For most humans, the mere idea of running 172km non-stop is horrifying. But to do that going up and down the circumference of the Kathmandu Valley is beyond belief. However, that is exactly what Seth Wolpin (pic) did this week.
Running continuously day and night for 49 hours and 55 minutes, Wolpin made his way right around the rim of Kathmandu. For the American university professor from Washington this wasn’t just about breaking records. It was to test the limits of what his body could do, while opening up new areas for hiking and helping the land he has come to love.
"It is about the experience more than the time I took to run it," he said from the comfort of a café in Thamel after the conclusion of his epic achievement.
With a vast history of significant feats, including summiting Everest in 2011, running across the continental United States a year after in 107 days and then completing the high route of the Greater Himalayan Trail in 87 days, Seth is well- acquainted with pushing himself to the physical limits.
Such an effort does come with challenges. Running through the Shivapuri National Park alone at night presents an array of threats, from wild boars to leopards. But for Seth more than the physical difficulty, it was a psychological battle. "The first morning I was ready to quit … if I kept the pace of the first day it would have been a three or four day run rather than two," he says. But support from friends was enough to overcome it: "Knowing that they were looking to meet me, I couldn't just quit."
Wolpin is committed to opening up the area to allow other people to experience it. His route (see pic) was recorded by GPS and the information along with comprehensive track notes will go onto his website soon with the intention to open access for other runners and hikers.
Pic: Mark Brightwell
“No one owns the trails … I'd love to see other people go out and hike it, or break my record," he said. “The epic grandiosity of Nepal’s landscape inspired me, not just seeing it, but being there, and adventure running is a different type of experience, you live a whole lifetime in a day."
Wolpin’s commitment to Nepal goes beyond running and climbing. After his first trek to Annapurna Base Camp he realised that he could make a real difference and sponsored his guide’s children’s education. “I realised I could give these kids an education for less than my monthly phone bill,” he recalls, “I wanted to do something less selfish, it grew from there".
He set up Wide Open Vistas Nepal in 2011 with long-time adventure partner Dorjee Sherpa to help Nepali children, especially girls, with education. The organisation operates on the philosophy that education can be used as an effective means of preventing problems, rather than reacting to them when they occur.
As for the future, ongoing work with Wide Open Vistas is a priority for Wolpin, but the draw of the mountains still features. Along with fellow trail runner Sudeep Kandel, Wolpin is co-directing the Annapurna Trail Race next year.
The Great Himalayan Traverse, Matt Miller