The Everest Trail Race was much more than just another race. It was an experience of a lifetime. Two things above all else make this race so special, the people and the landscape. The Himalayas are like nothing I’ve ever encountered before and the people who call this place home are equally unique. It’s an unforgiving environment making for a tough life but the people, despite having very little, are the happiest, friendliest, most content people I’ve ever met. Always smiling, always with a warm “namaste” as you pass even while they climb a steep slope at altitude with a weight equal to their own bodyweight strapped to their head. Unbelievable.
So how about the race? It started in the village of Jiri and over the course of 6 days we covered around 100 miles with 25,000m+- broken down as follows:
Stage 1: Jiri-Bhandar 21.5km with 3795m+
Stage 2: Bandhar-Jase Bhanjyang with 3486m+
Stage 3: Jase Bhanjyang-Kharikhola 2521m+
Stage 4: Kharikhola-Phakding 2479m+
Stage 5: Phakding-Tyangboche 2224m+
Stage 6: Tyangboche-Lukla 2105m+
Each day would follow the same pattern, woken by the amazing Sherpas at 5.30am with a warm tea, breakfast at 6, start running at 8, lunch, snooze, sometimes another lunch, dinner at 6.30, bed at 9. We were sleeping in tents for the first 4 nights then mountain lodges for the last couple of stages. Each runner had to carry everything they needed for the week, clothes, sleeping bag, mandatory safety equipment etc while the race organisation provided the tents and all meals. My pack for the race weighed around 4kg which is a lot heavier than my usual race pack but wen I saw a Sherpa carrying a full size fridge freezer on his head the 4kg didn’t seem so bad after all.
There was a definite pattern to the racing too, every morning the gun would go and the young Sherpa Lama Passang would disappear up the the trail, myself and my Compressport teammate Miquel Capo would settle into our own rhythm and we wouldn’t see him again until the finish line! There was only 1 exception to this when on day 2 we managed to beat him over the highest point of the race but every other day he was out of sight. Not only did he win the race but he was always on hand in the camp to help the other runners, a lovely guy.
Running in these mountains didn’t really feel like racing. It was just as tough as racing, even more so at times due to the altitude and the terrain but it just felt like an adventure. I ran all day every day with Miquel and at least 3 or 4 times on each stage one of us would point at a massive snow covered peak and say “look! Everest!”. We were wrong every time until day 5! On day 6 we decided to spend the day with the other runners and that was a really nice way to finish, relaxed, taking pictures, dodging donkeys and yaks. In the end Passang won, Miquel was second and I was 3rd. We also won the team category along with our Menorcan teammate, the ever smiling Raul!
Another really nice thing about this race is getting to know all of the other runners. Normally at a race, you run, maybe have a chat with the people who finish close to you and then you go home, but here you were living with all the other runners all week. We had runners of all abilities from all over the world and it was great to spend time with all of them. A special mention for Geordie Jim aka Jimalaya. Jim had never done an event like this and by the end of stage 1 and 2 he was cursing and saying never again but the way he grew into the race and boosted the morale of everyone around him was great to see.
Finally, the organisation. To stage a race of this type in that environment takes a lot of courage. So many things can go wrong out there and if they do rescue is very difficult. Jordi Abad and his team do an unbelievable job. Very courageous but very professional. The runners are in safe hands. The team of Sherpas are from a different planet, including guys who have stood on the summit of Everest 5 times, these guys are the real stars of the show and it was an absolute pleasure to meet every one of them. Everest Trail Race I salute you. Namaste