Good job Mira Rai and Samir Tamang for together writing another page in the drama-filled story of Nepali trail runners.

Here they are leaving from Nepal for the Buffalo Stampede Skyrunning race in Australia. As one indignant (but fairly correct) commenter on Facebook put it, arriving one day before the competition showed “very bad managements”.

Kirant Dilungxa: “How can she going to run tomorrow, arrived today tomorrow competition.. That is very bad managements who ever responsible for her administration…. List a week need to climatisation and training…. Anyway best of luck sis….

samir tamang mira rai airport

Departing

I was a little ignorant about the Australian visa application process and applied for a visitor visa, assuming it would be like the Schengen visa: a friend invites you with a letter, you give their recent bank details, a detailed itinerary of travel and accommodation, invitations from the race director, proof of funding for the trip, a letter from your employer releasing you from work, bank statement, insurance document, medical form, print outs of mentions in the media, copies of certificates, anything that supports the idea that you have a life to return for, a flight booking, the filled out 13 page visa form, and last but not least, a passport photo. And last and definitely not least, bankers drafts for the visa fee and the handling agents.

australian visa paperwork for nepalese

Australian visa paperwork

 

But, apparently to run in a race in Australia, if you are Nepali at least, you need a temporary work visa – who’d have known!? So US$510 wasted, and another $570 invested for the visa second round. Thanks to the Australian Ambassador Glenn White who found this out for me.

All hope was lost by 9:30am on Wednesday in the Malaysia Airlines office where the tickets were made ‘open’ so that the date of travel was removed and could be used again for Buffalo Stampede 2016 if necessary. This after expensively changing the tickets once already. We’d overlooked Easter holidays for which the Australian Immigration office in Delhi was closed, and a national road closure (bandh) on Tuesday on which the local office was deserted.

At this point Mira, Samir and Purna were as stoic as can be: “OK sir, no problem,” in triplicate. While disappointed, it was taken as something that happens – you win some, you lose some – and quickly accepted.

Thursday 16:31, an email came saying Samir’s visa had been granted. An immediate sprint down to the Malaysia Airlines office again to see what if anything was possible. Nothing – the plane was full. Checking, checking… a seat becomes available. A quick SMS to Marcus Warner and Manen Tamang in Australia to check it is actually possible, and the seat is booked for Samir. Mira calls and she’s been called from Delhi, but there is no seat for her. Her visa “GRANTED” email comes but have to tell her there’s no seat. And then, somehow, someone somewhere cancels their trip, a free seat appears, and it is booked.

Believing the race chance was over, Mira had just done three hard 700m climbing sets that morning and was then told to get her bags ready. Samir showed up and collected his visa and tickets and looked happy and ready.

In Melbourne Manen Tamang and Jane Shadbolt had volunteered to help them from airport to start line. Manen waited behind in Melbourne and saved the weekend.

samir tamang and mira rai melbourne airport

Arriving, less fresh. – (Credit: Lloyd Belcher Visuals)

In the end the result was good – 3rd for Mira and 4th for Samir, but both felt they could have had better races. Both complained of “leg jam” according to Manen, and Mira said, “Today very hard. I feel ok, [but] my legs don’t work.”

Samir received a boost mid-course when Stevie Kremmer caught up with him. Chicked is the term used by machos when beaten by a woman, and in this sport it happens a lot. Manen says, “Stevie was telling me how he went flying…haha!”

mira preparation buffalo stampede morning

Fully prepared the night before.

Manen observed, “… boy, both of them are supremely confident…nothing phases them. Not even getting locked out of their rooms when having breakfast.” What? Yes, Mira left the key inside the room and when Manen returned with the sleepy manager and a spare key, Samir was trying to break in through a window and Lloyd (photographer) the door.

“[We] Got there [start line] 5 mins before the race and they were so cool and relaxed. Started doing warm ups when the race was about to start…ha…enjoyed every moment of it.” In Sai Kung 50km Mira showed up at the start with no running clothes. She’d left then behind where she was staying. Is there a pattern of excess race morning drama developing?

All round a great experience for both in a world class race. Thanks to Manen Tamang, Jane Shadbolt (who also fundraised for Mira’s flight ticket), the awesome Malaysia Air staff in Durbar Marg, the Australian ambassador here Glenn White, Sean Greenhill and Marcus Warner at the race, Greg at Salomon in France and Nabin and Pasang at Expedition Himalaya.

What about Purna? Purna Tamang also received his visa, but was too late for the 75km race on Saturday. So he gets to run in the The North Face 100 near Sydney if we can manage the logistics.

Photo credits: Sarah Biss, Lloyd Belcher, Jane Shadbolt.
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