Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race
3 - 7 November 2008
- Manybangjung to Sandakphu - 24 miles - 6hrs 15 minutes - 9,000 feet ascent
Day 2 - Sandakphu - Molle - Sandakphu - 20 miles
Day 3 - Sandakphu - Molle - Phulet - Rimbik - 26 miles
Day 4 - Rimbik - Palmajua - 13 miles
Day 5 - Palmajua - Manybangjung - 17 miles
Pre-Race Preparation - Tuesday 28 October to Sunday 2 November
departed from Manchester at 9.15 am on Monday 27 October and after three flights
via Abu Dabi, Delhi and Bagdogra I arrived in Mirik, North East India at 2pm on Tuesday remarkably
fresh. My transfer by jeep from Bagdogra airport was my first experience of
Indian culture, passing through small villages with monkeys, cattle, dogs and
every vehicle and pedestrian combination that could be considered.
the first competitor to arrive in Mirik and was made very welcome by the race
director Mr C.S.Pandey and his staff. I had the pick of the hotel rooms and
selected a very nice room overlooking the town, valley, lake and the Buddhist
Wednesday was a day of rest and getting over the jet-lag. On the
Thursday I ran 13 miles as one of my final training runs before the big race.
This was a great way to acclimatise at the modest 5,800 feet I was at. I had a
great morning running in the hills among the Thurbo Tea Gardens in 80 degrees F.
one to one service for two days before the next two competitors arrived from UK,
police woman and police gaoler from Cardiff, Cam and Amy. (a small world) Having been in
the resort for two days I was able to act as a guide and show them the best
sights of the area that I had already explored.
and Amy were great company and they introduced me to horse riding - something
that I had done in the cadets in 1977 (and not very well!) For just a couple of
GB£ we had a one hour horse riding adventure around Mirik Lake. A tremendous
(and scary experience at first) but I eventually got the hang of riding on a rug
an no proper saddle!
Friday, three more competitors arrived and a further eight mile run with Dave
from Wigan allowed some last minute training. By Saturday afternoon a further 50
competitors arrived in time for the race briefing at 6pm. I was pleased I had
arrived much sooner and felt for many of the arrivals who had less time to
orientate before the race on Monday.
room mate was one of the later arrivals, 70 year old veteran runner Les Green
from Wolverhampton. (The oldest competitor) What a great guy to share a room
with. He had loads of past running experience and interesting stories to tell.
We got on great throughout the whole event.
Trip to Darjeeling
As part of my race preparation I was able to overcome any
jetlag by Wednesday and was waking up naturally at 5am every day. The
early start to Darjeeling was not a problem and this fantastic trip to
the 7,400 foot hill town was a must. A further trip on the steam toy
train was not to be missed and provided me with a most enjoyable couple
Race Day 1
- Manybangjung to Sandakphu - 24 miles - Monday 3 November 2008
Picture: Myself with Amy, Cam and Les Green
An early departure at 5am to Manybangjung village 1.5
hours away. When we arrive at 7.30 am the whole village was there to see
off the 60 or so competitors.
The race started at 6.400 feet with a short, flat run
through the village. This was short lived before hitting the mountainside
and the climbing began with a vengeance! A 3,600 foot continuous climb to
10,000 feet gave everyone a serious challenge. As we climbed to 8,000
feet the lack of oxygen was apparent and I had to regulate my breathing
with two intakes of breath to the usual one.
We descended again to 8,000 feet and climbed back to
10,000 again. A further descent again to 9,000 was followed by a third
climb but this time to 11,000 feet then a steep, steady zigzag to
11,600 where the finish was in sight.
After 6 hours 15 minutes I arrived in Sandakphu!
Sandakphu was a remote cluster of bunkhouses and
buildings nestling in the lower Himalayas at just under 12,000 feet. The canteen where food was provided was
well organised and good, hot (but not spicy) was plentiful for all 60 or so
accommodation was in a bunkhouse. Basic but comfortable with some 10 persons to
complete and perhaps the hardest day over....or was it?
Race Day 2 - Sandakphu - Molle - Sandakphu - 20 miles - Tuesday 4
Another early start rising for breakfast at 5am. There was no travelling
involved as the race started and finished at Sandakphu. The sky was part cloudy
so the sunrise and our possible views of Everest were obscured.
race started at around 7am traversing the border with India and Nepal. The track
was rough but not as rocky as the previous day and was patrolled by armed Indian
troops who cheered us along the way. There was also less ascent and
descent today and we maintained our height of circa 11,500 feet though there
were some steep climbs in places.
race today was an out and back course turning around at Molle and returning the
same way. I completed the course in around 3 hours 15 minutes.
the latter part of the race the mountain was shrouded in mist
and the views were not great and the finish felt very eerie in thick fog. Back in Sandakphu everyone was served with good
food and exchanged stories before retiring to bed around 9pm.
Race Day 3 - Sandakphu - Molle - Phulet - Rimbik - 26 miles
- 'Everest Challenge Marathon' - Wednesday 5 November 2008
was to be the longest and toughest day though it was reassuring to think that
much of the second half of the course was descending down to 6000 feet.
started after 7am retracing the first 10 miles of yesterdays course. The
familiar terrain helped. Today the conditions were much clearer and we had
spectacular views of Kangchenjunga and toward mount Everest on the far distance. The course extended to Phulet with a tough
climb to the summit before returning to Molle. The altitude was still taking its
toll and though not as bad as Day 1 and 2 I still had to take deep breaths as I
increased my pace on the ascents.
The race then turned sharply and
descended down toward Rimbik. This
was no ordinary descent. It was one of the toughest I have ever experienced with
the track changing from huge steps to narrow gullies and terrain traversing
exposed tree roots and steep embankments. Toward Rimbik I descended to small
clusters of houses where it was reassuring to see civilisation and smiling faces
along the way.
trail descended very steeply down winding steps and narrow gullies before
crossing a river over a very rickety bridge. The course then ran along a
riverbed for about a mile before climbing steadily
for two or three miles along the valley before arriving in Rimbik and the
completion of the Everest Challenge
finished in the centre of the village in 5 hours 46 minutes and 10th overall
jumping triumphantly over the finishing tape.
One of my slowest marathon times but perhaps one of the toughest I have ever
was much more civilised place to stay and our accommodation was more comfortable
and there were many shops to look around. The villagers were very friendly and
no one bothered you other than being greeted with friendly smiles. Again the food was very good with most
of the men accommodated at the same lodge.
Race Day 4 - Rimbik - Palmajua - 13 miles - Thursday 6 November
later start today as the distance and terrain was much more forgiving. The
temperatures were higher too with warm sunshine and clear blue skies.
course started from the centre of Rimbik. Today it was not necessary to carry
any provisions, wear to much clothing and I was able to wear my lightweight
trainers as most of the course was on road or dirt track. This helped greatly
and I felt much lighter than the previous three days. In addition, we were back
at 6000 feet where the reduction in altitude increased my performance despite
having now run 70 miles in three days.
I set-off enthusiastically
launching myself into first position as the course descended a windy road out of
the village. I led the field for the first couple of miles before being passed
by the course leader (and eventual winner), Austrian, Hubert Gantioler. The
course levelled out before ascending again steeply toward the finish
near Palmajua. I ran the 13 mile course in just under two hours finishing today
in 9th position overall.
were then bussed back to Rimbik were we were fed and watered and also provided
with some local evening campfire entertainment at the main lodge.
Race Day 5 - Palmajua - Manybangjung - 17 miles - Friday 7
Today we were bussed back to Palmajua from where the final leg of the
course continued to the finish in Manybangjung. I was showing in the results as
11th overall. Only six minutes or so separated me from 10th position held by
Yorkshire man Mark Dalton. I was now feeling pretty fit after four days of
gruelling running and decided to try and pull a place. I passed Mark at around
five miles and managed to get out of his sights. However, Mark had the advantage
of seeing my recorded time at each of the ten or so checkpoints that we passed
and despite me pulling out the stops I was unable to get ahead of him.
Nonetheless, the attempt made both of us work to our maximum on the last leg of this
As I arrived in Manybanhjung I was greeted by cheering
local school children and villagers, a pipe band and dancers. A very warm
welcome and a terrific finish to this epic five day adventure race.
We were bussed back to Mirik where a prize presentation and
dinner took place.
Post Race Tour of central India - Saturday 8 November to Tuesday 11
30 Hour Train Journey
Saturday I decided to return to Delhi over-land and departed from Mirik with
many of the staff from the race heading for the local railway station in
Siliguri. At mid-day I boarded a train bound for Delhi embarking on a 30 hour
adventure by rail. This was a fantastic way to see India and meet local people
on board the train experiencing Indian culture close up.
The journey was tremendous assisted greatly by having the
Himalayan Challenge staff to look after me on the train. They were great company
and were able to advise on what food to buy as well as keeping an eye on my
I was accommodated in 2nd class and the whole journey cost me
only a few pounds. I watched the sun set and rise again from my train window and
this journey was perhaps as memorable as the Himalayan Challenge.
Austin Ambassador Taxi to Agra
As I approached Delhi I decided to leave the train at Tundla
where I got a connection to Agra for my long awaited visit to the Taj Mahal. At
Tundla I took a taxi ride to Agra in an old Austin Ambassador. (Another great
feature of the journey) In Agra I checked into a decent hotel where for the
first time since arriving in India I had a degree of luxury including a great
massage in the health spa.
Rickshaw Taxi to the Taj Mahal
Monday I did the Taj Mahal. I arrived at the West Gate in my Rickshaw at 8am
where my driver was happy to wait for my return. I apparently picked a good time
as there were no queues and was able to get around the whole site easily and
take some great pictures. (as well as doing my first Indian Geocache!)
I then checked out of my hotel and hired a taxi to take me to the
'Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary' (40km west) then continue on to Delhi.
The ride to the nature reserve was easy and I spent three hours there with my
own guide who showed me lots of interesting wildlife including Kingfisher,
Woodpecker, Storks, Mongoose, Spotted Dear and several rare Owls. Another reason
for my visit here was to bag a new unfound GeoCache that I was duly first to
find! (Another mission accomplished!)
Scary Taxi Ride to Delhi
The next leg of the journey was perhaps one of the worse car
journeys I have ever experienced. How I was not killed driving the four hours to
Delhi I do not know. The taxi driver (to give him his due) was actually a good
driver and managed to avoid around 300 collisions between Agra and Delhi!! I am
not exaggerating! Needless to say, I live to tell the tale but what an
I arrived in Delhi after my scary journey around 9pm and found a
decent hotel for £50 a night. There was a nice vegetarian fast food restaurant
next door and I had a great meal there.
My last day in India was spent in Delhi. I was ready for home but
I managed a rickshaw tour around the city as well as spending a few hours at New
Delhi rail station where I enjoyed watching thousands of travellers come and go
on the aged (but very interesting) Indian rolling stock.
All in all a tremendous experience from start to finish where I
met many interesting people. I will particularly remember my room mate, Les
Green and Cam
The Himalayan 5 Day Challenge was the main focus of
the trip. This was very well organised with excellent ground support including
great food, race check-points that were well coordinated.
Mr C.S. Pandy was a great host and has clearly fine-tuned this
race over the years. I would definitely recommend this race to any runner
wanting to experience a mountain running challenge. The cut-offs are generous
and really anyone who is relatively fit could complete the challenge.