I participated in this race during the second week of September. It is quite a genius plan by the organisers, as it ensures more tourists and travellers in September, a period where tourism has started slowing down due to the temperature drop.
This particular race has 3 categories:
- The Khardung La Challenge (72km)
- The Full Marathon (42.2km)
- The Half Marathon (21.1km)
Talking about the half marathon, the following is how I would describe my experience and the route.
The route was spread out with multiple inclines and declines over the landscape, followed by a killer incline of 4kms to the very end, to remind you why The Ladakh Marathon can be accounted for as one of the toughest ones out there. The stretch, a beast in itself, to slay even the most experienced runners.
There are enough water and aid stations all through the race, with a lot of local school kids participating. What makes this a lifelong memorable experience is the challenge this race represents, and the beautiful landscapes that surrounded us.
The main key to this race is practice and pacing. Practice is obviously a prerequisite to any marathon, however practice in Ladakh or at similar altitudes is what I am talking about. Similarly, pacing plays an equally important role while running, however it varies in every marathon based on the route; it is no different in this scenario.
Too fast during the declines or downhill slopes and you might find yourself catching for air, maybe even to an extent where you can go no further. Too slow and you’d have missed the opportunity gravity provides, and spent excessive energy with inadequate returns.
My personal timing here was 2:53hrs. Having spoken to some experienced runners and other fellow participants, I concluded that a timing below 3hrs is pretty good. But there’s always the personal disappointment of not achieving your target. Not that I did not give it my 100%, but it wasn’t exactly satisfactory.
The main thing that held me back apart from my level of fitness, was “FEAR”. A fear of going out of breath too quickly, a fear of being unable to finish, and a fear of after-effects of the run, which all in all created a mental block, making me incapable of pushing myself too much. However, priceless experience earned and valuable lessons learnt, to be totally exploited for the next one.
If interested in putting the Ladakh Marathon on your bucket list, and striking it off, all you need to do is practice running and stay fit. Running a marathon at that altitude is no rocket science; and gaining knowledge or perspective from others always helps.
Until next time,