How can a downhill Marathon be one of the toughest in the world?

I was watching a programme on the BBC last week, “Mountain: Life at the Extreme”. It was another Beeb triumph with fantastic photography and polished informative narration and this edition focused on the Himalaya.

The back end of the programme included some coverage of the Everest Marathon. 10 days to walk up the start at Everest Base Camp at 5200m above sea level. For Mira Rai a Nepalese runner it was a bit like an afternoon stroll. Unlike the film crew who were gasping for breath from early on.

At Base Camp a breath of air contains only half the amount of oxygen at sea level. At the start of the race most runners will be suffering headaches and nausea, blood vessels start to burst heart rate doubles. Nothing like feeling on top form just before the gun goes!

Fortunately for Mira she has twice as much haemoglobin than us low level Westerners and whilst on the trek up, haemoglobin levels would have increased in everyone, levels will still be way below the native Nepalese. No surprise that the first 6 runners were all Nepalese and that Mira won the women’s race.  There is some great footage of downhill running.

The Everest Marathon is a great example of an experience marathon. There is no chance of a personal best and even if there was I am not sure that you could compare your time with a flat marathon at sea level. But what an experience! Not one the faint hearted but with only 202 runners anyone who completes it is in very select company.

Winning time 3:43:57. Last runner home 17:18:00! If the full marathon is a bit daunting they do offer a half-marathon, winning time 2:18:53. Or if you want to spend as much time as you can enjoying the mountain views there is always the ultra 60K!! Bonkers.