Running on "The Peak of Heaven"
There is a reason that the Mt. Everest Marathon and Half-Marathon are held on May 29th. On May 29th, 1953, a New Zealand beekeeper and his Sherpa guide made history, sanctifying this date in the hearts of the people of the Himalayas. On this date, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first humans to touch the top of the world at 29, 029 feet, five and one-half miles towards the heavens.
On May 29, 2017, our PRFS athletes, Natasha Jarvis Burch and Ben Ratliff honored that accomplishment with accomplishments of their own. Ben finished the marathon, running from Everest Base Camp at 17,600 feet to the finish line in Namche at 11,286 feet. Natasha finished the half-marathon, going from Dingboche at 14,469 feet to Namche. The cell connection was spotty, and the Wi-Fi connection not working at all when they called with news, so we promise more details and finish line photos in later posts. "The amenities we take for granted are luxuries in a country like Nepal," Ben remarked. Within each of their voices is a deeper sense of gratitude, and understanding. The entire PRFS family can celebrate with them and be inspired by their example of courage, tenacity and perseverance.
Prior to the race, Ben and Natasha were separated for the first time. Both made an attempt to trek to EBC on Friday, but the weather turned bad, so Ben stayed in Goreskshep, remaining there to rest, and then on to EBC with one rest day before the start of the marathon. Natasha and Mingmar went back down to Thukla, and then headed to Dingboche on Saturday where she was able to rest and take a well-earned hot shower, and gather with the half-marathoners.
EBC, is an international conclave of mountaineers, trekkers and on race day, marathoners. It is also a place where sacred ritual, history, culture and the deep values of the Sherpa people come alive. It is a stark place where one is reminded of the fragility of life and the power of the mountains. Ben described it as a buzzing, busy community of shrines to the lost, whirling helicopters picking up the rescued or recovered, tent cities for the expeditions and unlike those wanting to go up, a starting place for the marathon runners who would be leaving the summit of Mt. Everest behind them.
Ben and Natasha were reunited at the finish line, and joined by their guide Mingmar. The rest of their journey will be spent gradually returning to lower altitudes, with time to visit some of the holiest sites in Nepal. It will also be a time for introspection, as they try to absorb the significance, deep and personal, of their accomplishments. We are anxious to hear more about the race and about what each has learned while "Running on the Peak of Heaven."