“We are only half mad, just ran the half marathon at the highest marathon in the world”
-Team Lets Run
We are often told by our non runner friends that it takes a special kind of idiot to run 21 km at 5 am in the morning in Raipur. So it came as no surprise that when all of us decided to make the journey to Leh for the highest marathon in the world, most people concluded that we were now beyond repair !
Nevertheless, we ventured to Ladakh, strong in will and spirit ! Most of us chose to arrive a week to 5 days prior the race so as to acclamatise to the high altitude and get some practice under our belt before the big day. We did find time to go around and were simply awestruck by the majestic landscape the region has to offer. We also found time to spend one night at the Pangong Lake which was truly an exhilarating experience as photographs will show !
The first practise run in Leh brought the challenges of high altitude running to the fore. Most of us were left gasping for breath in the first two kilometers and were simply defeated by the relatively low oxygen levels and the varying elevation ! The second run at Pangong Lake (@ 14000 ft!) was surprisingly the harbinger of confidence in many of us. Running along the beautiful Pangong Lake is one experience which I will cherish for a lifetime despite the unforgiving running conditions. Although, we had a professional photographer in our midst, we all agreed that no photo could do justice to the inexplicable vistas we experienced there while running.
By the time the big day arrived, we were all in high spirits. All kinds of energy drinks and potions were readied the night before. Calculations and combinations to tackle the race, all of which were for the mind and not for the body, were thoroughly discussed. I guess somewhere in our mind we all knew that though we will make it, it will be perhaps the toughest run of our lives !
The atmosphere at the start point in the morning was electrifying ! We could see runners from all over the world on the field converging towards the start point. The Sun Gods had offered some respite and the overcast weather made the conditions ideal for running. The half marathon track entailed a downhill run for the first 10km, varyingly plane for the next 7 km and stark uphill for the last 4km. The first 10km downhill along the Mahabodhi Road was a breeze for all of us with some of us touching Raipur like speeds. It was only after the first 10km, that we realised the challenges of the race. The track now ran along the Leh-Keylong and the Leh-Manali highway. Nevertheless, we managed and made it to the 17km mark. The last four kms were the final frontier and it was all uphill !
The stretch was excruciating and you could see most people walking rather running, even the Ladakhis ! The last 100 meters were downhill, much needed for all runners to finish with grace. Crossing the finish line was crossing into a celebration with most of us breaking into a dance !
After all that raining and all that hype, we had already made it! The run was indeed an experience ! It was proud moment for our team as all 30 of us finished the race before the cut off time with Tarang Khurana leading the pack with an impressive 2 hrs 7 min.
Finishing the race gave us all a sense of deep accomplishment which we will carry with us for a long time to come. Obviously, we followed the run by a king-sized lunch and a big celebration at the team hotel afterwards, Lets Run style !