The Himalayas 100 mile stage race is one of the most beautiful running events in the world. We took part in the 2003 event, the thirteenth consecutive running of the race.

The race takes place over five days. For the competitive runners (a minority), this is a stage race like the Tour de France – runners start each stage together each morning, and times are cumulated over the five days. For the rest of us, the challenge is to conserve enough energy at the end of each day to be able to get up and run again the next day. Overall, and to our surprise, we found that most participants grew in strength each day, and the event has a very high completion rate.

Route summary

  • Day 1: 24 miles.
    Maneybhanjang (6600 ft / 2012m) to Sandakphu (11815 ft / 3601m)
    Cobbled path, largely uphill.
  • Day 2: 20 miles.
    Sandakphu (11815 ft / 3601m) to Molle (11655 ft / 3540m) and back
    Along an undulating ridge, out and back. All on trail.
  • Day 3: 26.2 miles (The Everest Challenge Marathon)
    Sandakphu (11815 ft / 3601m) to Molle (11655 ft / 3540m) and then on to Phulet (11380 ft / 3469m); then downhill for the last 7 miles to Rimbik (6350ft / 1935m)
    Along the same ridge as Day 2, overshooting Molle and then returning there; and then down a steep path for the last 8 miles. All trail.
  • Day 4: 13 miles.
    Rimbik (6350ft / 1935m) to Palmajua (6560 ft / 2000m)
    Downhill for the first third, and uphill from half way. Almost completely traffic free, tarmac road.
  • Day 5: 17 miles.
    Palmajua (6560 ft / 2000m) to Maneybhanjang (6600 ft / 2012m)
    Uphill at first, then downhill. Almost completely traffic free tarmac road. Then bus back to Mirik at the end of the day.
The start of the race in Maneybanjhang
The start in Maneybhanjang

This is event takes place in some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery in the world. On the second and third days, you can see four of the five highest peaks in the world (Everest, Kanchenchunga, Lhotse and Makalu). The running is on trails for the first three days, and on traffic free roads for the last two days.

Logistics and accommodation

The race organisation is world class, thanks to Mr Pandey and his team. There are plenty of frequent water stations and food stations (which also keep track of the runners, to ensure that nobody gets left behind). Bags are transferred by jeep. In recent years there has been a doctor accompanying the group, to provide first aid and simple treatments.

Accommodation is a little rudimentary in Sandakphu (electricity only in common areas; no flushing toilets). Elsewhere it is comfortable, but don’t expect international class hotels.

About the runners and walkers

In 2003 there were 58 participants. There was a big range of abilities and ages, ranging from competitive runners (about 2:40 marathon runners) to mainly fun runners. However, many of the participants had done some other multi-day endurance events (such as the Marathon de Sables). The stage race would not be suitable for inexperienced runners – you really need to be able to run a marathon comfortably to take part as a runner.

There is an option to walk some or all of the route. The organisers arrange jeeps to accompany the walkers, enabling them to walk more or less as much or as little as they want.

Owen on the course of the marathon

The Everest Challenge Marathon

The Everest Challenge Marathon is an event within an event, on the middle day. There is an option to take part in the marathon but not the rest of the race. (Only one person did this in 2003). The route has been measured as accurately as possible, given the terrain; but most of the runners reckon that it is a little longer than the usual 26.2 miles.

The course begins along a ridge, undulating (including two significant climbs). It turns back on itself, and then the last 8 miles are steeply downhill (through a gully, and then down a narrow path through villages). The last 5-6 km are more or less flat to the finish.

Running at altitude

One unusual aspect of this event is the altitude. Many – though by no means all – of the participants suffered some mild altitude-related symptoms while at Sandakphu (such as headaches or nausea). If you are not used to altitude, you would be well-advised to spend a few days at altitude (eg Darjeeling) beforehand. You should also make sure you are well hydrated to reduce the symptoms.

The altitude means that it is almost impossible to run up the steepest hills (and even the relatively flat sections are quite hard going.) Even the fast runners tend to walk.

Our experience

We had the most amazing time. Though we had done very little specific training (all our running was at sea level, and almost entirely flat), we had a reasonable base of fitness. Like many of the runners, we felt that we were getting stronger and stronger each day. Our friend, Hilary Walker, slipped on the first day and broke two fingers, and we chose to stay with her until the end of the day. This meant that we took it a little easier than we might have done, and so had plenty of energy on the later days.

We took plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and take photos. The mountain views were breathtaking, and we enjoyed running on trails.

Most of all, we greatly enjoyed the cameraderie of the all the runners. There was a diverse international group, from Japan to Canada, from the Czech Republic to Boulder Colorodo. The sense of common endeavour, however, brought the group together, and there was enormous mutual support and solidarity.

We would recommend this run to anyone considering it. Visit the event website for more information; and see here for photos of the event. See also some photos by Czech photographer, Petr Kamenický, at his website.

Owen Barder and Grethe Petersen

1 Comment

manish tamang · August 17, 2012 at 7:58 am

actully i,m belonging from maneybhanjang, and i would  like to thanks all adventures people around the world who participated run and track keep it on u awesome people………………….

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