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"Until a decade ago, no one imagined that a marathon could be run from here."
- Mike Dennison

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Rapture of the Steep - the Everest Marathon
by Mike Dennison, Utah, USA
Aug 19, 2000

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Beyond The Edge - the book by Mike Dennison

Beyond The Edge

It is almost 7:00 a.m. on a clear November morning in Nepal. First light bathes the pyramid contours of Mt. Everest to the south of where I am standing in confused and cold silence. It is 20 degrees below zero and I have just put a perfectly good and warm sleeping bag into a stuff sack. Hence the confusion.

There isn't much oxygen at the 17,500-foot elevation of Gorak Shep - a three hut village near Everest base camp. Most of my worldly possessions are in the Lowe backpack that is being moved to a staging area. I mill around with more than 90 others and try to recapture some of last night's warmth. At one minute to 7:00, all eyes turn to our group leader: David Blakeney.

We aren't here to climb; we're here to run. At least 61 of us are here to run. The remainder are Sherpa porters and they are here to help carry our equipment to the finish line. This country is famous for climbing - eight of the world's fourteen highest mountains are in the Himalayas. Until a decade ago, no one imagined that a marathon could be run from here. At this cold and airless moment, most of us share that initial doubt. This is the world's highest - and arguably the world's toughest - marathon.

David Blakeney is both our group leader and the race "ambulance." Accompanied by a medical doctor and carrying appropriate supplies, he will follow the last runners and be available should there be an emergency. Nine of our seventy runners have already come down with acute mountain sickness or some form of severe stomach ailment. Having survived that danger, the remainder face 26.2 miles of harsh mountain terrain.

Actually, we've already journeyed quite far. After 16 days and over 120 miles of trekking from the trailhead town of Jiri, we are only a few miles from the tents of five expeditions that are preparing for a summit attempt on the world's highest mountain.

David Blakeney and I have something in common: we were both here last month. He was introducing his very fit father to the Everest region; I was making a pilgrimage to the mountains at the top of the world. In answer to a seemingly offhand question about marathons, I told him I had done twelve. It was the mistake of talking with strangers. He explained that he was the group leader for the Everest Marathon. And, the next thing I knew, he was putting me down as a "late entry."

Let's start the race!!!

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