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Behind the Scenes of Nepal

By Clare Morin

This year is the first time that the Roving Race has ventured to a mountainous region, which has brought the need for a fair amount of logistical wizardry. Although the course does not go into high altitudes, it is the hilliest Roving Race to date and the contours and valleys of the Annapurna region have a brought a new set of challenges.


Take, for example, the checkpoints that are spaced every 10 kilometers along the course. Eight people and two cars staff each one, and staff members are sent out to camp at the checkpoints the night before the stage, so that they can be ready on time. The first checkpoint on Stage 4 required people to hike for two days in advance, to counteract the ever-challenging road conditions, and rocky and windy routes. Staff members are thus scattered around the course, communicating through their radios.

“The course team and management team have become road builders when vehicles have become stuck,” explains Event Director Sam Fanshawe. “Twice in one day we were required to walk to our destination… Nepal is a wild place and nothing is predictable, but the people in Nepal are always keen to come up with a solution.”

Indeed, one of the mightiest components of this year’s event is the team of experienced Sherpas. These elite mountaineers are experts in their local terrain, and have been helping with safety throughout the course. They are also extremely skilled at setting up campsites, having to move quickly as the leaders are proving to be very fast. They have been aided by Coleman instant pop-up tents, which make it possible to set up tents for more than 250 people in a few hours.

Many of the Sherpas have climbed Everest before, such as the Mayawo, a female Sherpa who aims to complete the 7 Summits in the future. Course director Pierre Beguin was also assisted by a very brilliant Sherpa named Karma, who set an auspicious start to the race by setting the RacingThePlanet flag at the top of Everest on his most recent summit.

There has also been a lot of outreach and support work done with the villagers, to help them prepare for the race and benefit directly from it. The staff and competitors will consume a total of 16,000 liters of water, and this has been bought entirely from the local villagers.

Many of the local people are coming out to cheer competitors on, particularly at finish lines where local schools have been included with children handing out flowers.

Curious children are a major element of this year’s race (which is understandable, it must be entirely surreal to see hundreds of human of all races, ages and sizes flying through your village). The children have shown a particular interest in the pink flags, handmade in Hong Kong, that are used to mark the course. This problem was quickly averted by team-members who are working around the clock to re-mark the course with paint—although some competitors temporarily became lost at first.

The race also offers the children a chance to glimpse some of the worlds most advanced satellite equipment. The satellites are often a tricky task, and Nepal is proving to be the ultimate test. The team uses four BGAN terminals, but as most of the campsites and locations are in valleys, which are hard for signals to access, staff members have been driving along roads at night, stopping and testing for signals along the way. Famed endurance athlete Marshall Ulrich pointed out that even on Everest they had issues locating satellite signals, and that was on the highest point in the country!

Despite all these challenges, the event has been carefully thought through and is moving ahead very well. With a helicopter on standby throughout the course, engineers testing bridges for safety, and a world-class medical team accompanying the race, the competitors are being well looked after.

As people push their way up and down this hilly terrain, there are already requests coming in for the next Roving Race. Sam Fanshawe give us a hint of what people have been asking for: “Ethiopia, Colombia, Iceland, Cambodia, India and Bhutan and are all close to the top of the list,” she says. One gets the sense that after Nepal, anything will be possible.

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