Thank you for supporting The Gracias Foundation for which I was raising funds by taking part in the Manaslu Mountain Trail race in Nepal. I am glad to say I finished safely and I have been thinking how I would be able to write about such an experience in just a few paragraphs. I find it very hard as I am still suffering from the Manaslu blues, but here is my attempt to share at least some of that experience.
There were approx. 40 other runners, representing 13 different nationalities, who joined me for this challenge. The route took us along the Manaslu trekking trail, circumventing Manaslu Mountain, the 8th highest in the world. We covered approx. 220km running and about 30 km trekking taking us over Larky La pass at 5160m. The race briefing was in Kathmandu where I got to meet the other runners, who were of varying experience, from Legends in the endurance world, Lizzy Hawker (2nd Place) and Lisa Tamati to seasoned professional GB marathon runner Holly Rush (3rd place) and not to forget the very experienced, talented local mountain runner and eventual winner Upendra Sunuwar. There were other vastly experienced adventure racers, ultra mountain runners, multi day veterans, seasoned marathon runners & Iron man competitors, right the way down to those with very little experience who were there to challenge themselves. This was the first time the race was run, so no-one really knew what to expect, and as it would turn out, not even the organisers had understood the enormity of the challenge ahead.
We were transported to the race start in buses, which riding along the Nepalese roads was an adventure in itself, I called it my bus ride from hell... Once started the trail took me through amazing landscape following the Budhi Gandaki River. I passed through forests, saw amazing waterfalls, and crossed suspension bridges in various states of repair and the whole time the horizon brought beautiful pictures of the Nepali mountains. I ran through beautiful little villages, where the whole village would be outside to cheer us on and the little kids would run with us, some for a good 1km or so. Very often the kids could speak some English and I remember having wonderful conversations with them as we ran along the trail. These were special fun moments!
Of course, as in a race like this were not so fun moments. I had a number of these such as on day 3 when we had to climb from Deng to Serang Gompa a monastery set at 3,200m. I had no energy and this was a route where I had to climb over 1,070m and cover 18km. The route was tough, with many vertical scrambles and a never ending forest run. During this run I kept questioning why I signed up to do this race, and the route through the forest seemed so much longer than expected and around every corner I was hoping to see the monastery but it took hours to appear. In the forest I met a fellow runner, Marcel and a caring Brazilian helped me along and together we made it to the monastery.
This race brought the racers together like a family. As people struggled we helped each other through the hard parts and rejoiced each time someone finished a stage. It was upsetting for us all, when we had to say goodbye to 6 people who were evacuated by helicopter in 3 different occasions due to sickness and altitude. We all coped with logistic issues and adapted to the course changes that became necessary due to the course being too demanding for some competitors but being a “first race” these are the sort of challenges that the organisers will learn from and change for the next time.
In total, 38 people started and 18 finished the full course with 6 finishing the adapted shorter course. I can proudly stay that I finished 11th of the full course and while I had bad moments I thoroughly enjoying my experience. If you want to read more about my experience please have a look at my blog http://macrunningadventures.blogspot.ch/
Note: all proceeds from Debbie's run will fund our projects with HIV positive youth in Ethiopia