You have to respect altitude. It’s a strange phenomena that scientists have not really fully figured out. Your fitness, sex or age have no bearing on how you will be affected. Unless you have prior experience you’ll not know when the effect will start happening, or how severe they will be, or how fast your body will adapt.

Some examples:

  • The Himal Race runners 2010 began their race at Mount Kailash on the Tibetan plateau at around 4000m. The drove to the start in an thus from Kathmandu were quickly at that altitude. Some of the fittest, toughest people got quite sick.
  • A world champion Triathlete, an extraordinary athlete, attempting to climb Everest could not acclimatise beyond 7000m and had to return home.
  • 65 year old grand mother visiting the 5300m Everest basecamp after slow acclimatisation feeling just fine!

There are simple rules to follow:

  • If possible, you should spend at least one night at an intermediate elevation below 3000 meters.
  • At altitudes above 3000 meters (10,000 feet), your sleeping elevation should not increase more than 300-500 meters (1000-1500 feet) per night.
  • Every 1000 meters (3000 feet) you should spend a second night at the same elevation.
  • …and remember, it’s how high you sleep each night that really counts;

As for the running part, there is not much to say other than make sure you are acclimatised first, then you will have a lot more fun. My only rule at high (4000m+) altitude is never to run even slightly uphill to prevent collapsing in a oxygen deprived heap. But everyone is different and you’ll make your own rules.

And the Annapurna 100 race?

The maximum elevation of the race is 3200 m, but you rise up from around 800 m and decend again after the high point so the risks are extremely low indeed as you’re at that height for next to no time. You will no doubt feel the air being thinner, but so will everybody else! In the extremely unlikely event that you are feeling symptoms of altitude, tell somebody else and consider turning around and head down. Read more below  to fully prepare yourself.

More information

Improve your knowledge about altitude sickness here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altitude_sickness
http://www.altitude.org/altitude_sickness.php
http://www.ismmed.org/np_altitude_tutorial.htm

And perhaps read this article on running at altitude:

http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=4359

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