17-23 January 2014 #690

Run, Kathmandu, run

The first edition of Ultra Trail Kathmandu attracts professionals and amateurs alike

Mountain running is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, yet the potential of Nepal’s trails is still largely untapped. On 11 January, Ultra Trail Kathmandu kicked off at Shivapuri National Park to encourage local participation in trail running events and to support Nepal’s talented athletes.

Over 90 professionals, enthusiasts and amateurs started the 1100m vertical climb to the summit of Shivapuri. Organised by Trail Running Nepal, Ultra Trail Kathmandu offered participants three different routes: a tough, exacting and scenic 50km route for experienced runners willing to take up the challenge, complimented by 27km and 11km routes for participants trail running for the first time.

Involving a climb up to an elevation of 3410 m, coupled with some hard descents and technical trail sections, the 50km route became a natural allure for more experienced runners. Starting at the Shivapuri, runners followed a long ridge trail to Chisapani, onto Mulkharkha, through a forest trail to Nagi Monastery and then descending down the same trail to complete the route.

Those who lacked experience in extreme trail running, yet wanted to lose themselves to the surrounding nature, opted for the 27km route. From Shivapuri, the 27 km route runners diverged from the 50km route by following a long ridge trail to Okhreni. Descending down a jeep track to the Bagmati River, runners continued on the forest trail to Nagi Monastery, then followed the jeep trail back to the finish line.

THE FASTEST: Winners of the women's 50km route, Manikala Rai (left) and Lizzy Hawker (right) pose with their certificates at the finish line.
The least challenging of all three routes was the 11km route where runners directly follow the forest trail from Shivapuri to Nagi Monastery and conclude their route through the jeep trail to the finish line.

While inaugural editions of races are often plagued with confusion and last minute glitches, the collective effort and hard work by Trail Running Nepal, the team of volunteers and the overall high spirit of the runners ensured that the competition continued smoothly and kept the frustration levels to a minimum. Apart from a few runners who strayed from their intended route due to uncertainty over course markings, all returned to the finish line in good spirits and without incident or injury.

One of the differences between road and trail running is perhaps the camaraderie that easily develops between runners, despite the competition between them. This was obvious at the post race dal bhat meal where runners enjoyed spending time together, sharing food and conversation, before eventually heading homewards.

“Brilliant race, fabulous course, wonderful experience,” said Susan Huntenth, one of the non-resident foreign participants following the end of the race.

Far from the hustle and bustle of the valley, the thought of running through beautiful ridge lines, winding forest descents and hillside villages will surely make any running enthusiast eagerly anticipate the next race on 3 January, 2015, when Ultra Trail Kathmandu will return to Nepal.

Lizzie Hawker

Read also:

Running in the mountains

Extreme Annapurna in Nepal