Prashant Gupta ( A recreational runner with a passion of a pro)

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I am Prashant Gupta. Today I am sharing with you my Khardungla challenge experience with you.

A Dream doesn’t become a reality through magic, It takes sweat, determination and hard work – Colin Powell.

It all started with the dream of conquering the Mighty KhardunLa in the Himalayas way back in 2019 when our running buddy Queeny did her Khardungla challenge run successfully.

The sense of pride and satisfaction after completing the race is still afresh in my heart and still gives me goosebumps.

The Himalayan KhardungLa challenge is a 72 kms run at an altitude of 17618 ft. This is considered as one of the highest and toughest Ultra Marathons in the world.

I decided to do this Ultra Marathon in 2020 after a discussion with my Coach.

My training started with qualifying for the KhardungLa challenge for which I had to do two full marathons in Sub-5 timing.

Initial Struggle:

As the famous saying goes a still sea never made a strong sailor.

I too had a similar tale to narrate.

After failing for the first time, I achieved the qualifier in 2nd attempt. Big thanks to Snails2Bolt buddies for their relentless support. Then Covid struck and the races were postponed.

Finally, the race was declared in 2022 and I along with my running buddies were looking forward to it.

The training started and the worst thing that can happen was an injury in my left knee in Feb 2022 which took almost 2 months to recover.

Slowly and steadily my training started again in April 2022 with Narendra Ranawat, Mufaddal Lakdawala Umashankar Vishwakarma and Mahezabin Ajmanwala .

There were two goals in-front of me, one was to train well for the D-day and the second was to cut down on my weight by at least 12 kgs so as to improve my running efficiency and reduce the risk of injury.

My training was going good until July 2022 where I clocked 460 kms for the month and ran max distance of 67.76 kms at one go at an event.

But again on friendship day when I did my hill training at Matheran (elevation of 700m in 7 km) I injured my Left ankle while coming downhill to finish my run.

I was detected with stress edema and then exactly one month was left for the race. My doctor advised complete rest and I was taken aback and was in melancholy thinking about not fulfilling my dream this year.

We had planned a hill run training at Mount Abu on August 14, 2022 and I was very eager to do this as this was the last hill practice and doing 50 km there will give a boost in my confidence before the big day. I did 51 km there, but my injury worsened and was on a complete rest, leave running aside, walking too was difficult.

A ray of hope among the dark clouds.

Everything came to a standstill, but however in the past 4 months I achieved my weight loss target which was the only positive thing happened.

I was on complete medication and decided to run only on the D-day if my health permits. I didn’t give up on my will power and resorted doing strength training twice a day as I was in deep stress of not running & seeing my buddies practicing runs for KhardungLa.

Burning calories without running gave me positivity and always instilled confidence that I will perform on the D-Day. Days passed and injury was healing as giving rest to body was the only medicine.

Finally at Ladakh

Ultimately I reached Ladakh on Sept 1, 2022, 7 days before the race day for proper acclimatization and high altitude training. Under the able guidance of my Coach I completed my practice runs at Leh, always with the fear of not getting injured at this juncture.

Finally the race day arrived and I along with my buddies Narendra Ranawat, Mufaddal Lakdawala and Umashankar Vishwakarma started this race. We motivated and encouraged each other throughout the beautiful and mesmerizing route of the Himalayas and believe me company really matters in this massive cold desert.

We all were really blessed with a great weather, however, high altitude challenges were still there with only 60% oxygen at KhardunLa top. It was only 5 kms from the race start point when my left ankle started paining, but I didn’t allow it to become an obstacle.

I continued walk jogg & reached the KhardungLa top in 6:15 hrs, the first cut-off point. Then I kept myself moving to South Pullu which was the second cut-off point, where I delayered myself as tempereatures sore upto 37 deg.

Then from there I ran the entire route till the finish line. The emotions were really high during the last mile which was supported by S2B buddies Kamini Patel Vijay Khemka Karan, AD, Nina Ruby Siju Allka Mahen & others.

Completing the Khardungla Challenge:

I completed my Khardungla Challenge in 12 hrs and 30 mins, well within the cut-off time of 14 hrs. Did this run on ASICS Roadblast.

By God Grace & with the support & prayers of many, I finished the Himalyan KhardungLa Challenge very strongly and without any injury. This was the first time I experienced that everyone was praying for my successful completion and safe return. This made this challenge more dearer and emotional.

I am really very very thankful to my coach, mentor and guide Manish Vinod Jaiswal who had put his trust and confidence in me inspite of my affected training schedule. He always used to stay very positive due to which I never felt demotivated.

A big thanks to my family Deepti Gupta, Sunita Gupta, dad, Avika, Viaan for their support and bearing with my tough training schedules and not being able to contribute much at home. Also my nutrition was very well taken care off and everyone ensured that I remain in my best health.

Thanks to my buddies Pooja Todankar DrRatnaprabha Pisal for constant motivation, trust, care and providing all the support before the race. They along with Venkatesh KV Mary Grace Dakey Aniruddha Dandekar also supported for my race gear which really helped me to face the harsh weather at the Himalayas. Also thanks to DrRatnaprabha Pisal for pre-race and race day hydration support and Neha Mohan Sinha for nutrition guidance which helped me in my weight loss.

Thanks to all my Snails TO Bolt buddies for always encouraging and motivating me which always gave me a boost to finish my race strongly.

Finally, thanks to the organisers for a flawless event with great hydration support enroute. Thanks to our Indian Army for their invaluable support throughout the route. BIG SALUTE to all our Heroes and angel volunteers.

I would like to thanks Zixa pain relief for capturing the emotions of runners during the race & at the finish line.

The race is over, but I am still not able to come out of the memories of it, they are and will always be there with me for all my life and hope to go back to the Himalayas once again for a bigger challenge.

Its a very famouse runners dilema at the start point the heart says why? did I sign up for it? At the finish point when is the next race? So I stop my dialouge with Yeh dil mange more. see you with my next edition of The Border Run

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