Around 4,000 runners from across the country and 20 foreign nations have converged on the land of high passes — Ladakh — to test their endurance and physical limits during the eco-friendly Ladakh Marathon, an international-level event being held on September 13.
This is the fourth edition of the Ladakh Marathon, an annual event after it was started in 2012 following the devastating flash floods that claimed 200 human lives and rendered hundreds homeless in Leh district in August 2010.
The initiative was started to convey to the world that Ladakh is back and running. It is aimed at encouraging the youth of Ladakh to live a healthy lifestyle by taking up running (in hostile weather conditions) and by becoming more aware of the need to protect the environmentally fragile region.
“Around 4,000 runners from India and abroad have reached Ladakh to take part in the Ladakh Marathon, which has now turned into a big event. The event is organised by the Leh-based Rimo Expeditions with the support of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council and the Tourism and Culture Department. The district administration has been extending all logistical help to the organisers,” said Prasanna Ramaswamy G, Deputy Commissioner, Leh.
According to the organisers, at least 120 runners from 20 foreign countries have registered themselves for the event. The marathon poses a tough challenge to runners as acclimatisation remains a major issue for visitors due to high altitude and low level of atmospheric oxygen in the region.
“We are giving final touches to the arrangements for the marathon. At least 120 foreign runners are participating in the event, while more than 3,800 are from various parts of the country and Ladakh. It has surely turned out to be a great event for the runners,” said a member of organising team.
The member said acclimatisation was imperative and key to running at such a high altitude. “Due to tough geographical terrain and low atmospheric oxygen in Ladakh, visitors generally require some time to get acclimatised. We had suggested to runners to arrive at least a week ahead of the race to prepare themselves and they have been camping in Ladakh for the past few days,” he said.
He said the event consisted of four races, a seven-km race (shortest race), Half Marathon, Marathon and the Khardungla Challenge. The major attraction will be the Khardungla Challenge, the world’s highest and among the toughest ultramarathons. An ultramarathon is longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 km.
The 72-km ultramarathon will start in the scenic Khardung village and then go uphill all the way to Khardungla (an altitude of 5,359 m) along the world’s highest motorable road past the pastures and stunning views of the East Karakoram Mountains of the Ladakh region.
The Ladakh Marathon was rated among the ‘top 10 nicest marathons’ in the world by a leading online European magazine in April.