I’m thrilled to share that on the 29th May, I crossed the finish line of the world’s highest marathon after 9:35:27 running from Everest Base Camp to Namche Bazzar.
It was incomparable to London, having taken 14 days just to trek to the start line, all the while having to acclimatise to the thin air and dropping temperatures. Pre-marathon routines usually follow a strict regime of tapering, rest and nutrition, none of which was possible for this race, so I wanted to share with you a little more about what it feels like to run the Everest Marathon.
After a long flight from the UK we arrived to a very wet and stormy Kathmandu. With just enough time there to collect my race pack and reorganise kit we were off to the airport again the following morning to catch our helicopter which took us to Lukla airstrip, famously one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to it’s difficult approach and steep incline of the runway.
From here we would say goodbye to any engines and to rely solely on our legs to carry us the rest of the way. The next 12 days as we made our journey from 2,600m to 5,400m we passed through incredible rhododendron forests, crossed many suspension bridges over white water rapids and trekked amongst beautiful Himalayan giants. We drank numerous cups of tea and ate our body weight in noodles. We had to overcome altitude headaches, sudden temperature and weather changes, let's not mention the toilet situation!
When we finally arrived in Everest Base Camp it was a completely surreal experience for me. It was special to see where Rhys had stayed all those weeks whilst climbing Everest, and also you just feel like you are surrounded by history, looking up at the icefall and thinking of all the past explorers. It’s a barren place at just over 5,300m, with football size rocks balancing on the ice underneath. The whole area is unstable, and can be heard constantly cracking and groaning as it moves. All in all not a recipe for a good night’s sleep!
On the morning of the race it was around -10c before sunrise, and the village of brightly coloured tents looked tiny against the backdrop of jagged peaks on all sides. 200 runners assembled at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall, shuffling to keep warm whilst we waited for the race to begin. Many of the competitors who’d initially signed up for the full marathon had decided the terrain was too difficult, the altitude too high, and that conditions were generally too tough, so they had switched to race a Half Marathon instead.
At 7am, the start gun fired and we were off. The local Sherpas made incredibly light work of the impossible loose rock that littered the first 10km of the course. Getting out of Base Camp and past the first two villages was physically very tough, we were above 5,000m and negotiating undulating rock on ice, with loose scree which made it very easy to twist an ankle.
After a couple of hours the terrain opened up, we lost height sharply after passing the memorials for those who have lost their lives on Everest. At around 18km, there was a loop up and back in a valley to adjust to marathon distance which was torture mentally. But, once it was done, I was half way home and the air slowly began to thicken.
I’d forgotten a big climb to Tengboche Monastery, after which came the steepest descent of the course. We crossed one of the famous suspension bridges over the white water river, before going straight in to the longest climb, gaining roughly the same height as climbing Snowdon. On the final stretch before the finish line, the trail opened up to a wide sandy track. I really hit my groove, found a new energy and knew I was going to make it. I found a fast pace, started to overtake others and began to cry as I knew I was going to finish this race and see Rhys at the line.
Overall it was an unforgettable experience, and many runners say it’s twice as hard as a normal marathon. The whole trip was a wonderful adventure, and one I will never forget. It’s crazy to think that this time last year I couldn’t even contemplate running a 10k and now I have already run 2 of my 7 marathons, including one of the toughest in the world!