SOLUKHUMBHU, OCT 07 – Pemba Sherpa and Ang Chhutin Sherpa won the first Royal Penguin Ultra Marathon titles here on Monday.
Pemba left behind 18 participants to win the 60-km race that began from Namche Bazaar located at an altitude of 3,440 metres. Pemba, a 24-year old jopkyo — a hybrid of yak and cow — businessman, finished the race in seven hours and 24 minutes. Ang clocked nine hours and 11 minutes for women’s crown.
Pemba had previously participated in the 18-day run from Jiri in Dolakha to Renjo Pass, Chola pass, Everest Base Camp and Lukla in 2013 and in the 42-km long Tenzing Hilllary Everest Marathon held earlier this year.
From the starting point, the runners went uphill towards Dole (4200m), Gokyo (4,800 meters) and then to westwards to the Renjo-La before beginning the descend from Marlung (4260m), Thame (3800m) and back to Namche. The route is considered to be one of the most challenging ones for the height the runners climb in a day.
By the time the participants reached the Renjo pass, they were breathing the thin air at 5,360 metres. The runners were participating in the course that an ordinary trekker takes six days to complete. Sherpa received Rs 30,000 cash prize but said it was the love-for-run that lured him to participate in the marathon.
Not far behind was 33-year-old Upendra Sunuwar from Sindhuli, who finished the course in seven hours and 30 minutes and claimed Rs 20,000 in reward. A seasoned marathoner, Sunuwar has competed in a dozen of such races winning eight of them. “But this is the first time I have climbed 1,920 metres in a day,” said Sunuwar. “I wanted to test myself and see if I can survive the risk of high altitude sickness.”
Karma Sarki Sherpa, 28, breezed through the route without any sickness to finish third. A Khumjung native and a six-time Everest summiteer, Karma took only 18 more minutes than Sunuwar. Seven foreigners had competed in the 19-runner field.
Ang got the better of seven women to win the ttle that fetched her Rs 10,000. A trekking guide and a hotel manager by profession, the 27-year old Ang’s victory in this year’s Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon has encouraged her to compete in the Penguin Marathon. Pasang Dikee Sherpa and Canadian Elka ended up second and third behind her.
Nima Tsering Sherpa, 45, won the above-45 category making the four-time Everest summiteer richer by Rs 10,000. Except for four runners — all foreigners — all participants completed the course by 7:30 in the evening on October 5.
Sponsors, organiser and a participant herself, Elka said that the first edition of the Penguin Marathon has inspired her to continue the event every year on the same date. Elka, who finished first among the foreigners, said that she has already received interests from around 50 people for the marathon next year.