Monday Inspiration: Luke Tyburski runs the Everest 65km Ultra Marathon
The world’s highest Ultra Marathon sounded like a good idea when I was sitting at sea level, on my laptop, and in the comforts of my home. But at 5200m above sea level, in zero degree temperature, and with freezing winds sweeping off the surrounding peaks of the Himalayas, I wasn’t sure what I had got myself into!
The Everest 65km Ultra Marathon is an annual race starting at Gorakshep (5200m) and finishing at Lukla (2900m), but unlike most other ultra marathons, you first walk the course over 8 days from Lukla to Gorakshep, firstly to acclimatize to the altitude, but also because there is no other way to get up there.
After signing up to the ‘Everest Ultra Experience’ I had to seriously think about how I was going to train for this event, initially I thought it would be just all down hill running, and trying to deal with altitude, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t just a down hill run, but with several long demanding climbs, and some very thin air.
Due to this being such a unique race, I had to keep in mind the fact that I would be trekking for an entire week prior to the race, fatigue, tiredness, lack of food which I was used to, were things I had to take into consideration when planning my training and preparation. I decided to go with just training for the 65kms of trail running, focusing on climbing and descending. I tried to make things as simple as possible, as when I would be racing I would have nothing more than a race belt with me, and the Himalayas to keep me company.
My training wasn’t anything ground breaking, run up hills, run down hills, and run for several hours at a time, a few times a week. Being consistent was the key, continuing in this manner for several months prior to the event is what I felt prepared me for this race.
I then thought about altitude, apart from going to live in the mountains for a month prior to the race, how could I get some sort of acclimation? To my surprise there are several places around the UK where anyone off the street and go and train (at a reasonable price) on a treadmill, bike, or even rowing machine at altitude (well in a chamber with less oxygen in the air). I was just about to book a few sessions for the 2 weeks prior to setting off when a “once in a lifetime opportunity arose” I was invited to go to Nepal 3 weeks prior to the start of the Everest Ultra Trek, to live, train, and get to know several of the elite Nepali ultra runners, I thought that’s as good as its going to get, and where my altitude acclimatization was done!
After arriving in Nepal, I spent the next three weeks splitting my time between living with Aite Tamang and his family, as well as Upendra Sunuwar and his. These families live extremely primitive lives, still bartering between others in their village for food and necessities, high up in the mountains at over 2000m above sea level.
After my three weeks of village life, and acclimatization, I boarded a plane in Kathmandu, which was headed to The Tenzing Hilary airport in Lukla, it’s been called “the worlds most dangerous airport” by many. Bouncing down into Lukla, between the surrounding mountain peaks, and the swarms of mountaineers surrounding the airport to watch these light aircrafts coming in and out, I had a strong feeling that I was going to be exposed to something special on this trip.
Over the next 8 days, I trekked with the group, slowly making our way higher and higher with each day up through these breathtaking mountains. We crossed many suspension bridges, made way for numerous yaks, and with each day passing by started to feel a little more out of breath from the altitude.
Unfortunately I contracted a stomach bacteria and was extremely unwell, combined with my increased effects of altitude sickness, I was instructed (only 12 hours before the start of the race) to get lower down the mountain. So I trekked in darkness, with only my guide and a head torch to get down 10km, and 700m in altitude to help reduce the severity of everything.
The following morning I still had 55km to get back to Lukla, I ever so slowly walked and jogged back along the paths I energetically walked up only days earlier.
With plenty of descents, and a few long steep, morale sapping climbs, I managed to arrive in Lukla only 10 hours after setting off that morning, not bad considering I was unable to stomach anything for the entire day.
The Everest Ultra is a special event in so many ways; it’s not just a race, but also an experience. Spending a week trekking up through the Himalayas is magical, being surrounded by some phenomenal athletes is inspirational, and then the experience of starting a race at the high altitude of 5200m is insane!
If you’re looking for a new and crazy event, where the toughest part of the race is simply getting to the start line, then look no further, The Everest 65km Ultra has your name all over it!
Check out Luke's guide on How the Everest 65km Ultra works for more info.
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