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Everest via Ainslie? A look at the Kathmandu Neverest Challenge

Running up and down Mount Ainslie for hours on end sounds fun, right?

I wasn’t sure if the people about to do this were completely mad or had nothing better to do on their weekend! To see the utter madness, I went along to the Kathmandu Neverest Challenge and had a look at what could only be described as a gruelling undertaking.

Canberra ‘turned on’ a gorgeous Friday evening and the view from Mt Ainslie was picturesque. Unfortunately for the Neverest participants, they weren’t really there for the view.

View atop Mt Ainslie

The first signs of the event were the colourful prayer flags attached to the registration tent, giving the place an ‘Everest base camp feel’. The event is hosted by the Australian Himalayan Foundation and raises money to provide better outcomes around health and education for people living in countries like Nepal and Bhutan.

As well as a registration fee, runners/walkers are encouraged to find sponsorship to further their efforts and add to their overall donation. Along with runs in Sydney, Melbourne and a virtual run, the Canberra edition helps make up the larger Kathmandu Neverest Challenge. In 2019 the event raised $75,000 and organisers were hoping to raise upwards of $85,000 this year.

Neverest Registration Tent

The diehards arrived, unpacked their gear and assembled for a photo in front of the tally boards atop Mt Ainslie. 5pm came around and it was time for the runners to take their first steps down the mountain. Miley Cyrus’ song ‘The Climb’ was played on a speaker and Canberra’s Neverest was underway.

Neverest Runners

The runners would go up and down Mt Ainslie again and again a certain amount of times depending on their chosen challenge, with the elevation rise being 161 metres. Runners doing the full ‘Everest’ would have to do 55 laps. All runners had their own challenge/goal for the event with some choosing to do ‘The Half’ or ‘The Kosci’ and some doing the Neverest as part of a team rather than going solo.

Running guide

The first runner I spoke to was Elliot, founder of the running club Ultra Mediocre. He was pretty hard to miss in his fluorescent pink outfit and there was a whisper going around that he ran over 100km the previous weekend, this guy was hardcore! I assumed this was somewhat normal and just what these ultra athletes do.

When the sun set on Mt Ainslie and the runners turned on their head torches it was clear they had a big night ahead. Elliot seemed to be going okay when I left, finishing a couple of laps in good time and almost leading the way. When I returned on Saturday morning he was nowhere to be seen, having pulled the pin after only 3 laps!

Elliot marks down a lap

Once again the Saturday morning was beautiful, albeit cold. More runners were starting to arrive and a number of teams started their campaigns. A few competitors doing the smaller challenges had finished through the night and were probably tucked up in bed. The diehards were still on the track and were going to be there for a few more hours.

Tally Board

22 year old uni student, James was one of the few still slogging it out and had a noticeable bandage on his knee after an overnight fall. I asked James why he does events like this and it was clear he loved the pain. Despite no sleep and an empty stomach there is a level of euphoria that comes with these physical challenges, James was still in good spirits and managed a smile.

Runner James

One of the older runners Pam Muston was clearly hurting but you wouldn’t know. A veteran of ultra running, Pam had her own station of sorts with everything needed to get her through the event. Noticeably there were tubes of ‘deep heat’ as well as the usual bananas, water, coffee and sports drinks.

I wouldn’t really call the Kathmandu Neverest a race but this was what the leader Malcolm’s legs looked like with 10 laps to go. Once again, it was quite amazing what these people were doing. Not only were they running nearly 9000 metres in elevation. The total distance covered by the end would be over 100kms.

Workmates Kris and Graham were the only people I saw finish their chosen challenge. The boys were more hiking than running and finished ‘The Half’ after an all night effort. Still fairly jovial they were both looking forward to an egg and bacon roll, a nap and maybe beer later in the day!

The Kathmandu Neverest challenge was eye opening in a lot of ways, I knew people did crazy physical challenges like this but this doesn’t mean the people are crazy (maybe some are). The common thread was this want to push oneself to the absolute limits and an overriding sense of achievement. Pretty inspiring stuff.

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