It got dark around 6pm, and most of the runners were tucked up in their beds by 7pm. I didn’t have the best of nights sleep. I’d been up several times in the night with an upset stomach, and with temperatures well below freezing, no electric lights and a squat toilet.. that’s just no fun at all.
The alarm sounded just before dawn and i really didn’t feel like leaving the snugness of my sleeping bag. If it hadn’t been for my room mate Paul, dragging me out with camera in hand, i may not have seen the sunrise at all.
We stood together shivering on top of the ridge, in the half light before dawn, waiting to catch our first sight of four of the five highest mountains in the world. By the time we’d reached Sandakphu yesterday, the afternoon mist had shrouded the peaks obscuring the view, but as the sun slowly rose, shedding its golden light onto the high peaks of himalaya our patience was rewarded, the ‘abode of snow’ suddenly coming into view. No matter how well you photograph it, or write about it, you simply can’t capture the true scale or beauty of these sleeping giants. The pristine white peaks, picking up the subtlest hints of pink, crimson and orange in the changing colours of the sunrise, contrasted by the miriade of shades of grey in layer after layer of sloping foothills between us and the heights of Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga.
Slowly we made our way back to the sleeping huts, with around an hour to change into our running gear. While some grabbed breakfast, i returned to the warmth of my sleeping bag for as long as i could, before taking the short walk to the start.
At 7 the sun still sat low in the sky, meaning we’d have to at least start in warm clothes, but by lunch time the temperature would be well into the 30′s. Today’s run was a 10 mile out and back, so we’d be running 20 miles in total. The course was much gentler than monday’s hills, once again it followed the cobblestone track that marked the border, as it slowly snaked up and down.
This was much more the kind of running i was used to, although at 12,000 feet, its not just the views that take your breath away. But the 2 great things about an out and back course is that for every hill you run up there is a hill to run down and you get to see your fellow runners, going in the opposite direction at some stage. Seeing some of the top runners springing along with relative ease was a joy to watch, while giving some of the slower runners a high 5, hug or shout of encouragement was equally rewarding.
For most of the day, we were on the ridge and each time i looked up the views quite simply overcame me. Each time i saw these great mountains, it was as if seeing them for the first time, i don’t think i’d ever tire of looking at them in awe.
I finished running much earlier today and it was still warm, so cheering on the rest of the runners was a much more comfortable experience. I completed the run in 4 hours 42 minutes, allowing plenty of time for sitting around chatting, catching up with my journal and even some sketching.
Once again everyone completed today’s run safely, although some were suffering more than others and some needed intravenous fluids. Once we were all back, it was time for another briefing on tomorrow’s run. The briefing took place in the room in which I was sleeping and it felt a little bit like being back in your first week at college, with a large group of newly acquainted friends crammed into a tiny room and everybody huddled up onto a couple of beds.
Today’s soup was a delicious tomato and crouton, which went down very well, although it was all i felt up to eating. Tomorrow’s marathon was going to be all the tougher for having hardly eaten today…