She ran the last 12km hard, she says, but for the rest, just “enjoying”, the “wow, beautiful place”, and revelling in this “great chance I have.” That mixture of a little bit of hard running and a lot of appreciation gave rise to a spectacular victory last Friday in the 80km Mont Blanc Ultra in Chamonix.
Jordi Saragossa, the Salomon Team photographer, took this picture which epitomises this, and it is a wonderful moment in the often focused, serious (pained) expressions of the subjects of pro-trail running photography. “Mira looked relaxed and in control the whole day, she was just loving the experience,” was the caption of the image on the Salomon page.
Every race allows benchmarking, and adds one more piece of evidence regarding the capability of an athlete. Last weekend’s race might not have had a line-up equivalent of an Olympic race, with every big name present, but the course record of 12:38:49 that Mira took, held by last year’s Skyrunning world champion Emelie Forsberg, in a landscape that most trail runners will be familiar with, offered a such chance to benchmark.
So with last Friday’s performance, regardless of what commenters have been saying, from overblown to cautious, Mira has at least arrived (in style) on the European scene. Here she is, exhibiting her unique essence, at the finish line.
Bruno Poirer wrote in France’s main trail running magazine:
In women [‘s event], seeing the podium, one wonders if there is not a shift in the sport for runners. Young women are almost unknown in the sport. If the young Nepalese (25) had already made a splash last summer, on the other side of the Alps; this year in Chamonix, Mira was a “revolution” of joy, humility and manners. “After my birthday, this is the best day of my life,” she effused. “And I thank everyone for supporting me as I ran for my country.”
“I’ve run regularly since 1 year,” she informs. “Yet she runs with a certain maturity in the management of the race. After only a year of regular practice, What will be her level of competition in a year from now?”
In Nepal, the reaction has been huge. Nepal’s oldest (and pretty much trusted) national daily cropped the Salomon logo off of the bottom of a downloaded image and put it on the front page. Mira wanted to “put her name” and that of her home district and village out there, and now she’s accomplished that.
The timing of her win could not have been better. After a large area of the country has been flattened by an earthquake, it’s had a huge effect on the nation’s psyche. Nepal of late has been battered from above (snow storms and avalanches etc.), from within (governance), and now, with enormous effect, from below.
Mira’s photograph, winning, the Nepal flag being held up in victory, has simply given many people something to be proud of. “She did something good for Nepal,” says the woman in the shop who gave me her copy of the newspaper, “It is very good.”
On Facebook, “Inspiration!”, “Proud to be a Nepali”, and “You’ve made Nepalis proud,” and, tellingly, “It’s good to find Nepal on [the] news that has nothing to do with earthquake.”
I think it would be accurate to say that few people here have a clue about the sport and the status of the race (she is not a world champion now), and it doesn’t really matter at this moment. Mira, smiling, looking powerful, holding the flag aloft has given a small, sweet dose of good news against the exhausting reality of Nepal’s current current affairs.
Another good thing is that Nepal Athletics Association was asked to make a comment about the race. The Vice-Chairman, Sushil Narsing Rana, was reported as saying, “The victory of Nepali woman athlete in France is a big achievement for the country’s [sic] sports.”
This is good because Nepal Athletics Association currently sees only flat, and as far as 42km: a national coach has reportedly complained that trail running makes runners slower on the track, and a permission letter to compete in the IAU world championships last May was allegedly not given as the distance is out of NAA jurisdiction. Maybe internally there will be some reflection about this and something positive will come of it.
Team Mira, the loose & growing collection of individuals who’ve helped Mira over the last 15 months, are delighted to put it mildly. Mira can’t quite comprehend the change that has happened so fast. Effort has been put in, but the reward of being part of a such a story, in the tailwind of Mira’s achievements, has been wonderful. In addition, Mira is now associated with Salomon, and is thankful to Greg Vollet brother and team for developing a quality training plan and the support around race events.
The English expression, “You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink,” is apt. Mira was a thirsty horse looking for water and Team Mira had a pretty good idea where the water was. Our role has been figuring out a direction, and overcoming obstacles on the way to get there, on repeat. Obstacles overcome, Mira consistently put in hard work training (alone) to keep the chances coming. For me, it makes me think about how much other spectacular talent is out there looking for help to figure out a direction and overcome obstacles.
That was March 2014. This is Friday 26th June. Congratulations Mira!
Mira is continuing with Team Salomon and the World Skyrunning Series. Currently she leads with 200 points. Competitors need to compete in four races in total and the best cumulative score wins the title. Mira’s next Skyrunning race is in Tromso, Norway on 2nd August.