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Race Report - Summit Run Sethan Hamta 25k

Picture this – you gaze at a towering mountain peak in front of you with surreal surroundings of lush green meadows and gigantic trees on the slopes that encircle you. It is in this very moment that you realise how small you are as an individual instilling the invaluable lesson of humility into your inner being. It always has whenever I find myself in the hills nestled in the midst of nature and I could not be any more grateful for it.

trail runner in white top black shorts backpack green meadows snow clad peaks in the background
Up in the Himalayan meadows

Summit Run Sethan Hamta

A trail race in the Himalayas is a chance to not just reignite that feeling but also to test your inner strength, both physical and mental. The 2nd edition of Summit Run Sethan Hamta (25k category) was one of my 4 major running/climbing targets of 2024 and as I sit and write this down, I can say with some amount of happiness and gratitude that I did manage to get past it. My training journey comprised of a 3-month training block where I ran 4 days a week with an average weekly mileage of 45kms/week that went up to 65kms/week during the peak phase with a weekly Sunday long run out on the trails of NCR. 2 days of strength training every week along with 2 days of weighted stair climbing sessions and 5-6 days of mobility sessions/week. 1 hard run every week was the sole session I always eagerly looked forward to and Sunday long runs on trails were the most dreaded ones in the Delhi summers but I had promised myself that I shall stick to the routine come what may which made all the difference at the end. Like the coaches say – no shortcuts to getting better and consistently sticking to the training plan is the ONLY & EASIEST way to improve.


Pre-Race

The race starts off at Jagatsukh which is 5-6 kms from Manali and I wanted to get there couple of days prior to be able to acclimatise and get a few hikes/easy runs under my belt which I did. Route had been explained quite well during the bib distribution/briefing event which gave us a fair bit of idea of what lay ahead.


Getting your gear ready is of utmost importance and you don’t want to end up hurrying right before leaving for the start line so all the gear and essentials were laid out and the hydration pack ready the night before. I was supposed to carry a hydration pouch with 2 sachets of Steadfast Carborance/energy mix (220 calories/sachet) in 2 litres of water, 2 soft flasks of 330ml each to carry Steadfast Synergy/energy mix(180 calories)and 6 Unived 180 calorie gels. Fueling strategy was sipping on energy mix every 5-7 minutes and consuming a gel every hour if I could. On the day of the race, Rohan and I got to the start line around 4am with our start time at 4:30 and made sure to get our warm-ups done well before the flag off. Getting to the start line in time takes away the jitters and avoids any unnecessary mental pressure which can prove to be catastrophic on your overall race performance.


The Race

The race plan was pretty straightforward – power hike the ascents, run the descents. Start to Banhara which comes in at the 5k mark was supposed to be done in 45 minutes and I managed to stick to that. Race starts off with a broken road cum trail section of about 3.7k with not so steep ascents and slightly flatter sections in between. We stuck to the plan and kept pushing each other during the flatter sections. As soon as we got to the road head that takes you to Banhara, we made sure to capitalize and run to cover the 1.3k distance in less than 10 minutes. This ensured that my first leg of the race plan was completely adhered to.


It is from this point on that you leave behind the roads and human interference and start experiencing nature in its true sense. Sharp right turn from the first aid station took a steep narrow incline that opened up into the forests. Minimal human intervention meant the forest around was a sight to behold. Tall coniferous trees all around with a consistent grass cover made up this initial section that would lead into the meadows. This entire route stood out for me because of the minimal sighting of shepherds or any kind of livestock. We did spot a weasel type of animal cross our path at some distance but then that’s the kind of sighting you wish to have during such outings and not the slightly bigger ones in the form of black bears. That would be a tad bit difficult to tackle, if I can put it mildly (I particularly mention black bear since one was spotted during the previous edition of this race).


trail runners posing for photograph in high altitude forest
With partner-in-crime Rohan

Route markings were in abundance so no problems in figuring out the way which also meant I did not need to have my phone out every few minutes to refer to the GPX file. Gradual ascent through the forest took us into the open meadows that headed to the Tilgan aid station at around 8k mark which is when I decided to have my first gel. Ascent started getting steeper from here but I was still going as per my plan which was to get to Suroutoo in 1:45 that came in around the 10k mark. Rohan informed me that there was going to be further ascent post Suroutoo and then a small downhill but non-runnable section which would then lead to another killer climb that will last for over couple of kms. This certainly helped me visualise what was to come next but nothing could prepare me for the arduous never ending climb towards Sethan Dome. Although we did not head right up to the dome because of snow in that area, the climb towards it was more than challenging. Again here, it was Rohan’s constant words of encouragement from further ahead that kept me going with a single thought in mind of pushing fast as soon as we hit the downhill section which was to come around the 17k mark. I gulped down another gel before the downhill section to help myself recover from the treacherous climb and also give me enough energy to move through with speed on the descent. I wouldn’t say I stuck to my fueling strategy well but it always felt like I would puke my guts out if I took in another gel after the first one so had to give myself a break of over an hour before taking the 2nd one.

two trail runners running downhill trekking poles cap backpacks
Down - let's fly!

And then came the section of the race I enjoyed the most but also the phase of the race which gave me a couple of injury scares. With a steep descent in front of me and the last few kilometers that I had labored through meant I was looking forward to pacing down swiftly. As I had settled into a comfortable rhythm I suddenly hit a small stone submerged into the ground with my right big toe striking it up front. For a split second I was reminded of my previous major injury from the trail race almost 10 months ago when I had cracked my left toe in a similar fashion. Thankfully, it wasn’t anything serious and I could carry on without any hassle. Another kilometer or so later during a straight downhill section I suddenly pulled my left adductor muscle which literally had me crying out in agony. I tried to straighten my leg to ease the pain but nothing seemed to work for the next couple of minutes. Stretches of various sorts did not seem to help and the reality of a gone race suddenly loomed large in my mind for few of the longest minutes of the race which is when I decided to push on by loading my right leg on the descent while keeping the left one bent to alleviate the pain. This worked and I tried pushing myself while the body was slowly starting to cramp up. I surged through to get to Jobri in no time after this, gulped a glass of water with electrolytes at the aid station there keeping my breath in check.


As we turned left from Jobri on to the road section for the last 3.5-4kms we were greeted by slight undulations of climbs and descents. This is the section which I feel disappointed with in hindsight. It was more a mental give up than anything else when I decided to walk-run this distance instead of maintaining a certain pace to finish strong. A lesson learnt for the future to train the mind to be able to finish strong despite having run a hard course. In hindsight, I feel I could have easily shaved off more than a couple of minutes from my time if I’d simply decided to keep a steady running pace through those last 3-4kms. Anyway, I kept pushing with my walk run movements and when I was 400 meters from the finish line I bumped into Vibhu Grover who had delivered a podiumperformance in the 16k category. Having known him from a past race, I jokingly asked him to pace me for the remaining distance. To my surprise he happily turned around and started pacing me with wonderful words of encouragement. It is moments like these which make you wonder with a smile on your face, be grateful and cherish the friendships you build due to this ever so beautiful sport called RUNNING.


The Finish Line

trail runner crossing finish line summit run Sethan Hamta other runners in background
Crossing the finish line

I crossed the finish line in 6 hours which was about 15 minutes over my race plan. Was I happy in that moment? Absolutely! To be able to finish strong without any injuries and be able to run majority part of the runnable sections, I would say I was quite pleased with the effort but as I sat down and thought about the race later there were definitely quite a few areas of improvement that I could think of which should help me get better in my journey of running as I prepare myself to scale even bigger heights and challenging races in the future.

trail runner finish line medal two women
Getting felicitated by the Indian legend Sunita Godara

solo trail runner with finisher medal
Glory!

All images are owned by Boots and Crampons and have been used with their permission.

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