Nepal - Everest Marathon - November 2005

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Back In Kathmandu after marathon

Hi all,

Writing this from a fairly seedy looking internet cafe in down town Kathmandu, at 11.30 at night in between beers, seems a good time to go on line as the connection is fast and cheap.

Still blown away by Nepal and have not got the sight of the mountains out of my head, will be with me forever.

I can honestly say that I had had my fill of camping,  in freezing conditions in army like set ups. deprived of basics like toilet paper, and running water. Maybe I'm just soft, but not washing for nearly three weeks isn't really that much fun. The only thing I consoled myself with was that every one else smelt much the same!

It seems strange coming back to the husssle and bussle of town life, after not seeing a vehicle at all other than a helicopter for nearly three weeks.

Kathmandu is noisy, vibrant and mildly ramshackle. You can buy virtually anything here within a mile radius of our hotel. I am busy bartering for Xmas gifts.

The marathon was on Monday, 80 odd runners, mostly European with 20 or so Nepalese who made the rest of the runners look like geriatrics.

Altitude training, natural abilitiy, tenacity, and lots of guts ensured that the winner was definitley Nepalese. These men and women are not human! The terrain was difficult to say the least, apparently down hill 26.2 miles but there are large up hill bits which most normal people would struggle to walk, let alone run.

I was full of intrepidation about race day, I thought that there were potentially going to be lots of injuries, possibly needing helicoptor evacauation, but ... I was wrong. At worst we had a sprained ankle, a few dodgy knees and back pain. I was handing out water, paracetamol and co-codamol in equal measures, all seemingly equally effective!

The Nepalese winner did some incredible time, around 4 hrs, or under, but was penalised 10 mins, as he and a number of others broke race rules and didn't carry the obligatory kit (waterproofs, bivvy bag, food & water, and whistle).

I thought that the race would be televised, but there was certainly no evidence of any camera crews. I was stationed at the top of Sarnessa , and was treated to the view of eighty odd exhausted runners at mile 17, in need or more than just water! I had a good day acting as a cross between a marshall, doc, and mentor for the runners.

I can honestly say that as much as I love running, I was very pleased not to have a race number on my shirt that day.

Now back in Kathmandu, we are all having a relaxing tine, catching up on luxuries previously denied to us, hot showers, beer, decent meals, and late nights.

I will try and down load a few photos tomorrow, tonight it seems beyond the techinical expertise of the cafe I am in.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

back from 2 weeks Everest Trekking

Just arrived back in Namche after an amazing 2 weeks trekking. It has to be one of the toughest things I have ever done, but also one of the best.

We have been camping mainly, and I am now a dab hand at tent organisation, and packing up even at 6am with frozen hands, and empty stomach. The reason for the early starts, is that the porters carry our kit bags, pack up the tents and move on to the next camp whilst we are all having breakfast. They are unbelieveable guys, tiny, tough and uncomplaining sleeping outside, and carrying loads of 30kg plus on their heads, plus own kit! Puts us all to shame carrying a tiny day sack by comparison.

Health issues aside ( I have had everything you can possibly hope not to get), it has been a great trip. The view have been spectacular, I look up and can see Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Everest, Nupste, Island Peak you name it, it's there. The highest I got to was about 4,900m, which was amazing. The air is quite thin at that altituse, and everything is an effort.

My team, who were nicknamed the "duffers" by the other two groups, turned out to be a great bunch, with some outstanding athletes. The actual marathon was yesterday and deserves an entry in its own right, which I shall do in due course, but suffice it to say we had some of the best race results from our groups. No major problems, the odd knee and ankle sprain, and no need for heroics!

Will write more plus photos when I have more time & money in Kathmandu!


Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Monday, November 07, 2005

Happy Birthday Rachel

Happy Birthday darling Rachel, 10 today!
So sorry I can't be with you. The lady running our lodge has baked a cake for you, chocolate, with your name on it and candles, and we will all sing happy birthday to you tonight after dinner. Hope you don't mind if we eat all your cake.
Will try and send photos to you if techinically possible from this end.
Lots of love, thinking of you today. Nice present coming your way when I get back.
Lots of love Mummy. XXX

Gizzmos and gadgets

On this trip I have brought a number of toys with me, which keep me entertained. Amongst the most useful to date are my husband Robin's Sunto watch which has an altimeter on it. It's scary to see just how quickly we ascend on our treks. From Phakding to Namche yesterday morning we ascended 900m, and today another 300m to the outskirts of Namche to get my first view of Everest. It has clouded over a little, so I couldn't see the summit clearly, but am assured we will see lots of it in the next 2 weeks. The waiter who served our drinks turned out to be a fellow runner. He was a Nepalese man, competing this year, hoping to do it in 4hrs!!
He came 9th in 2000, and runs in cheap running shoes, because kosher kit just isn't available here even if he could afford it. Thet reckon, for most westerners, double your best ever marathon time to get some idea how long it would take you to do this marathon, for me that would be 8hrs!!
My other gadgets include a solar powered Ipod charger, which one of the lads in my group are trying out today. I also have access to a pulse oximeter, a cube shaped box which sits on the end of your finger and measure your arterial oxygen saturation (the higher the better), and also your pulse. With increasing altitude, generally your pulse rate rises and your sats fall until you have acclimatised. At sea level my sats are 99%, at 2430m, 95%, and yesterday at 3,420m, 90%.
This accounts for mild breathlessness and headaches which are bothering me a wee bit. Reassuringly, most others in our group are equally suffering. I feel much better today for a rest, and plenty of fluids, back to normal almost.
No internet availability now for two weeks till I get back after the race. Photos to follow soon.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Namche Bazzar

Hi, Now on the Everest trail having flown from Kathmandu to Lukla at the foothills of the Himalayas.
It was a spectacular flight in a little 20 seater plane flying low over the mountains. Slightly hairy coming into Lukla, the runway was pretty short but these pilots land there every day.
We walked to Phakding carrying day packs, our porters carrying the heavy stuff. Beautiful weather, 20-25C during the day. Our first days trekking was done at a very leisurely rate, stopping for lemon tea in the numerous little tea houses en route. Our marathon group have been divided into three groups, and although we all trek together, each group has its own set of porters, approx 20 per group, 10 to cook, and 10 to carry. We also have our own company of yaks to carry the heavy kit. I have my own medical porter carrying nothing but the medical kit, which is really heavy! It includes 5 oxygen cylinders, a defib, resuscitation equipment, drugs, bandages, knee braces name it, we have it. We even have a portable pressurised chamber to treat altitude sickness. Every thing going up the "hill" has to be carried by yak or man.
We camped for the first time last night. Two to a three man circa 1950s tent, ancient but servicable.
Loos are pretty awful, but hey....this is Nepal.
Have had to do some work already. One of our doctors got ill with a high temp and the shivers and shakes and took to her bed. Good old viral illness I reckon, but you have to think altitude illness every time here. We have a portable pulse oximeter with us which will measure your pulse rate and arterial oxygen saturations, which drop as you go up and the air gets thinner. Pulses rise as a response to altituse. I am also thirsty all the time, drinking loads of water which needs to be sterilised and filtered to stop the shits. As a result I am always looking for the loo!
My second patient yesterday was an unconscious Nepalese women of about 20, found on the mountain 10 mins north of Phakding where we were camping. John Apps our senior doc and I ran up the hill with a stretcher, oxygen and resus kit, brought her down still unconscious and set about treating her in one of the local lodges on the floor, admist many onlookers. IV fluids, and IV antibiotics, warm clothes and later hot tea seemed to do the trick. I was pretty relieved when she came too. We were planning on giving her a second dose of antibiotics later, but she disappeared, still with cannula in her arm, probably walked home, another 1 hr uphill. They are tough people here.
Today we have done a really big climb of 600m or so to Namche Bazaar which will be the finish point of the marathon.
This is a sherpa town. The climb up was spectacular, photos to follow soon.
We all have mild headcahes, and stiff legs but tomorrow is a rest day here, so we will recover.
Staying in a lodge tonight, great food. All vegetarian and no booze, but I don't really care.
Looking forward to a good night's sleep.
That's all for now,

Friday, November 04, 2005


Arrived yesterday and have had a day's sight seeing round Kathmandu. A complete sensory overload with noises, smells and colour. Visited the Monkey Buddhist temple and then had a guided tour round Durbar Square in Thamel which you have to see to believe.

Rather tired, and hot after walking around all day. Had a medical and group briefing this am, I am group medic for the "Cuckoos" the two other groups being the "early birds'' and the ''late birds''. We have approx 23 runners in each group, most European, with a few others.

Tested out the medical kit including the altitude chamber, portable stretcher and oxygen.

We are getting up at 4 am (groan) tomorrow to leave for Lulkla, flying in small planes, weight restriction of 12k only which isn't alot!!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Setting Off!

For those of you who don't know, I am off to Nepal today for the best part of November. I am one of five voluntary docs traveling with a group of extremely fit folk who have elected to run the Everest Marathon.
Have a look at the links which will fill you in about the actual marathon. It is the highest altitude marathon on earth and amongst one of the toughest.
Just in case you think I'm running it......I'm not! I don't think I'm fit enough.
We fly to Kathmandu via Abu Dhabi and have 2-3 days there before flying to Lukla.
From Lukla we are on foot, trekking to Gorak Shep near Everest Base Camp. This will take us the best part of three weeks, Slow ascent is the key, as acclimatization is our priority.
The actual marathon is scheduled for Mon 21st November, starting at Gorak Shep, finishing at Namche Bazzar. It will be televised, I think the BBC will cover it. Sleepmonsters (see link) will cover the race.
A big thanks to all my mates and family who've wished me well, and lent me loads of kit!
Bye for now