The WindChasers’ Sandakphu 70 Mile Himalayan Race could very well be considered as one of the most surreal and beautiful stage races in the world. One would probably need that kind of distraction to get you through the treacherous terrain and climbs that the course offers, leading runners from an altitude of 6000 feet to 12,000 feet and back to the start in four days. The course is almost entirely made up of cobblestones apart from the paved roads at the very beginning and end of the race. The recent WindChasers event held between April 26 and May 1 saw participants from US, India, Australia and Denmark.
Runners learned on the very first day that the weather in the Himalayas is unpredictable. The first day ended with rain showers followed by a quick hailstorm dropping the temperatures considerably. Luckily, it was the shortest day with 12.5 miles of steep climbs literally on the border of India and Nepal with just a few rocks separating the two countries in places. The weather on day two was perfect. The course ran through a stunning Himalayan national forest, Indian army camps, sparsely populated villages ending with the steepest climb taking runners to 12,000 feet at Sandakphu. The aid stations were very well stocked and perfectly placed. The views of the Himalayas in the distance serenaded the runners as they ran through the clouds. One could hear Tibetan monks chanting in the distance every now and then.
Day three was the big 26.2 miles at 12,000 feet. The race began with the most magnificent views of Kanchenjunga and a sneak peak of Mount Everest which stayed in view through the entire course making it seem like the runners were actually running through a beautiful postcard. This is probably the most stunning and surreal ultramarathon course in the world. Rhododendron flowers carpeted parts of the course and wild horses appeared through the clouds in the distance. However, the weather quickly changed halfway though. The faster runners made it through but the slower runners were caught up in a heavy hailstorm that covered the entire mountain range in white making their finish rather dramatic and even more majestic. The Sherpa crew and staff offered the most amazing and selfless support with an unlimited supply of delicious food all through the race. Just when one thought that this course couldn’t get more beautiful, the final day (day four) of the race pushed it up a notch with the course cutting right through the mountains from 12,000 feet to 6,200 feet taking runners through very steep forest declines. Tibetan prayer flags, Indian and Nepali villages, horses, waterfalls, rhododendrons and thick bamboo forests offered the best distraction as runners zoomed through to the finish line.
The Finishers and participants of the April 2014 race were:
|First||Subhodh Chettri||Australia||17 hrs 41 mins and 14 secs|
|Second||Adithya Raghavan||India||20 hrs 45 mins and 23 secs|
|Third||Michael Yip||USA||21 hrs 49 mins and 48 secs|
|Fourth||Mathew D Hurley||USA||22 hrs 21 mins and 53 secs|
|Fifth||Sunita Tummalapalli||India||24 hrs 37 mins and 7 secs|
|Sixth||Ramakrishna Chilakapati||India||25 hrs 9 mins and 55 secs|
|Seventh||Vishal Gupta||India||27 hrs 41 mins and 39 secs|
|Eighth||Lakshmi Thampi||India||36 hrs 8 mins and 49 secs|
The WindChasers just opened registration to their next stage race, which will be held between November 11 and November 16, 2014 this year. More information can be found on their website www.thewindchasers.com
Priyadarshini & Ram Sethu