On the 2nd March, I am going to be heading to Nepal to take on what will be my biggest challenge yet – a solo, self-supported run of the Annapurna Circuit. At 200km, with 10,000m of ascent, and with a high point of 5,416m, I am in for a whole world of firsts. My first time to Nepal, my first time to over 5,000m, my first time running that distance, and, my first big adventure without Sophie. Yikes!
Why do I want to Run Annapurna
Sophie is well versed in pushing through all sorts of levels of pain but this will be my first big step up. I have had an itch since supporting Sophie on the Alpine Coast to Coast that I’ve been struggling to scratch. With some wonderful climbs, and incredible experiences, I’ve been wanting to test myself on a real endurance challenge.
Both Sophie and I have been working hard at our running. It seems so long ago that we set off, on a whim, to run London to Brighton, but that year has flown by with so much happening. The idea first caught my imagination as we have started to run more hikes and treks in Chamonix. If we can do that here, why not somewhere bigger?
I have been captivated by the likes of Kilian Jornet and Emilie Forsberg who have been blazing a trail in the world of Sky Running, the sport where you take trail running to new heights. With a number of running related challenges in the pipeline this year, I wanted to kick it all off with a bang!
Beside the physical challenge of running this distance and to that altitude, there is the added bonus of being able to enjoy one of the world’s most famous and beautiful treks there is. The Annapurna Circuit has long been popular with backpackers and hikers and we can’t wait to witness the mighty Himalayas in all their glory and splendour.
The normally 18 day trek weaves its way around the Annapurna chain of the Himalayas, home of the first 8,000m peak to ever be climbed back in 1950 by a team led by Maurice Herzog. His following book went on to inspire generations of outdoor enthusiasts and climbers including ourselves.
“There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men.” ― Maurice Herzog
This will, quite literally, be my Annapurna.
Me on a mission
Much like our London to Brighton run, I have decided that the element of adventure is key to this challenge. As such, I are going to be going it alone, first walking the route, to acclimatise and recce it all, then running it, in a single push. By single push, I mean non-stop, or as non-stop as I can manage.
The current holder of the Fastest Known Time is Seth Wolpin, an experienced American runner and climber who tells a great story of how he decided to give it a go after completing the trek in the standard fashion. Sophie emailed Seth to see if he had any tips and the amazing American pay it forward mentally showed its generous head. Seth has been amazing in not just providing me with tips but he has also been working with his friend and Nepalese local, Dorjee of Himalayan Windhorse Adventures, to get everything in place for me.
Seth managed to complete the circuit in 72 hours and 4 minutes which included two 1.5 hour naps. This gives me an idea of what to expect as, though the distance isn’t much beyond the UTMB course, the fact it passes over 5,400m plays a massive part in making this an enormous feat of endurance. It also gives me a lot more to think about when it comes to the kit I require as well; too light and I could be caught high up, exposed; too heavy and I will be hauling massive packs that slow me down. It will be a fine line.
I am going to follow this up with more details of how I have been preparing for this challenge but, needless to say, I have been training hard and working with the amazing Steve MacDonald, of Train Hard Live Easy, who has been building up our training; both mentally and physically, and helping me get in the best shape I can. Early mornings swinging kettlebells in the garage; hard, knee-deep powder runs; and, skinning 1000s of metres have put us in great shape and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him.
Wide Open Vistas and Climbers Against Cancer
With all the incredible support and help that Seth and Dorjee are providing, we have chosen to support a charity that they are both heavily involved in: Wide Open Vistas. WOV was born out of many late night talks between Seth and Dorjee about the need to help the children and next generation of Nepal with too many charities being caught up in admin and red-tape diminishing the impact donations can have.
With WOV, by keeping their overheads to almost zero, they are able to make sure the most money gets to the people in need as possible. They split the donations 50-50 between funding education for children whose families are going through financial difficulties, and small research grants for graduate students working in a health field (nursing, medicine, public health, pharmacy) for projects that are focused on health promotion and injury prevention for kids in Nepal.
We would be greatly appreciative of any and all donations made to WOV and for sharing their amazing and inspiring message. Please donate here.
I will also be raising awareness for Climbers Against Cancer. As a climber, first and foremost, I have closely followed and supported the work of John Ellison, founder of CAC, as it has turned into the phenomenon that it is today in just 2 short years. The amazing support and work that they are doing, providing valuable funding to incredible cancer charities, is truly inspiring and I want to help in any way I can.
The great thing about supporting CAC is that you look great while doing it. The are fully funded by people buying and wearing their bright clothing. If you want to look cool and support and amazing cause, please buy a tshirt here.
I am off on the 2nd March – rather soon – but never fear, I will do my best to update you on progress with photos, tweets, and blog posts. There is a certain level of connectivity out there but, if all else fails, I will update you on my return.
This will be my biggest physical challenge to date but I feel confident that I will give it my best shot. Lets see if all this training pays off!