Everest Ultra – Nepal’s High Altitude Extreme Marathon
Set to take place on March 30, 2013, the Everest Ultra is a non-stop marathon race between Gorak Shep and Lukla in Nepal. Put together by Jan Turner and Ramesh Bhattachan, the Everest Ultra first took place on April 10, 2010, with fifteen runners participating. The challenging 65 km course covers a range of terrain on trekking paths, including ice, rock and glacial moraines, trekking paths, crossing hanging bridges, river beds and rural farmland and winding its way through forests, starting at a height of around 18,000 feet at Gorak Shep, dropping down to 8,497 feet and climbing back to 9,380 feet before finishing at Lukla, in what many extreme marathon enthusiasts would agree is one of the most spectacular races on the planet.
Extreme marathons started in Nepal with the Everest Marathon, proposed by Tony Hunt and Jan Turner in 1985. The first event took place in 1987, with follow up events in 1988 and 1989. Having left Nepal for a time to pursue other interests, Jan Turner returned in 1991 and, with the help of John Williams, Jack Maitland, Jane King and Ramesh Bhattachan, organized the Annapurna Triathlon, which took place annually for seven years. At the same time Jan organized and oversaw the Kathmandu Marathon for two years.
In 1995 a group of twelve local runners tackled a run from Pokhara to Poon Hill with the goal of completing in twelve hours a 100 km route that would normally take five days to hike. The winner completed the inaugural Annapurna 100 race in 11 hours 55 minutes and 55 seconds.
The Everest Ultra is the highest ultra-marathon in the world and the course has been designed to take this into account with a downhill start, but there are some grueling uphill sections at high altitude that runners need to be prepared for. Not surprisingly, the top 14 record holders for the Everest Ultra are Nepali, with other runners traveling from Sweden, Australia, Croatia, Belgium, Ireland, the UK and Brazil to participate. The top five record holders are: Sudip Kulung Rai (5:00:01); Ram Kumar Raj Bhandari (5:02:16); Phurba Tamang (5:02:51); Kiran Kulung (5:11:01); and Jitendra Rai (5:13:10).