Monday 22 October 2007

Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race

On Wednesday I take to the skies to fly from Joburg to India for the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race. This is a 5-day running race held in the northernmost region of the West Bengal Province, not far from Darjeeling (or Darjiling). I am very, very fortunate to be hosted by India Tourism and the event organisation.

This whole Himalayan thing took off a few months ago when I received an invitation to the race from race director Mr C.S. Pandey via Runner's World magazine. Some emails later and I was in contact with Mr Shaw from India Tourism here in Joburg. He liased with their office in Delhi and a few weeks later arrangements had been made. I'll take part in the event and then spend two tourist days to visit interesting sites in Agra and Delhi. Yippeeee!

The Himalayan 5-day race is in its 17th year and according to friends who have done the race, C.S. Pandey's organisation is exceptional. The event incorporates the Everest Challenge Marathon (Day 3 of the 5-day event); some runners just come through for the marathon.

The race stages are as follows:

Fly from Joburg to Dubai to Delhi (Wednesday/Thursday). Spend Thursday night in Delhi.
Fly from Delhi to Bagdogra (Friday). Transfer to Mirik (West of Darjeeling). Sightseeing in Darjeeling (Saturday). We spend Friday and Saturday night in Mirik

Sunday, 28 October, Day 1 (38.4km)
Start from Manebhanyjang (2011m) to Sandakphu (3601m). Cobblestone surface - road built in 1948; border India/Nepal.

Monday, 29 October, Day 2 (32km)
Within Sandakphu National Park (I've also found it called Singalila National Park ). Most of the race takes place within the park on hiking trails. The best thing about this day is running with views of 4 of the 5 highest peaks (Lhotse, Everest, Makalu and Kanchenjunga - the 5th peak, which we don't see, is K2, which is in Pakistan). We get up early to see sunrise and it is likely to be quite chilly for the 06h30 start. Route is out-and-back from Sandakphu (3601m) to Molle (3552m); 16km each way.

Tuesday, 30 October, Day 3 (42.2km, Everest Challenge Marathon)
We retrace route from Sandakphu to Molle (16km) and then on to Phulet (3470m) and through to the finish in Rimbik (1935m). There is a steep downhill section from Phulet where the steep, rutted trail drops 1220m.

Wednesday, 31 October, Day 4 (20.8km)
This stage seems to be a road run (rough road but still tar). We also have a later start at 09h00 (short stage). The route drops from Rimbik to 1500m and then climbs up to Palmajua (2000m). We return by bus to Rimbik for the night.

Thursday, 1 November, Day 5 (27.2km)
We return to Palmajua by bus for the start of the final stage. It also seems to be on tar. We first climb uphill to 2600m and then start a gradual downhill to the finish at Manebhanjang (2011m).

I arrive back in Delhi on Friday, 2 November and have two sightseeing days to visit Agra and venues in Delhi. I'm home on Monday, 5 Nov.

That's it. 160km.

There are four other South Africans who will be taking part; one is Christo Snyman (Adventure Inc. formerly Team Jabberwok). My Chilean friend, Mane Jimenez, will be reporting for SleepMonsters.

Race Preparation

As usual, my preparation has not been excessive. What I have done differently is that I've spent more time on the road in the past three months. I generally don't run more than 12-15km a session and probably only run 30-45km/week.

In September I did a couple of short and fast races: an AR sprint, O relays, SA O Champs and the Golden Reef 100-miler as a relay team. At the 100-miler I ran the first 15km and felt better than I had for a long time.

And then the Hennops sprint came along in early Oct. I've taken a long time to recover from the water-borne infection and my tummy still isn't 100% right. I didn't run for a week following the infection. At the O sprint a week later I was dragging my feet a bit but feeling considerably better. I ran only once during last week when I started to feel a bit more stable.
I've just returned from an 8km road run and I'm feeling good, running a comfortable 5:30 to 6:00 pace. This is a bit slower than a month ago... still, it's a pace I can comfortably maintain on good terrain.

So... I'm going into this race not quite as strong as I'd like to be but am improving daily and I have no injuries or niggles, which is always good.

My thanks to Runner's World, India Tourism (Mr Shaw) and C.S. Pandey for inviting me to take part in this race and to visit a majestic part of the World.

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