(Originally published in July, 2014)
That’s me, in Maneybanjang, India, on the border of Nepal, in October, 2013. The whole town had come out to see us, a small group of westerners about to begin a 5 day, 100 mile stage run along the India-Nepal border, in view of 4 of the highest peaks of the Himalaya. It has taken me months to process this trip and begin to write it down.
I had just come down those stairs behind me, from what was imaginatively called the toilet. It was in fact a small, dark, dirty windowless closet with a hole in the floor. But that’s another story.
There were musicians, and townspeople, and border guards and children, and above the din, our leader shouting, “Listen me people, listen me now” , his continual cry throughout the week.
I was excited, I was terrified. I knew I had 24 miles to run that day, all of it uphill, gaining 4000 ft in altitude, most of it on a rugged rock paved road.
It was crowded and noisy and confusing, and suddenly, after a brief ceremony, we were off.
Finally, after months and months of training, preparing, packing, fretting, questioning my sanity, we were running.
It was a day beyond anything I had imagined. The scenery was mysterious and beautiful. The road was steep and rough, the people were kind and warm and welcoming. We ran along a road built many decades ago for Indian royalty to see the Himalayan peaks. The left side of the road is Nepal, and the right side is India. There were border guards perched on the banks, there were temples and prayer flags, and yaks with bells. Sometimes the road was so steep we could look down and see 3 or 4 switchbacks we had just run through. School children,with the most beautiful Nepalese faces you’ve ever seen, lined the road in one village, clapping and chanting “well done, well done”. It brought tears to my eyes. Then we went down, into the jungle, dense, lush, green, with a tiny hidden grotto full of miniature Buddhas. A whole day of the surreal.
Then we climbed again. The last few miles (by now at 11,000 ft altitude) were so hard that in my memory I am always pushing a wagon of rocks in front of me. Seriously that’s how I remember it. It was raining, hard, and visibility was near zero.
Suddenly, from uphill, out of the rain and fog, came a german from the group- “only ??? meters” she called out in her thick accent! I will never forget the sound of her voice, and those words! We were there. We made it. We crossed the finish in a driving cold rain, and we were done. 4 days, 74 miles to go.