Live from the Finishing Post - As we stretched, lunged and star-jumped on the starting line (by which we mean a pot hole in between a cow and 157 Honda Heros) of yesterday's Great Kathmandu Marathon, we were approached by a Kathmandu Post correspondent writing a piece on foreigners coming to the capital for this, um, prestigious event. Very cool! So this is his draft copy that he's just sent us. It will be published next week and we'll post the link when we have it.
"Mad Blogs and Englishmen: a run for freedom in Kathmandu." By Nikkant Ruhn, features reporter.
It's six o'clock in the morning. For the first time this week, the sun is burning through the smog clouds. A large group of people outside the National Stadium look up to the blue sky and hope it won't get too hot too soon. Looking at the group, I see most of them - my fellow locals - are wearing jeans, jackets, work shoes and a bib with a number on the front. As I continue searching, I see two white shining pairs of trainers, bare legs positioned in a lunge, tiny running shorts, charity-emblazoned t-shirts, tell-tale white iPod headphones and - finally - headbands pushing back the long dark hair crowning two Western faces.
Mr James, a 28-year-old professional footballer from London, and Miss Nicola, a 22-year-old dance student currently working on set in LA, are huge fans of Marathons. On their speed-dial, they count Kate Pettersen - the British girl who finished the IronMan competition in just 13 hours last week - and BigTittyCowGirl - the online literary genius tipped for next year's Man Booker Prize - as friends.
On the surface, they look like the epitome of occidental health. But speaking to them in more detail reveals a challenging week of preparations for this race. Mr James recounts: "Starting the week with a 6.8 Richter Scale earthquake had a Shakespeare sense of forebodance. So it shouldn't have been a surprise when Nicola - after a month of strong training runs which knocked ten minutes off her PB - was plagued by injury. A suspected stress fracture on the outside of her foot means she'll be running today's race using only the inside of her left foot, despite her coach telling her not to run at all. A runny nose and sore throat have also left her feeling run-down, but she has a Positive Mental Attitude which should stop 'run down' from meaning 'run out'."
"James is being his usual humble self", adds Nicola, "as he hasn't mentioned his troubles this week. The local curry joint had a special offer on Nepali masala and beer, and that's caused him a lot of pain as he weighed up the pros and cons of a balanced diet before the race. Better to worry about kormas than quads, I suppose. We think all the consumed, erm, carbs will give him extra energy for today."
Our first conversation is cut short as the whistle goes for the start. Well, not really whistle, as the race organisers forgot to buy one, but a yell, some hand-waving and a gun shot (which may or may not have been related to the race) suggests people should start running out onto the ring road.
These two English runners - complete with GB flag stitched proudly (although lob-sidedly thanks to an old Nepalese "tailor") onto their shirts - have some more obstacles ahead. Despite promises that the roads would be closed to traffic, the buses still need to collect their passengers and chickens, the petrol tankers still need to chug away, and the local cows can't read 'Road Closed' signs. James' tremendous start is hampered by a slowly-melting 140kg ice-block attached to the back of a moped in front of him. The pot-holes in the roads, made worse by Sunday's quake, cause Nicola a lot of pain in her already painful foot. As they turn the corner and I lose sight of them, they realise that the organisers have secretly changed the route overnight, causing Miss Nicola to fear she'll be the only person to ever get lost on a 5km fun run.
I meet again with the pair at the finishing line. A still smiling but probably should be at home on crutches Nicola tells me her favourite part was running through the local rubbish dump followed closely by having to cross a six-lane roundabout at a sprint/hop during which she collided with the back end of a cow and an old yogi with a begging bowl. Overtaking two groups of arrogant boys was also a special moment, as was the organisers quietly adding on a lap of the stadium at the end which she hadn't quite left enough puff for.
James was certainly the most distressed-looking participant to cross the line and took quite some time to recover his composure for a further interview. It turns out that some of his distress was caused by a stone that had got into his shoe at the 3km mark and that he had been unable to remove. Closer inspection by a rather brave Nicola revealed an inch long steel nail sticking through his sole and into the bottom of his foot. His comment that he should have worn flip-flops like some of the other runners led to an fascinating discussion on some of the differences between our marathon and typical road races in their homeland.
In the UK, water for runners is handed out every few kms and James found it amusing to see our local runners queuing at roadside shops and fruit juice vendors for their drinks. One competitor running with James for a while even left the race for a cup of tea when they passed his friend's house. As well as the vehicular and bovine obstacles described by Nicola, James also had to deal with a never ending stream of offers from taxi drivers (which got more tempting but were treated with less patience as the race wore on) and by boys on bikes with bananas (the idea of which James rather liked, if it wasn't for the substantial haggling time and energy required before a banana could actually be enjoyed).
They finished by telling me that, by running, they have raised Rs178,500 [£1525] for the Nepali Children's Trust, and that these high-altitude conditions are nothing compared to the difficulties faced by the children that this charity supports. And the thought of making their sponsors - individual and commercial - proud spurred them on to jump over the pot holes, high-five the monkeys and ignore the man running alongside them selling small violins, Tiger Balm and rickshaw rides.
There is no doubt that Kathmandu had a significant impact on the couple and hopefully the couple's visit and fundraising had a small impact on Kathmandu and its vunerable communities.