Running in Leh, Ladakh, India

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September 8th 2017
Published: September 15th 2017
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Every year I try to find a nice exotic place to run a half-marathon (21.1km / 13.1miles is standard half-marathon distance). This year it was Leh, Ladakh in India. Sitting at an altitude of 11,000+ ft. (3,350m) where you have only 60% air compared to sea level, even walking is a challenge here. Add to that the fact that the run course had 1600 ft (480 m) cumulative elevation gain / loss, this became a perfect challenge for me. I had already run the Winterthur half-marathon, so I knew that I have the distance part nailed down, but elevation gain would require lot of training. The good part about that is, I can do that in gym on a treadmill. Continuing distance training in India was very difficult for someone used to running in the clean open air of Zurich. Somehow I managed.

Wednesday Sep 6th

We landed in Leh airport and it immediately reminded me of Bolivia. Surrounded by barren mountains, Leh is a green oasis fed by rivers. In the whole area you can see pockets of green villages and rest of the land is devoid of any vegetation. Today was day of rest to acclimatize. We took the pre-paid taxi and reached our hotel "Asia" in about 20 min. The hotel was nice, lots of flowers and view of hills around (they are actually 4000m+ mountains 😊 ). In evening we went to pick up the race packet and met a few other runners there. Then out to dinner at a very home-like restaurant. Food there was nice and this will become our daily dinner place for next 5 days.

Thursday Sep 7th

Today was also mostly rest day, but we decided to walk down to the marathon starting point to see how far it is. Google had initially told me it is about a km which was perfect, but I knew it was wrong. How wrong - about 4km wrong. We kept asking for "petrol pump" and keep walking down and down. I was worried about the walk back up! The starting point turned out to be next to a very busy intersection of Leh-Manali and Leh-Srinagar highway. Definitely not walkable from hotel. The square was quite crowded, so there was nothing to do there really. We could not have stayed close to starting point anyway. Walk back was strong, managed the uphill ok. On the way we saw everyone shutting down the shops so we asked what happened. Many people gave different versions of the story why shops are shutting down ranging from something happening in Burma to something happened at a local square. We were only concerned if we will get any food. Everything all the way to our hotel was closed, except "Rice Bowl", so we had to eat there. Food was ok, not great. After this 8km walk, it was time to rest some more. I decided to take up sitting in sun to compensate for 12 years of vitamin D deficiency.

Friday Sep 8th

Today we could have gone out to see something, but due to yesterday's shut down we were not able to plan anything. Though secretly I think I just wanted to stay in the hotel, not willing to spend hours in car even on holiday. Hiking was a different story. In morning I decided it is time to try to run a bit. So I strapped on my shoes and headed towards Shanti stupa. There were many people running on that road. I did about 20min, decided ok, I can run and then headed back. Then Rahul decided we should run, so out again. This time I made it all the way up to Shanti stupa, about 2km uphill. That really boost my confidence, I can run uphill. Rest of the day was spent doing nothing, just relaxing and eating.

Saturday Sep 9th

We considered doing something today, walking running, but nothing was more exciting than sitting in the room and watching TV. So we just went out to see Khardung La 72km ultra finishers, did some shopping and then settled in to relax in the room. Also met couple of other people in the hotel who were running and we decided to share taxi.


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