7 years and running
While most residents of the Valley will be enjoying their REM sleep this Saturday morning, about 6,000 local and international athletes will forgo the comfort of their beds and race across the potholed roads in the annual Real Kathmandu Marathon.
Now in its seventh year, the marathon will kick off on 21 September from Dasrath Stadium and take participants across 42.195 km of the Ring Road’s dusty lanes. The faint of heart can opt for the half marathon or the 5km ‘fun’ race, which is likely to see the largest number of participants. The event also caters for the physically disabled: a 3km wheelchair race starts from the stadium, circumambulates the Maitighar Mandala, and comes back.
Marathon director, organiser, and former long-distance runner, Nilendra Raj Shrestha, is particularly pleased with the increasing popularity of the race among Nepalis. “Organising a marathon in Nepal is a huge challenge because running isn’t a tradition here and people don’t quite know what’s going on,” says Shrestha. “When we started in 2007, around 10 to 15 Nepalis turned up for the full event. This year we are expecting at least 150.”
Training for the 42.195km road running event demands a lot of discipline and can be quite an ordeal if you live in Kathmandu. Heavy monsoon rains have transformed the city’s streets into rivers and the yet to be completed road-widening project has multiplied the number of potholes. Entire neighbourhoods find themselves shrouded in a perpetual cloud of yellow dust.
Race date : 21 September 2013
Reporting : 5am at Dasrath Stadium
Starting : 6am
Fees : Half marathon and marathon for Nepalis Rs 500; $40 for others
5km open : Rs 300 for Nepalis; $15 for others
5km school : Rs 200 for Nepalis; $5 for others
3km wheelchair : Rs 200
For most Valley dwellers, bandas are a huge nuisance. But for runners like me, the strikes are a blessing in disguise. The roads are wide and empty, the air feels much better than on ‘normal’ days, and there is no fear of being hit by a vehicle.
“Training in the Valley is easy; there are hundreds of small trails leading up to the surrounding hills. However, if you want to run on the roads, then it is hard to avoid the traffic and pollution,” explains Richard Bull, who runs www.trailrunningnepal.org, a resource for trail runners.
Race day is equally likely to be littered with barriers. Most cities completely close off designated roads for such an event. However, runners taking part in the Kathmandu Marathon will have to dodge cars, buses, trucks, and pedestrians on their way to the finish line. More than 400 volunteers and policemen and women will try to control and redirect traffic.
Shrestha hopes this year’s encouraging attendance will motivate more young Nepalis to run in 2014, but his ultimate aim is to promote long-distance running as a sport in the country. “There is a lot of potential here,” says Shrestha. “My dream is to put together a group of excellent long-distance runners who will represent Nepal in international events and do well.”
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