You may have read Part 1 of my Mount Everest Marathon adventure -- my trip to Everest Base Camp to run a marathon in May 2022. In the first part, I shared my journey and adventures leading up to getting to the start line to run the Tenzing-Hillary Mount Everest Marathon.
In Part 2, it is time to share about the marathon itself. Although the writing is purely from my own viewpoint, I believe that most international runners who were on this trip had similar experiences as me.
My travels to Mount Everest were a part of my two-month long journey during which I visited and ran marathons in many parts of the world. The Everest Marathon was on my 38th day, after two prior marathons and a lot of hiking and sightseeing, so you can imagine how tired my legs were feeling.
ARRIVING AT MOUNT EVEREST BASE CAMP
Then, the time came for Mount Everest. We started the hike towards Everest Base Camp. We hiked almost every day for a manageable distance. We hiked mostly on the course to learn the route but in a reverse order. The terrain was very challenging, and harder than I had in my mind. I started to doubt myself but the show must go on so I kept hiking towards our destination for the marathon start.
In the previous post, I mentioned another challenge we faced along the course. The food was less than ideal for the marathon. We had gone through insufficient nutrition for over 2 weeks before we got to the start line. Along the way, we were sick and slept poorly. What else?! We got snow at the Base Camp the day before the marathon. What a fun trip it would be if it was not for all obstacles and my running luck seemed to be on the same theme. We never got to take it easy.
The day before the race, we had an opportunity to test our running clothes and did the photo op at the start. Now I know why in the photo and video I saw from this marathon, people ran fast and wore less clothes. All were for the photos before the actual marathon day.
Due to the unpredictable weather, we were given a list of what we should have with us. From the list, there was no way I could run with my running vest so I decided to carry my day pack. And because of the snow that froze to ice on the rocks we would run on, I decided to ditch my running gear and donned my hiking gear instead.
We woke up early to have breakfast at 5am. Then, we had to pack our bags for the porters to bring them to Namche, our finish for the race. We wore some extra clothes to stay warm and 15 minutes before the start of the race, we passed our jackets to our guides so they could carry them back to Namche. Our guides would also act as our sweepers.
LET'S GET STARTED! →
It was crowded at the start as there weren’t many places to stand. I decided not to run but to hike until I felt safer to run. When the gun got off, my friend and I decided to walk slowly just to be cautious. But on the marathon day, the weather turned 360 degrees and it was sunny after the sunrise. My friend and I couldn't resist and stopped for a lot of photos. We also needed to adjust our clothes multiple times on the course as it was cold, warm or hot at various times.
I am not sure how we could have run on this terrain. There was a small stretch that we could run a little bit, but it still was not easy in the high altitude and over the rocks. We thought we had enough time to get to the cutoff at 32km within 9 hours even without running, but if we didn't reach the cutoff in time, we would have to pause our race, and find a place to stay overnight before continuing the race the next morning. We would also receive a 5-hour penalty to be added to our finish time. Otherwise, we would be disqualified from the race.
Well, I miscalculated as I thought the distance from Dingboche to Tengboche, the cut off, was not too far. When we did the out and back at Dingboche, we were given a warning that we had 2.5 hours to complete approximately 11 km to get to the cutoff by 4 pm. At that time, we got my other friend to hike together with us.
The climb to the monastery was longer and harder than I expected. Our guide, who caught up with us and became our sweeper, tried to push us even harder. He told us to push the pace and that we could rest when we reached the monastery. I could see that he was nervous for us. He didn't let us stop. I was nervous too. I looked up but I couldn't see the end point. I looked at my watch just to see that the time was ticking.
My friends became slower and slower. I got the push from the adrenaline rush. I don't even know where I got my energy from to get to the monastery -- when at Dingboche (11 km earlier), I told my friend who stuck with me from the start that my legs were like Jell-O. Finally, I made it there with 10 minutes to spare. My friends got there just in time as well. Phew, that was very close.????
RACING AGAINST DARKNESS
After the monastery, we had a very long downhill. Way too long. It seemed like there was no end. We became slower, and another guide caught us. By then, one of my friends decided to take it very slow so the guides divided us into two groups. One guide stayed with me and my other friend. We just wanted to get it over with. It started to get dark. Then, we got to the bottom of the downhill. And as marathoners know, the agony wasn’t over. We had a long climb awaiting. It felt like torture, but we kept pushing to move forward so we could finish.
FINISHED AT LONG LAST! ????
Close to 4 hours later, we saw the light at the finish line and cheering sounds. My whole team who finished before us were out there waiting for us to arrive, the last members of the group to complete the marathon on the same day. I was so grateful for my friends. They were out there running all day but when they were done, instead of getting a rest, they insisted on staying and waiting for us who fell behind to complete the task. Thank you, my friends.
My Thai friend who hiked with me carried the Thai flag and we crossed the finish line with our flag flying high. We were tired, but the finish put a big smile on my face. It was over. We did it. ???? ????
This marathon was for me by far the hardest I've ever completed (I've now finished 58 marathons since 2010). The total cutoff time for the race was 15 hours, which was quite generous. I thought it was plenty, and that I would be able to finish with a lot of time left. I based it from my 7-hour marathon running experience in Antarctica in bad weather. Apparently, I was dead wrong.
I couldn't run this one at all, having to hike it instead. I was not familiar with running on such difficult terrain. I’m glad that I was able to complete the race ahead of the cut-off time by just hiking. And it will be one of my most memorable marathons. I met a lot of great friends from this trip and expect to see them in other races around the world in the future.
-Pei Munatawan Arsrairas