17,500 ft, 333km, 3 days
The region is as brutal as it is beautiful. It can make you experience 40 degree C heat and then take you to minus 12 degree C cold in matter of just six hours. What’s more, the oxygen levels are 50% of what you breathe at sea level. And if you are to complete a 333 km race in three days, beginning at the base of the Karakoram range in Nubra Valley, moving towards the mighty Indus after crossing Khardung La (highest motorable road in the world at 18,380 ft) before finishing in Morey Plains, an elevated stretch of land at 15,500 ft, that marks the beginning of Changtang plateau, then you know you got to be really strong, both physically and mentally to complete this challenge.
And Munish Dev has created history by becoming the first Indian to finish the La Ultra marathon run in 71 hours 30 minutes and 28 seconds. We had a chat with NTPC’s HR manager after his return from this challenging terrain…
How many Indians have attempted this run before you?
No Indian has ever attempted this gruelling and cruel marathon before. This year, there were five Indians who attempted this race.
Who organises this run and for how long has this been happening?
This race is being run under the name of La Ultra – the High. This year was the ninth edition. Never before was something labelled so cruel seeing the elements around it. When someone takes away 50% of oxygen around you, decreases the pressure where it is difficult for your body to adapt and asks you to run 333 km under 72 hours, the idea surely seems insane. No other race gives you temperature variation like La Ultra. Ladakh, a trans-Himalayan region in northern India, is a cold high altitude desert. Temperatures in August can fluctuate from 40 degree C to minus 12 degree C in a matter of six hours. You touch altitudes of 17,500 ft thrice in the 333 km category, twice in 222 km and once in the 111 km category. This is redefining the limits of human endurance, mental and physical. Only a few in the world of ultra-running dare to take up this challenge. In the past eight years, 123 runners from 23 different countries have participated and only 72 have finished.
What kind of preparation does one need to go through before the start of this event?
This race requires a lot of hard work, self-discipline and dedication. One need to focus on strength training, core training and adding lots of mileage to your feet.
When, what and who inspired you to be a part of this run?
Running is my passion. Since school days, I was participating in long distance events. I always wanted to do something different and challenging. As this race has got all the elements in it, I got inspired to take part.
How did your family react to your taking up such a challenging task?
My family was little apprehensive initially as I have not done more than 160 km in any run but they encouraged me to take up the challenge, especially my wife who supported me throughout my training for this marathon.
Was this the first time that you were a part of this run?
No, last year I did 111 km in the same run.
Take us through your life till now…
My roots belong to Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh. Both my parents had worked with the state government of Himachal Pradesh. My father worked with Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports in Manali due to which I got inclined towards adventure sports. I started working with NTPC Ltd as HR manager after completing my postgraduation in HR from Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University. Before that I did my schooling from Sainik School, Sujanpur Tira in Himachal Pradesh.
Who has been the most inspirational person in your life?
Both my parents have been my inspiration. They have been a real support to me in my every decision.
Plan for future…
My future plan is to run Badwaters 135 which is also one of the most difficult marathons in the world. I will also prepare for selection in Indian Ultra Team.