At the end of last year, RAP3 MHLR Team Leader, Kirsteen Merrilees, decided to sign up to run a marathon. Not any old marathon of course, but the highest marathon in the world – the Everest Marathon. Her reason was simply that “as I’m living here I might as well give it a try!”
The Everest Marathon is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest marathon in the world. The marathon starts at the original Everest Base Camp in Gorak Shep at an altitude of 5184m (That’s over 3.5 times taller than the highest mountain in the UK where Kirsteen is from). Just reaching there involves a challenging trek, and to acclimatise for running a marathon the pre-race trek planned by the race organisers takes 15 days with side trips to the Gokyo lakes and up to the new Everest Base Camp site at 5,364m.
The race itself takes runners through glacial moraine, sandy scree, narrow and uneven trails, stony staircases, narrow suspension bridges and exposed paths high above the river below. It involves a descent of 2,779m and a climb of 1,007m. Not only is the terrain difficult, but the altitude makes it an even more challenging experience. And of course, you have to dodge other trekkers and yaks. It is certainly not for the faint hearted!
Kirsteen completed the marathon on 2nd December and describes it as “one of the toughest things I’ve ever done”. But having said that, she enjoyed the whole experience immensely. Whilst the Everest marathon is described as a race, for her it was a chance to spend some time away from all the hussle and bussle of life in Kathmandu, to escape the stresses of work and to reconnect with nature: to enjoy a trek in a wonderful part of the world with a bit of a run at the end – albeit a bit of a long run!