Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race
Downhill torture on the third stage
For 8 kilometers the race course of the Mt.-Everest-Marathon rushes downhill for more than 1300 meters of altitude. Claus Dahms reports.
Again it’s a gorgeous day with a storybook-like sunrise in the Himalayan Mountains! The Mt.-Everest-Marathon is the longest stage from Sandakphu (3636 m) to Rimbik (2089 m) and can also be classified seperately. I feel great, nothing hurts, nothing pinches, and the attitude is fine: 42,195 km, only ten more than yesterday – so what?
For a start, we trot on the same pleasurable running-path like the day before – wonderful, but there are considerably more clouds in the sky. If the clouds reveal the view the panoramas are terrific. I reach yesterday’s turning point way earlier, because today I started off much faster to photograph the other runners for a picture gallery. At the turning point we run straight ahead on a ridge route amidst the unique landscape of the Himalayas. On the right and left it’s very precipitously, and in the background the snowcapped mountain giants form a magnificent scenery.
Today we run again on an out-and-back course. Meanwhile, we know one another in this manageable group of 70 runners and walkers. And so we also encourage on one another. But as Duncan from Philadelphia comes flying towards me I’m so surprised that I forgot to cheer. The American, who studies German and lived in Switzerland for six months, won the other two stages sovereignly. But Duncan is a street runner with a marathon PR of 2:32 hours and so he will be run past by Spanier Miguel Angel Merino Gomez. „I still should be some five minutes ahead in the overall ranking,“ says Duncan in the evening.
After 28 kilometers the particular challenge begins – the downhill part. On the next 8 kilometers the course rushes downhill for more than 1300 meters in altitude. The race book characterizes the following kilometers as follows: „The trail gets steeper... Runners pick their own line and speed for the next few miles“. But my reality is completely different. Initially, the trail is runnable. Simply wooden steps are bugging, you can find in the way for every two meters, primarily to prevent erosion. Those mean for us runners to jump up every time for 10 cm and ending up 20 cm lower. An annoying story.
But it gets worse: On completely washed out trails it goes steeply downhill. No more thinking of running. Before that downhill part I triumphantly estimated my finish time around six hours. After all, the energy-sapping uphill part in heights of 3000 meters were over. What else should happen?
Yet again, I promptly change my personal objective: Reach to the finish safely and soundly has to be the only goal on that day. And as my watch displays 6:00 hours, I am still climbing down the mountains. My fear to cool down too much is absolutely ungrounded. Soon we get to the jungle region and it’s warm and humid.
Sometime I arrive at the shaky bridge over the powerful river, and we all think, the finish must be close. At this striking point many competitors take their time and photograph each other. The path goes on. Confusion. Not the expected one or two more kilometers are to go, no, here shall be the 36 kilometer mark. Hefty! At least, the last 6 kilometers are runnable.
„Those 42 kilometers are a joke,“ British Peter Watson shouts at me, „it’s at least 52.“ Basically, I admit that he is correct and after 7:24 hours I have finished the marathon. Also Stuttgart resident Thomas Klötzel is incredulously: „I did the Zermatt marathon in 5:34 hours and there the finish is 1500 m higher than the start and now I should have needed 11:17 hours for this downhill marathon?“
Running is very pretty and relaxed, it could go on like that forever – these were my thoughts after 27 kilometers. At that time I thought that I will arrive at the finish line after six hours. But after true six hours the initial feelings change. And after seven hours it gets desolately. For myself – not the route itself, because now we run through suburbs of Rimbik and in turns people cheer us on on or they look at us in amazement.
In spite of an early start at 6.30 am, some runners in the back of the pack get to the finish in full darkness. The doctor, responsible for medical care, describes the course measurement like this: From here there was measured a top-down straight line. The trail, if anyone will call it a trail, goes downhill on serpentines! Runners with a GPS system also can’t help, because in the dense jungle they lose their orientation.
Meanwhile, the life of the 70 adventure runners is well attuned: The day consists of running, running, and running. Then, eating and sleeping – nothing else. And that’s actually a good experience, these are good, fulfilled days for runners in the Himalayas.
Tomorrow we will take on the half-marathon distance. Only 21 kilometers – there will be time to ramble about the village and to enjoy the sunny warmth. Hopefully.
Pictures of the third stage you will find here.
The report of the 4th stage you will find here.
Pictures of the 4th stage you will find here.
The report of the 5th stage you will find here.
Pictures of the 5th stage you will find here.
The report of the 2nd stage you will find here.
Pictures of the 2nd stage you will find here.
The report of the 1st stage you will find here.
Pictures of the 1st stage you will find here.