Lizzy Hawker does it!

Kathmandu, Sunday 21st April 2013

Runner breaks own 3-day record for 319km Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu mail run.

British female endurance athlete completes journey in 63 hours 8 minutes.

On Saturday evening at 10 minutes past ten, the British endurance athlete Lizzy Hawker, 37, arrived at the locked gates of Rangashala, Nepal’s National Stadium in Kathmandu to complete the 319km journey by foot from Everest Base Camp in Solukhumbu.

In steadily falling rain she was greeted by a handful of press photographers and was awarded a token of congratulations by Nilendra Shrestha, president of the Nepal Amateur Athletics Association who named it a “stunning effortâ€.

At 7:02 on Thursday 18th April the internationally renowned endurance athlete began the solo part of her run in the direction of Kathmandu. She reached Jiri on Friday at 6pm where two support runners joined her.

During the journey she rested frequently but slept, in her estimation, for just 4 minutes.

Searching for the trail at 2am on the second night with support runner Upendra Sunuwar.

Searching for the trail at 2am on the second night with support runner Upendra Sunuwar.

She was the current world record holder for the ‘Everest Mailrun’ the journey taken by those carrying letters to and from expeditions at Everest Base Camp before the opening of the Lukla airstrip in 1964. It is a record few have tried to claim.

Her previous record stood at 71 hours 25 minutes, completed in November 2011. She made her first attempt of the run in 2007 with her friend, Steven Pike, which took 74 hours 36 minutes.

The last Nepali runner to hold the record was Kumar Limbu in 79 hours and 10 minutes set in May 2000.

The route is brutally hilly with more than 10,000m of ascent and nearly 14,000m of descent on a mixture of rocky trails and tarred road.

“The biggest challenge, wondering if would I get to start due to the Lukla flight cancellations,†says Hawker. The hardest part on the run was the two hours at the end of the third day without sleep. “When darkness falls, that’s when you feel the tiredness,†she said.

Her striking impression of the run was “the contrast, from beauty of the mountains and purity of the landscape up there [at Base Camp] to evening rain, traffic and pollution in urban Kathmandu at the end of the journey.â€

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Hard times – just two hours from Kathmandu on the busy highway near Bhaktapur.

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Being congratulated with a malla by NAAF President Nilendra Shrestha

Hawker, who was named a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year 2013 is well known in the ultra running and trail running worlds. She won the 100K world championship in 2006, set a 24-hour world record by running 247km at the Commonwealth Championships in September 2011, and set a course record for women in the 250km Spartathlon Ultra Race in Greece last year. She is also five times winner of the 168km North Face Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc, one of the world’s iconic ultra-marathon races.

Earlier this year The North Face sponsored athlete won the Nepal’s 100km Annapurna 100 race and will race the multiday Mustang Trail Race later this month before then going to compete in the 24 hour World Championships in The Netherlands in mid-May.

Darkness to light – Marathon des Sables

Water splashed over the large brimmed hat, Gilles poured and poured on Didier’s head to help reduce his temperature. Droplets floated in the air like stars in space and as they made contact they exploded with dramatic effect.

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Dried salt on cheeks and lips disappeared but moments later re-appeared as the searing 50+ degree temperatures evaporated the water that continued to pour.

It was very early on in the longest stage of the 28th edition of the Marathon des Sables. It was midday. Gilles and Didier had only dented the distance needed to be covered before the 34-hour cut off would be imposed.

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Moving onward, Didier embraced Gilles arm for stability. A very sore and enflamed right knee could give way at any moment. Gilles as ever, faithful to the cause provided the support and self-sacrifice to ensure that Didier’s journey to the line was safe and as trouble free as possible.

Twelve hours after the start, darkness approached and with it some food and rest. With a new lease of life the two continued into 13 km of relentless dunes that reached two to three meters in height. In the distance a green laser shows Gilles the direction he needs to go. Didier follows, two become one and as the sun rises and the heat returns, victory and the opportunity to fight another day seems possible.

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From the finish line I see two shadows on the horizon. It is 1600 in the afternoon. The warriors have been on the trail for 32-hours. Tired, weary and emotional they approach the line. I see Didier’s tattoo glisten in the scorching light. An MDS logo on his arm with nine stars around it, a star for every MDS finish. Next to the 9th, a space, would he obtain that 10th star at the 2013 edition of the race?

In the final meters to the line you can hear the shouts from MDS staff,  “Bravo Gilles”, a marshal shouts “Allez Didier” and then the clapping and whoop whooping starts. It’s done, they cross the line an incredible 75.7 km’s completed over some of the most demanding conditions possible.

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Didier falls into the arms of Gilles in an embrace similar to a small child who has just found a lost mother. Tears stream down his face as he sobs uncontrollably. Gilles, all smiles, pulls away and kisses him on each cheek with a passion seldom seen. It’s a moment I will never forget. It epitomized all that the Marathon des Sables represents. It shows a bond between two people and confirms all that is good and pure in human nature.

You see, this is no ordinary achievement, Gilles is a guide and Didier is blind.

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