On a weekend in mid-March, I accomplished something that I never thought I’d be able to do: I ran the full length of the Kathmandu Valley Rim Trail essentially without stopping. This amounted to roughly 170-180km distance, with nearly 12,000 meters of elevation gain in a period of 38 hours.
To be honest, I had never really wanted to spend an entire weekend doing nothing but running nonstop. But a few of my trail running friends coerced me into joining them in the challenge to run the rim in under 40 hours.
Six of us started out going clockwise from Bhimdunga, on the western side of the valley, just after 4am on a Saturday morning. The first section of the route brought us on beautiful flowing trails and jeep tracks through Nagarjun forest, reaching Mudkhu just as the sun started to come up. We stopped in Tinpiple for a quick tea break and to restock our water, before heading up into Shivapuri forest.
The section through Shivapuri was the highlight of the whole route, with a mixture of flowing jeep track and singletrack trails that snaked along the ridgeline and through the forest. We reached Chisapani just in time to regroup for a lunch break. Unfortunately, one fellow runner had to stop at this point due to a past leg injury that was becoming aggravated. The rest of us continued on the next section, running on mostly jeep track to get to Nagarkot, a popular destination for overnight trips to see the sunrise over the mountains.
Unfortunately, a second fellow runner had to finish at this point as he had been hit with a fever the day before, and it was returning. The remaining four of us left from Nagarkot just as it was getting dark, and continued by headlamp to Sanga and then to Ranikot.
Ranikot marked the 100km point, and we had planned to take a longer rest break at one of the guesthouses there. A third runner had to stop at this point due to an achilles injury that was forming. The rest of us enjoyed some dal bhat and slept for two hours, waking up at 2:30am, refreshed and ready to tackle Phulchowki.
We spent the next few hours ascending Lakuri Banjyang and Phulchowki by headlamp, reaching near the top just as dawn broke. After a long section running down steep stone stairs and trails, we reached Lele just in time to take a short break for breakfast. We then continued through Lele valley, passing through Tika Bhairav, and continuing on to arrive at Pharping just in time for lunch.
A few friends arrived to cheer us on as we began the final, grueling ascent of Champa Devi. We reached the top of the ridgeline that continued on towards Chandragiri right as it started raining and hailing, but we knew nothing could stop us from finishing the run at that point. We continued along the ridgeline to reach Chandragiri, and then made a rapid descent through the rain and lightning storm on steep slippery trails to get down to Thankot. At this point, we got slightly lost from the intended trail, and instead had to make our way up and over a few ridges, to finally arrive back at Bhimdunga at about 6pm on Sunday evening, exhausted but elated to have finished!
This challenge would never have been possible without the support we had along the way. We had made arrangements with some of our other running friends to make sure that we had a support team running with us the whole way. That way, we always had two extra runners who joined us for roughly 40km-long sections, and carried some extra water and food. We were always a bit jealous when they reached the end of their segments and got to relax and head back to Kathmandu, while we continued running with our new support runners! Because we were carrying a GPS unit that allowed for live tracking, our friends were able to follow our progress online, and then came to meet us at different points along the way, bringing snacks and encouragement to keep us energized.
I think it’s safe to say that this was the hardest I’ve ever pushed myself physically, and I was so glad to have the encouragement and support of friends who believed in me and my abilities more than I did. Without them, I never would have known that I’m capable of running the entire Valley Rim Trail in just 38 hours!
Top image: Giggs Huang / Flickr