My name’s Richard Morris, and I’m running the Everest Marathon (the world’s highest), to help people with a visible difference.
There aren’t many runs where you have to walk for 10 days to reach the starting line.
There aren’t many runs where you have to walk for 10 days to reach the starting line. Or where oxygen depletion is a concern at the start line altitude. Or where -26 temperatures seem a possibility.
Having just written those sentences, I’m wondering one more time whether participating in the Everest Marathon is the very best idea I’ve had. I’m looking forward to it with a mixture of excitement and (definitely) trepidation. I’ve always been a runner – more enthusiastic weekend trail runner than podium finisher. I’ve always tried to run wherever I’ve lived in the world, and since being 40, have run various marathons on different continents. When I was asked to present the prizes at the finish line of the Everest Marathon in 2016, I began thinking how I could get myself in shape to complete it while still in Nepal. When the organisers said they’d be happy to have me in the 2019 race, and let me raise money for charity, I couldn’t resist.
So, for the last 12 months, I’ve been practicing. I run about four times a week, mainly in the gym. At the weekend, I get out of Kathmandu, where I’m based as British Ambassador, and participate in a trail run or run with Nepali friends. I’ve discovered there is a whole running sub-culture here, with lots of UK connections. Distance runner extraordinaire, former 24 hour road running and 100km world record holder Lizzie Hawker is often here. It has been great to meet her and find inspiration in her book. I’ve been inspired by meeting Nepali distance runner, multi-race winner and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year 2017, Mira Rai, too. Both are completely down-to-earth and friendly, even to this obviously amateur runner. And there are plenty of other enthusiastic Nepali, Brit and international runners here too. Some are simply happy to get out at the weekend. Some are always looking for new distance goals – the four day run around the Kathmandu Valley sounded amazing (leopards on the path anyone?). Definitely further than I was aiming, but amazing to see people you know pushing such boundaries.
And so over the past months I’ve slowly pushed my hill running distances – managing regular hilly 25kms, and recently running more than 50km a week.
Now this Marathon is getting close. With the other runners I’ll fly to Lukla to begin a 10-day trek to Base Camp at the weekend. The accommodation is pretty basic: I recall frozen sinks, solid towels, ice on windows and very simple shared drop toilets. And it will get colder as we get higher. You need to look straight ahead on the high suspension bridges (don’t look down); and ensure you get across them before any Yak trains. I’ve also learned that you need to always pass the Yak trains on the hill side of the path – as otherwise they can inadvertently knock you down the mountainside.
I’m going to use the run to raise funds for and awareness of two great organisations – Changing Faces, which does so much for people with visible difference; and Burns Violence Survivors Nepal, which was established to help victims of acid attacks, but now helps anyone, and often children, who have suffered from burns. I’m sure the great work they do every day will be a source of inspiration up in the mountains.
If you’d like to sponsor me, visit my JustGiving page for Changing Faces. I’ll try to ensure they get similar amounts in the end. Any amount is welcome; and all the money you contribute will go directly to the charities.