Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race

Running adventure on the roof of the world

The 100 mile run across the Himalayan mountains is one of the most spectacular adventure runs in the world.

Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race

First steps of the 100 mile stage race across the Himalaya.

1st Stage:
From Maneybhanyjang at 2134 m altitude 24 miles (38,6 km) to Sandakphu at 3636 m

Although I am running for more than 30 years on race courses all over the world, the 100 miles across the Singalila national park are a double premiere for me: First, I am a newbie to adventure running and second, the distance of 100 miles is a very different new challenge – even if they are split up into five stages.

The first day of the stage race is a prelude to heavy and tough requirements. Starting in Maneybhanyjang (2134 m), there are 24 miles up to the finish in 3636 m altitude to overcome. But that doesn’t mean, not to run uphill and downhill some hundred meters in altitude difference. For acclimatization the motley crew of about 70 runners from 16 different countries only had one day of sightseeing through the Darjeeling area, famous for its teas.

On the way to Sandakphu ...

The first breakdown happens just 10 meters after the start: My sunglasses are stuck to my head, and right before the gun went off we all got put on a bandana as a welcome note. A very nice gesture but during a start somewhat hindering. So I pull off that friendship cloth and my shades fall off the blacktop. Luckily, they are unbreakable and I wait until all runners have passed me and the „breakdown scene“. Then, picking up the glasses and pushing forward. At last, I want to take pictures from the crowd up front and not mugging their backs.

The next shock won’t be long in coming. The target I gave myself for the day was a pulse rate between 140 and 150. Elsewise, a five-days-torture didn’t seem possible. Just after one kilometer the pulse monitor points 160! And I’m not running, I am walking!! The first part is that steep. I am roasting in the sun, sweating like crazy and there are 99 more miles to go – ninety-nine! Next to photographing I am taking off my functional undershirt – walking and sweating uphill.

Three kilometers after the start, the first mountain is just labored up. 32 – written out: thirty-two – minutes displays my watch and my pulse rate doesn’t drop under 160. Everyone around me is swearing vilely, such a start no one had expected.

Within the next one and a half hours I succeed in runnning – of course only at points that aren’t steepliest up- and downhill. At the same time the weather is changing. „The Kanchenjunga always has to be on your right,“ gave us race director Panday to take along. This mountain (8586 m) is number three of the highest mountains in the world. But the sky gets cloudier and cloudier. The fog gets more and more dense. Soon the other runners are surmisable at best. The path gets worse and is mostly made up of large, unhewn stones. Not only uphill running on those is impossible, increasingly downhill running gets virtually impossible. And the „adventure run“ turns out to be an „adventure walk“ over long periods.

For all that, I dare to much: Even before the half-marathon mark I’m cramping up – and there are still 139 kilometers to go! A few hundred meters prior to this I have passed some hikers on trekking tour. They have mercy on me and treat me with magnesium pills. Besides, a radical slowdown is the only alternative. My half-marathon time: 3:15 hours! For some time a dog is accompanying me. The field is spread out so much in the meantime, that I am running and walking all by myself.

Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race
The course keeps on leading along the border between India and Nepal.

What follows now, exceeds my present running vision above and beyond. It goes uphill on more than 3300 meters and then again downhill up to 2800 meters. And up again. On the last kilometers up to the finish in 3636 meters I’m not thinking of running anymore. Instead of a running and walking rotation, the slogan is more a walking and standing rotation. And somewhere along the line, the toiling and moiling is over: 7:00 hours and 38,6 kilometers.

On the first day, the winner Duncan Larkin from the United States places the cornerstone for his overall victory with 4:21 hours. Sethu Ramasubramaniyam and Priya Shyamsunder from the booming Indian high tech metropole Bangalore come in last and get to the finish in 10:40 hours in complete darkness. They have pre-emted it by taking along running lamps.

In Sandakphu, a small assembly of mountain huts and for two days our base camp, everybody is endlessly keen on us. Even buckets with hot water are hustled for us exhausted runners, that we at least can wipe off the sweat of the last hours.

For his 50th birthday, Indian initiate Thomas Klotzel from Stuttgart, Germany, gave this adventure race himself as a gift. The avowing slow runner already overcame many mountain events, but this evening he is astonished: „Something like that I have never experienced before“. I am sitting here in a cold chamber with quite a few adventurous looking people; wearing three pants one upon the other and asking myself: Why? Why grown-up men and women do that to themselves? Why? And tomorrow the cruelty will go on. Why?

The pictures of the first 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 3rd stage you will find here.
Pictures of the 3rd 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.