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Nepal: Home of RacingThePlanet 2011


By Clare Morin

Competitors are now thick into the action of the first RacingThePlanet event to take place in Nepal. The race is unfolding in the setting of the Annapurna massif, a mountain range in north-central Nepal that is renowned for its mountaineering and hiking trails. It is also revered as a holy part of the world where many come for spiritual insight.  


Annupurna is a Sanskrit word that translates as “Goddess of the Harvests”. Its literal meaning in Nepali is “full of food” or “feminine form”. The idea of great bounty is evident in the rich greenery, pristine snowy peaks, small villages and sacred sites. It was only in the 1960s that roads were built, so a timeless quality remains in this once deeply hidden area.


In ancient times, the region was a trade route between Nepal and Tibet and the plains of India. As a result, different cultures and religions have swirled through its winding trails, planting seeds in people’s minds and leaving imprints in ways of life and customs. These days a rich mix of Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism and the Bon religion is evident, and spirituality seems woven into the very fabric of everyday life.


The land itself is seen as harboring mystical powers. There are a great number of areas of pilgrimage in the region. One of the famed sites is Machapuchare, which literally means Fishtail Mountain in Nepali. This impressive mountain was visible to the 220 competitors throughout Stage 1 of the race. With its awesome vertical relief, the mountain is designated as sacred and climbers are banned from its sheer walls.


Machapuchare borders the Annapurna Sanctuary, a glacial plateau ringed by some of the world’s most revered mountains and an area of land that is conserved. The sanctuary includes Annapurna I (8,091 meters) and nearly 30 additional peaks that rise to more than 6000 meters in height. Despite the mothering quality in the Sanskrit name of the Annapurna region, the mountains themselves are brutal; for many years, the peaks here have been the world’s most difficult.


Competitors in this year’s inaugural event can simply enjoy the sight of the awe-inspiring peaks as they navigate far below a diverse course that winds through ancient trails, low-lying villages, up steep hillsides and over bridges. With its diverse climactic zones, many species of plants and animals will be evident. The course also includes many opportunities to connect with Nepali life, from teahouses perched on valley cliffs to navigating trails with shepherds and their massive flocks of sheep. It may just prove to be the most mystical RacingThePlanet footrace to date.

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