Some of the competitors in The North Face races this weekend in the Blue Mountains will be running to achieve more than a good time. By Dan Lewis
They will be raising money to help the trail running community in earthquake-ravaged Nepal.
And also running will be 32-year-old Purna Tamang, whose home in his native Nepal now lies in ruins thanks to the quake that struck with such devastation on April 25.
Trail running has become a big deal in Nepal, with the mountainous Himalayan nation hosting many races and also nurturing its own trail running community. Trail Running Nepal was established in 2008 to encourage trail runners from around the world to visit Nepal and to sponsor Nepalese athletes.
Australians Sarah Anne Evans, Warren Evans and Sheryl Rotondo were to have flown to Nepal today to make a nine-day trek to Everest base camp at over 5000m above sea level – starting point for the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon.They had been preparing for the high altitude event by training in Sydney with masks that restricted their air supply. The earthquake, however, forced them to abandon their plans to run the world’s highest marathon, which was to start on May 29.
As an alternative, they gained late entry to race TNF100, with their entry fees being donated to the Australian Himalaya Foundation to help with the rebuilding of Nepal.
“This great organisation heads into the smaller, more vulnerable communities in Nepal and supports them with aid,” said Evans, 42, whose Run for Nepal campaign has now raised more than $6000 for the foundation.
“It’s our way of giving back to a country that we were so looking forward to visiting and are deeply saddened by the struggles they are facing.
“We are of course sad not to go, but it’s hard to be disappointed when you see the crisis going on over there. We hope to return to Nepal in 2016 to run and support the on-going rebuilding of the country by staying there pre-race and post-race to offer assistance. We hope to get a large group together to join us.”
For Purna Tamang, the opportunity to compete in The North Face 100, sponsored by Trail Running Nepal, has been a blessing.
“Fate gave this opportunity to me and I am very happy to come to Australia and take part,” he told The Guardian this week.
“As an athlete, I want to win – but I will be happy if I can give it my best, no matter what the result. I haven’t been training for the 100km distance and the disruption due to the earthquake meant that I couldn’t train for two weeks.
“It was a hard decision to travel and leave my village as I lost two family homes. My wife is looking after the family, though. But as a man and an athlete, sometimes I have to make sacrifices even during hardships like this. I thought me coming [to Australia] and taking part would bring awareness to the tragedy in Nepal and hopefully it will bring support and goodwill.
“Nepal is a beautiful country that is perfect for trail running and I hope this sport will pick up there. I hope the problem we are facing right now won’t stop people from visiting.”
The message on the Trail Running Nepal Facebook page today was: “All the very best to Purna Tamang in what is going to be the toughest race of his life: an incredibly strong international field, and a huge amount on his mind from back home at the moment.”
We wish him all the best, too. Evans says Sherpas always win the Tenzing Hillary Marathon because of the altitude and Purna came third last year.