The Experience of Running the Ultimate Mountain Race in the World

By Lihas Trivedi

It all started in 2016 when I participated in the race “RunThe Rann," which is a 161 km running event held in the Rann of Kutch, Dholavira, Gujarat.

I participated with minimal preparation for that tough race, which runs through the desert, through hilly and thorny terrain and the salt flats. I finished the race under 40 hours and came in fifth.

I decided to go for another tough race, the “BLA-220 Bhatti Lakes Ultra," a 220 km run near Faridabad with tough terrain and scenic landscape including small hills. The history of this race made me think if I should participate in this one as no one had finished the race in the last two years. The preparation this time was better but not optimal. I started very slow in the race to get used to the terrain as there were many loops. Once I had been through the whole terrain, I started to move a little better. I was in the last position until the 50 km mark and then I started moving well while gaining in time and distance. I finished the run in 3rd place in about 42 hours.

Now I was confident of making to the UTMB (Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc) qualification points as I had to run one more race of 100 km. I went to Goa for the final qualification run at “Paradise Trails-Goa," which is a 101 km run on the beach, hills and forest. It passes through a national park and has many rivulets crossing as part of the terrain. I finished 4th in this event in 19:30 hours.

These three races qualified me for application for UTMB-170 km run in the French Alps. The UTMB is a monster race with an altitude gain of several thousand meters, varying temperatures and weather all throughout the run.

My preparations began in April of this year with concentration on running distance and strength training. My runs became longer and the training tougher as the preparation moved forward. Now I had to also train in the mountains and the best place was to go to the Himalayas. I could only train for five days in lower Himalayas. Most of my training was in Amdavad in flat terrain. I would do an occasional trail run in hilly terrain. I did a lot of step climbing in buildings of 10 and 20 floors to train muscles for climbing. This was not enough, though!

I went to Chamonix, France 10 days before the event so as to get acclimated. The weather is absolutely unpredictable in the mountains, further adding difficulty to the UTMB. On the day before the race it started raining heavily and the temperatures dropped rapidly. On the day of the run the event was flagged off at 6:30 pm and the weather was bitter cold.

Considering the harsh weather conditions, which everyone faced at the top of each peak in the Alps, I could run about 69km and that was mostly during the night. I could not finish the run as I missed a cut off. The experience of running the world's most famous ultra is exhilarating and one can't describe the whole journey in words.

I am proud to be the only Indian who attempted UTMB, the ultimate mountain trail run in the World.

In my running career I have run so far: Half Marathons (10), Full Marathons (8), and Ultra Marathons (12) including in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, South Africa, France and India. My next goal is to do two continuous runs, 48 hours and 72 hours, in early 2018.

Note: I am interested in starting an Academy for Athletics/Sports in Amdavad, Gujarat. Main aim is to promote athletics and long distance running along with other sports and also to provide platforms for talented athletes who cannot afford good training to take forward their careers. We are in talks with people in Amdavad to provide space for the Academy on minimal rental basis, so that we can develop infrastructure with funding from interested people or businesses. I can send a detailed proposal for those interested in helping. Contact me at lihastrivedi@gmail.com or visit www.lihastrivedi.com.

Lihas Trivedi is Director of LS Sports Management Pvt Ltd. He has been an avid runner for many years. He and his wife Sangeeta Trivedi have also organized several half and full marathons in Amdavad as well as other places in India. Details at www.lssports.in.