Below is a happy Mira Rai. Mira is 23 (and also 25 at the same time, you see in Nepal you can be flexible with dates on your certificates according to the age you need to present) and is from Bhojpur to the east of Nepal.
Mira likes running. In Nepal races are referred to as ‘games’ and participants and ‘players’ which puts a happy perspective on it. She’s been playing mainly in 5km and 10km races here in Kathmandu. She’s left school far away in the flat area of the Terai and is doing self study in Kathmandu where most of the races are held. She trains at the stadium for speed and on the uphill road out of town otherwise. At the moment she’s staying with a friend as, as a student, she’s few resources to rent her own room.
Mira showed up at the 50km race at the Himalayan Outdoor Festival last weekend (22nd March). The weather was pretty bad with a heavy hail storm at 2pm which continued throughout the afternoon. The course was tough as it tried to follow the valley rim which has plenty of up and down. She was the only local female runner and the only one to complete the course.
There are few women who are able or willing to compete in ultra races and often few opportunities or resources are given to women to follow sports at all. So it was pretty encouraging to see Mira’s enthusiasm. Last weekend’s event was sponsored by the Peaks Foundation, an amazingly active group of women who raise money for other organisations who in turn work to empower women. The sponsored entry fee for Nepali women and a running t-shirt to lower the barrier to entry, and the women’s prizes for the 50km event.
Many came to the 13.5km event (up a big hill, then down again – not easy) and Mira was the only local girl to do the 50km. The first male finished in 7 hours 5 minutes. Mira finished in 9 hours something, at 45 minutes sheltering from the hail and 15 minute searching for the trail – the trail markings were washed away (sorry everybody!) So for her first 50km race, she did pretty well.
“Yes she is very good good runner,” says Narayan Acharya, a local runner, built like a sparrow and pretty fast over 50km.
Japanese runner Miki Upreti had this to say: “I first saw her at the starting point wearing a simple cotton t-shirt and tracksuit trousers, with a bottle of water in her hand. She had none of the other gear usual for trail runners, but an innocent smile like wild flowers. Then [having taken the 33km shorter route], I met her at the last check point. She sheltered at a tea shop from the hailstorm. We went ahead together, I tried to follow her, and she even waited for me several times to go with her in the nightmare weather. She was so strong and fast. She was like a bird flying or a elf living in the jungle! Finally, I gave up trying to follow her and let her go ahead. I really want to see her again at trail races not only in Nepal, but also in other countries!”
She found the course “easy” as her home of Bhojpur is only hills. And she wants to run more. She says she runs for health and to do something for her nation, to compete and do her best. She likes this trail running thing, she wants to go further, to try to see what she can do, and we’d like to help her see how far she can go. Whatever happens, we hope she’ll inspire more girls to run in future.
If you’d like to help support Mira so she can keep training and she how far she can go on the trails, please mail us: email@example.com. She doesn’t need much, perhaps $70 per month for ‘fooding and lodging’, as it’s called here, so even $500 will be a good start towards a year of financial stress free training, racing and studying. More would obviously help keep her in training gear and shoes, with something to spend on fruit and a slightly more nutritious diet.
The good news is that $360 has generously been donated already. That will keep the smile on Mira’s face! Let us know if you would like to add something to the fund.