- Two runners run side-by-side at Mt. Kanchenjunga.
- Young monks in Darjeeling before the race.
- Blessings from Buddah.
- Start of the Himalayan 100-mile stage race.
- A runner tackles Mt. Kanchenjunga on the second day of the race.
- Three runners take on Mt. Kanchenjunga on Day 2.
- Day 3 in the Himalayas.
- A cultural exchange ceremony was one of the highlights of Day 4.
- There was much dancing at the cultural exchange party on Day 4.
- A Nepali orchestra plays at the cultural exchange party on Day 4.
- Runners at the finish on Day 5 of the 100-mile stage race.
- A goodbye feast at the post-race gathering.
- Monkeys were amongst the race's spectators.
- An Indian family embarks on a motorcycle outing after the race.
- Post-race at the Taj Mahal.
- Bowl balancing.
- This map shows the area where the 100-mile stage race took place.
- Post-race photo with host family at the Taj Mahal.
This is not India as you imagine it.
Imagine running a five-hour marathon—and winning. Or losing your coordination and sanity while running six miles down a mountain trail that plunges 1,000 feet per mile—a solid vertical mile. Or being able to see four of the world’s five highest peaks at one time. Throw in Buddhist temples, Hindu shrines, the world’s worst traffic jams, families of four riding on one motorcycle, yaks, llamas, wild monkeys, the Taj Mahal, and a billion people elbowing one another for space, and you can only be in one place: India.
The Himalayan 100-mile stage race, however, is not India as you know it.
It takes place in the Himalaya, the tallest mountain range on Earth. The scenery says Nepal. The goose bumps covering your skin in the sub-freezing nights say Nepal. So do the features on the people’s faces. The route, encompassing some of the world’s most famous trekking routes, is in India’s far northeast, right on the Nepal border. It makes for one of most grueling, beautiful and spectacular endurance running races anywhere.
Suddenly, there in the anti-India, high above the teeming throngs of honking, shouting, bumping humanity, above the endless verdant tea-leaf-covered hillsides of Darjeeling, you’re alone—just you and a few other racers and the occasional cargo-lugging yak train, all trying to keep your footing as you run and walk and stumble 30,000 feet up and down ancient trails at the top of the world.
Nothing can prepare you for this. But according to Competitor correspondent Roy M. Wallack, the screams of quads and calves and hamstrings taken beyond their limits are momentarily drowned out by the awesome National Geographic spectacle unfolding before you. You’re not a runner anymore, he says, but an actor-stuntman costarring in the world’s biggest wide-screen 3-D movie adventure along with Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Makalu and Mt. Kanchenjunga—four of the five peaks on Earth over 27,000 feet.
Wallack says some racers cried at the sight of the grandeur, the kindness of the local people, and the relentless, timeless solitude, claiming they’d experienced life-changing epiphanies. Some, like him, wept more from dehydration and mind-altering, body-breaking exhaustion that made taking just one more step at 12,000 feet an agonizing triumph. He says every day of the Himalayan 100 was too long, too hard, too much—yet everyone agreed at the end that it was over too soon.
For the full story of this once-in-a-lifetime, bucket-list event, which has occurred every year since 1991, don’t miss Competitor’s July Adventure Issue. Wallack has done some of the craziest running, cycling and adventure races on the planet, but this one, he says, took him to a place, mentally and physically, that he’d never experienced before.
For info about the 2012 Himalayan 100, which runs from Oct. 27 to November 3, and includes several days of sightseeing in Darjeeling, the Golden Triangle, and the Taj Mahal, visit www.himalayan.com.