Mountain heroes meet the sea

They make Forrest Gump look ordinary. For they run marathons where only eagles dare. And now these 10 young men and women, all winners at the first ever Ladakh Marathon, the highest altitude marathon in the world, (run at an average altitude of 11,562 feet) have come down to sea level to compete in the Mumbai Marathon 2013 along with nearly 40,000 other contestants on January 20.

What makes their attempt to compete and win the marathon even more stunning though, is the fact that they are dealing with a temperature change of close to 50 degrees! “It’s close to minus 15 in Ladakh now and here in Mumbai it’s 32 degrees,” said Cheang Motup Goba, the brain behind the Ladakh Marathon and the man instrumental for bringing the 10 athletes¬†to Mumbai.

Eight of the 10 marathon winners at the first-ever Ladakh Marathon, the highest altitude marathon in the world — run at an average altitude of 11,562 feet — have come down to sea level to compete in the Mumbai Marathon 2013 along with nearly 40,000 other contestants on January 20. Pic/Neha Parekh

Predictably then, Konchok Namgail, Stanzin Norboo, Jigmet Sketzom, Tsetan Dolker and their mates are excited. They have never seen, let alone run, in such heat and humidity! Yet, their confidence and commitment is admirable. The Ladakh marathon is run at 3,524 metres (11,562 feet) and the train runs across the Khardung La Challenge, crossing one of the world’s highest passes at 5602 metres (18,380 feet).

Speaking to Sunday MiDDAY, Goba, who owns an adventure travel company as well, said, “The idea to organize the Ladakh Marathon 2012 was to show to the world that Ladakh had fought back from the devastating flash floods of August, 2010 when 255 people died and over 200 people went missing.”

A mountaineer by profession, Goba had won a cross-country competition during his school days and wanted to participate the 1984 Rath marathon in Delhi, but due to lack of support and networking, he missed the opportunity. This, he says, is his way of making sure the next generation does not miss out.

Goba added, he is in touch with many likeminded mountaineers based in Mumbai and also Dr Aashish Contractor, the Medical Director at the StanChart Marathon, who encouraged him to get the winners to Mumbai.

“Since the Ladakh marathon did not have any prize money, we promised the participants that the winners would be taken to participate in the Mumbai Marathon. We are happy that we could stick to our commitment and this will be a regular practice hereafter,” he added.

The youngsters too were all geared up. Sporting a yellow T-shirt that advertised the Ladakh marathon, 30 year-old Konchok Namgail, the winner of the Khardung La Challenge (a 72-km race that included a stretch over the world’s highest pass) said, “We are thankful to Goba for getting us to Mumbai. We have heard a lot about Mumbai, but are visiting for the first time. Some of Bollywood’s biggest recent hits like 3 Idiots and Jab Tak Hai Jaan were shot in Ladakh. We will surely do our best in the Mumbai marathon to uphold Ladakh’s banner.”

In Mumbai
The team is working hard to overcome their inexperience. They arrived in Mumbai on Friday (January 11) a full nine days in advance. Two more girls will arrive on today. Friends have arranged their stay in an apartment in Bandra. “We want the kids to get accustomed to the humidity, since they come from a place where the temperature is as low as minus 20 degree at night,” explained Goba. He has also managed to use his network in the city and has been assured a trainer, who will give important tips to the participants before the marathon.

On Saturday evening, Goba took the team to purchase shoes and shorts, since marathons in Ladakh’s cold are run wearing heavy tracksuits. On Sunday morning the team will go on a 17 km practice run from Bandra to Churchgate and then go sailing to Alibag for a sight seeing tour. On January 18, the team would run the entire stretch to improve their timing.

Know team Ladakh
Konchok Namgail (30, winner — 72-km special marathon), Stanzin Norboo (18), Tsering Gyatso (19, winner — full marathon), Tsetan Dolker (18), Jigmet Dolma (18), Jigmet Sketzom (19)¬†

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