The first Indian to finish the La Ultra marathon run in 71 hours 30 minutes 28 seconds, Munish Dev gives a day-by-day account of his experience
The race started from Nubra Valley at six in the evening. The initial 20 km were flat and had little elevation gain so I tried to maintain a healthy pace to save time from the first cut-off and utilised the same as buffers for Khardungla which is a tougher task. I saved 45 minutes in the first cut-off and 15 minutes in the next cut-off ie Khardung village. Khardungla is the next biggest hurdle with an elevation of 17,800 ft. Almost all the runners face problems at Khardungla. I reached Khardungla pass at 7:30 am. Now the next target was to reach North pull which is 14 km from Khardungla. From here, runners can have their crew. It took me three hours from Khardungla to Southpullu where my crew was waiting. We can use them from Southpullu till the end of the race. I reached Southpullu at 10:30 am and then took a 30 minute break. After the break, I again started running to Shanti Stupa in Leh which is 33 km from Southpullu. I took advantage of the downhill and covered the distance in 3 hrs and reached Shanti Stupa at three in the evening where I took a 45 minute break. I changed clothes and moved for my second destination ie Wari La Pass, 17,400 ft. At 5 pm, I was late as per my plan by an hour. I spent more time resting at 111 km than what was budgetted. There was some tension in the team! High winds blowing in the opposite direction, mixed with sand offered resistance to the runners. Someone rightly said, “Ladakh ka mausam, Kashmir ki kasam aur Bombay ka fashion ka koi bharosa nahin”. At six in the evening: 123 km done. 16 km in last two hours and here comes the end of day 1.
7.30 pm. It was dark and the headlights were on. I was catching up and holding fine. It was more than 24 hours that we had started from Nubra. It was getting dark and cold. 48 more hours to go! At 8:30 pm, 137 km done. I took some rest and foot massage and had a power nap. 10:20 pm: 148 km. Next big milestone is Warila Top at 17,500 ft and 199 km. At 2 am: Crossed 159 km at Karu. As it was uphill from here, mental strength was needed the most. Body had given up. It did what the mind told it! Took a break at Serthi Guest House and had a power nap. I reached Serthi at 5:15 am where I rested for an hour-and-a-half and started for Wari La. It took me six hours to reach Warila Top, around 25 km from Serthi Guest house. I reached at 2 pm. Next target was to reach the 222 km mark and four hours were left. It was a challenging task as I was on my feet from the last 44 hours but I knew that I am good at downhill so reached 222 km at 5:30 pm, 30 minutes before the cut-off time and moved again to Serthi, 3 km from 222 km mark where I rested again for an hour. This way, day 2 ended.
9:00 pm Journey started to conquer Tanglangla Pass, the only pass left and the last one to cross. My target was to reach Lato, around 50 km from the 222km mark. Till now, I was running last of all the four runners left in the race. But I was having all the energy left in me to run through the distance. From Serthi, it was all downhill so I started running. My target was to reach Lato by 5 am and I was on target. I reached Lato by 5:15 am which is the 272 km mark. I took rest for 15 minutes and started again. Next 61 km were to be covered in 12 hours, not to forget the Tanglangla Pass at 17,500 ft. It is going to require a massive effort from here as I was on my legs for the last 60 hours and almost three days. I also had swelling in the right leg due to overuse of ligaments. But my only aim was to become the first Indian to complete the race. I was running in the first place by that time as I had crossed all the runners between the 222 and 272 km marks and was running strong. But here was the toughest part: the mighty Tanglangla Pass. I instructed my crew to keep updating me after each kilometre. Every 1 km, they stopped for me and kept updating me about my pace. As I was reaching Tanglangla Top, I started feeling breathless due to tiredness and pressure of time. It is not recommended to push yourself after 15,500 ft but due to time constraint, I had to push myself. I reached Tanglangla Top at 1 pm with another 23 km to go. I was struggling at that point of time. My right high ankle had swelled and as I was pushing to generate some pace, my heart rate started to increase. At that point, I decided not to push myself and keep myself focussed. I asked my crew to keep checking my pace and updating me the time every km. I followed this strategy until I reached Debrink, the 333km mark where the race ended. Hugged my father who was my crew along with my friend Manish and one Ladakhi. The race had ended successfully…