We recently spotted this incredible image taken by Dan Patitucci on the web. Dan and Kim returned to Solukhumbhu in Nepal in 2023 after a previous experience in 2018. If you’ve ever wondered about what running at very high altitudes is like, or the Everest Three Passes region in particular. A synopsis to get you interested:

Running away from Ama Dablam. Copyright Dan Patitucci – Alps Insight.

The article recounts the author’s ambitious trail running adventure in Nepal’s Three Passes, a 60km trail connecting Namche Bazar with Chukhung at the base of Lhotse South Face. The trail, an alternative to the crowded Everest Base Camp Trek, involves crossing three passes above 5000 meters, presenting unique challenges like high altitude fatigue and unpredictable Himalayan weather.

The runners, familiar with the route from a previous attempt, undertook a rigorous training and nutrition program to prepare for the challenging endeavor. Despite setbacks, including illness and unexpected snowfall, they persevered. The detailed account captures the physical and mental challenges of running at high altitudes and navigating treacherous terrains.

The story unfolds with vivid descriptions of the vast landscape, from the snow-covered passes to the mesmerizing descent under the moonlight. The runners encounter unexpected solitude, silence, and darkness, creating a memorable experience beyond the physical feat. The article highlights the resilience of the runners, particularly one overcoming breast cancer and the other acknowledging the passage of time.

As they approach the end of their journey in Namche, faced with fatigue and the prospect of lodges closing for the night, a chance encounter in Lungdhen brings unexpected warmth and hospitality. The article provides a captivating blend of adventure, personal challenges, and the camaraderie found in the Himalayan wilderness. The runners’ determination to reach their finish line in Namche encapsulates the spirit of the trail running experience in Nepal’s Three Passes.

Part one of their 2023 Nepal trail running adventure can be read here, and part two explains how you can trail run the Everest Three Passes by yourself.

Visit Dan’s Alpsinsight website here: https://alpsinsight.com and find more dazzling images on his Instagram @alpsinsight page.

November is a long way off, but as an ultra runner you have to plan your year. So consider including this race in your race calendar. Pokhara is a great destination to start a trek, and to relax after a trek with good food and accommodation by famous Fewa Lake.

See photos of previous races here.

Visit the website to enter here:

https://pokharatrailraceseries.org/

Here is the race director’s report for the Capital to Country Multi Day Ultra.

We did it!  Our first international event, an incredible time with some great runners and an amazing team to work with.  We are back next year, limited to 20 places, on the 24th November.

There aren’t many events which come with the description of being a cross between the Marathon des Sables and the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc.

But that’s what one of the runners called this incredible five day slog through the beautiful foothills of Nepal. The combination of rolling hills and gruelling climbs with a multi-day format meant I could certainly see how they’d come up with that particular comparison.

Before we even started running the experiences jumped at us – initially in the form of a gang of rather cheeky monkeys who we met during a visit to Kathmandu’s otherwise peaceful Monkey Temple. One of the presumptuous primates even grabbed themselves a Sprite bottle as a souvenir of our trip.

We were then privileged to receive a blessing from the local monks, wishing us luck before our incredible run got underway.

Day one of the race saw them up and about bright and early, departing Kathmandu for the ancient district of Sankhu, where the event was to start. Along the way, they received another monk-assisted blessing, you can’t take too many chances.

After heading off through the beautiful Sankhu gate, it didn’t take long until their first climb was upon them as they left Kathmandu in the valley below. The route snaked through jeep tracks cut in the mountain sides, taking in tree covered hills and breathtaking drops. As they meandered through a diverse mix of towns and villages, the full scale of the remoteness and mesmeric beauty of Nepal became clear.

In all, the constantly changing terrain of day one took the runners over 27 miles before we reached out camp for night at Kasibanjayang. 

Day two brought more sensational scenery as they pulled themselves along jeep trails, through ancient villages and bustling towns, and into jungle and woodland. Waking early, and as bright as possible, the runners enjoyed a stunning mountain top sunrise and a quick breakfast before hitting the road 7am.

Then they were straight into another all too familiar climb as the route stretched from our Kasibanjayang base to Bhakundebesi. Along the way it was eye-opening to see the reaction of the friendly locals who were mesmerised by these crazy English runners winding way through their homeland. Despite their confusion, they didn’t hold back from cheering them along the way.

The first climb ended at the spectacular Dukhiel viewpoint, where the runners were transfixed by some mind-blowing scenery, before finally reaching the camp in the grounds of the Kutumba resort.

Day three arrived with a slightly rude awakening as we were roused from our slumbers by the chanting of a monk, and the somewhat less melodic barking of local dogs. Heading out from Bhakundebesi, the route was quickly developing in yet another epic climb, something that was becoming all too familiar.

The 30-mile day three route passed through the historic home of the Tangmang Empire, complete with cobbled roads, plentiful temples and religious sites. The numerous hard climbs were rewarded with some stunning vistas, while green hills, a glacial river and – eventually – a well-earned beach side camp welcomed tired limbs through a gruelling but rewarding day’s running.

The fourth day of the ultra experience may have been a shorter, 16-mile leg but it still came with plenty of climbing. We left the tranquility of our overnight riverside camp to haul ourselves up to the top of a path which supplied gorgeous views of the river valley below. Another lengthy climb followed, revealing more mind-blowing scenery, before starting the long descent back down to the river and a fun, if slippery, leap across some stepping stones to the opposite bank.

We picked my way along a particularly winding path alongside the main road, up another long climb and – gratefully – to the welcoming surrounds of Lamaland village, where we would stay on both days four and five. The finish line proved a real treat, as our hosts greeted us with garlands of flowers and an array of prayer flags and flower bowls.

With day five upon us, the runners set out on the final trek, a mere marathon-length 26-mile effort which finished with music from a Nepalese band that came complete with the world’s longest horn. A delightful evening followed with a delicious Nepalese meal and the opportunity to indulge in a few well-earned beers safe in the knowledge we only had a relatively short downhill walk to the road the following day.

It’s safe to say it was an epic week. Life is not about the amount of breaths we take, but the moments that take your breath away. We have all had our breath taken away at some point this week.

It was an absolute delight to organise the first take of this unique, bewitching event.

Written by Will Lloyd.

Originally from Solukhumbu, Pokhara-based Anita Rai is one of Nepal’s strongest up-and-coming trail runners. Her most recent success was a first place finish at the challenging Guerrilla Ultra, a 52 km race in Rukum. And just a month or so before that, she finished second at the Fishtail 50 km, a monster of a race with 5500m / 15000 ft of climbing.

I spoke to Anita recently by the side of Pokhara’s Phewa Lake to learn more about her story and her hopes for the future. 

A graduate of the Mira Rai Initiative, she started running in school. In 2019, an athletics coach put on a flat 4 km race which she won ‘without training’. Subsequently, she competed in further road and track races before happening upon a 7 km race organised by Pokhara Trail Race Series. She came second, again ’without training’ and was hooked on the trails after this event. Though she had no formal training, she was already prepared by high-altitude farm work in her home village in Solukhumbu.

Anita also won on the roads, but was decidedly hooked on mountains after her first trail race. As her stamina increased she took on longer events, shortly thereafter finishing first in a 15 km race by the same company.

But she doesn’t just run for the podium.  Reflecting on her preference for trails, Anita describes the transforming effect of mountain running on her mental wellbeing. Before she began trail running, she suffered with low moods and poor motivation in daily life. But the trails gave her a ‘new mind’. 

Portrait of Anita Rai, Nepali trail runner

Her preference is for long-distance mountain races with a mixture of up, down and flat.  She loves the variety in mountain running: ‘sometimes it’s rocky, sometimes there are steps, sometimes it’s slippery. Road is just flat. So I prefer the mountains.’

After her initial successes, Anita sought to improve her performance on the trails. Browsing online, she learned about Mira Rai and her training initiative for young female runners in Kathmandu, known as ‘Exchange and Empower’. After being accepted into the program, she spent nine months in Kathmandu running as well as learning English, taking computer classes and practicing yoga and meditation. 

Lockdown restrictions meant that the group ran in confinement for some of this period, darting up and down the steps in their apartment building and chasing each other around the small monsoon-wrecked garden. Nonetheless, her running improved under the group’s rigorous training routine and once the rules eased there was opportunity for further adventure. The Initiative team made a trip to Mira Rai’s home village of Sanodumma in Bhojpur for training and also visited Jumla in the remote far West for a week of coaching from the legendary running guru Hari Rokaya. 

With the Initiative’s support she began to race longer distances, including the 55 km Mundum Trail Race in Bhojpur and Mira Rai’s own Bhojpur Trail Race. 

She capped off her time at the Initiative in September 2022 with the 60 km Sindupalchowk Trail Race, her longest event yet. She finished in second place in 8 hours and 37 minutes, just seconds behind her Mira Rai Initiative teammate Padam Kumari Sunuwar. 

She reflects that the competition with the other athletes in the Initiative helped her to improve. Now that she trains mostly alone in Pokhara, she finds the work harder without this spur of competition. As well as the trails, she sometimes trains on the track, though without a coach she is unsure about her pacing. 

She now works part-time jobs, supplementing her income with prize money from trail races. She says that her family are not always supportive of her running: ‘if I win they like my running, if I don’t, they don’t. In Nepal it’s like that. If you bring in money then everyone loves you.’

Even with her many successes, Anita expresses dissatisfaction with the difficulty of earning money from trail running in Nepal. She feels that many races have insufficient or zero prize money for winners, which she feels discourages participation. Even more frustrating, in some events the women’s prize money is substantially less than the male despite their running the same distance. She cites lack of government support and lack of facilities for runners in Nepal as major obstacles and says the situation is better for trail runners in other countries.

Partly because of this lack of opportunity in Nepal, Anita dreams of competing abroad. Her long-term goal is to race at the UTMB World Series finals in Chamonix, France. 

While her favoured distance is 50 km, she plans to build up in distance: ‘having done 60 km, next I will do 100 km, get the experience, and then try 100 miles.’

Whatever the future holds for Anita, she has already made her mark with a set of exemplary performances. Whether she reaches her goals or not, she intends to persevere: ‘win or lose, you have to accept’, she likes to say.

And the budding athlete’s love of the sport is obvious. She describes her joy at running uphill in the heat of the Pokhara trails and the relief at meeting a cool breeze and seeing fabulous views from the top. ‘I work so hard running uphill and it’s a great feeling when I reach the top’, she says. ‘I go uphill and downhill and again up and down.’ She laughs. ‘Life is also like that.’

Mountain running in nepal

By Tayte Pollmann for the American Trail Running Association

Original article posted on August 3, 2023. Reported for posterity!

Mountain running in nepal

From April 19 to June 6, 2023 Tayte Pollmann, American Trail Running Association, “Trail Trotter” traveled to the highest mountains in the world, the Himalayas, to discover Nepal’s trail running scene. He had traveled to the country five years prior, and was impressed by the talents of Nepali runners who moved with ease on some of the world’s highest and most technically difficult running trails. In this most recent forty-eight day Nepal trip, he set intentions of meeting local Nepali runners (elite to back-of-the-pack), learning about Nepal’s trail racing scene, and discovering what the sport offers to locals and foreigners. Pollmann’s mission was to highlight mountain running in Nepal, a mecca for mountain running, that is largely ignored by Western media. His travels took him to the remote Western region of the country where his blonde hair, blue eyes and American pronunciation of the local greeting “Namaste” were marvels to the locals unaccustomed to outsiders, as well as to central and Eastern regions more frequented by tourists, including the country’s most popular trekking trail, The Everest Base Camp Trek. The following article is a series of three articles, each focusing on trail races that Pollmann attended during his travels to better understand Nepal’s small but flourishing trail running community. This series intends to shine a light on mountain runners who challenge themselves on trails among the world’s tallest peaks and whose talents go largely unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Nepal’s Fishtail 100: Hard Races Don’t Ask for Attention

The inaugural Fishtail 100 held May 13, 2023, near the resort town of Pokhara, Nepal, could well earn recognition as one of the “world’s toughest 50Ks and 100Ks,” but by Nepali standards, it was just another weekend trail race.

In the United States, we take pride in bringing attention to the “toughness” of our races. Some think the gnarlier the better, especially when bragging rights are at stake. The Speedgoat 50K (Snowbird, UT) and the Rut 50K (Big Sky, Montana) are routinely debated amongst our trail running community as the hardest 50Ks in the country, and the Hardrock 100 (Silverton, Colorado) has earned an international reputation that lives up to its name as being “Hard.” In Nepal, locals don’t have the same desire to label or gauge their races on any sort of scale.

There’s grit ingrained in Nepal’s small but talented trail running community that allows them to accept “toughness” with certain normality consistent with their ways of living— long days spent working in rice or corn fields, twelve-hour bus rides over dangerous mountain roads in buses that are filled with twice their recommended capacity, children herding mischievous goats across mountainous passes without adult supervision, sifting sand and pebbles the old school way with shovels and fine metal mesh in scorching heat, or carrying bags of rice to villages 5,000 feet above into the great Himalayas Mountain range. Nepalis don’t expect life to be easy and luxurious, nor do they expect this of their trail races.

Fishtail 100 Race Director, Jagan Timilsina (in red). Photo by: Tayte Pollmann

Nepalese Trail Running 101

Nepal is a country of thirty million people with an area roughly the size of the state of Arkansas. It is sandwiched between the world’s two most populated countries, China and India, and is a major access point to the Himalayas, the world’s tallest mountain range, which includes Mount Everest at 29,035 feet. The country offers countless trails with breathtaking views and is home to a thriving trail running community with some of the most talented runners in the world. Nepali runners possess an incredible ability to run on challenging Himalayan terrain with ease, while most visitors of the Himalayas struggle to breathe at such heights, let alone run.

In 2019, the Salomon Golden Trail World Series Final, an event regarded as one of the premier competitions in trail running, was hosted in Nepal. This brought some of the top-ranked trail runners from Europe and America to the country and provided local runners the chance to showcase their home trails and go head-to-head with professional trail runners from the West. Nepalese runners held their ground, placing four in the top ten in the women’s race and three in the top ten in the men’s race. The field included such international stars of the sport, including Kilian JornetStian AngermundSage CanadayJudith WyderRuth Croft, and Meg McKenzie. It’s rare to hear Nepalese people brag about the heights of their mountains, nor the strength of their running ability, but that they have already proven to be world-class.

The Fishtail 100 was a mere tuneup race for many of the hardcore Nepalese elite runners and an unexpected grind for the handful of international trail runners, including several Americans, who signed up for the race. The Fishtail 50K finish times were comparable to 100K finish times in the US (9 to 21 hours) and 100K finish times to 100-mile times (20 to 27 hours). For a comparison of difficulty, the Speedgoat 50K had 10,800 feet of elevation gain while the Fishtail 100 50K had 17,000 feet of elevation gain/15,000 feet of elevation loss and reached a high point of 12,000 feet. The Fishtail 100K had 25,000 feet of elevation gain/26,000 feet of elevation loss and the same max elevation. The combination of high altitude and significant elevation change, as well as the rooty, rocky, and often loosely maintained Nepalese trails, made for difficult running. Another challenging feature was the miles of stone steps throughout the course. The steps slowed downhill running due to the extra efforts of foot coordination and added to the accumulative muscular fatigue from the harsher impact on hard stones instead of the soft trail. It was a race course of challenging ups and downs without any flats.

High Demands, Higher Rewards

The race’s namesake, The Fishtail, known as Machapuchre in Nepalese, is one of the most iconic peaks in the Annapurna region of central Nepal. The Fishtail’s sharp, prominent summit is reminiscent of the Matterhorn in Switzerland—or, for those who view the world not by eyes but by their sweet tooth, the mountain on the packaging of Toblerone chocolates. The peak stands 22,900 feet, over 8,000 feet taller than the Matterhorn. Although the Fishtail is one of the tallest mountains in the world, it is not particularly tall by Himalayan standards, and its neighboring Annapurna I summit, the tenth highest mountain in the world, sits nearly 4,000 thousand feet above at 26,500 feet. However, the majesty of the Fishtail is about more than its height. The peak’s aesthetic beauty, prominence from the peaks around it, and spiritual nature as a “holy mountain” that the Nepalese government has never permitted to be climbed give it unparalleled respect among all of the mountains in the Himalayas—including the tallest Everest itself.

Read the rest of the article online at American Trail Running Association.

runner finishing race greeting crowds.

Sunmaya Budha nearly died of malnutrition as a child. Like her sisters, she was destined to marry at 16, but left home to run. Now she is a professional trail runner.

Note: This article was originally published in Spanish at Marca.com using Deepl translator. Please visit the original article for the full story. 
Sunmaya Budha, in the CCC category in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. The North Face

By ANDRÉS GARCÍA, 29/06/2023

Sunmaya Budha, like almost all girls in Nepal, was destined to be married off as a teenager. Her three older sisters were forced into marriage at the age of 14. Her mother gave up spinsterhood at 12. Trail running allowed her to embark on a different career. She took her own path. The rebelliousness of youth guided her steps towards a future in which she would be the master of her own decisions. Today, at the age of 24, her name already appears on the list of winners of races as important as the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.

She was born in Pere, a small village in the Jumla region, which can be reached after two plane journeys and a half-day hike or a three-day bus ride from Kathmandu. She always showed an interest in sports. She played volleyball with the boys at school. She was the only girl. At the age of 13 she tried athletics. She signed up with the school for a race that was held once a year in a nearby village on a dirt track. Although she participated barefoot, she was the best in the 5,000 metres. By the time she finished school, aged 16, her father and brother had arranged her marriage. “I dreamed of becoming a runner. I heard about the Karnali Sports Club and its coach Hari Rokaya, a marathon Olympian. I told my father that I wanted to continue my studies and I went there,” recalls the Nepalese runner.

She left home and, on foot, arrived at the Club with little more than 5,000 rupees (34 euros) in her pocket. Hari took her into his home and gave her the opportunity to run. Within a week she dropped out of school. “Classes and training were at the same time. I chose to focus on sport, but I didn’t tell my family,” Budha tells MARCA.

Sunmaya Budha, in her village and on her first runs. The North Face

A third place in the Dharan marathon earned him a prize of 15,000 rupees (about 100 euros). “My parents were sad that I didn’t win, they didn’t understand what a marathon was and the level of the other participants,” Budha recalls.

In 2016 she made her debut in a trail race, hand in hand with Richard Bull, the man in charge of the event. “I won, I was very excited. I loved running in the mountains. I was used to it. At home in Jumla, I used to run at 3,000 metres altitude,” she explains.

Her father still did not agree with her decision to take up the sport. “I want them to believe that I am no less than a boy and that one day I will be able to take care of my family better than a man,” Budha says. These words tie in with his past. First his brother was born. Then came seven girls, as his parents were looking for a second boy in case something happened to the first-born.

I want my parents to believe that I am not less than a boy and that one day I will be able to take care of my family better than a man.

Sunmaya Budha, Trail Runner

It was not easy to support such a large family. “I was on the verge of death due to illness and malnutrition. I remember someone in the village even asked me when I was going to die. I don’t know if it would have made much difference to my family if I had died. My mother told me that she felt she couldn’t let me go. She took me with her to the mountain. With natural medicine and prayers she pulled me through. For food, she fed me slugs and that helped me survive,” Budha recalls.

Sunmaya Budha, on her arrival in second place at the finish line of the CCC category of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. The North Face

Sunmaya Budha arriving at the finish line of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc CCC course.The North Face
Two years ago, she joined the APA Athlete Team, a team of the best Asian adventure athletes, sponsored by The North Face for the past 18 years. His career took a leap in quality. “I gained professional status, with training, money and more resources to improve,” he reflects. Previously, Richard Bull’s help, via sponsorship, allowed him to race in and out of Nepal.

In her first race as a member of The North Face Adventure Team, in December 2021, she won the Doi Inthanon Thailand by UTMB (100 km) ahead of one of her references, Mira Rai. The Nepalese, who went from child soldier to trail running star, has been a source of inspiration for other young runners.

Kilian Jornet’s admirer

Budha has run through Nepal, Hong Kong and the Alps in the last year. In August 2022 she took part in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, the fetish race for all trail runners. She competed in the CCC distance (100 kilometres). Not even an Achilles tendon injury, six weeks earlier, prevented her from fighting for the podium. She finished second with a time of 11 hours, 45 minutes and 44 seconds. As a prize, she was well above the average salary of 280 euros in Nepal.

Sunmaya Budha, on a recent visit to her village. The North Face.

When asked about a runner she admires, she doesn’t hesitate: Kilian Jornet. “I saw him at Sierre Zinal, in a crowd, and it was incredible. His wife [Emelie Forsberg] is also a great runner like Ruth Croft. I like them because they are also humble. They show their power in the race, not by talking,” he says.

In 2023 she won two races: the COROS 100 (50 km), just one minute ahead of the male winner, and the Golden 100 Hong Kong (30 km). An injury kept her out of the recent World Trail Running Championships in Innsbruck. She also missed her first race in Spain: Val d’Aran by UTMB (from 5 to 9 July). Her objective is to be ready to return to the UTMB, this time in the OCC modality (55 km).

Sunmaya Budha has not forgotten her family. She wants to build them a new house and help her brother, sisters and cousins to whom she rented a house in Jumla so that they can go to a better school. Her parents already have a different view of her daughter running around the world. “They support my dream,” says Budha, the runner who went off the beaten track to make her own way through the mountains.

Note: Translated from the original article in Spanish in Marca.com: https://www.marca.com/deportes-aventura/2023/06/29/649ad01de2704e3aa78b4574.html by Deepl. h/t to Preeti Khattri for the link.

Manjushree trail race participants point to a mountain

[Reposted article by Shashwat Pant from Online Khabar. The Manjushree Trail Race is longest of many trail races happening in Nepal.]

When a group of Nepali runners started assisting foreigners who ran the Kathmandu valley rim, a 100-mile-long trail that goes around the hills surrounding Kathmandu valley, around 2018, little did they know that they were sowing the seeds for one of the toughest races in the country. 

These runners ran with trail runners like Lizzy Hawker and Seth Wolpin and developed a liking for long-distance running. After years of being pacers, in 2021, a few wanted to run the trail themselves and the Manjushree Trail Race was born.

It is the only International Trail Running Association (ITRA)-certified 100-mile trail race in Nepal.

“I wanted to do it in one go like others so I approached a few friends like Jimmi Oostrum who suggested organising a race and that started it all,” says trail runner Jeevan Lama, the winner of the first edition of the race held in the summer of 2021.

Only seven people ran the Manjushree Trail Race in 2021, but the team knew that the race had potential and they were right as the next year saw 36 people run the 100 miles and nearly 100 took part in other events of the race.

Now, the team is gearing up for the third edition as it hopes this one will be bigger and better. The team aims to ensure that it becomes one of the premier races not just in Nepal but also in Asia.

“It’s going to take time, but we want it to be a reason why people come to Nepal,” says Ashish Mishra, one of the team members of the race.

The beginning of the Manjushree Trail Race

Manjushree trail race participants point to a mountain

The first person to run the Kathmandu valley rim loop, in November 2015, was Seth Wolpin. After Wolpin, Lizzy Hawker completed her first loop in March 2016. Following them, Simon Castro, Jocelyn Powelson and Raj Pradhan did the loop in March 2018. It was around then the idea to create a race started brewing in the minds of Nepali runners.

Even though the idea started then, work did not begin until 2020 when the country went into a Covid lockdown. The team says as the restrictive measure were in place, most of them started to run the trails around the valley to get fresh air.

Hawker had taken Rashila Tamang as her pacer in 2018 and told her the trail might be useful for her for training purposes. But, there were issues with the complete loop and that was an issue for them.

“When I ran with Lizzy, we ran most of it on road and that wasn’t fun. That is why in 2020, we set off looking for alternatives to the roads because we wanted the race to have as many trails as possible,” says Tamang, who is also a part of the Manjushree Trail Race team.

As they started circumambulating the trail, their concept started to get broader and in 2021, they decided to mark the trail permanently, which would not only help them during the race but also people who enjoyed hiking or cycling.

“We wanted people to feel what Manjushree, a Tibetan saint and ruler who believed to have visited Kathmandu and drained the water from a big lake here to establish a valley, did when he walked around the valley. That is why we named the race in his honour,” says Mishra.

The race route

The Manjushree Trail Race route takes runners along the Kathmandu valley rim ridge line and across the seven peaks that surround the valley – Jamacho, Shivapuri, Nagarkot, Phulchoki, Champadevi, Bhasmasur and Chandragiri. It covers 175.18 km, with an incline of 12,695 metres across the seven peaks.

“Over 85 per cent of the route is on the trail, most of which is in the jungles. Even though you’re still within the Kathmandu valley, you will feel like you are far away from urbanisation many times during the race,” says Mishra. “Runners encounter dense forests and the occasional view of Nepal’s capital from the exposed ridges and peaks.”

Two runners with himalayas behind

Manjushree Trail Race is also the only race in Nepal to which the ITRA has given six points. “This means anyone who wants to enter the UTMB lottery can come and run the race. It’s an opportunity for us to ensure many people take part in it. Great for tourism too,” says Mishra.

After the first year, the team also decided to put in other events on the race. As running a 100-mile race is not for anyone, the team, from 2022 onwards, included 21km, 50km and 50-mile races.

“We get many people running shorter distances and we’ve also applied for ITRA points for these races,” says Tamang.

When asked if it can be a part of an international event like the UTMB in the future, the team says it is a long shot as the government needs to be involved for the same.

The tough trail of recognition

Annapurna 100, a 100-km race held in Nepal, was a part of an international event like the Golden Trail Series in 2019. But following that, Golden Trail Series stopped coming to Nepal, which is disappointing as continuing it would have been great for the Manjushree Trail Race, the sport of running and for the country’s tourism, says the team.

“All the top runners take part in these international events, which are watched by millions of people. We missed something there,” says Mishra.

Manjushree Trail Race is also the only race in Nepal to which the ITRA has given six points.

The Majushree Trail Race team hopes that the government will come on board as it needs governmental help. For now, the event has been done with help from the supporters and sponsors but for the race to reach the next level, it needs the government’s support.

“We’ve been to Nepal Tourism Board to talk about this, but they didn’t take it seriously. Maybe they will in the future,” says Mishra.

Another challenge has been maintaining the trails. Due to unplanned development, most of the trails the team has marked have turned into roads along with the locals making concrete steps on parts of the trail.

“This is a major challenge because it kills the beauty of the trail,” says Lama.

He says one of the aims of the Manjushree Trail Race is to spread the message about saving trails around the valley that have disappeared in recent times. The team feels saving the Kathmandu valley rim could be an important step in that as it joins all the prominent peaks of the valley.

“We also want the Manjushree Trail Race to be a platform for the future generation. Everyone comes to Kathmandu and having a race like this here is great for the sport as it gives us chance to see the younger generation test themselves against the best,” says Tamang, who feels the race can be good for training for races abroad too.

Reposted from:

All photos: Manjushree Trail Race

[Reposting an article from the excellent Freetrail online magazine (MAY 9, 2023) about Sunmaya Budha looking at her amazing success last year in Chamonix after taking up sponsorship with The North Face Adventure Team, and how she got there. Find Sunmaya on Instagram]

Nepali runner Sunmaya Budha running
Credit: Asia Pacific Adventure

Sunmaya Budha is the 24-year old trail runner from Jumla, Nepal who stormed into the trail running limelight with her strong runner-up performance behind Blandine L’Hirondel at the 2022 CCC by UTMB (Courmayeur – Champex Au Lac – Chamonix) 100-kilometer event. L’Hirondel won the race in 11:40 with Budha crossing the line only five minutes behind her – both athletes well under the previous course record of 11:57 by Miao Yao.

For Budha this wasn’t her first time racing outside of Asia, but this time she was better prepared in terms of training and nutrition, along with great race with support from The North Face Adventure Team. Before her break out performance at CCC she also has wins at the 2021 Thailand by UTMB 100-kilometer, and the 2019 Oman by UTMB 50-kilometer to her name among various other great results. We however might have never seen her race in any event had she not overcome a challenging upbringing in a culture where according to Budha more value is often placed on boys. She was sickly and eventually set up for an arranged marriage, but she was supported by her mother and her prowess in trail running led her down a different path.

“My parents gave birth to one boy and then seven girls, they wanted to have one more boy in case something happen to my older brother. When I was very young I was on the verge of death due to sickness and malnutrition, and perhaps it wouldn’t have made any difference to my family if I was alive or dead. My mum said she looked into my eyes when I was sick and felt a strong determination to keep me alive. So she took me to work in mountains with her and used all her knowledge of natural medicine and prayers until I showed signs of surviving. I am immensely grateful to my mother for my life. I want to make her proud. I want my parents to believe that I was no less than a boy and I will be capable someday of taking care of the family much better than a boy,” said Budha.

Read the rest of the article here: https://freetrail.com/escaping-traditions-on-trails-with-sunmaya-budha/

Credit: Asia Pacific Adventure
Nepali female runners
Priya Rai winning the women’s race in record time.

The 2nd edition of Panchase 55 km, a hilly circumnavigation of Pokhara’s Fewa Lake, like many races in the pandemic era, was long overdue. The 1st edition took place in 2018, but then due to COVID-19 and other issues, the 2nd edition had to wait until April 1st, 2023.

At this time of year, there was always the chance of heavy rain and race cancellation. Happily, the weather was perfect for the most part of the race, and the event was successful.

The winner Arjun Kulung Rai broke the previous record of 06:22:00, by completing the race in 06:06:00. Priya Rai also broke previous record of 08:29:00, by completing the race in 07:25:00.

The next trail running events in Pokhara

The next event from Pokhara Trail Series is all about chasing the sunrise. The organiser Rajiv Shrestha is making a bold offer in order to build the trail running momentum in Pokhara. The entry fee is only Rs. 100! “Morning shows the day,” he says, “this is offering platform for runners to come experience the sport, and perhaps surprise themselves.”

Find out more: CHASING SUNRISE: METHLANG RUN 25 KM & 5 KM

Then if you are trailed up enough, there is the opportunity to race any of these distances: 80 km, 55 km, 21 km, 10 km & 5 km. The 55 km of this event is the same route as the Panchase 55 km, which is being merged together with the longer and shorter races.

Find out more: OVER THE CLOUDS ULTRA 80 KM, 55 KM, MOUNTAIN HALF-MARATHON & FUN RUN 5 KM

Panchase 55 km results:

Men 55 km

  1. Arjun Kulung Rai – 6:06:00 (new course record)
  2. Niroj Chhetri – 6:20:00
  3. Raibat Dahal – 6:52:00

Women 55 km

  1. Priya Rai – 7:25:00 (new course record)
  2. Rashila Tamang – 7:59:00
  3. Anita Rai – 7:59:02

Route and elevation profile

You can find the route at https://tracedetrail.fr/en/trace/trace/217647

Every year the Mustang Trail Race heads up this small hill just north of Kagbeni, and almost always the first man and women to the top win the race nine days later.

two runners in Mustang
Suman Kulung and Anita Rai, winners of the male and female categories.

There is a good reason for this. Most of the participants in the race are not from Nepal and have no adaptation to altitude. Occasionally this rule is broken, with the occasional elite athlete from Colorado, USA running out at the front. But generally it is the young Nepali talents that are invited every year, that can climb the first hill effortlessly, and then stretch away from there.

Stage races have another issue to contend with: the likelihood of people to miss, withdraw from or lose many hours on a stage, due to a bout of travellers stomach, which is unfortunately reasonably common for first time visitors to Nepal.

The official results exclude those who did not complete a stage, but the working results used during the race, don’t exclude anyone, but just rank first by number of stages completed, then total time.

Another peculiarity of this race, and the Manaslu Trail Race (and no doubt several others), is the check-in, check-out checkpoints. We visit some stunning locations, including an ancient 8th century monastery, apparently the first Buddhist monastery in the Himalayan region, and it would be foolish to race on by without taking time to stop and appreciate. So the time spent at the checkpoint is deducted from the finishers time. This of course makes it confusing at the finish line, as the order people arrive is not the same as the time ranking.

Results

Women:

  1. 24:20:18 – Anita Rai (Nepal)
  2. 27:57:08 – Katherine Macfarlane (UK)
  3. 30:02:08 – Ashton Teulon (Canada)

Men:

  1. 19:38:31 – Suman Kulung (Nepal)
  2. 25:32:24 – Simon Statman (UK)
  3. 28:14:37 – Ondrej Simetka (Czechia)

Find all of the Mustang Trail Race results on its results page.

A quick summary of the events at the Trail World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria. Nepal had 3 individual runners in the race: Sunmaya Budha, Arjun Kulung Rai, and Sworupa Khadka, all competing in the “long”Trail Long” race of ~86 km with D+ of 6500 (the total climb). That is a huge amount of climbing for such a distance. The weather was hot, and all in all it looked like a crazily tough experience for anyone starting the race.

Sunmaya and Arjun are sponsored by The North Face Adventure Team in Hong Kong, and Director Ryan Blair summarised their team’s efforts as follows,

“Crazy tough day for everyone just to finish that brutal course. … Arjun still managed to also hang on in the top 50 despite leg cramps last 7 hours of race. Sunmaya is also in good spirits despite her injury disappointment. Huge congrats to anyone finishing today’s World Champ course – a true mountain running monster no one will ever forget!”

Earlier Sunmaya had to withdraw. We can imagine how disappointing that must have been for her. Ryan posted,

“Big drama on [the] course! …Sunmaya had to withdraw from race…her calf strain injury from couple months ago came back and too much pain and big risk for further injury. She’s super bummed but she knows she tried her best. Sometimes we all have bad luck – even the current world champion today from France also had to stop after 2 hours from injury. Sunmaya will take the cable car down from the top of mountain so can rest the injury and cause no more issue.”

Alpine scenery
It had little bit of everything – alpine mountains, forests, snow, mud, ridge, rocks, east coast kinda trails with roots and rocks, runnable part, steep downhills and climbs, tarmac, cow traffic. Photo: Sworupa Khadka

Sworupa ended the race at about 60 km. She said:

“I was stopped at mile 40. We were already on the tarmac and I was passing runners hammering 8:30-9 minute mile pace to somehow make it [to the next cutoff] by 8:30pm but they stopped me at 7pm. I’m happy I was able to run all the beautiful and tough sections of course. Learnt a lot!

Looks like lot of DNFs or missing the cutoffs especially for the women. The cutoff was kind of aggressive for this course, but well…it’s the world championships.”

This is the third time Nepal has appeared at the Trail World Championships. Nepal also sent a team to Spain in 2018 (report here), and to Portugal in 2019 (report here).

Congratulations to Arjun for his 50th place in the world championships, and to Sunmaya and Sworupa for doing their level best on the extreme course. Congratulations to Ryan Blair and Preeti Khattri for making everything happen to get Arjun and Sunmaya to the world championships. Funding and visas don’t grow on trees and it is always a huge amount of work to help Nepal’s athletes race overseas.

Running Annapurna

This year was the first Fishtail Race with a 100 km distance! This “ultra marathon” version of the regular Fishtail Race with marathon and shorter distances had a total of 19 participants in the 50 km category and 7 participants in the very challenging 100 km category (4 male, 3 female) from 6 different countries.

See race photos here.

The race is organised by Jagan Timilsina (see profile) and his Himalayan Trail Running team. Jagan is a veteran of racing, race directing and organising, and previously worked on the Annapurna 100 race in this area. The team has become one of the most professional organisers in Nepal with a dedicated race team.

The race started at 5:30 am from Ghachowk and followed a challenging course through Hile Kharka, Kumai, Korchan, Meshroom, Purumdhum, Saidhighatta, Sidding, Low Camp, Forest Camp, Suire Kharka, and Dhampus (50K finish), Austrian Camp, Kande, Bhadaure, Panchase, Bhumdi, Pumdi, Sutpa, Ranibon, Damsite, and Lakeside (100 km finish).

The winners of the 50 km category:

Males

  1. Mr. Arjun Kulung Rai (9:11:16),
  2. Mr. Man Kumar Roka Magar (10:03:06), and
  3. Mr. Niroj Bhatta Chhetri (10:06:41)

Females

  1. Ms. Anita Rai (11:46:23),
  2. Ms. Anita Rai (B) (12:13:28), and
  3. Ms. Aigul Москва Ganieva (14:21:36)

All demonstrated their exceptional endurance and dedication.

The 100 km winners:

Mr. Ashok Baram, for completing the race in 20:10:55 and Mr. Bhumiraj Roka for coming in second at 27:58:13.

The race was made possible by full cooperation from Machhapuchhre Rural Municipality, Gandaki Province and the Province Sports Council, all of the many hotels and tea houses along the route, as well as the villagers, local authorities, volunteers and supporters.

Useful links

By Tayte Pollmann for the American Trail Running Association

Original article posted on November 7, 2018. Reported for posterity!

In this interview, I speak with Jimi Oostrum, Dutch expatriate trail runner, race organizer, and UNICEF education expert, who shares his insights into the Nepalese trail running culture from living in Nepal for the past 10 years.

TAYTE: Hi Jimi! Tell us about your running background.
JIMI: About 8 years ago, I had a football injury and needed quite a bit of reconstruction on my left knee. I tore my ACL, PCL, meniscus and even something called a PLC, which I’d never heard of before. I had my ligaments replaced and started doing physical therapy while in Nepal. The physiotherapist I was seeing suggested I hadn’t been running properly so this injury was an opportunity to start from scratch and learn to run with proper technique. It was only after the injury that I became more conscious of my running form, was able to learn how to run correctly and run farther. Now, I can run ultramarathons, where as before the surgery I hadn’t raced further than a half marathon.

Currently I have a very demanding job, so I have to find time to squeeze in my runs in the evenings and on the weekends joined by my Nepali and foreign trail running friends in Kathmandu. Over the past few years, I started helping with local trail races by setting up logistics, marking courses and marketing events so they can become self-sustainable.

TAYTE: How did you end up living and working in Nepal?
JIMI: I visited Nepal for the first time in 2003 for about 4 to 5 months as I wanted to travel the world and to see the tallest mountains in the world (very important for a Dutch guy!). After visiting Nepal, I figured out I wanted to combine my education background with development work which motivated me to get my masters in international development studies. After that, I came back to Nepal for work in 2009 and by 2014, found a job with UNICEF in Nepal, which is the job I currently have. It’s a high intensity job, but I find balance by putting on my shoes and going for runs on the ridge trails around Kathmandu.

TAYTE: You work for UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund), the United Nations agency responsible for the protection, survival and education of children in over 190 countries around the world. Could you tell us about the work you do?
JIMI: I’m very lucky. The experience of having worked with and in the Nepalese Government for a decade has given me a unique experience. UNICEF recognized that there was a need for strengthening a common approach on making sure every child gets the education it deserves, according to their needs and context and in a safe environment. Through this I ended up supporting the Nepalese ministry of education and the development partners in working towards that goal.

In Nepal, like in many other developing countries, the public education system faces a lot of challenges. As a result, we need to make sure the government uses its scarce resources to strengthen this system so we can get children into school, ensure they stay in school and eventually leave school with the right skills and knowledge.

When Nepal had a major earthquake in 2015, my job partly shifted to coordinating the post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. It was important to make sure not all the resources were going to the villages that had the best connections, but to those where the damage and need was the biggest. At the same time, we needed to ensure that schools were rebuild with resistant designs as the next earthquake in Nepal is not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’. 5 years after, almost 7,000 out of the 9,000 schools that were destroyed have been rebuild, most of them by local communities.

TAYTE: What’s it like to facilitate these interactions between development partners and the government?
JIMI: We don’t compromise on the interventions from partners, but we also don’t move ahead without the government either. In some ways it’s much easier to do things without the government, but that’s not sustainable in the long term. For example, building a school is the easy part. The harder challenge it getting teachers who are going to be paid for the next few decades. That’s where the government really needs to be a part of the solution. In the end it’s going to be the government that needs to pay for and sustain the education system. That’s why cooperation between the partners and the government is so important.

TAYTE: I understand that the trail running in Nepal is growing in popularity. What’s been your experience?
JIMI: Every year we have more and more races in Nepal and we also see a lot of Nepalese regularly showing up at these races, which is great. For races or just going out on a long group run, the Kathmandu area is great for trail runners. Thirty minutes from the city there are plenty of hills and the valley is also a playground for trail runners.

TAYTE: The story of Nepalese child-soldier turned international trail running superstar Mira Rai, has helped put Nepalese trail running on a world stage. What is your impression of the local trail running culture and strength of the best Nepalese trail runners?
JIMI: I have many good trail running friends living in all different districts in Nepal, including the hilly parts where Mira Rai is from, which has a strong trail running culture. The Annapurna region also has many incredible runners who have never had much exposure beyond Nepal.

For many years there have been local races organized by the army or youth clubs that nobody ever heard about. It’s only now that races are getting more organized and well established that people outside Nepal are getting interested.  There are incredibly high profile races organized to the max, and getting a big international marketing push like the final of the Salomon Golden Trail Series. We have about two or three of those very well organized races a year, but also small local races in villages. In general, there’s a broad spectrum of event sizes.

There’s also more demand from Nepalese runners who want to participate in races with a proper time keeping system, bibs, and other formal race requirements. That’s where the trail running scene in Nepal is going through a major transformation and becoming much more visible. It’s this transformation that is helping put local runners on a bigger global stage.

Mira Rai has greatly increased the visibility of trail running in Nepal. She recently started the Mira Rai Initiative, a trail running training group for Nepalese girls. I watched some of Mira’s trainees run the Jumla Rara Marathon, a challenging trail race which goes over two 4,000-meter (13,123 feet) passes and ends near Rara Lake. It’s beautiful but very tough and these girls ran the passes like they were in the flatlands. It was amazing! Mira is an incredible runner but she’s not the only one. There are districts full of girls who have the potential to run like her. Trail running in Nepal is now at the stage where we’re excited to see who the future stars will be.

This past November, I went to race Oman by UTMB in Birkat Al Mouz, Oman where Nepalese athletes smashed the 50 km course! In the women’s race, Mira Rai placed third, and her trainee, Sunmaya Budha placed first. In the men’s race Bhim Gurung placed first. As long as Nepalese runners are familiar with the trails and know what to expect, they’re going to be hard to beat.

We also saw incredibly talented Nepalese trail runners race against some of the best trail runners in the world at the 2019 Salomon Golden Trail Series final in Pokhara, Nepal. Several of Mira’s trainees were in the top 10 of the women’s race while on the men’s side, Bhim Gurung placed seventh overall. He would have placed higher except he took a wrong turn. Up until checkpoint 6, Bhim was running just three minutes behind race leader, Kilian Jornet. There’s a real push for these Nepali athletes to be more visible and have the opportunity to compete in bigger races so it’s a really exciting time.

TAYTE: Who is competing in Nepalese trail races? Is it mostly foreigners or locals?
JIMI: Some of the older races in Nepal like the Annapurna 100 and the Everest Marathon, traditionally get more foreigners to compete but other big races like the Jumla Rara are mostly locals with just a handful of foreigners. Overall, the majority of race participants are Nepalese. For the VonKathmandu Trail Race Series that local race organizer and photographer, Anuj Adhikari, and I put on, there are about 300 participants and only 50 to 70 are foreigners.

TAYTE: Trekkers are still Nepal’s largest group of trail users. What is the interaction between the trekking and trail running cultures? How do the two groups share the trails? What kinds of people do trekking and who does trail running, or is there overlap?
JIMI: There’s large user overlap between trekking and trail running in Nepal. Trekking is a major source of employment in the hilly districts of Nepal, which is also where Nepal’s best trail runners predominantly come from. Most of the competitive trail runners, if they’re not in the army, are trekkers or porters because that’s where they can earn a regular income.

Trail running alone is still something that’s hard to make a living off of for Nepalese. There’s more and more races and prize money, but in terms of sponsorships it’s still an under-developed market. The best Nepalese runners do come to trail races, but they’re porters for most of the year. It’s a career which keeps them fit for running trails!

As in the United States, Nepal also has an activity combining trekking and trail running called “fastpacking.” It’s traditional trekking reinvented for speed. Fastpackers run traditional trekking routes in Nepal with minimal equipment. Organized fastpacking adventures companies will ship clients’ heavy bags to each of their destinations while the clients run. On the Annapurna Circuit, trekkers complete the route in 20 days while fastpackers do it in only 7 to 10 days.

TAYTE: Who organizes fastpacking adventures in Nepal?
JIMI: There are Nepali companies, such as Freedom Adventure Treks, the Mira Rai Initiative and Pyrénées Nepal Treks and Trails, as well as the US-based Himalayan Adventure Labs. Another great resource for DIY fasterpackers is the Trail Running Nepal website which offers great tips for fastpacking in Nepal with the following articles here and here.

TAYTE: What is your favorite thing about living in Nepal?
JIMI: I love that life is very unstructured here. Nepal has so many logistical challenges, such as traffic. For example, if you try to get somewhere by bus and there’s been a landslide, you might arrive two days later. There can also be sudden blackouts. That’s just a daily reality in Nepal. The infrastructure is vulnerable in many ways, so visitors and locals have to come with a certain level of flexibility. I like that. You work with what you got and you adapt based on what comes your way. I also love coming back home to the Netherlands for the holidays, but it seems like everything has an app developed for it. It’s quite overwhelming coming back to a such a highly structured way of living after being in Nepal.

In Nepal, you see people taking on enormous challenges on a daily basis. Nepali society is dealing with really serious stuff such as floods in the plains, the irregularity of the seasons that leads to crop failure to name just a couple. Because of this, the Nepalese have a great spirit of resilience. The 2015 earthquake in Nepal was absolutely horrible, but then the way the society responded to it was incredible. I remember everyone gathering their personal resources and loading them into minivans to be sent out into the hills and find villages that were in need. Quite often there were stories where one of these vans came through a village and the people had been basically living under a tree. Someone from the village would say, “leave half of it here and drive a couple more miles because there’s a village up there that needs it more.” Their generosity is incredible.

Living here is a reality check on a daily basis. You’re constantly aware that there are things far bigger than your personal little problems, priorities and tensions. It pushes you think for the greater good. Nepalese people think as a community. They approach the world with positive curiosity and a laugh until proven otherwise.

TAYTE: One of my personal favorite discoveries from the Nepalese culture was their staple dish, Dal Bhat, consisting of rice and lentils. Are you also a fan?
JIMI: I don’t think there’s much better running food than rice and lentils! One of my friends living in Nepal did UTMB last year and we received text messages from him 20K into the race, where he wrote “All I need now is one dal bhat!” Especially for longer runs, it’s great energy. When you’re served dal bhat in someone’s home, you’re expected to keep eating until you can’t eat anymore. There’s an art to eating three mountains of rice and the fourth plate you finally refuse.

TAYTE: What is one of your favorite memories from the last ten years living in Nepal?
JIMI: One of my favorite memories was in 2015, months after the earthquake. We organized a race as a relief effort, the Sindhupalchowk International Trail.  We were a bit worried if it was appropriate to come into a district where 90 percent of the buildings were flat or gone. We asked ourselves if we should we really come with a bus full of people and do something that’s fun? In the end, we decided to put on the race. Race day morning, the whole surrounding village showed up with a band to support the runners. We ran through these villages that had been absolutely destroyed and people were cooking and making things for the checkpoints and offering water. This year, we finished the 5th edition of the race. That first year was very special. Everyone had a break from the challenges of the earthquake and had a party.

TAYTE: How are trail races in Nepal different than trail races in other countries?
JIMI: There are many diverse landscapes along a Nepalese trail running course. Take the Annapurna 100 for example. The course climbs exposed ridges all the way up to high camp at 3500 meters and ends next Pehwa Lake on the edge of Pokhara which is just 800 meter above sea level. The diversity of landscapes is incredible!

Personally, I do two to three international races each year, depending on how much time I can get off work. I raced Oman by UTMB (Oman), PTL (France), Ben Nevis Ultra (Scotland, U.K.). These races were quite special, but I prefer Nepalese races because of their unique environments and interactions with locals.

TAYTE: What is something first-time trail runners in Nepal might not expect?
JIMI: Nepalese trails are very technical. Many times I’ve seen experienced international runners who are stunned that they’ve only covered a short distance in a given amount of time. The altitude combined with the highly technical trail surface make times slower. If you come out to Nepal, you’re going to have amazing races, but prepare yourself mentally. It’s going to be a long day. If it’s your first run in Nepal, don’t be too ambitious by expecting to finish in the time it might take at a race back home.

Races outside Nepal can be tough and technical, but somehow it’s still more straightforward. In Nepal you can come across obstacles, look at them and think “Well, how am I going to get through this?” In the end, you just have to be creative and make it work. That’s where the real adventure is. People who race in Nepal often do come back, so must be a good sign that people are enjoying the races.

TAYTE: What are some essential pieces of kit going out on a trail run in Nepal?
JIMI: Be sure to have enough battery power in your torch (flash) light! Also, I like to take a lot of dried food and nuts, which are easy to come by in Nepal. In Nepal, you still can’t get energy gels, so bring some from home if you need them for longer runs. Water purification tablets are a good idea for runners on more remote runs.

TAYTE: Tell us about your training and racing?
JIMI: When I sign up for a 100 km race or longer, I try to run 10 to 15 km of uphill every day for two months. I get up really early to go into the hills and valleys, or I run on a treadmill at the end of the day. To be ready, you have to wear your body out. The training starts when your legs get tired and your little stability muscles start to kick in. It’s those little muscles you really need to train. Then of course there’s the beautiful window of 10 to 15 days before the race where you just sit and eat and hardly do anything.

I also cycle everyday 20 to 25 km through the hills of Kathmandu to get to my work. That’s a good form of daily movement. Every weekend, I do one or two specific runs. Saturday morning I might run in our trail race series in Kathmandu or do a small group run. Saturday afternoon I do a social run with a large group. All the running and cycling to work keeps me fairly fit!

Trail running access is great where I live. My home is on the Northside of Kathmandu, 10 to 15 minutes biking from the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park. I can run up from the entrance gate to the top of a peak, which is about an 800 meter climb. It’s good training! Kathmandu is a very chaotic town, but once you’re outside the rim road, it’s beautiful.

TAYTE: Do the trails in Nepal get crowded?
JIMI: The trails aren’t crowded. People who live in Kathmandu do a lot of morning walks, but they all do it around and in the city. It’s crazy, if you get up at 4:00 a.m. there’s loads of people walking at fast paces in the streets, which lasts until about 5:00 or 5:30 a.m., then they go home and start their day. On the weekends, you see a lot more Nepalese and foreigners during the day, but in the morning there’s no one there. I also do night runs on Friday and no one is on the trails in the late evenings. The national parks at night are something special. There’s a lot of wildlife in them. I’ve seen some leopards, but it’s never led to any scary encounters. Fortunately humans are not on their menu.

TAYTE: Could you tell us about the races you organize?
JIMI: We organize the Kathmandu Valley Rim 100 Mile in March. Every month we have the VonKathmandu Trail Series, and the Sindhupalchowk International Trail Race race in June which is right before the monsoon. Also, we’re starting to work with Jagan Timilsina who organizes the Pokhara trail race series. This past December was the first race in the series, the Fishtail Trail Race, which offered 30 km, 10 km, 5 km, and 2 km race distances.

What we’re trying to do with our races is to make them accessible to everyone. People look at a race like the Annapurna 100 and say I will never do that. Our VonKathmandu trail race series is very approachable, with distances from 2 km all the way up to 50 km. We see runners who were running 7 km the first season, and are now running 15 km and asking about the 20 km races. People can do a lot more than they think as long as they work up to it.

TAYTE: What’s next? What plans do you have in the short and long term for your trail running work in Nepal?
JIMI: Right now we’re trying to work together on a number of local races across the country, such as Mira Rai’s Bhojpur Trail Race. Our goal is to set up a league of trail races, where local runners can get points that can be transferred across the races. Runners who do well will be given opportunities to enter into the other races. We have so many amazing talents who are following in Mira Rai’s footsteps, so this league of races would help give them visibility and a chance to participate in races abroad.

We’re also looking into getting a national trail running association going, but unfortunately that part of the government is especially tricky deal with. We want to make sure that the association would become a body that supports trail running and not exploits it. People like Richard Bull, who manages Trail Running Nepal, and who helped Mira Rai find success on the international stage, are amazing, but the problem is that Richard, and myself will at some point start doing something else or not being in Nepal anymore. Something permanent needs to be established in Nepal for the long term well-being of its trail runners.

By Tayte Pollmann for the American Trail Running Association

Original article posted on November 7, 2018. Reported for posterity!

On October 27, 2018 I witnessed the 13th edition of the Annapurna 100 trail race, organized by Trail Running Nepal offering 50 km and 100 km distances with over 3,000 and 6,000 meters of elevation gain respectively.

The Course

The races started and finished in the small Nepalese village of Dhampus in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas. (link on map) and I hiked and ran over 25 kilometers of the course with the film and photography crew during the race. On course, I hesitantly walked across a shaky wire-bridge over one-hundred feet long, danced over technical rooty downhills in dense Oregon-like forests, learned new breathing techniques running to 3,500 meters at Mardi Himal High Camp, timed my foot plants descending quickly on ancient stone steps, smiled and said “Namaste” to every runner I could, received cheers from villagers, ate Snickers at aid stations and embraced the magnificent views of the 8,000-meter Annapurna and the holy Machhapuchhare (a.k.a. The Fishtail) mountains.

I was fortunate to have spent the night before the race at Mardi Himal High Camp, the race’s highpoint. I awoke on race morning before sunrise and was greeted to the unforgettable sight of more stars than sky. The silhouettes of The Fishtail and Annapurna were slowly filled with color by sunrise. The Annapurna 100 undoubtedly provided an experience of the Himalayas that lived up to my expectations and fantasies about these majestic mountains.

Read the rest of the article on the ATRA website.

Nepalese runner jagan timilsina

By Tayte Pollmann for the American Trail Running Association, reposted for posterity!

Original article posted on October 4, 2019

Nepalese runner jagan timilsina

Trail runners from around the world are turning their attention to Nepal this Friday, October 25, for the final of the 2019 Salomon Golden Trail Series. The series consists of six iconic races: the Pikes Peak Marathon, Colorado, USA, Zegama-Aizkorri, Spain, Sierre-Zinal, Switzerland, Marathon du Mont-Blanc, France, Dolomyths Run Skyrace, Italy, and the Ring of Steall Skyrace, UK. The top 10 female and male runners from the series are invited to compete at the final in Nepal. Some of the world’s best trail runners will compete in the final, including Kilian JornetMaude MathysSage Canaday, and Ruth Croft.

Course scouting duties at the 2018 Annapurna 100 with my buddy Samdup Gurung. Read more about my adventures with Samdup.

The media surrounding this Golden Trail Series finale is focused on capturing the compelling race among elite trail runners in dreamy Nepalese mountain landscapes, but there is another behind-the-scenes story going largely untold. For this article, I’d like to share with you a story about the amazing Nepalese people who are organizing this final event and who grow trail running as a sport in their country. For insights into what Nepalese trail running is really like, I include an interview with Nepalese trail running legend, Jagan Timilsina, who will also manage race logistics for the final this Friday.

My Trip to Nepal
In October 2018, I had the opportunity to travel to Nepal and meet the race organizers of the Annapurna 100, the same group that manages the Annapurna Trail Marathon for Salomon’s Golden Trail Series. See the video below to watch speedy Nepalese trail runners set up the Annapurna 100 course the day before the race.

Annapurna 100 marking team rainy season recce

Photos from the 2018 Annapurna 100 races can be found on Facebook.

One of my good friends from my trip to Nepal, Jagan Timilsina, Nepalese trail runner, mountaineer, managing director for Freedom Adventure Treks, and head of race logistics for the Annapurna Trail Marathon, shares with us in the following interview a little about himself, how he discovered trail running, what trail running looks like in Nepal, and his plans for future trail running adventures.

TAYTE: Hi Jagan. Could you tell us a little about yourself? How did you discover your passion for running mountains?

JAGAN: I was born in a remote village in the Annapurnas near Pokhara, a tourist city, and was introduced to a trekking culture from a young age. I began my career as a porter for a world-renowned trekking company, Himalayan Encounters. With every trek, my passion for mountains grew. I have since then forayed different adventures in the mountains as a trekker, mountaineer, outdoor instructor and ultra trail runner. So far, I have climbed 25 glaciated peaks, including Mount Everest. In 2017, I won the Great Himal Race.

Read the rest of the article on the ATRA website.

Mustang drone image

Here we go back to the 2018 Mustang Trail Race with a rare bird’s eye view. If you want to see the best of trail running in Nepal, then it has to be trail running in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal.

In this video, “Mustang from the Sky” a drone follows the runners across various landscapes on different stages of the race.

The Mustang Trail Race is a multi-day Stage Race on trails, totalling 170 km, which might not sound like much until you understand that the average altitude is around 3500m, or some 11,500 feet.

If you are interested in learning more about the Mustang Trail Race, then visit the home page of this site. Otherwise just enjoy the video.

Thanks to Anuj Adhikary for the video production.

Suman Kulung running
Suman Kulung running

Newsflash: Suman Kulung Rai of Solukhumbu won this edition of the Panchpokhari Winter Trail Marathon organized today at Sindhupalchak’s Panchpokhari…

Other results are not yet available.

Notes about the race:

Panchpokhari Winter Ultra Trail Half Marathon-2021 will be organised for the promotion of tourist destinations at Panchpokhari Rural Municipality in the Sindhupalchowk including Panchpokhari Kunda.

To be organised jointly by the Sports Development Council, Bagmati Province, and Panchpokhari Sports Development Committee, the race that is scheduled to take place on November 13 aims to promote tourist areas like Panchpokhari, Aamayangri, Dhukpu, Minjung, Manam, Amilopani, Dukhang, Haveli, Dragan Gufa, Nagidanda, Raithaneshwori, and Chyochyo Danda, said the rural municipality chairperson Tashi Lama. Panchpokhari Kunda is situated in the ninth highest place in the world.

Over 150 athletes including Nepali people from various walks of life and foreign nationals including from SAARC countries are expected to participate in the race, he said. The annual event was halted last year due to COVID-19.

five lakes
Panchpokhari. The high point of this race.
jagan timilsina endurance trail runner

jagan timilsina endurance trail runner

Jagan Nath Timilsina comes from the village of Sarangkot in Pokhara, Nepal.

He started his career as a load carrying porter in the tourism sector in 1998 at an age of 14. Slowly he worked his way up to be working as a trekking guide and then later, as a mountain guide.

From carrying 30 to 40 kg at age 14, he eventually reached the heights of Mount Everest in 2012 and Ama Dablam in 2018.

In 2015 he established an adventure company specializing in trekking and mountaineering Freedom Adventure Treks, which employs 25 seasonal and permanent staff, and has since operated trips for almost 2500 clients sourced from four international parent companies based in the US and Europe.

Jagan has learned that it pays to dream big. After the expense and logistics of expedition climbing, Jagan discovered the simple pleasure of light and fast trail running.

In 2017 he entered his first race called The Great Himal Race that runs across the high Himalayas from Kanchenjunga to Mount Kailash in Tibet.

The race was 1600 km and he won first position in a time just over 45 days (315 hours 11 min).

This motivated Jagan to start a second business – Himalayan Trail Running – a company focused solely on organizing trail running races and trips. Himalayan Trail Running has been commissioned to organize several international races in Nepal, including the 2019 Golden Trail World Series Final, the Annapurna Mandala Race and Everest 135, a 135 mile race in the high altitude region close to Mount Everest.

In 2015, Jagan founded the Freedom Social Foundation, a charity with the aim of helping young and particularly less-advantaged children experience and learn from the outdoors.

In 2019, Salomon, the main sponsors of the Golden Trail World Series donated €5000 to the Foundation. This financial boost funded a series of special outdoor training camps such as the one shown below. Greg Vollet, the International Marketing Manager at Salomon in France, said, “We are really happy to see these images. You make our day … that we are helping this make to happen!”

Manuel Ruiz Quilez managed last August 3 to complete The Great Himalaya Trail and become the first Spanish to perform alone and without assistance the 2,175 km of travel.

It is one of the longest and tallest trails in the world. In addition to passing along the highest peaks in the world and visiting some of the most remote communities on Earth, it also crosses lush valleys, deserted high mountain plains and other incredible landscapes.

The trail runs through the entire Himalayas in Nepal, from the Taplejung district in the East to Humla and Darchula in the West.

The Great Himalaya Trail
I invite you, Documentary presentation, colloquium.
(The Great Himalayan Trail)
In Solitaire – Self-sufficiency. Ultra trail
Total kilometers 2,175Km.
Elevation + 93.503m.

CEY – Yecla Excursionist Center
From March 9 to 12 – Auditorium
Yecla – Murcia – Spain
https://centroexcursionistayecla.es/
Manuel Ruiz Quilez
The Great Himalaya Trail
https://www.youtube.com/feed/my_videos – Youtube
Piccadilly Yecla

Khiji Demba Marathon 2nd edition

See the event listing here. Call +977 984-9598213 for details.

About OTDC full Ultra Marathon 2020 (Second Edition) 

“The OTDC ultra Marathon” is a challenging multi-stage trail race passing through some of Nepal’s most beautiful Himalaya landscapes with Mt. Everest & Mt. Gaurishanker as a backdrop. Mt Everest is the highest mountain in the world and Mt Gaurishanker is considered as a holy mountain for Hindus and Buddhists. The event will be divided into male and female solo races.

Trail Racing has been an emerging trend in Nepal whether that is in cities or remote areas of the country. Trail Races in the Everest and lower Everest regions have been especially successful and trendy both among foreign and local (professional) runners due to the immediate highlight they bring and the new sense of achievement and experience they offer to the participants and organizers both. Inspired by all these successes, we are eager to organize the second OTDC Ultra Marathon.

Runners from all walks of life can take part in this event. “The OTDC ultra Marathon” is not just a running event, but it is also a truly a once in a lifetime experience and it will support the local community by organizing various different programs such a health camp, education, awareness program to public and homestay program right after the Trail Race.

The Ultra Marathon Event itinerary 

1st March – Runners from outside the region drive from Kathmandu to Khiji palate and overnight in tea house

2nd March – Trekking from Jhapre to Pikey Peak Base camp(5 hours), the local runners gathering in Pikey too. Overnight in tents in Pikey

3rd of March – Wake up early in the morning and light breakfast. The start of the Trail run after breakfast. Starting point Khiji Palate, finish in Khijee Phalate. Overnight in Khijee Phalate for the runners outside the region.

5th of March – Runners from outside the region drive back to Kathmandu

The OTDC 42 km Ultra Marathon

The route of the race follows the beautiful pastures between Khiji (2500m) and Demba (3150 m) of the Okhaldhunga District. We can see the splendid scenery of the Himalayas (such as Mt Everest, Mt Makalu, Mt Kanchenjunga, Mt Lhotse, Mt Nuptse, and many others) on our race trail.

Demba is a newly inaugurated trekking trail with great potential to be a popular lower Himalaya trekking trail. The trail leads us to the remote and unexplored Sherpa village of Okhaldhunga. We can witness beautiful different species of Rhododendron trees that bears our national flower. The area of the trail is home to the endangered species of Red Panda and also our national bird Danphe.

Last time we organized the race in the Pikey-Demba Trail in April 2019. The marathon was a successful program with the participation of more than the expected number of people. We saw both national and foreign participants. People also came from remote areas of neighboring districts. The enthusiastic participation of people made the marathon a grand success. Organizing the marathon has also been a great step to promote local tourism. The success of the previous marathon has made the organizer community excited for the new program. We hope to organize Taklung Demba race with even greater success with the well-managed team.

About the organizers:

Okhaldhunga Tourism Development Committee is a non-profit organization, led by tourism entrepreneurs and social workers with the motive to promote local-level tourism in Okhaldhunga region.

The Prize Amounts for Winners:

POSITIONMALEFEMALE
FirstNRs. 60,000/-NRs. 70,000/-
SecondNRs. 50,000/-NRs. 50,000/-
ThirdNRs. 40,000/-NRs. 40,000/-

 

 

2020 full Khiji Demba marathon 2nd edition

Reposted via: Mira Rai initiative organises cleanup of Champadevi hiking trail.

Mira Rai Initiative (MRI) organised a clean-up and awareness campaign along the Champa Devi Trail on Saturday.

MRI mobilised 65 volunteers who hiked the trail and picked up the litter and debris that had been left behind. The volunteers also placed 30 dokos (organic bins,) 20 sign-boards and notices that prohibited tossing of any waste throughout the trail.

Mira Rai Initiative also coordinated with the local authorities such as Dakshinkali municipality and local recyclers (kabaadi) to ensure the arrangement for proper management of the waste that are collected from the bins. Altogether, the volunteers were able to collect 80 bags of trash that comprised of glass, paper, papers from food wrappers, beverages, and straws.

Founded in 2017, Mira Rai Initiative (MRI) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) committed to supporting trail-running and trail running community in Nepal. The organization was founded by the ultra-trail runner Mira Rai whose story continues to inspire trail-runners all over the world. Ever since her debut in the trail running scene in 2014, Mira has won numerous races and titles both nationally and internationally. She is one of the most celebrated athletes in the world who has won several accolades, awards, and recognition such as the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, 2017 and the Asia Game Changer Awards, 2018.

sunmaya budha oman by utmb 2019

Nepali runners reach podium at Oman by UTMB

Congratulations to Bhim Bahadur Gurung and Sunmaya Budha for their first places in the 50 km race at Oman by UTMB. Mira Rai came in third.

sunmaya budha oman by utmb 2019

Nepali athlete Bhim Bahadur Gurung ranked first in the 50-kilometre ultra race in the desert landscape of Oman on Friday, November 29 in 05:26:22, twelve minutes clear of the second-placed runner from Germany.

Likewise, Sunmaya Budha of Jumla was ranked first among the female runners clocking 06:12:26, twenty minutes clear of the second runner. She was placed 6th in the overall ranking.

Mira Rai, who came third in 06:43:08, said, “This was a wonderful race in an amazing landscape with very great athletes competing from so many different countries. We are happy to race here and it is especially great that Bhim and Sunmaya won. My training is increasing slowly and I am very happy with the third position today.”

Bhim Bahadur Gurung

UTMB by Oman. Al Hambra. 29th November 2019. Bhim Bahadur Guring , TheWinner of the 2019 edition 50km race, runners pictured here crossing the finish line. Credit Lloyd Images / Kelvin Bruce

Mira Rai from Nepal racing in Oman

UTMB by Oman. Al Hambra. 29th November 2019. Mira Rai finishing the 50km race, pictured here crossing the finish line. Credit Lloyd Images / Kelvin Bruce

 

 

Kilian Jornet running in Nepal

KILIAN JORNET AND JUDITH WYDER WIN GOLDEN TRAIL WORLD SERIES TITLES WITH VICTORIES AT ANNAPURNA TRAIL MARATHON

2 min recap video

NEPAL – Kilian Jornet and Judith Wyder are the 2019 Golden Trail World Series (GTWS) champions after both won the Grand Final race at the Annapurna Trail Marathon on Friday in Nepal.

For Kilian, it was business as usual. The Team Salomon athlete from Spain finished nearly 15 minutes ahead of 2nd place finisher Davide Magnini (Team Salomon), winning the 42 km race in 4:46:05. Davide finished in 4:59:59. In the women’s race, Judith (Team Salomon) bested Italy’s Silvia Rampazzo (Team Tornado) in a time of 5:42:03. The victory was Judith’s third of the GTWS season.

The top-10 men and women in the overall points standings after the first six races of the year earned a trip to

Nepal and a place in the Annapurna Trail Marathon, which included 3,560 meters of elevation gain and climbed to 3,753 meters. The overall final standings of the GTWS were determined by the runners’ three best finishes during the season, plus their result at the Grand Final.

In the men’s race, Davide managed to keep pace with his running idol for half the race, but the 22-year-old eventually faded to 2nd, securing 2nd place in the season-long standings as well. Kilian had not run a race since winning at Pikes Peak in August. He spent parts of September and October on a Himalayan adventure and family vacation, part of which included an ascent to more than 8,000 meters on Mount Everest.

“I am really happy to finish the season in this way, with four races and four victories,” Kilian said. “It was a hard, demanding race, but also beautiful, as the landscape was constantly changing, combining sections of forest, woodland and high mountain. My great unknown was how I would feel after the expedition. I had been away from running for a month, but in the end my legs responded well, and the altitude didn’t bother me.”

The always-consistent Stian Angermund-Vik (Team Salomon) notched his first podium of the Golden Trail World Series season, finishing 3rd behind Davide in 5:08:18. After three 4th place results during the season, the Norwegian’s performance in Nepal vaulted him into 3rd position in the final GTWS standings. He won the Golden Trail World Series title in 2018.

France’s Thibaut Baronian (Team Salomon) was 4th in Nepal and finished the GTWS season in 4th as well. Marc Lauenstein was 5th in Nepal behind Thibaut and 8th for the season. He came into the race in 10th position overall, narrowly qualifying for the final after a 3rd place at Pikes Peak and a 2nd place finish at the ring of Steall in Scotland. Italy’s Nadir Maguet (Team La Sportiva) entered the race in 3rd place in the overall standings, but did not finish the Grand Final on Friday. His DNF left him 5th for the season.

IN THE WOMEN’S RACE, it looked to be a three-woman race coming in, with Judith, fellow Swiss Maude Mathys (Team Salomon) and New Zealand’s Ruth Croft (Team Scott) a cut above the pack for most of the season. Judith, a former orienteering star, won at both the Dolomyths Run and the Ring of Steall in record time this season. She was also 2nd at Sierre-Zinal. Together, Maude and Judith had broken course records at every race they ran in the GTWS.

On Friday, Judith was just too fast. Her third victory of the 2019 GTWS delivered her the overall series title. It was the longest race that Judith has ever run. Maude took a wrong turn in Friday’s race and was disqualified. That dropped her to 6th in the GTWS standings for the year.

For Silvia, the 2nd place finish was her best of the GTWS and it capped off a very strong season for the Italian and a 2nd place finish in the GTWS overall standings. Friday marked her third podium finish of the year. She was also 2nd at Marathon du Mont Blanc and 3rd at Sierre-Zinal.

Ruth finished the season in 3rd overall after a 9th place result in Nepal on Friday. South Africa’s Meg Mackenzie (Team Salomon) continued her fantastic conclusion to the season with a 3rd place result in Nepal. By finishing 3rd she vaulted into 5th in the overall standings of the GTWS.

Norway’s Eli Anne Dvergsdal (Team Salomon), regained her early-season form with a 6th place finish on Friday. She began the GTWS season by winning at Zegama in her first marathon distance race ever and then finishing 3rd at Marathon du Mont Blanc. After struggling with two DNFs and then a 10th place finish at the Ring of Steall, her 6th place result on Friday left her in 4th in the overall standings.

The final 2019 GTWS standings look like this after the Grand Final at the Annapurna Trail Marathon:

MEN:

  1. Kilian Jornet (Team Salomon)
  2. Davide Magnini (Team Salomon)
  3. Stian Angermund-Vik (Team Salomon)
  4. Thibaut Baronian (Team Salomon)
  5. Nadir Maguet (Team La Sportiva)
  6. Aritz Egea (Team Salomon)
  7. Sage Canaday (Team Hoka)
  8. Marc Lauenstein (Team Salomon)
  9. Bartlomiej Predwojewski (Team Salomon-Suunto)
  10. Rémi Bonnet (Team Salomon)

WOMEN:

  1. Judith Wyder (Team Salomon)
  2. Silvia Rampazzo (Team Scarpa/Tornado)
  3. Ruth Croft (Team Scott)
  4. Eli Anne Dvergsdal (Team Salomon)
  5. Meg Mackenzie (Team Salomon)
  6. Maude Mathys (Team Salomon)
  7. Yngvild Kaspersen (Team Adidas Terrex)
  8. Elisa Desco (Team Scarpa/Compressport)
  9. Amandine Ferrato (Team Hoka)
  10. Holly Page (Team Adidas Terrex)

For latest Golden Trail World Series standings click here.

Gosaikunda Helambu trek trail race_6306

Race report by Hannah Straw who took part in this race. Find race results here, and race information here.

Gosaikunda Helambu trek trail race_6306

Nepal is famous for its mountains. Some of its mountain ranges are famous for their lakes. Gosaikunda lake is a sacred place nestled in the Langtang National Park. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims ascend to the lake at 4380 meters to receive their ‘sacred thread’ during Janai Purnima festival in August. The rest of the year, the lake lies still and calm, visited by trekkers, fewer in number than those found on the main trails such as Everest Base Camp. On 10th May 2019, 25 trail runners made a pilgrimage of s(p)orts to participate in the inaugural edition of the Gosaikund-Helambu marathon.

The fun began before race day – an event of this altitude requires a day or two to acclimatise, so many of the participants arrived at the start line in Cholong Pati, 3330m, by Thursday evening, having hiked together from Dhunche, via Sing Gompa. We enjoyed a communal dal bhat together in Cholong Pati before getting an early night. Friday was a ‘rest’ day – many of the group decided to use the time to hike to Gosaikund to acclimatise and to view the jewel of Langtang Lirung.

The race started on Saturday morning at 6am from Cholong Pati and immediately began with an ascent towards Lauri Binayak. The sun rises late above the mountains, so the power-hike up was a welcome warm-up, although I was glad of my gloves to keep my fingers comfortable. After topping Lauri Binayak, the path down to Gosaikunda lake (and the first checkpoint of the race) was enjoyably runnable. The atmosphere at the first checkpoint was supportive, and tourists, getting ready for their day of trekking after sleeping at Gosaikunda, were there to cheer us on, too.

Drinking in the views of Gosaikund lake in the early morning light provides ample spiritual energy for scaling Lauribina pass at 4610m, although leaving the first checkpoint with a belly full of biscuits and a Snickers clutched in your fist is advisable. It’s not a particularly tough pass to climb, you just need to keep on stomping up. In 2019, there was a little bit of snow on the pass, but not enough to warrant use of micro-spikes, just a little caution. No checkpoint at the top of the pass, but volunteers perched to monitor runners’ progress and offer assistance if necessary. After Lauribina pass, there is opportunity to switch your muscle usage up as you dance down a slightly technical trail towards Phedi, the second check-point.

I examined the race route prior to race day and decided that the only ‘serious’ climb of the day was Lauribina pass; after that it was all downhill or ‘mountain flat’ to the finish line at Meramchi. However, the route is slightly technical for most of the duration – which requires quite a lot of concentration and careful footing. This doesn’t seem to slow down the amazing Nepali runners at all, but for those cautious of accruing large dental bills through face-smashing rocks, progress was slower than I expected. Also, after putting my all into getting up the first climb to Lauri Binayak and then the second, tougher climb to Lauribina pass, my uphill leg muscles were spent.

As a result, progress to the third checkpoint was slow for me – it took me about 4 and a half hours (I think) to get to the 21 km mark at Thadepati. Incidentally, this is also where I spent the night whilst trekking the same route a few years ago, after overnighting at Gosaikunda. So, there were some mental hurdles here -pushing on beyond what I had considered at the time to be a ‘tough day’s hiking’. I overcame these stuffing biscuits into my mouth and looking around at the scenery – such a privilege to be ‘racing’ in these mountains, and the slower the pace, the more time to enjoy the rhododendrons in full bloom, right?

Revived by noodle soup and the humble pie of being slow, the 4th checkpoint at Ghopte seemed to come around much faster than expected; mostly flat and reasonably runnable, with some small stretches requiring some caution due to rockfall etc. Ghopte features lodges decorated by debris from the ill-fated Thai Airways 311 flight, which crashed into the mountainside in 1992. If the wide open skies and soaring mountains don’t remind you of your own mortality and the need to live life in the present, then drinking reviving, sweet tea amidst mementoes from a plane wreckage will.

The trail continued with ‘mountain flat’ – a little up, a little down, runnable if you’re confident on rocky terrain. My progress resembled more of an inefficient dance, but it’s not a competition (unless it is a competition) and I enjoyed the descent from exposed mountain paths into forest, passing stupas and the remnants of civilisation: earthquake devastated lodges.

Bananas awaited at Kutumsang, the 5th checkpoint, where villages gathered to place a khatta around participants’ necks. Kutumsang marks the return to ‘civilisation’ after being on the high trail all day. After Kutumsang, the trail veers off from the standard Helambu trekking route, through villages and rice paddies towards Meramchi. The final stretch of the race is mixed terrain and very enjoyable to run on. The last 2 km are downhill on jeep road. I was glad I had refilled my 2 litre bladder at the 5th checkpoint as the final section of the race descended quickly and as a result, the temperature increased dramatically.

Traditional Nepali dance

A real festival atmosphere awaited in Meramchi – where practically the whole village was out to celebrate the runners finishing. Many were decked out in traditional Tamang attire. I declined the invite to join in the dancing as my quads were wrecked. Instead, I enjoyed some delicious home-cooked bean soup (two bowls – thanks, it was tasty and I had an appetite), a shower and clean clothes from my finish bag, which was sent directly to the finish line from Kathmandu.

If you enjoy the challenge of flying down slightly technical trails, this is the race for you! Or, if you like a full day out in the mountains. An excellent way of participating in this race would be to use it as a ‘finisher’ by combining it with another trek in the Langtang national park, for example the Tamang Heritage Trail or a hike up to Langtang village. Some participants did this and joined us the day before the race at the start line in Cholong Pati. Depending on speed, Tamang Heritage Trail takes around 3-4 days and Langtang village about 5-6 days. You could also extend your time in the mountains after you finish by hiking from Meramchi back to Kathmandu.

This was a really well organised race with a ‘local’ feel – the finish line festivities were really something special. If you are keen on running and want to visit a lesser-trekked part of Nepal, this could be the event for you.

Sunmaya Budha Durga Budha nepali athletes with flag

This year three runners competed compared to last year, 2018, where two full Nepal teams (of three or more) competed. Here is a report from 2018. This year limited resources meant Nepal was not represented in the team event.

Aita Tamang is living in Portugal and joined the others, Sunmaya Budha and Durga Bahadur Budha, both from Jumla, who travelled from Nepal.

Here are the final results and an image of each of the Nepali runners stolen from the race’s facebook page!

Huge congratulations to each of the athletes competing in this extremely competitive race – it’s the world championships after all!

Sunmaya Budha Durga Budha nepali athletes with flag

Aita Tamang and Sunmaya Budha held their positions throughout the race finishing in respectable 67th and 47th places in their category.

Durga Bahadur Budha, the winner of the 2018 Annapurna 100 50 km event, went for glory. The flat start suited this marathon runner and he was with the leading pack for the first half of the race, in 5th position at best. As the pack chased the breakaway runner from Switzerland, and as the sleep climbs started to bite, Durga dropped away from the front but held on enough to keep in the top 20, less than 3 minutes behind last year’s champion LUIS HERNANDO and a few seconds before Italian legend Marco de Gaspari.

For a summary of the race overall, read this TWC 2019 summary at iRunFar.com.

Results

Durga Bahadur Budha Male 17th

03:50:25 (14:51 behind the winner)

durga bahadur budha twc aubutres 2019 photo

Aita Tamang 67th Male

04:09:25

AITA TAMANG TWC 2019 photo

Sunmaya Budha 46th Female

04:54:35

sunmaya budha twc aubutres 2019 photo

Congratulations to all three athletes. Great thanks for their support crew of Paul and Danielle for steering Team Nepal on this race journey, and Jimi Oostrum who spent days on the visa paperwork and submission with Mira Rai helping. Thanks to all others who lent a hand to help this project come to fruition and I am sure you are very happy that these athletes where able to represent Nepali at the Trail World Championships 2019!

Trail Race winners in Nepal

Here are the results of the inaugural Gosaikunda to Helambu Marathon. The race route covered almost exactly 42 km crossing the Laurebina La above the Gosaikunda and associated small mountain lakes, connecting the trekking areas of Langtang and Helambu.

The race organiser was Helambu Trail Running Club along with great support from numerous talented volunteers.

The results are as follows:

RankingTimeFamily nameName
15:07:07GurungBhim Bahadur
25:18:08KulungSuman
36:11:00TamangKalsang

RankingTimeFamily nameName
1 / 66:15:08BudhaSunmaya
2 / 107:25:28RaiPriya
3 / 128:07:37SherpaChhoki

RankingTimeFamily nameNameGenderF RnkM RnkNationality
15:07:07GurungBhim BahadurM1NEP
25:18:08KulungSumanM2NEP
36:11:00TamangKalsangM3NEP
46:12:40LamaGyalshangM4NEP
56:12:46TamangPhurpaM5NEP
66:15:08BudhaSunmayaF1NEP
77:02:32TamangBikashM6NEP
87:16:00SyangboPurneshM7NEP
97:23:04ThapaMaheshM8NEP
107:25:28RaiPriyaF2NEP
118:07:37TamangNorM9NEP
128:07:37SherpaChhokiF3NEP
138:41:00PradhanTajendraM10NEP
149:11:30ManandharRakeshM11NEP
159:46:11SyangboAshokM12NEP
169:56:18KarkiRabiM13NEP
1710:13:11CamsYvesM14BEL
1810:40:00GurungBibekM15NEP
1911:06:00LamaLambuttiF4NEP
2011:11:00StrawHannahF5GBR
2111:14:00PrajapatiRakeshM16NEP
2212:24:00LamaKhendoF6NEP
2312:34:00BartletAmyF7GBR
2413:33:00BartelRobertM17GER
Communication and transportation

The nature of fastpacking and key considerations when planning for a fastpacking trip in Nepal.

Here is a list of all the planned fastpacking trips and running tours in Nepal coming up.

What is fastpacking?

What on earth is fastpacking? Check out the definition by Peter Bakwin, a fastpacking pro:

“The term fastpacking was first used by Jim Knight in an article he wrote for UltraRunning Magazine in 1988 about a 38-hour, 100-mile traverse of the Wind River Range with UD founder Bryce Thatcher. Knight didn’t explicitly define the term, but gave a good sense of it: “We were wilderness running. Power hiking. Kind of backpacking, but much faster. More fluid. Neat. Almost surgical. Get in. Get out. I call it fastpacking.” Later, Knight used the same techniques to complete the 211-mile John Muir Trail (JMT), from Mt Whitney to Yosemite Valley, in just four and a half days. To me, as Jim implies, fastpacking means that your focus is to cover whatever route you have set for yourself as quickly as possible, and you use the best techniques and equipment to that purpose. This definition makes no distinction between running and walking – the distinction is in your goals, your methods follow from your goals. Fastpacking is different from backpacking because your objective in fastpacking is to get it done as fast as possible.” – Peter Bakwin, holder of several Fastest Known Times (FKTs)

For simplicity, let’s say fastpacking is a marriage between trail running and backpacking. The idea is you move light and fast, carrying only essential items, without sacrificing safety. One reason people are drawn towards fastpacking is its non-competitive nature. Unlike trail running events where runners are timed and are under a competitive microscope, fastpacking offers a non-competitive setup where the participants can stop, smell the flowers, or talk to local people without the need to constantly check their watch.

Fastpacking in Nepal on the Annapurna Circuit

A waterfall or a giant shower head?

Fastpacking in Nepal

In Nepal there are hundreds of thousands of trails.  From one day to four months, there is something for everyone in the Himalayas. Most of the trails in Nepal are made by locals to commute from one village or a region to another, and can be connected by trekkers to form longer routes. The abundance of trails and remote regions make Nepal a paradise for backpacking, trail running and fastpacking. If you want to cover big distances in short number of days while exploring multiple ecosystems, people, cultures, then fastpacking is for you. Take our word, the views will keep you moving.

Fastpacking running tour Nepal

Picture speaks for itself. At Sagarmatha National Park

Before you set off on a fastpacking adventure, it is critical to know the region you’re going to and what facilities it has. How will you get to the trail head: flight, bus, jeep, donkey, or on foot? Will you be sleeping in a tea house or in a tent? How long will your adventure be? This will determine what gear you need to pack and the logistics behind your travel. Many logistical issues can be handled by a guiding company, but there are a few things you should know before you go:

10 things you need to know about fastpacking in Nepal

1. How fit do I need to be?

If you do some form of exercise involving legs and cardio, and know the basics of hiking/backpacking, you can do fastpacking. Make sure you try gear before the trip especially shoes and backpack (loaded), and practice moving with them to get a sense of how challenging your fastpacking adventure will be.   

2. How do I train for fastpacking?

Walk/jog/run with a backpack weighing at least 5kgs. Simulate multiple days ideally on the trail by carrying your pack for several days in a row so that your legs and body know what’s coming. You can alter distances as you like. Mix it up with longer and shorter distances, and make sure you find some hills (or a stair-stepper) to practice on!  

running tour group in Nepal

Let’s go find some hills

3. Guide or no guide

If you have done good research of the region where you are going, and have paper maps, gpx tracks, and/or a compass, you can explore many places in Nepal without a guide. However, having a guide can be helpful to get to know the local culture, flora and fauna, booking lodges or just for an added safety if you get injured or sick.

Some areas of Nepal are restricted, and foreigners are required to have permits and a guide for going into these areas. Please check requirements for the area you are going (more on next point).

4. What permits are needed to fastpack in Nepal?

Nepal requires a fair number of fees and permits for trekkers and fastpackers, but these  can be easily obtained if you plan ahead. As a non-Nepali, most regions require at least two documents; 1) Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS Card) and 2) national park fee. Special Trekking Permits are needed for restricted/controlled areas, which include most trekking destinations besides Annapurna, Everest, Langtang, and Helambu. If you are contracting with a guiding company, they can help obtain permits for you, but it is possible to do on your own in Kathmandu. To learn more about different kinds of permits click here and here for fees.

5. What to carry

We recommend buying your gear from your favorite local outdoor store! You can buy lots of different gear in Kathmandu; there are tons of shops. However, the quality can vary widely and sizes for women might be difficult to find.  It is helpful to arrive early in Kathmandu so you have time to walk around Thamel to get last-minute gear, change money, and complete some final errands.

You can visit this Gear Page on Himalayan Adventure Labs’ (HAL) website for comprehensive list of gear, specific recommendation for Annapurna and Langtang. Note that the gear choices we list on the website are not recommendations; they are simply a statement of our own personal experiences and feedback from past participants. Ultimately it is your choice what to bring. The page also has a custom gear list (with non-affiliate links) by Jason and Heather, graduates of Annapurna Fastpack 2017 and Langtang Fastpack 2018.

6. When to go fastpacking in Nepal?

Nepal is open for all seasons. Spring lasts from March to May with warm temperatures and clear skies (mostly). Summer, from June to August, is the monsoon season when the hills turn lush and green. Temperatures can get quite warm, up to 30°C and more during heat waves. If you have to travel long distances in monsoon do ask your local operator to check on road conditions, or alternatively you can check with local traffic police by calling their hotline (dial 103).

Fastpacking running tour in Macchapuchre/Mardi region, Nepal

Autumn, from September to November, is cool with clear skies and is the most popular season for trekking — which means you will also see tons of trekkers on popular trekking trails. In winter, from December to February, it is cold at night with temperatures sometimes below zero. However, the maximum temperatures can still reach up to 20°C.

7. Daily distances you can expect to cover…

Well, it depends on your training! If you are fastpacking, anywhere from 10 to 30+k is ‘normal’. However, as you go higher your pace will decrease due to change in altitude.  

Fastpacking running tour in Annapurna region, Nepal

8. Altitude rules

If you feel unwell at altitude, assume you have altitude illness until proven otherwise. Never ascend with symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). If you are getting worse (or have HACE or HAPE), go down at once.

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.

Source: International Society for Mountain Medicine

Many trekkers choose to take Diamox (Acetazolamide) which is used to prevent and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. Please check with your physician before considering taking diamox or any major medicine on the trail.

9. Food and hygiene

If you are doing a tea house fastpacking then you don’t have to carry food (apart from snacks). Dal bhat is ubiquitous, a staple food of Nepal which consists of rice, curry and lentils.

Fresh roasted peanuts

Ask for local food. We never miss local peanuts and popcorn when we are in Ghasa for Annapurna Fastpack

Despite their best efforts, many trekkers in Nepal experience gastrointestinal issues at some point during their stay. M Avoid this by washing your hands with soap before and after you eat (especially under your nails). It is understandable that washing hands in sub zero temperature is hard. In that case carry and use hand gel at all times. If you run out of hand gels you can buy it at major trekking towns on the trail.

It is also important to be careful about what you eat and drink. Be sure to purify your water with chlorine or iodine tablets, a SteriPen, or a filtration system of some kind. We have had positive reviews for Katadyn: Water Filters from our clients. You will see Nepali people drinking straight from the tap, but don’t try that unless you want to spend the night in the bathroom! Also be careful to eat foods that are hot and cooked (dal bhat is usually safe), and if you are eating raw fruits or veggies, rinse well with purified water. Packaged foods like cookies and candy should be fine!

10. Safety

In the Himalayas you should be responsible for your own personal first aid kit. Always bring a small blister kit, some bandages, and at least one elastic bandage. Carry prescription medicine as necessary, and be sure to have antibiotics and altitude medication in case of sickness. Carrying an inhaler can also be helpful for those with breathing issues that might worsen at altitude. It can also be helpful to carry vitamin C pills, as fruit can be hard to come by in the mountains.

Fastpacking running tour Nepal

Communication and transportation

Most of the places and people are not lucky like this guy with a cellular coverage. So, we recommend to carry either a sat phone (Thuraya) or a sat communicator like inReach®. If things go south you will be relieved to have a sat device to make a crucial call to ask for help. Also, get heli evacuation and medical insurance. We recommend World Nomads.

– Written by Sudeep Kandel. Sudeep is an ultra marathon runner, a registered trekking guide and a co-founder of Himalayan Adventure Labs’ (HAL). He has a (proud) DNF for East-West Nepal run (850/1027 kms), the FKT on Manaslu Circuit with Seth Wolpin (co-founder of HAL) and many adventures under his belt. When not in woods he is busy planning/organising trips and working on tourism development related projects.

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Himalayan Adventure Labs (HAL) is a pioneer in fastpacking events in Nepal. HAL adventures are designed for trail runners and ultralight backpackers who want to cover big distances in the mountains and get off the beaten track. This non-competitive format also means they can stop and visit temples and smell flowers along the way. Check out Himalayan Adventure Labs for more information. Trail Running Nepal members get a 10% off on HAL trips with the discount code ‘TRN-HAL2019’!

Fastpacking trips by HAL in Nepal

More photos from fastpacking trips in Nepal!

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Attending the Bhojpur Trail Race and tour was an eye-opening and fulfilling experience for me.  I was impressed by the local talent that made up half the men’s and women’s podium at the 36 km trail race, beating out other well known nationally accomplished athletes.  The children’s 8 km and 3 km events were equally exciting, showcasing a wealth of present and up and coming talent in this remote, little known area of eastern Nepal.  As a volunteer helping with registration at the start line and timekeeping at the finish line, I was pleased to offer what experience I had to help contribute to the great success of this event.

I also enjoyed the tour very much and highlights for me were the visit to Mira’s home with homecooked dinner by Mira’s mom and the 29 km hike from Bhojpur to Sano Dumma guided by our excellent and attentive local guide Prathiva.  It was also great to see Prathiva take 2nd place at the women’s podium at the 36km two days later.

Above all, it was most valuable for me to experience first-hand the spirit and talent of the people from Sano Dumma.  Living with much less than I am accustomed to, very modest living conditions, simple food, runners running without good condition athletic apparel, sometimes even barefoot, the local athletes still displayed excellent athletic performance and great positive attitude.  The Bhojpur Trail Race is a meaningful event that encourages this positivity and helps to uncover and showcase local talent to a wider national and international stage.

Keilem Ng

Volunteer and Founder/Director of Exchange & Empower

Congratulations to Jimi Oostrum and his support team for a magical “kora” of Kathmandu on the trails along the hilltops surrounding the Kathmandu Valley. 39:00:00 was the final completion time… think you can do better?

The route

 ktm valley rim 100 mile run ultra route map

The route as measured with a raw GPS track is 181 km. This includes several out-and-backs searching for the trail, and a mistake of missing the trail over the top of Shivapuri, instead passing to the North on the park jeep road through Nuwakot, which adds substantial distance to the route. Download the route for Google Earth below.

https://trailrunningnepal.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Jimis-KTM-Valley-rim-trail-route.kml.zip

Press Release – November 2018 – immediate release

Vlad Morozov completes 1,000 miles solo run across Nepal.

Vladimir Morozov, 35, from Birmingham has just completed an incredible physical and mental test: running 1,000 miles across Nepal solo and unassisted.

Motivated to fulfill his dad’s desire to visit Nepal before he sadly passed away and combining his passions for adventure, nature and helping others, Vlad felt this was the perfect challenge for him.

Vlad completed the run in an incredible 66 days. Whilst he ensured he took a rest day once a week, he pushed himself to run c 30-40km a day and his longest run in one day covered a massive 54km.

The run encountered some extreme lows such as being without food for 30 hours, surviving a mugging attempt in the first week (a real anomaly given his subsequent interactions with the Nepalese people), being faced with leeches 3 times over, and banging his head on door frames on a daily basis (Vlad stands at 6ft tall whereas the average height of Nepalese male is c. 5ft 4in!). His feet took the brunt of the damage in the early days and left him with open sores and an inability to walk for 3 days. However, the lows were vastly outweighed by the highs: The incredible openness, generosity and friendliness of the Nepali people, being the first tourist ever to have visited some of the villages he passed through in the remote regions in Western Nepal and being able to admire the snow capped mountains of the Himalayas throughout days 50-52. Being surrounded by TV crews and adoring supporters who covered him in garlands and appreciated his efforts really spurred him on for the last tough leg.

Vlad’s key motivator to understand first-hand the issues that affected Nepal and see how the country itself, but also NGOs faced these problems, led him to collaborate with Nepal Youth Foundation, a charity offering hope and opportunity to the most vulnerable children in Nepal since 1992. Vlad knew how highly regarded NYF is in Nepal and found they shared similar values. He respected NYF’s programmes and its approach to sustainability, a key element in promoting a more secure future for Nepal’s young people. During his rest days Vlad was able to visit their projects and meet some of their beneficiaries. He comments: ”It was inspiring to see first-hand the amazing work NYF does. I saw children given real opportunities in life – looked after and given a proper education. The smiles on the children’s faces said it all. Having met a lot of NYF staff, I can say they are all very professional, knowledgeable and very kind hearted. They all genuinely want to do as much good as possible. I have a lot of faith in NYF and would love to support them again in the future if I can”.

Through it all he raised £2,000 and hopes more will continue to come in to be able to support some of the most needy children in the world today. And as a keen photographer Vlad documented his journey with stunning images and videos and hopes to use the images to raise awareness about the severe poverty in Nepal, especially in rural areas, that grossly affects children. He would like to put any money raised towards NYF’s nutrition outreach camps in remote locations to help combat child malnutrition.

To find out more about Vlad’s journey or to donate please visit www.runacrossnepal.org

To learn more about the charity he is supporting please visit: www.nepalyouthfoundation.org.uk

ENDS