The Manaslu Mountain Trail is an eight-stage race along the challenging and beautiful Manaslu Circuit trekking route. Starting at Arughat and ending in Dharapani, the event covers a total distance of 212km with 13,500m of cumulative ascent, in a part-circumnavigation of the mountain.
Devised by Richard Ball, a British trail runner living in Kathmandu, the race was launched in 2012. It takes place each November, attracting global participants, ranging from elite endurance athletes to marathon runners with a goal to 'just get round'. Richard set up trailrunningnepal.org to bring more people to come to run in Nepal and to support Nepal's talented trail running athletes. The first two events were won by Nepali runners in astonishing times, the fastest being 18hrs 42mins by Phudorjee Lamasherpa in 2013.
With rocky and often technical trails, huge climbs and descents, and the challenges of altitude, this is a demanding event. Supported by a fantastic Nepali team, baggage and supplies are moved by mules and staff between trekking lodges while the runners complete the day’s leg, carrying spare warm clothing and food. Usually ranging from 20–40km, the race stages also include a 'sky race' of almost a vertical kilometre (900m), climbing from Samagaon up to Manaslu Base Camp and back. A rest day in Samdo aids acclimatisation, with high level walks up towards the Tibetan Border, before the highest day which takes the runners over the Larkya La, at 5135m, and down to Bimtang.
With the motto 'Run for light', the Manaslu Mountain Trail also works to improve access to reliable lighting in the valley. Partnering with the charity LED, during the event solar lights are carried and distributed to selected villages. These, as well as donations to local hydro-electric schemes, are funded from a portion of the race profits. (See www.lighteducationdevelopment.org)
The race includes a lot of cultural interaction with the villages along the route, and a highlight of the event is an overnight stay at the monastery of Hinang Gompa. The team organises a fun run for all the children of Samagaon school during the two days staying there, and there are visits to village homes and the monastery in Samdo.
Taking part in the 2013 race, this was my first stage race and the toughest thing I have ever done. And yet it was also the adventure of a lifetime, giving me a different perspective and enriching my life in so many ways. I will have lifelong memories of the beautiful scenery, fascinating villages and culture and, most of all, the wonderful people I met; the runners, Nepali crew and villagers whose lives we briefly passed through.
While I was running around Manaslu, the 'ornamental heap of riches' cast a spell on me that will draw me back to Nepal for many more adventures on her sky-high trails.
by Lily Dyu