Mel Fey, 32, has recently conquered the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon in Nepal. The 32 year old Wattle Downs Woman has just completed one of the most fierce test of human endurance. Marathon competitors flew from the Nepalese capital Kathmandu to the town of Lukla and then trekked to Everest base camp, the race’s starting point. She completed the marathon in 9 hours and 56 minutes.
Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon is a 42 km race and is also named as “world’s highest marathon.” It is named after first Mountain Everest Summiteers Sir Edmund Hillary and his Nepalese climbing partner, the late Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
Her training regime for the race consisted of yoga, swimming, long distance running and altitude training.
Although the course is basically downhill, there are two steep uphill sections. After completing the race, runners had to hike 21km back to the village of Lukla.
“I thought I’d do it in about 8 hours. As we started the trek, even the triathletes and experienced marathoners said all they wanted was to finish it,” she says.
The two days before the start were particularly difficult, Fey says.
“It wasn’t hard to get up in the morning and put my kit on as I slept in it for two days. I didn’t shower. You do whatever you can to keep warm. Once you’re in that environment all you want to do is start the race,” she says.
Unfortunately, the racers had to face nine avalanches in two days. The first one was before the race began. “It sounded like thunder and then all that rock and snow and ice was coming toward you like a freight train,” she says. Throughout the race, her strategy was to pace herself and save energy where possible.
“You have to focus on the next step, the next village or the next tea house and when you get there it’s a big sigh of relief,” she says.
Nearing the finish line, Fey put on her Sony Walkman and cranked up the music.
“I started to internalise everything I’d done in the past three years to get to the starting point.
“They put the ribbon up for everyone at the finish line so all the runners felt like winners.
“This race was not about winning or losing but achieving something big in your life. I felt pretty grateful to be able to do what I’ve done. I smashed it.”
Fey competed in the marathon on May 29 without sponsorship and estimates she spent at least $12,000 covering her travel, equipment and training.
Apart from training, Fey teaches travel and tourism at the International Travel College of New Zealand and participated in the race to inspire and set an example to her two daughters, aged 5 and 7, and her students. She has raised $3500 for the Himalayan Trust, formed by Sir Edmund and his first wife Louise in the 1960s to bring “quality education, safe water, and better healthcare to the people of the Everest region”, as well as about $2000 for 10 Nepalese widows.