Much of the news about Mount Everest has been tragic this year, but Nepalese runners Sudip Kulung Rai and Aang Chuttin Sherpa gave their communities a reason to celebrate this weekend, winning the 11th annual Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon. Local runners swept the podium.
The marathon is the world’s highest trail race, spanning more than 26 icy, rocky miles from 16,942 feet at Gorakshep to Namche Bazaar. The route was especially snowy this year and the starting line moved from its traditional place at Everest Base Camp.
Started in 2003, the Tenzing-Hillary Marathon runs annually on May 29th to commemorate the first ascent of the mountain. The race is especially poignant this year due to the fresh memories of Everest’s shut down climbing season in the wake of the devastating avalanche on April 18th. Runners trek into base camp three weeks before the race and kick off at 8:48 AM, reflecting the mountain’s 8,848-meter height. The local Sherpas are consistently the top contenders as they’re already acclimatized to the altitude and terrain.
The course crosses a variety of environments, travelling through the Khumbu glacier and through a sub-alpine desert to the monastery of Tengboche. From there, the trail descends into the tree line weaving along the river, and past groves of rhododendron flowers before crossing the finish line in the streets of Namche Bazaar.
Kulung finished the race in three hours, 52 minutes, and nine seconds, while Sherpa was the women’s victor, clocking in at five hours, eight minutes, and five seconds. Kulung’s younger brother came in third place, and the Nepalese swept both podiums. Robert Celinski of Poland finished in four hours, 39 minutes and 41 seconds, taking first place in the foreigner’s category. In 2006, runners set the record time of three hours, 28 minutes, and 27 seconds.
Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the first ascent, in 2013 organizers introduced the 60k Everest Extreme Ultramarathon. This race starts at the edge of the Khumbu Icefall and ends at Namche Bazaar after covering 37 miles. According to the organizers, this includes the worlds longest uphill trail running section from Phortse to Nha La, rising over 2,000 feet in 6.2 miles under the shadow of Cho Oyu. Samir Tamang was this year’s victor, completing the course in seven hours, 17 minutes, and 55 seconds, 40 minutes faster than his previous win.
Robert Celinsky summarized the difficulties of this year’s race. “It was chilling and cold for the last three days due to snowfall in Gorakshep,” said the Polish runner in a press release, “It is really exciting and one of the toughest events in the world.”
By: Michael Restivo