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FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2013

Everest Marathon

We, that is Janet and me, sneaked back to Kathmandu on 31st May on one of only two flights (16 seaters) out of the famous and notoriously cloud bound airstip at Lukla (2800m). Two days behind us were the other 130+ foreign and 90 Nepali runners from the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon and Ultra Marathon, all the support staff and all the personal gear and equipment. All were delayed by Maoist trade unionists highjacking the porters and luggage over a pay dispute and then by bad weather in Lukla. It was a scrappy end to a brilliant event, now 10 years old but designed this year to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the 1st ascent of Everest.

I finished about 50th out of the westerners in 8hrs something (I know it sounds slow but it was quite hard terrain). There were 130 westerners and in the end 90 Nepali. Some westerners didn't even make it to the start due to altitude.

The start was the final serac of the Khumbu Icefall and the first couple of kilometres were on snow covered ice.

When the whistle went (7am 29th May) about half the group stormed off jostling for position along the narrow ice trail. Needless to say I wasn't one of them!

The first three hours, with the exception of climbing over a 2km boulder covered glacier near Gorak Shep were mostly downhill. Then to get the distance at Dingboche at about 4200m we turned uphill for a grueling 6km loop below Ama Dablam. Lots of people fell over and there was blood from knees and hands on the rocks on the trail. Descending yaks loaded with gear from Everest expeditions added a horned hazard.

I tagged along with a Canadian woman for a while but eventually couldn't keep up. Soon afterwards I met up with my long time friend Phendan Sherpa (6 times Everest summit etc) who had been lured into the fast start but was fading and had sore knees, we ran together the rest of the way.

The next climb up to Tangboche Monastery at about 3700m was for me the toughest part. Phendan and I both walked up it like "a couple of first time trekkers". Energy gels and water at the top helped and Phendan "borrowed" a trekking pole from a passing yak herder.

It is a long descent from Tangboche to about 3300m, lower that the finish in Namche Bazaar, to the river at a place with the great name of Phunki Tenga. At the check point they said that there were only 30-40 foreigners ahead of me. Briefly inspired we then had to climb back up through pine forest to 3600m and run the final few kilometres traversing the hillside into Namche. Janet had walked the route in a shortened form the day before and was waiting a few kilometres out of Namche for a photo frenzy.

Throughout the weather had been just about OK. Cold and cloudy with only light flurries of snow and rain early on but just before the finish the cloud came in giving 20m visibility. Fortunately we still found it OK.

We were all presented with certificates, medals a track suit and a bottle of Coke! The last two being particularly appreciated.

The first, second and third places were taken by Nepali runners and the Nepali army took the top three places on the even more masochistic Ultra (60km in parallel). Some of the runners reached Namche at 10.30pm and one runner had to bivvy in the open and jogged in at 4am next day!

Phendan had never run in his life before and it was my first marathon. On the final stretch into Namche Phendan said "Tom Dai (literally means my older brother) next time we do this maybe we should train for three or four months". He is probably right.

FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2013
By Tom Richardson
Footwear and expedition specialist

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Tom Richardson
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