On The Run in Nepal

Khadga Bikram Shah is inviting energetic sorts to participate in an up, up and away experience.

Bikram Shah, with the Nepal Tourism Board’s Kathmandu office, says Nepal – known for its trekking and mountaineering opportunities – is diversifying its vacation experiences, offering more outdoors activities for visitors.

And he noted during a Tuesday Toronto presentation that those activities include opportunities to participate in running races, among them The Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon, billed as the “highest and most adventurous marathon in the world.”

The event features a 60 km ultra-marathon, a full 42.2 km marathon and a half-marathon.

The races are always held on May 29, the date that Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary first summitted Everest, and which is known as Mount Everest Day in Nepal.

“They are athletes. Normal people like me cannot do it,” Bikram Shah said of the racers, whose journeys begin at Everest Base Camp – the departure point for those wanting to climb 8,848-metre Everest and found at a lofty 5,364 metres above sea level. The camp lacks road access and those wanting to visit it have to hike a generally uphill route to it, with both the marathoners and climbers often spending considerable time at it to help adjust to the thin air before setting off.

The marathon ends in the town of Namche Bazaar, 3,446 metres high.

Race organizers promise “glorious” views of Everest and other towering Himalayan peaks.

The mostly downhill route follows trekking trails, prompting the organizers to warn entrants to be cautious as to where they place their feet.

Pickering,Ont., travel agent Jim Marsh, who’s hiked to Everest Base Camp, knows someone who ran the marathon after learning of it while visiting Nepal. Marsh enjoyed the base camp trek, but said it didn’t inspire him to run the marathon. “I’d consider doing it, but the reality is I wouldn’t be up to it,” he said.

This year marks the 16th running. Last year’s winning marathon time was 3:43:57, with only two runners managing to crack four hours.

Bikram Shah said the running races are grueling, but will be over within hours, while those who set out to climb Everest will spend days ascending and descending the mountain on journeys that can be life-threatening.

“Those who cannot climb Everest can join the running and still have an Everest experience,” Bikram Shah added.

Pictured are Khum Bahadur Subedi of Unique Adventure International, Bikram Shah and Gabriela Enriquez of Exotic Destinations.