“Saaya number aayo!” (Hundred number has arrived!)
This year, as last year, the numbers were given out pretty randomly and even a bit chaotically. This year though we decided to make sure the numbers were in Nepali, to show that it is a Nepali race and also to give an interesting souvenir for the foreign participants.
Michael Maddess from Hong Kong got number 99. He was a little disappointed to miss 88 which is an auspicious number for Chinese people. Still, 99 was ice-hockey legend Wayne Gretsky’s favoured number, so, he said, “How can I complain?”
Choosing to print Nepali numbers was also a good idea, as it meant that anyone who could read, could read the numbers, regardless of whether they had been to school and learned English.
My number was 100 only because it was on the bottom of the pile. I guess it must have been the same for all other competitors, spectators checking which numbers were passing by, but with 100, I felt special. “Hundred number aayo!” I’d hear all the time, “Very good!”. Children and adults alike had seen 24 pass, and 37, and 42 too. When 100 passed, this was a cause for exclamation.
“Timro number ke ho ta?” what’s your number then?, i’d ask back. “Ek number!”, “Aat number mero!” said would-be number one and eight.
This is just one more aspect of a great race which is a cultural experience as much as a tough physical experience in a stunning setting.