Nepalese team bid for Oxfam Trailwalker glory
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While most in the 100-kilometre Oxfam Trailwalker today will probably be driven by desire for personal glory or a heart for charity, the motivation for four top Nepali runners is to claim a win for their country and their futures.
Running has been a life- changer for Aite Tamang, 26; Bed Sunuwar, 25; Bhim Bahadur Gurung, 31, and Sudip Kulung, 23, giving the Columbia and Dragonair-sponsored athletes a chance to travel while providing for their families.
Tamang, Sunuwar and Gunuwar are soldiers in the Nepalese army while Kulung is a porter.
They are aiming for a win at today's team-of-four footrace across the New Territories, despite the competitive field of 4,800 runners. They have to beat elite runners from the Salomon France team, The North Face team and the team of local stars and Nepalese runners from Salomon Bonaqua Racing. But a first-place finish is more than possible, says their team manager, Ramesh Bhattachan, a former Gurkha and a Hong Kong resident.
Tamang was second in the Vibram Hong Kong 100 solo ultra marathon earlier this year, while Sunuwar finished third and Kulung, eighth.
In a 100-kilometre training session in the mountainous Annapurna region of Nepal two weeks ago, the runners completed a slightly tougher course than the Trailwalker in just 10 hours and 55 minutes, said Bhattachan.
So coming in well under the 11 hours and 59 minutes course record appears highly achievable for the team. "We hope to win the race, or at least finish in the top five," he said.
And there is extra motivation on the cards: Bhattachan will sponsor a 10,000 rupee (HK$870) cash prize for a trail race organised by the team's support runner, Kiran Kulung, if they win.
The prize-money is equivalent to a month's worth of food for a villager and will attract many to compete, Kulung said.