My first visit to Nepal was in 1996. We often hear people describe travel experiences as “life changing” and that was certainly true for me on that trip. I fell in love with the people, the culture and the mountains. The combination inspired me in a way nothing else in my life had before. The one factor that did not inspire, but which made as much of an impression was the choking cloud of poverty under which these people live. My observation that no matter how difficult day to day life was for the Nepalese I was always greeted with eye contact, a warm smile and a genuine willingness to engage with me. (I might add these were all environmental attributes that eluded me in Boston where I was living at the time.)
I returned to Nepal in 1997 and 2002. Each time I would follow the usual etiquette of bringing pens and colored pencils for the children I would encounter in the remote villages high in the mountains and always leave my equipment and western luxuries i.e. four season sleeping bag, Patagonia expedition level clothing and really anything else a Sherpa could want and use. Those gestures always felt too easy and of narrow benefit for a place so desperate for so many things. I wanted to contribute on a greater level, but wasn’t sure how to make that happen. In 2008, I came across the Mt Everest Marathon which existed primarily as a fund-raising vehicle for multiple charities in Nepal. I have been an avid runner since 1984 and this seemed like a no-brainer. I immediately applied for a space in the Marathon and was summarily denied a spot. Crestfallen, I put it aside for a year, but checked the website often for photos, information and to keep abreast of what I was missing. In April of this year I received an email from the organization with an invitation to compete in the 2011 Mt Everest Marathon billed as the “Highest & Hardest Marathon in the World.” In accepting this invitation I have committed to much more than physical/mental training. I have committed to putting my heart and soul into raising as much money as I can to help this country achieve a higher standard of living for its people. Food, medicine, clean water and education will all benefit from your generous donations.