Guest post #4: how was YOUR experience of the Ladakh Marathon?

Gotta love a guest post that starts with “Any idiot can run but you need a special kind of idiot to run a marathon” which is what this one did 😛

Today another of my ASICS Running Club mates, R K Bahuguna, takes over as our guest blogger, sharing his thoughts on the Ladakh marathon.
RkB has an interesting, almost philosophical take on his experience, and makes some good, insightful points.
“Listening to the heroic tales from runners who had conquered the Ladakh marathon last year, I was excited for the challenge.
The stories of acclimatization needed for 4-5 days, low oxygen levels in dry-arid climate, direct sunlight & UV piercing your eyes & body at 11000+ feet around barren picturesque mountains, invite you to conquer this highest marathon in world as certified by AIMS.
A video of the Ladakh run was posted in our ASICS group and huge interest was generated with 30+ people registering for the Ladakh half marathon. My excitement led to booking of air tickets to Leh on 13/03/18, 6 months before the event.
(Editor: Well done, you!)
ASICS running group friends reached Leh for acclimatization from 01/09/18 onwards to 06/09/18 for the race scheduled on 09/09/18. What better way to acclimatize than visiting various places of interest around Leh like Leh Palace, Leh market, Hall of Fame of Indian Army, Patthar Sahib Gurudwara, Sangam of Indus & Zanskar rivers, rafting in chilling Zanskar river, monuments & places of worship, school of Sonam Wangchuk etc.
Daily morning training uphill run of 4-5 kms to Shanti stupa was exposing us to the forthcoming challenge.
(Editor: It sure did 😛 )
A road trip of approx 170 kms on 07/09 through the difficult uphill terrain via Changla Pass (A passage/road connecting two valley ranges) at 17500 feet, took 12 of us to Pangong Tso (14000’). The lake is 160 kms long and 500m to 5000m in width at various points.
A night camping at the lake side in Swiss cottages in chilly, windy weather was another experience. We were better acclimatized but tired after the arduous journey, when we reached Leh on 8th evening.
 After enough of sight-seeing & good acclimatization, now it was time for official running in the festive environment.
(Editor: Aha!  Finally we get down to the serious business of running :P)
We confidently took to the start line at 6.30 am and ran along the Leh-Manali highway with approx. 1500 runners for the half marathon.
My strategy was to pace up on down slopes, as up gradients shall stall.
Hydration was important as we were frequently feeling dryness in mouth and lack of oxygen to match the running pace.
The down slopes were easy to traverse once I got the hydration sorted and I managed the up slopes of Saboo village.The route goes down hill for about 5-6 kms and reaches again Leh-Manali highway & U turn starts at 11.5 kms. I was gasping for oxygen even on down/flat  tracks, a unique experience. We passed through the home of His Highness Dalai Lama at approx 14kms and then the gradual uphill started. The last 4 kms are steep and I had to run-jog-walk in the stretch after gathering oxygen & hydration.
Ladakh region is strategically important as it shares sensitive borders with Pakistan on west and Tibet/China in east, and so there is a good presence of Indian Army. I was elated seeing Army personnel lined up on either side of route and cheering we runners. I responded with ‘Salute to Indian army’ & could sail through the uphill sections charged up and reached finish line at 2.25.46 hrs, in a better than expected time of 30 mins over my PB.
Leh marathon attracts people from all parts of country and overseas, & has unique clientele. Every runner wants to prove his/her endurance by conquering the Ladakh Marathon, and experience life in these difficult terrains with remote places.
When I shared my 21 kms run with the local caretaker at my guest house, he explained that it is routine for them to walk continuously for 160-200 kms with their animals for grazing.
With every daily necessity being transported from Srinagar or Delhi & no local produce, the cost of living is very high. They look forward to tourism for any income whatsoever, & that too for 6 months, as there is hardly any activity in winter times & people migrate to habitable places.
Although I feel that this Ladakh run is abnormal, is too killing and that logistics are difficult, it is done for once and all, but…the running bug likes challenges, so who knows…you might just land up again for the 2nd time in Leh, like our friend Neeraj…
RkB – what a nice account of your whole experience, and I love the way you have cleverly left yourself an opening, possibly running in Leh another time, just like Neeraj did, running it this year for the second time 🙂
Basically, RkB, as I said to Neeraj, it’s a case of “never say never again”!!

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