OFF-ROAD IN NEPAL
The Himalayan Rush is the only off-road triathlon in Nepal. It is set in the small picturesque lakeside town of Begnas, about 20 km from Nepal’s second largest city, Pokhara, a popular resting spot for trekkers heading for Mustang and the Annapurna range. Begnas itself sits at 800 m above sea level, with 8,000 m high peaks only 40 km away, so it’s a mountain setting without the need for acclimatization.
This year’s race was held on March 25. There was perfect weather – a bright, clear day allowing the full majesty of the snow-covered Himalayas to provide an inspirational backdrop for a challenging race, which this year included a new cycling section. In previous years participants have had to do loops of the same circuit, but this year the standard race had one 35 km loop around two lakes, ending up at the start point. Much of the cycling route, which participants unanimously agreed was the toughest part of the course, was non-existent only a few years ago and in many areas is littered with large rocks and stones. As Giles Dawney, 35, from Herefordshire, U.K. said, “you can’t believe a bike can ride over that stuff.”
With steep inclines and equally challenging sharp descents, it is a real adventure. The route reaches up to 1,141 m elevation gain and takes the participants into the heart of the local villages, which helps the participants and locals alike to feel that they are all part of a community event.
The standard triathlon is the main draw with 31 participants this year. It starts with a 1.5 km out and back swim in Lake Begnas, followed by a 35 km off-road cycle and ends with a 10 km out-and-back run. There is also a sprint, which is half the length of the standard, a threeperson relay, a duathlon and a 5 km run, bringing the overall number of participants to 117.
As well as athletes from Nepal, the 2017 race attracted participants from Japan, the U.S., the U.K., Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Mongolia, Singapore and Malaysia. The Nepali athletes often fare well on their home ground and first to the finish line this year was Basalt Tharu, who finished in 2:51:42. The first woman past the post was Jocelyn Powelson from Virginia, U.S., in 3:20:29.
The race is a passion project started by Maneesh Shrestra in 2012 and it has been growing and improving every year. He wants to promote the race as a fun event and “a chance to experience the terrain and unique scenery that Nepal has to offer.”
Adam Isfendyar is a travel photographer from London, U.K.