billi bierling female mountaineer and journalist from Germany

Challenging Marathon Training

Just when I thought the monsoon rains had stopped, they have come back with a vengeance, which makes my marathon training a bit more challenging. Even though jogging in the green hills surrounding the Kathmandu valley is gorgeous, especially in the post-monsoon season when everything is lush and green, running on reasonable roads for a 30km training run is rather difficult. Especially at the moment as the majority of roads have been torn open as part of a huge road-widening programme that has made Kathmanduvian suffer for the past 18 months.

I hardly ever do anything by the book, however, I thought I should seek some professional advice from Herbert Steffny and so I consulted his Marathon Training book. He provides 10-week-training schedules for various finishing times (I am heading for 3.59hrs) and even though I am a bit late in the programme (I only started in week six), I thought I should follow it at least for the next four weeks.

After having done my 10km and 15km runs every day, I was faced with his idea of doing 30km on Saturday. My mind was racing: “Where can I possibly run 30km on reasonable asphalt in Kathmandu without having to go up and down the hills on dirt trails?” I mentioned this to a friend of mine, who immediately said: “The Ring Road is exactly 27.5km and with going there and back you will have run 30km!”. “Hmmm, the Ring Road would not necessarily provide for beautiful surroundings but the distance is just perfect,” I thought.

This is what running can be like near Kathmandu if you get out

This is what running can be like near Kathmandu if you get out

You can probably compare the Kathmandu Ring Road with any ring road of any major city – in Munich it’s the ‘Mittlerer Ring’ and in London it would be the M25 (even though this is more of a motorway) and it means that the road circumvents the inner core of a town. Given the sad fact that I am very prone to getting lost, I thought that this would probably be the best way to avoid losing my bearings in the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu.

Early bird

In the hope of traffic being not as busy in the wee morning hours of Saturday, which is the ‘weekend’ in Nepal, I set off at 5am, when it was still dark. Going through the little lanes around my house was nice and quiet, however, once I hit the notorious Ring Road, I was surprised to see that the ever-polluting and noisily honking trucks as well as the busses were already speeding along. If you have never been to Kathmandu, you probably won’t be able to understand what these trucks and busses look like. Most of the time they exhume a thick black cloud when they go past you, which they can hardly ever do without showing off the latest tune of their incredibly loud horn.

When it comes to the busses, a friend of mine said many years ago: “Driving a Nepali bus takes three people: one to steer and change gear; one to bang on the bus doors to tell the driver whether he is just about to hit something or not, and one to light the cigarettes.” I still think about this comment and I guess it is still true.

After about 30 minutes on the Ring Road, it started to pour down with rain (fortunately I had put my iPhone into one of these great waterproof cases from Outdoor Research) and the thought of only having done about one sixth of my journey, almost made me cringe. But hey – how would you be able to finish a full marathon if you were not mentally strong enough to keep on going on the beautiful Kathmandu Ring Road.

This is what the main roads in Kathmandu currently look like

This is what the main roads in Kathmandu currently look like

Lost in thought, I ran past Swayambunath, the monkey temple; the bus station of Kalanki, which was one of the hotspots during the 2006 riots that eventually toppled the monarchy; across the Bagmati River, which as opposed to the dry season was a big black raging river; past a very dead cow, which must have been lying there for a while given the amount of maggots that were attacking it; around the south side of the city back over the Bagmati, and then back up towards the airport.

Wrong way

And then I got lost – even though I was convinced that this would be impossible on the Ring Road. When I approached the airport, the road forked and despite having been on both roads before, I wasn’t sure in which direction my route would go. So, I opted for the left side, which was obviously wrong and reminded me of what an ex-boyfriend once said to me: “I think the best way of going the right way is to find out where Billi would go, and then take the other way.” I should have born that in mind!

So in the end, I did not manage to do the full Ring Road circle, but spent the last eight kilometres running through the heart of the city, which was a rather strange feeling as I had never done it before. However, the main thing was that I was able to come up with the goods and managed to meet Mr Steffny’s expectations by finishing a 30km road run.

More construction...

More construction…

When I got home and checked the training plan for the remaining three weeks, I was pleased to see that no more 30km runs are required as running the Kathmandu Ring Road circle is definitely a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience.

Now, I will just have to find a good route for a half-marathon-distance for this coming Saturday. Any suggestions?

8 Responses

  1. Wanda said on September 6, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Billi I can’t imagine what it would have been like to run around the Ring Road! Congratulations ….I think. Now go and find a lung cleaner, if such a thing exists. Hugs wanda didi

    Reply
  2. Rosemary in Ireland said on September 5, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Just told Grainne what you were up to, she said ‘good lord the ring road in KMD is she mad’. I remember only too well the black smoke from the buses and trucks, have you no respect for your poor lungs at all.? Any way enjoyed reading your post. Don’t know how you could get lost on a ring road ha ha.

    Reply
  3. Joanna said on September 3, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    Billi,I was and am still in awe of you – what a great inspiration you are!! I wish I had your strength not only in body but in mind too. Any plans to come to London soon? Would be great to meet up.
    Love
    Joanna x

    Reply
  4. Jan Cornelissen said on September 3, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Herrlich! Das Zitat (“frag Billi, und nimm die andere Richtung”), war das von Mike? ;-)

    Reply
  5. Viv said on September 3, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Your blog is so well written, informative funny! Well done you. Do I understand you are doing the Berlin marathon this Sept? Do you need accommodation? Love you Viv

    Reply
  6. markus said on September 3, 2013 at 8:31 am

    sehr schöne geschichte – das wird dich noch stärker machen so dass du die 42 km in berlin locker und leicht runterlaufen wirst :):)

    Reply
  7. Cinta said on September 3, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Hi Billy, great story, very recognizable! For a flat half marathon, try 7 times around the Royal Palace……

    Reply
  8. Mama said on September 2, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    ich hoffe, Du findest noch einen bessren Weg
    Bussi mama

    Reply

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