If you don’t feel challenged enough to run 26 miles at sea level, try running on a glacier and a rocky alpine terrain with menacing yaks in your path at 17,000 feet. Not that I particularly wanted to be challenged, loved running or ever attempted to run a marathon or even a half. But I was at the right place at the right time, so why not?
Two weeks into my Everest ER post and after finally getting over my extreme fatigue and breathlessness at even minimal exertion, I decided I needed more exercise. After all, I was eating three-course meals three times a day (what a life!) and led a mostly sedentary life taking care of patients at the clinic. When I learned that the Tenzing Hillary Mount Everest Marathon was to take place in the end of May, a few days after clinic’s closure, I thought this was my chance to shine! Well actually, an opportunity to get marathon off my bucket list and not gain the EBC 15.
Training was an obstacle I was almost willing to ummm…skip. Each time I attempted to run, I lasted for two minutes and then needed to take a breather. No pun intended. I had no schedule and no plan. Luckily, I made friends with our camp neighbors, who were experienced marathoners running for Indian Army. Although I was way slower than they were, they welcomed me to their training sessions and encouraged me along the way. We would jog the straight aways, speed down the hills and hike as fast as we could up the numerous hills. I learned to relax my joints to be able to jump from rock to rock and also dodge the yaks, donkeys and astonished trekkers that were in my way.
Fast-forward 1.5 months, it was May 29th, marathon day. Everest climbing season was over. Everest Base Camp was still littered with tents, but this time they sheltered about 200 masochistic runners. Most were unassuming Mikarus (“Westerners” in Sherpa) who had no idea what they’d gotten themselves into. The rest were speedy Nepalis racing for the top three places and substantial prizes they came with. People were cheerfully taking photos and high-fiving each other at the start line. It was indeed a special moment with the Khumbu icefall on our left, glacier rivers at our feet and the energy of adventure in the air.
Seven hours later, still on my feet and unscathed, I made it to the finish line at the beautiful Namche Bazaar! Not bad for a Mikaru, but I was actually cheating as I was an acclimatized Mikaru. (Shhhhh…) There were festivities, photos and stylish Dynasty helicopters trek suits. I guess it was worth it, as marathon is now off my bucket list! I wonder what’s next?
Important note: If you are actually planning to run this marathon, do NOT follow my training plan. Do stay clear of yaks though!
— Tatiana Havryliuk, MD
*A version of this post originally appeared on the Mt. Sinai – St. Luke’s West Wilderness Medicine blog.