With a busy events season now drawing to a close and October striking, we are drawing a deep breath, and setting our sites to focus hard on marathon training for the next month.
Our last week has been spent in Ireland and between family commitments and catching up with friends, we’ve managed a couple of runs in the Mourne mountains, Co.Down and Connemara, Co.Galway. Nice to change things up a bit and with distances progressing nicely it is looking more likely that the distance is achievable. Another factor, largely out of our control that will undoubtedly affect our performance on the day but hopefully not forbid our participation is altitude.
The main difference between running the Everest Marathon and a marathon in the hills of the UK is the effect of altitude. The higher you go, the air is less concentrated and so there is less oxygen. With less oxygen available, your lungs and heart have to work harder, and without proper acclimatisation serious illness, or worse, can result. The effect of altitude starts to become noticeable for most people from around 2500 metres (approximately 7000 feet plus). With the Everest Marathon starting at 5000 metres (over 16000 feet) it is going to be very hard work even though we should be well acclimatised!
I won’t go into the various altitude illnesses in any detail but these include conditions with formidable names like Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), to name a few. Of these, even with a good acclimatisation schedule, we can expect to suffer AMS to some extent, which is more likely to present with headaches and feeling like we’ve a hangover lasting several days! Response to altitude is partly dictated by an individual’s own physiological make-up. I have not suffered from any serious altitude-related illness on previous trips to Nepal and other high-altitude regions and hopefully with careful preparation I will be OK this time around.
To try to prevent altitude related illness the basic rule to follow is to not gain height too quickly, and to sleep lower than the highest point ascended each day. Our plan is to arrive in Nepal on the 8th November and then we will have three weeks before the marathon to acclimatise. Initially Patrick and I will trek by ourselves for over a week on the Jiri Trail up to Namche Bazaar, which should be a good starter for getting used to the gradually thinning air, and then we join the rest of the marathon group where we will continue a programme of acclimatisation prior to the race. Before we go to Nepal, Patrick is heading off to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which at nearly 6000 metres (over 19000 feet) should give him a head start on acclimatisation! I’ll be expecting him to run ahead each evening to organise accommodation and sort dinner of course!
For further information on the effects of altitude see Altitude Sickness
In my next blog I’ll let you know how Patrick fared with the altitude on Kilimanjaro and how our final month of training in the UK is going, before we catch the flight to Kathmandu in early November.