Vastavam web: Swapping their maroon robes for running shoes, seven Buddhist monks take off at a sprint across the hills surrounding their remote village in the foothills of Nepal’s Himalayas.They are aspiring ultra-marathon runners, hoping the sport will put their remote village on the map and provide the funds needed to rebuild homes destroyed by a massive earthquake nearly three years ago.The monks — most of them in their early twenties — follow a strict regime, praying in the morning before disappearing into the hills to run up to 40 kilometres (25 miles) each afternoon.
Life is tough in Sindhukot village, which lies just 80 kilometres from Kathmandu but like many rural communities in impoverished Nepal feels totally cut off from the rest of the world. The nearest school is a two-hour walk and the only shops are in a neighbouring village.Lama was sent away when he was just eight, but is currently living back at home as the village monastery was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake.
Fellow monk Mingma Lama is matter-of-fact about his new pursuit, which he says his monastic duties in the community have prepared him for.These Himalayan monks are not the first to take up running. The so-called ‘marathon monks’ of Mount Hiei in Japan are known for their superhuman feat of running 1,000 marathons in 1,000 days — but they are seeking enlightenment not prize money.Mingma Gyalbo, a member of the monastery who also organises races nearby, said the monks are talented but need more support to excel.
Nepal now hosts a handful of races each year, including the world’s highest marathon that starts at Mount Everest base camp at a breathless altitude of 5,364 metres (17,598 feet).A few Nepali runners have made their mark internationally, like former child soldier Mira Rai who recently won the gruelling 52 kilometre Ben Nevis Ultra in Scotland and was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2017.