I’ve tried to celebrate my big birthdays with suitable adventures. For my 40th I walked across Scotland through the mountains from coast to coast. For my 50th I treated myself to running 50 miles on the West Highland Way, solo and unsupported from just short of Crianlarich, to Fort William.
On retiring four years ago, I pondered LEJOG or JOGLE; walking or cycling Lands End to John O Groats or the reverse but in the end had a great couple of weeks walking the Cape Wrath Trail.
50 miles for 50 years
So what to do for my 60th birthday in 2019 ? I thought about an ocean voyage in a yacht or a tall-ship, UTMB Race (Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc) or walking it over a week or so and any number of adventures but kept coming back to Nepal and the Everest Marathon.
Since my late teens I have been fascinated by Nepal, Tibet and the Himalayas. I read all the books by climbers and explorers like Bonnington, Scott, Haston, Messner and even further back to Hillary, Tenzing, Hunt and on to Shipton, Tillman, Mallory and Irvine to name but a few. I had the iconic picture of Doug Scott on top of Everest on my bedroom wall. As my own hillwalking and climbing progressed into adulthood, I harboured vague notions of one day climbing Everest or Chomolungma; Goddess Mother of the World to Tibetans.
It was never to be and I eventually settled down and lived the life of a wage slave, climbing mountains and running ultra marathons in my spare time and although reality kicked in, the lure of walking in the footsteps of giants is still there.
Everest and Nupse – by Colin Harding.
And walking in the footsteps of giants is exactly what the Original Everest Marathon is for me. It is the best of everything. A fifteen-day acclimatisation trek to Gorak Shep near Everest Base Camp (EBC) from where the expeditions start their epic climb and then a full 26-mile marathon back to Namche Bazaar. The names just roll straight out of the expedition books: Kathmandu, Tengboche Monastery, Khumbu Glacier, Namche Bazaar.
Tengboche Monastery and Ana Dablam – by Colin Harding
Some folk said just do the trek and even independently but I quite liked the idea of the Marathon too, the world’s highest starting at 17,007 feet or 5184 meters and for me I’m getting a trek and a race all in one. I thought I’d better get it done for my 60th as who knows if I’ll be able to do it for my 70th? My friend Colin Harding did the same race in 2009 and recommended it and gave me a disc of photographs for inspiration, some of which he has kindly allowed me to post here.
Pumori by Colin Harding
So here we go, game on. I’ve paid my deposit and my GP has signed my Medical Form stating that as far as they know I’m fit enough to do it. It is more than a year away and I can’t wait. Who knows what acclimatisation will bring and my plan is just to go very easy on the trek, take plenty of stops for photographs and just relax as much as I can and enjoy it. The same with the marathon, it’s not a race! Well actually I suppose it is but as usual not for me and I’ll just go with the flow and hopefully finish.
I’ve more or less always ran and ran my first marathon in 1982 and never stopped. Sometimes trekking is to the fore and I run to keep fit for that and at other points, as in now, it’s all about the running for it’s own sake. I’ve had a very good last couple of years training and have been much more consistent than previously and feel great. In 2018 I achieved the coveted West Highland Way Triple Crown of the three West Highland Way Races all in one season. That is; the Ron Hill West Highland Way Race, 95 miles long and 14,000 feet of ascent along with the first half; the Highland Fling and the second half; the Devil of the Highlands Footrace. I already do loads of hill training, my mantra is “hills are your friend” and I will do even more. In 2017 my height gain was 6.25 x the ascent of Everest which is 29,050 feet and in 2018 I am aiming to exceed that. Nowadays I don’t even to try to be fast but just slow and steady, more loping like a wolf than sprinting like a cheetah.
Will I succeed in finishing the Original Everest Marathon? Who knows? But, will I give it my best and once again be ’The Man in the Arena’? I think you know the answer to that one.
Watch out for my posts as I chart my progress and document any new toys that I get to buy. In truth I think I’ve got most of the gear I need but it’s a great excuse to buy more.
Oh and a final reason to do the Original Everest Marathon if further reason is needed, to quote George Mallory when asked why he needed to climb Everest “because it’s there”.
Map courtesy of Colin Harding.