Running the breath of Nepal is an undertaking too big for most adventurers to even contemplate. Nevertheless, over the years several have tried and succeeded to cross the country from its Eastern to its Western border.
These crossings are not easy to compare because their routes differ in length, in cumulative meters climbed and lost, the remoteness of the terrain and in the level of logistic support these runners received from others. Record claims are therefore meaningless. If one looks for criteria to rank achievements we suggest that the run being unsupported and following a live-off-the-land approach is an obvious primary criterion. Such crossings are evidently in a different league than runs that are backed up by the full support of a trekking agency.
The originals were the Crane brothers who in 1983 crossed the Himalaya from East (Darjeeling) to West (Rawalpindi) in 101 days. Their run is documented in the entertaining book Running the Himalayas (only available second hand), which tells of minimal support with new supplies at only a couple of places, 5-6 kilogram packs, and a live-off-the-land approach. The Nepal crossing took them 49 days (including three rest days) and a bit, on an itinerary that included Everest base camp and the Thorung La, but overall took a middle hill route.
In 1988, Mary Margaret Goodwin, ran the breadth of the country as the first female and the first solo runner, taking her dog along, and with the back up support of a trekking agency, in less than 90 days. In 1994, two Frenchmen, Bruno Poirier and Paul-Eric Bonneau, crossed the country from East to West on a very similar route as the Crane brothers, being totally self-sufficient. Their crossing took 42 days and a bit, and has resulted in an unpublished manuscript and a video film that has recently been released on DVD.
The next documented crossing is Rosie Swale Pope’s in 2003 (who continued to run the globe afterwards). Her run was fully supported by a trekking agency with the Nepal Trust and took less than 70 days. This duration was beaten with much fanfare by Sean Burch, the most recent Nepal Trust supported runner who crossed on a higher trail than the earlier crossings to reach the Tibet border at Hilsa, and took 49 days and a bit. If this is a ‘World Record’ as claimed, precisely what world record has been broken?
Lizzy Hawker is currently dreaming about a run across Nepal. If anyone can better all of the above, running unsupported across Nepal on a high route and in less time than any of the earlier attempts it is going to be this amazing athlete. But if she does it we’re sure it’s not breaking a record that is going to be on her mind. Her sponsor will probably appreciate a record claim, the good cause she’ll undoubtedly attach to the run will profit from it, but the driving force is going to be something very similar to what made the Crane brothers and the French ‘Chevaliers du Vent’ dream up their runs across the breath of Nepal: the sheer joy of running the amazing trails of this troubled but beautiful country.