Majell Backhausen previews an event that promises to change the lives of not just westerners who take up the seven-day challenge, but also the lives of a few Nepali locals…
It’s already April. The year is passing by quicker than it did last year and funnily enough, quicker than the year before that, too. There has already been a few “where does the time go, how will I get through another week at this pace?” fretful moments.
If the sentiment of ‘the Quickening’ has caught your attention, it’s for good reason. You need a holiday. Don’t we all? You seek adventure, a unique experience, and a challenge. But how to squeeze it in? And give the journey a bit of meaning? An aim?
Travelling anywhere in the world for an event makes it a special occasion, but making that destination Nepal and running the ancient singletrack passages overlooked by the world’s eight highest mountain peaks goes far beyond the adjective ‘special’. The incredible landscape of the Himalayas can’t help but make anyone who ventures to their foothills feel humble, still and content.
“Too often we bypass the unknown dirt road, which is full of unrealised potential, potholed with intense feelings and unknown outcomes, and we opt for the paved, known highway, which holds nothing but comfort and leaves us feeling empty, unfulfilled. We arrive at our destination, sure, but we forget the journey that gets us there. So what is the point?” I jotted down recently.
Having this realisation from any day, let alone a holiday, is tough to accept. So I put to you, for your next annual leave application submitted, do it with a core outcome, use that working-day nomenclature to argue your case for leave with cause. And then use the momentum of excitement to push through to your leave date having accepted the challenge of the Manaslu Trail Race – 170km over seven days including a 5160-metre pass. Tell your boss you’ll still be working hard, just not on your computer (or your phone for that matter).
It’s big, it’s bold and I reckon it’ll change your life, and in a very positive way.
In the 2016 edition, 38 participants raced the 7-stages, exactly 50% women, 50% men. Seven of the runners came from Nepal with other athletes (‘fast’ and ‘slow’) coming from a mix of nations including The UK, Ireland, USA, Norway, Australia, Portugal, Sweden, Italy.. just to name a few.
Manaslu Trail Race is an event unlike so many others on the multi-day roster. It allows like-minded people to meet, laugh, befriend and embrace what modern day life so often shields us from. Communication is limited to the old fashioned medium of speaking and body language/charades when it comes to meeting the remote villagers. Entertainment comes in many forms, none of which are digital. And connection, with the Nepali people, their culture and landscape are made through sight, sound and feel, with no screens involved. It’s an old school, adventurous school camp for grown-ups.
Imagine running from the gorgeous high altitude grounds of Bimtang with its incredible views of glaciers and snow capped mountains, descending through a technical forested trail, feeling the fresh, cool air sinking from the high pass you traverse on the previous days running. Firstly it’s the physical challenge of these mountain trails which may be a cause of early high altitude, can’t-suck-in-the-air–fast-enough frustration. There’s also the frustrating inability to capture everything you see in such a way so that you can exhibit it to others, for their own enlightenment, upon your return. So don’t. Lave the camera in the pack. Try to capture it in sight, sound, smell, and permanent imprint in your memory. Stuff being able to show others crisp digital images that don’t emit the waft of yak dung or better, the waft of a traditional curry being brewed in the back room of a Nepali tea hut. Instead, speak of your time – talk about the Manaslu trails. Connect with people and impress upon them what Manaslu means via the passion and excitement in your eyes as you recount the long marathon day, where you found yourself alone, tired, sore, but very much at peace and in the moment somewhere between the start and finish of the day.
The communities through which you pass are grateful and hospitable, with local children also excitedly partaking in the event, thanks to the RD Richard Bull’s focus on giving back to the local communities. Every year Samagaon School holds a race (at 3500m!) and event participants help to organise it.
The event provides a life-changing opportunity for not just overseas runners. In 2016, two 18-year old young women, Sunmaya and Purna, from the Nepali village, Jumla, were invited to take part in the Manaslu Trail Race. Each day they displayed how talented and inspiring they are by running hard and setting new course records. As a result of their dedication, they were given the opportunity to apply for their own passports and travel to compete in the Asia Skyrunning Championships 2016 in Hong Kong (along with the collective help from some generous people). Placing overall 2nd, was Sunmaya with Purna placing 4th. As the first and second Asian-born runner to finish the 50km distance, they stood 1st and 2nd on the Asia Skyrunning Ultra Champion podium.
With the 2017 event approaching, the organisation hopes to give the same opportunity to more Nepali runners this coming November at the 7th edition of the Manaslu Trail Race. And, of course, extends the life-changing invitation to you guys. That is if you can handle being ‘off digital air’ for a week. Go on, try disconnecting…I promise you you’ll actually plug into what matters again.
MANASLU TRAIL RACE – Stage by Stage
Total of 169km (+10,970m / -9794m Elv.)
Days 1, 2, 3
Kathmandu (11th arrive, 12th organise, 13th depart to start)
Tuesday, Nov 14th
Stage 1 – Sotikhola to Tatopani
19.5km (+ 2080m / -1770m Elv.)
Wednesday, Nov 15th
Stage 2 – Tatopani to Pewa
32.2km (+ 1250m / -440m Elv.)
Thursday, Nov 16th
Stage 3 – Pewa – Hinang Gompa
27.5km (+ 2130m / -780m Elv.)
Friday, Nov 17th
Stage 4 – Hinang to Samagaon
24km (+ 1550m / -1180m Elv.)
Saturday, Nov 18th
Stage 5 – Samagaun ~ Manaslu Base Camp ~ Samagaun
12.7km (+ 1310m / -1310m Elv.)
Sunday, Nov 19th
Stage 6 – Samagaon to Samdo
7.9km (+ 530m / -310m Elv.)
Monday, Nov 20th
Day 10 – Rest/Walking – Samdo – Tibetan Border – Samdo
20km (+ 1200m /-1200m Elv.)
Tuesday, Nov 21st
Hike / run Samdo to Bimtang
22km (+ 1490m / -1594m Elv.)
Wednesday, Nov 22nd
Stage 7 – Bimtang to Dharapani
22.86km (+ 630m / -2410m Elv.)
Thursday, Nov 23rd
Return to Kathmandu (Drive)
( -2410m Elv.)
Friday, Nov 24th
Visit the website at manaslutrailrace.org or reserve your place now by clicking the button below.
Pre-register for November 2017
Manaslu Trail Race- Pre Registration