arrived at Sandakphu at 3600 m / 11,815′.
If those numbers bedazzle you…. just trust me, it was a hell of a lot of climbing. All day.
On top of that, the weather kind of sucked. In previous years, racers have had to battle heat and sunshine (sunburn) on this first leg. But not for us. The day started overcast and with a bit of drizzle. As we climbed, it got colder and wetter… culminating in a frigid downpour that hit the racers who were farthest back (which I escaped by a mere 15 minutes!).
Here are my pictorial highlights. If you want the full race report, check out my Day 1 article uploaded to SleepMonsters.
Sorry, no more pictures after this point. It was hard, it was getting colder and darker, and I just wanted to make it to the end.
I had already figured out that the aid stations were not exactly at their advertised kilometres. I hit the 34k aid station, fully prepared for 5 km more of steep uphill trail ahead. The Spanish guy I was with at that point asked the attendant how much farther. The aid station guy exclaimed “One and a half kilometres! One and a half hours!”
Since we were supposedly 5 km from the end, I chose to believe the latter. I am definitely not into playing those head-games, where well-meaning volunteers screw with your head by giving you faulty information.
But this time, the guy’s first exclamation was right – we were just 1.5 km away! A few more switchbacks ahead, we wound our way through the finish line and into the organizers’ care: warm clothing, lots of hot soup, and shortly after, a nourishing dinner and warm beds. We slept under mountains of fleece as the wind whipped through our little huts, to rest up for tomorrow’s second stage: a 32k / 20 mile out-and-back run along the ridgeline, all of it above 3200 m / 10,500′.