Nepal’s marathon monks trade robes for running shoes

1 / 2
This photograph taken on February 15, 2018, shows Nepali Buddhist monks running during a training session in Sindhukot village, some 80 kilometres northeast of Kathmandu. (AFP)
2 / 2
This photograph taken on February 14, 2018, shows Nepali Buddhist monks playing traditional music during prayers at a monastery before a running training session in Sindhukot village, some 80 kilometres northeast of Kathmandu. (AFP)
Updated 05 March 2018

Nepal’s marathon monks trade robes for running shoes

SINDHUKOT, Nepal: Swapping their maroon robes for running shoes, seven Buddhist monks take off at a sprint across the hills surrounding their remote village in the foothills of Nepal’s Himalayas.
They are aspiring ultra-marathon runners, hoping the sport will put their remote village on the map and provide the funds needed to rebuild homes destroyed by a massive earthquake nearly three years ago.
“We found out that we can get many opportunities through running and hope to do something from our monk team — make a name for our village and bring development here. That is why we are running,” says Man Bahadur Lama, 21, the fastest of the group.
The monks — most of them in their early twenties — follow a strict regime, praying in the morning before disappearing into the hills to run up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) each afternoon.
Life is tough in Sindhukot village, which lies just 80 kilometers from Katmandu but like many rural communities in impoverished Nepal feels totally cut off from the rest of the world. The nearest school is a two-hour walk and the only shops are in a neighboring village.
Many Buddhist families in Nepal send at least one son to join the local monastery, where they are usually fed, clothed and educated — relieving their parents of the financial burden.
Lama was sent away when he was just eight, but is currently living back at home as the village monastery was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake.
Fellow monk Mingma Lama is matter-of-fact about his new pursuit, which he says his monastic duties in the community have prepared him for.
“Every day we go up and down the hills. We often have to walk far... So running wasn’t too hard for us,” he said.
These Himalayan monks are not the first to take up running. The so-called ‘marathon monks’ of Mount Hiei in Japan are known for their superhuman feat of running 1,000 marathons in 1,000 days — but they are seeking enlightenment not prize money.
Mingma Gyalbo, a member of the monastery who also organizes races nearby, said the monks are talented but need more support to excel.
“They don’t have the technical know-how, like for their diet, or even proper shoes for running,” Gyalbo said.
Trail running and ultra marathons are gaining popularity in Nepal, where the Himalayan terrain lends itself to extreme tests of human endurance.
Nepal now hosts a handful of races each year, including the world’s highest marathon that starts at Mount Everest base camp at a breathless altitude of 5,364 meters (17,598 feet).
A few Nepali runners have made their mark internationally, like former child soldier Mira Rai who recently won the gruelling 52 kilometer Ben Nevis Ultra in Scotland and was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2017.
The Sindhukot monks’ first race was two years ago, a 30 kilometer trail run in a neighboring village. But they are yet to win any medals.
The fastest monk, Man Bahadur, came tenth in their first major marathon earlier this month, missing out on the top prize of 100,000 rupees ($964) — more than the average annual income in Nepal.
He said running in flat and hot Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace in southern Nepal, was very different to their hilly home terrain.
“I was quite amazed when I first learned that these monks were running,” said race organizer Shekhar Pandey.
“They are very self-motivated and hardworking, they are training by themselves. They are very young and if they train well they have good potential.”
Chuldim Sampo, 24, said the monks were excited.
He explained: “We want to show people that even monks are capable of running.”


Skeptic of world being round dies in California rocket crash

Updated 24 February 2020

Skeptic of world being round dies in California rocket crash

  • “Mad” Mike Hughes said he wanted to fly to the edge of outer space to see if the world is round
  • His home-built rocket blasted off into the desert sky and plunged back to earth in California

BARSTOW, California: A California man who said he wanted to fly to the edge of outer space to see if the world is round has died after his home-built rocket blasted off into the desert sky and plunged back to earth.
“Mad” Mike Hughes was killed on Saturday afternoon after his rocket crashed on private property near Barstow, California.
Waldo Stakes, a colleague who was at the rocket launch, said Hughes, 64, was killed.

"Mad" Mike Hughes. (Science Channel/via REUTERS/File photo)
 


The Science Channel said on Twitter it had been chronicling Hughes’ journey and that “thoughts & prayers go out to his family & friends during this difficult time.”
“It was always his dream to do this launch,” the Twitter message said.
Hughes also was a limousine driver, who held the Guinness world record for “longest limousine ramp jump,” for jumping 103 feet (31 meters) in a Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine, at a speedway in 2002.
A video on TMZ.com showed the rocket taking off, with what appears to be a parachute tearing off during the launch. The steam-powered rocket streaks upward, then takes around 10 seconds to fall straight back to earth. Shrieks can be heard as the rocket plows into the desert.

Freelance journalist Justin Chapman, who was at the scene, said the rocket appeared to rub against the launch apparatus, which might have caused the mishap with the parachute.
In March 2018, Hughes propelled himself about 1,875 feet (570 meters) into the air. He deployed one parachute and then a second one but still had a hard landing in the Mojave Desert in California, and injured his back.
“This thing wants to kill you 10 different ways,” Hughes said after that launch. “This thing will kill you in a heartbeat.”
He said in a video that his goal was to eventually fly to the edge of outer space to determine for himself whether the world is round.
“I don’t want to take anyone else’s word for it,” he said in the video, posted on the BBC News website. “I don’t know if the world is flat or round.”
In another video posted on his YouTube site, Hughes said he also wanted “to convince people they can do things that are extraordinary with their lives.”
“My story really is incredible,” Hughes once told The Associated Press. “It’s got a bunch of story lines — the garage-built thing. I’m an older guy. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, plus the Flat Earth. The problem is it brings out all the nuts also.”