26th running of the Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race in India this October

One of the longest-running staged ultramarathons on the planet, the Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race is about to see its 26th year. This 5-day event takes place on the ridgeline that forms the border between India and Nepal, at elevations ranging from 6000-12,000′ (approximately 1800-3600 m).

lp1020511I ran this race three years ago – so I know what I am getting into! – and am excited that I will be back again this year to report for RunningUltramarathons.

The event consists of five very different stages. As in many other ultramarathons, racers who complete it insist that the daily distances are much longer than what the RD states – and rural India definitely comes with its own specific challenges for precisely measuring distance. But here are the nominal distances:

lp1020443 Day 1, 24 miles (39k) – perhaps the most challenging day as we spend nearly all of it climbing on hard and irregular cobblestone roads (not English cobblestone, rough-hewn angular boulders!) for a total cumulative gain of over 10,000’/3000m, to arrive at Sandakphu at 12,000’/3650m – the only place on the planet where you can see four of the world’s five highest peaks (Mts Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, and Makalu).

lp1020513Day 2, 20 miles (32k) – an out-and-back jaunt along the ridgeline, literally one stumble away from falling into Nepal. The challenge is keeping an eye on the trail when the scenery is so magnificent. (Oh, and the lack of oxygen).

Day 3, 26 miles (42k) – also the one-day Mt. Everest Challenge Marathon, the first half of the route is along the high alpine ridgelines, then we go for an abrupt descent of around 6000’/1800m to the jungly river valley, passing through foot-access only villages and excited locals who have been watching crazies run past their homes once a year for a quarter of a century now!

lp1020626Day 4, 13 miles (21k) – switching it up, now on pavement for the last two days, descending then reascending 1500’/450m as we cross the Ladoma River valley.

Day 5, 17 miles (27k) – almost the reverse of the previous day, climbing then descending around 2000’/600m to the final finish line, where everyone from schoolkids to armed soldiers line up to cheer us on.

lp1020553aStaged races are definitely my favourite format of ultramarathon event – and the Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race has all of the features that make it one of the best. Sure, it’s about the running and the physical challenge and pushing your limits… but to me, it’s ALSO about the scenery, the experience, and the cultural interaction. This race has all of that – taking you to places that no tourist could ever get to (other than by some seriously long trekking) since much of the route is not accessible by vehicle. Oh – and the food is great: both traditional Indian fare and more “western” style dishes available at every meal.

lp1020632This year’s race takes place October 22-29, 2016. For more information, you can look up the Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race website, or you can contact the Race Director, Mr. C.S. Pandey directly at hrtindia91@gmail.com.