Whether you’re in Kathmandu for a holiday or are a long-term resident who would like to take up running, fear not! There are plenty of ways to pound the pavement in and around the city. Here’s a guide to running in Kathmandu.
Day-to-day running in Kathmandu
It can be daunting to arrive in the hustle-bustle of Kathmandu with a regular running habit that needs to be maintained. Whether you’re arriving for a trek or a cultural sightseeing tour, or are here for a longer period – stepping out of the airport into the dust, traffic and chaotic scenes can be bewildering. Often there’s little room to walk on the pavements in the city, let alone run, and you could be forgiven for despairing about maintaining a regular running habit.
In Kathmandu, life starts early and rising with the sun (or before the sun, in winter months!) is the key to running on Kathmandu’s streets. Traffic is almost non existent, temperatures are much cooler and the streets much less crowded. Early morning temple worshippers and joggers own the streets. As well as ticking off your workout before many people have drunk their first morning coffee, you will be rewarded with some cultural sights the later wakers will miss out on.
Pretty much any street in and around Kathmandu is suitable for an early morning run. The optimal time is between 5.30 and 6.30 am, before the traffic starts. Running slightly later than this is possible, but you will have to add some car and pedestrian dodging to your routine. Even busy streets like Durbar Marg have their fair share of runners who take advantage of the quieter times during the morning. The winding streets of Thamel — which seem so challenging to navigate during the day — can be seen in a new light around dawn, and it becomes possible to break into a decent run.
Favourite places for running around Patan include the Durbar Square and the streets around it. Early morning is a perfect time to experience the ambience as people make offerings at temples, and there are fewer motorcycles to contend for space with. The Bagdol area, just past the Ring Road near Dhobighat, is runnable at any time of the day, but depending on where you live, an early start is recommended to beat the traffic en route.
Top tip: The road and pavement around Kathmandu is often uneven, so make sure you keep at least one eye down to maintain your footing.
Trail running in and around the Valley
Opportunities abound for longer runs around Kathmandu. Once past the infamous Ring Road in pretty much any direction, green foothills and villages await the curious trail runner. Favourites include Shivapuri National Park and the hills to the south of Lalitpur, such as Godavari and Champadevi. You will be running along a mixture of jeep and dirt tracks, and small footpaths between rice paddies. You’ll see traditional village life, ancient temples and locals on smartphones.
You can use social networking sites like Facebook and Strava to connect with local running groups. Kathmandu Trail Running Group for those north of the Bagmati River, and Lalitpur Trail Running Group for those in the south organise regular group runs, often with a chiya break.
Trail running events
If you have a competitive edge, keep an eye on the Kathmandu Trail Race Series, who host regular short and medium distance running events around the Valley. These events are friendly and well organised, on clearly-marked trails and include refreshments and first aid en route.
For those who enjoy longer runs, Trail Running Nepal organise several ‘ultra’ distances around the Valley, with the Stupa to Stupa ‘aesthetic challenge’ held in March being a particular favourite – running between the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Swayambunath and Boudhanath… the long way around! If you don’t fancy the full 50 km course, you can break it into either 20 km or 30 km.
Nepal International Marathon, the inaugural edition of which was held in November 2016, provides an option to combine volunteering and fundraising for local charities in Kathmandu, as well as test yourself at altitude.
There are even several opportunities to attend a ‘running holiday’ with famous ultra runner Lizzy Hawker or local running legend Acharya Narayan, who will host you in a eco-brick house near the botanical gardens.
Trail running further afield
The Manaslu Trail Race and Mustang Trail Race provide an opportunity to test your fitness as well as explore Nepal’s majestic beauty away from the better-trodden popular trails. Organised as ‘stage races’, these events are arranged, so all you need to concern yourself with are the views and your shoes. Permits, accommodation, food are all the remit of the organisers. A once in a lifetime experience indeed.
Everest Marathon, held on the auspicious day of 29th May each year, looks impressive on a t-shirt, but actually involves a cumulative descent. It’s definitely not easy, and many days of acclimatisation are required for this one.
A challenging run which can be done in an ambitious weekend from Kathmandu is the Annapurna 100 (or 50km) held in October each year. A non-stop race, you can just about make it to Pokhara after work on Friday evening to begin the run early on Saturday morning. A post-run amble around Fewa Lake on Sunday and you can be back in Kathmandu by the evening.
An alternative is to hire a trail running guide and have the freedom to decide your own itinerary.
Got too much running gear?!
‘Too much running gear’ may sound like an oxymoron, but Kathmandu is the perfect place to offload any unwanted items. Trail Running Nepal collect unwanted running gear and distribute it to young Nepali trail running hopefuls – previous beneficiaries include Mira Rai, National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year 2017 and Trail Running Nepal’s first major success story (there will be many more!) Contact Pretti Khattri for more info.
Article by Hannah Straw.
Top image: rpb1001/Flickr