Reviews and previews including news of marathons at the North Pole, down from Everest and in Australia, and more.
CHAMPION NEPALI SKYRUNNER BHIM Bahadur Gurung (shown opposite) has blitzed this year’s gruelling Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon. Beating pre-race favourite Suman Kulung, Gurung won the 42km high altitude run from Everest Base Camp to Namche Bazaar in a time of 4:02:30. 37-year-old Gurung, runner-up in last year’s North Pole Marathon, crossed the finish line just three minutes and 40 seconds ahead of Kulung to secure his second Everest win since 2015, calling the world’s highest marathon “a very difficult run”. Taking third place for the second year in a row, and closing out a Nepali sweep of the podium, was veteran competitor Bed Bahadur Sunuwar who crossed 22 minutes after Kulung. Sunuwar won the event in 2016. Seemingly i mper v ious to t he ex t reme altitude and rugged trail conditions of Everest’s Solukhumbu region, Nepali runners in fact took the first 17 spots in the Full Marathon, while compatriot Thirtha Tamang, 31, impressed as the third-time winner of the event’s epic 60km Ultra division. Tamang crossed the line a full 45 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor, fuelled, he joked, by not hi ng more t ha n water a nd a Snickers bar during his almost seven-hour run. It was another Nepali coup in the women’s division with Purnima Rai clocking 5:20:56 to take first place ahead of Nirkala Rai (5:27:32) and Padam Kumari Rai (5:52:21). Remarkably, fourth place went to pint-sized 17-year-old Nepali Prena Senchury, completing in her first marathon. While Nepali runners finished strongly, marathon times for foreign competitors were blown out by the steep terrain and thin mountain air, which at Everest Base Camp means a level of available oxygen only 50% of that at sea level. The first foreigner to cross the line in the Full Marathon was Austrian Manuel Seyr in 5:59:29, ahead of Britain’s Jonathon Bamer (6:13:06) and Josh Blyleven from New Zealand, who was thrilled to complete his first marathon in 6:30:38. Also finishing strong was New Zealand trekking guide Melissa Mcartney, the third foreign er over the line in the female Full Marathon, clocking a solid time of 8:22:07
behi nd f i rst place-get ter American Holly Zimmermann (7:39:22) and Austrian Marina Scheiber (7:45:11). In the Half Marathon (21km), it was racers from around Asia-pacif ic t hat dominated, with 27-year-old New Zealander Jayden Klinac easily taking first place in just 2:59:35 – in a pair of second-hand running shoes no less – calling it “good fun”. Twenty minutes behind the Kiwi came Korean veteran Dong Wook Kwon (3:19:45), with Indian Dipesh Sabharwal (3:37:32) in third place. In the women’s Half Marathon it was New Zealand sisters Emily and Anna Ruygrok, aged 25 and 27, who crossed the line first and second, clocking times of 3:41:17 and 3:42:46 respectively, followed by Indian Reshma Hegde in third place. Celebrating its 16 th year, this year’ s Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon attracted 177 competitors from around the globe, who endured extremely cold and windy conditions at 5,380 metres on their departure from Everest Base Camp and a day that deteriorated into a complete whiteout by early afternoon. International competitors came from across the Asia-pacific: from China (7), Korea (5), India (8), Australia (12) and a single competitor each from Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and Japan. A 12-strong team of New Zealanders put in efforts worthy of an event that celebrates the first ascent of Mt Everest by New Zealand climber Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, 65 years ago on May 29, 1953. For many athletes, just getting to the starting line is an achievement because to do so they must endure up to 10 days of trekking, the struggle to acclimatise, sleepless nights, high-altitude headaches and more, all before the race begins. Laurette Lubbers – the strongest in a team of nine Australians to compete – struggled with gastro and hamstring issues before the race, but put in a gutsy solo run on the day to place ninth in the women’s 42km Full Marathon in 8:33:04. “On Everest you just don’t have enough oxygen, it’s so difficult, so hard to run,” she admitted, rating it her toughest run yet. “Coming out of base camp there was so much ice and so many people, but I know how much I love it at the end, so I just kept going,” said Lubbers. Aussie team mate Jo Ker shaw agreed, calling the Himalayan trail run, “the ultimate, no matter how much it hurt”. Kershaw breezed across the line to finish the women’s 42km Full Marathon in 10th place, crediting the incredible scenery with keeping her going. “It’s a challenge in itself just getting to Everest Base Camp, and that was harder than the run back down,” she said afterwards. For more news, or to sign up, see www.everestmarathon.com