There’s nothing quite like running downhill through a sprawling forest in the solitude and freedom of your own thoughts. Running the Nepal Marathon is just you and utter peace. Channelling your inner Tomb Raider as you leap over streams and dodge between the trees, it is only when you occasionally cross paths with another runner or happen across a water station that you’re momentarily brought back reality. The few days ahead of the marathon had been long and full of rewarding physical challenges – labouring in the local village, visiting Street Child of Nepal’s projects and camping under the stars in the mountains.

Our muscles were tired but it all led to this one incredible day when we were suddenly alive and full of electricity.

Aside from your own footsteps pounding the sand, the only other sounds that surround you on the marathon are a forest alive with mystery animals and insects. You hear the birds and crickets, you catch the occasional glimpse of something scurrying through the undergrowth, a leopard footprint or a flying squirrel gliding past as you run by. On 26th November 2016, 92 international pioneers, including 36 Street Child runners, travelled from around the world to participate alongside 408 Nepali athletes as together we ran the first ever Nepal International Marathon in the hills of the stunning Shivapuri National Park. Modelled on the highly successful Street Child Sierra Leone Marathon, the Nepal International Marathon organised by Impact Marathon Series (IMS) was the first of its kind in the region, winding through 10km, 21km and 42km of adventurous trail courses. It’s a marathon that unites everyone behind good causes.

 

HimalayasHimalayas

Himalayas

As Nepal marathon founder, Nick Kershaw, said:

“Running has a power that transcends mere exercise; it unites, challenges and liberates. Our goal is to unleash this power to tackle the major issues facing the world today and empower all our participants along the way.”

36 Street Child runners from across Europe camped for five days in an Athlete’s Village with a breathtaking Himalayan backdrop on the edge of Shivapuri. Each day, the team visited Street Child projects, including the inspiring Kopila Nepa school in the brick factories of Bhaktapur, built to help the children of migrant workers to access education. After a bumpy four hour bus ride through the gorgeous rolling valleys of Nuwakot, we spent two days painting a new school in Bidur that has just been rebuilt after classroom structures were destroyed by the devastating earthquake in 2015.

 

Everyone worked hard in the relentless sunshine to paint yellow exteriors and grey-white interiors, while curious children came up to us to say ‘Namaste!’. These new classrooms are now complete and open for learning for 80 children, thanks to the fantastic finishing work by the runners, Street Child staff and engineers. As well as painting schools and visiting projects, Street Child runners combined forces with all 92 international runners and 150 members of the Kakani community to work on a project that had never been attempted before: to dig and install 5  km of water pipeline from the source to a sanitary water tank in the village. Everyone worked towards the goal of providing the Kakani community with access to clean water for all 12 months of the year. When race day came, there was an indescribable energy in the camp. Having spent a week together ahead of the race, runners of all abilities were united. There was an overwhelming feeling that we were in this together and a deep sense of team spirit that saw people sacrifice their own race to help those who were struggling. It was a stunning, emotional experience like no other.