In the Shadow of Giants: a Mountain Lover’s Ultimate High
Words Fiona McIntosh
Trail running or hiking 100 miles in the high Himalaya is not for sissies. But if you’re up to the challenge this five-day stage race along the Indian/Nepali border is ultimate high.
This October sees the 25th edition of the Himalayan Run, a five-day, 100-mile stage race in the Darjeeling region of the Indian Himalaya. For trail runners, walkers and adventure travellers, it’s a chance to explore this spectacular mountainous region with its panoramic, snowy back drop of Mt Everest and other high peaks, and to appreciate the extraordinary hospitality of the Indian people.
Pre-race sightseeing trips include visits to the Ghoom Monastery and the Himalayan Mountaineering Museum; you can ride on the famous Toy Train (the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway), and of course explore the markets, tea estates and other attractions of Darjeeling.
Highlights of the race itself include running along the cobbled road (built in 1948) that forms the border between India and Nepal and the section through the Sandakphu National Park, from where there’s a view of the “Four Giants” (four of the five highest mountains in the world) Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Kanchenjunga.
In the early 1900s, the Aga Khan, ruler of much of India, instructed his men to build a trail in the North-East Himalayan ranges. He had heard tales of a unique spot, high in the mountains (on the border of present-day Nepal) from where it was possible to see the Four Giants at once. So he wished to travel there. The Khan never made it, but much of that same trail still exists, as does the incredible view of the giants.
Retracing the trail of Aga Khan, the Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race was first organized in 1991, attracting thirteen adventurers. It has now grown into one of the premier mountain races of the world. The Mt. Everest Challenge Marathon, a one-day event, commenced during 1994.
Over the years of its journey, the Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race & Mt. Everest Challenge Marathon has established itself as the crème de la crème of mountain running ultra races by virtue of its spectacular route, eco-friendly approach, excellent ground support services and unique cultural interaction. It’s recognised as one of the world’s most unique, innovative and eco-friendly running events.
The event is open to runners and walkers alike. There are no specific rules, age limits or stage cut off times in the five daily stages of 24–20–26–13–17 miles, so you run/walk at your own pace. The entire course of race falls in Indian territory, with the altitude varying from 6000 to 12000 ft.
You’ll feel the effects of the thin air, but the magnificent landscape is an excuse to slow down and appreciate the stunning views of snow-capped peaks, sprawling valleys dotted with ancient monasteries, villages, pristine forests, crystal-clear skies and natural water channels.
The Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race takes place from October 22 – 29, 2016. For more info see www.himalayan.com/sr1.html or email the race director, Mr Pandey on [email protected], or the author, [email protected]
NOTE: Discounts entries are available until 11 July 2016. www.gritza.com/my-writing/#/himalayan-100-miler