Words cannot do justice to how ridiculous and fantastic this “race” is! The time is of no interest to any international participant as the local Nepalese will finish hours ahead of us as they are better acclimatised to the conditions; the common goal of the internationals to “just finish before dark and without breaking anything”.
Some would argue that just making the start of the marathon is an achievement in itself, the majority in my group were suffering from either altitude or general sickness as the previous ten day trek had left all of us in less than perfect condition for the main event (no tapering, relaxing or staying well fed prior to this race).
The marathon itself starts at the bottom of the famous Khumbu Ice Fall at Everest Base Camp; at 5634m above sea level not only is there 50% less oxygen in the atmosphere but the first 5k is on the icy moraine of the Khumbu Glacier. As the race started I got caught behind a train of Yaks along the moraine of Base Camp which held me up for 15min until I could find somewhere to pass them (not the usual marathon bottle neck then). Having, eventually, got past the Yaks I soon got into my 4mph stride, anything faster than this had me gasping for air and my legs feeling like they were on fire.
I was soon out on my own, not keeping up with the runners (who I thought had gone off far too fast!) but leading the trekkers, and often found myself asking passing porters for directions to the next check point to avoid getting too lost. As I got towards halfway I was having difficulty eating any solid foods, trying to breathe was difficult enough without shoving anything else down my throat. The good news was I was catching up some of the earlier runners who were now suffering and realising that running at altitude is significantly more challenging than they had given it credit for.
The half way point is mid-point in a 6km loop, added to make the marathon distance up, with the first 3km having a long 350m ascent. I made it to the half way checkpoint in 4hrs 40min and things looked good for a respectable sub 9hr finish (I was starting to pass more and more of the earlier runners who by now were struggling to even walk up the minor inclines).
Knowing that the final 10km included two climbs (one a 250m steady stepped ascent through a rhododendron forest and the second being a brutal 500m valley ascent) as I got towards the 28km point I decided that I should take a carbohydrate drink to make up for the lack of food I had been eating; unfortunately my body decided to reject the drink and after 10min of heaving up whatever I had in my stomach I gingery continued on my way.
The final 10km took me the best part of 4hrs to crawl along, the 500m valley ascent was probably the most horrific ordeal I have ever put myself through and I often found myself muttering Canadian Dougs’ mantra “it’s okay to cry, just don’t quit!”.
So, as my race certificate states… “Mr Robert from UK has successfully participated in the 60th Diamond Jubilee Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon, running the worlds highest altitude route from Everest Base Camp (5364m), Gorakshep (5140m), Lobuche (4930m), Dingboche (4530m), Tengboche (3867m), Namche Bazar (3440m), covering the distance 42.195kms held on the 29th May 2013, completing the race in 10hrs 48min 17 sec, to commemorate 60th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary on May 29, 1953”.
As an aside:
1. A group of Aussies stopped at 30km overnight in a lodge whilst two guys ended up in a Yak shed and another lady ended up in a cave as they all got lost in the dark!
2. The race distance was also somewhere around 44km and would, technically, make this my first ultra!
3. Although it sounds as if this is a downhill route it is still the Himalayas and actually had the best part of 1100m of ascent as well!
4. The race results aren’t out yet but I believe I finished in the top 100
5. I took a photo every 10min through the route and I will add a link to the slideshow once I’ve compiled it…