The urge of facing a new physical challenge has been in my head for quite a while. I didn´t give it too much attention, until I shared my thoughts with Mia. And as soon as I spoke them out loud, my wish was out there. Thoughts become words, words become action, and action shapes your reality. The universe didn´t wait long to give me the chance to prove how serious I really was about my wish.
So what happened? We were in central China on an eco-farm, taking a break from constant travelling and developing our carpenting skills building a goat house, wondering whether it was a good idea – considering the current political situation in the Kashmir region in northern India – to cross the Chinese-Pakistan boarder via the famous Karakorum highway at 4693 meters. So we are doing research and Mia is sending me a link of the Khunjerab Pass Marathon – starting point at the Chinese-Pakistan boarder, the highest paved boarder crossing in the world, where the Hindu Kush mountain range shades into into the Karakorum mountain range. Highest point of the legendary Karakorum highway, one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20thcentury and considered by many as one of the most beautiful roads in the world.
If you know me, you can image my excitement. I was immediately hooked. Just the thought of running through the Karakorum Mountains interlarded with 7000- and 8000-meter high mountains made my body shake out of excitement. The race date unexpectedly fit almost perfectly to our travel plans – 21stof September. Here it was, the competition, the challenge that I had wished for. Much sooner than expected.
I read the details: 30 runners from all over the world and about 120 local athletes are taking part at the competition. Apart from the ultra-marathon distance of 50km, it was also possible to run the classical marathon distance of 42,195km and a half-marathon. I checked the date again. An inner dialogue began: “Exactly 4 weeks till the race. 28 days. That´s it! Not really a lot of time. What is my current physical condition? How fit am I right now? I didn´t really run a lot in the past months. However, hiking, cardio and full body strength training, I have done extensively. Will the joints play along? I just have to listen to my body. How will my body react to the altitude though? The next few weeks I will be training in the Tibetan Highlands. Perfect! Which distance should I sign up for? What a question. All-in. Ultra it is. The chance of getting a starting ticket is quite low anyway considering the few foreign runners and the little time till the race. At least the organizers can tell us if it was save to travel to that region…”
I filled in the registration formula and wrote an email to the organizer. When I woke up the next morning, I immediately checked my inbox. I received a response. Apparently, the sponsor had approved some additional spots for the race and it was save to cross the boarder. I rubbed my eyes and read the email again. My heart was beating faster. I was abruptly overcome by the amazing feeling of excitement and joy. I looked out of the window. Blue sky. The sun was just about to rise. I put on my shoes and started running. First training session. Now there was no way back.
It´s now 5 days before the race. I tried to coordinate the training schedule, that I made for myself as good as I could with our travel itinerary, that was now carefully planned through since we had more than 5000km of traveling to cover in 3 weeks. We needed another week to finish our carpenter project, then we wanted to cross the Tibetan region in Sichuan and lastly we had to follow the old silk-road all the to the west where China boarders with Kyrgyzstan, Tadzhikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. I ran around 230 km in the past 24 days. I woke up nearly every day at 6 am to run or train. I ran through dirty polluted Chinese cities, I ran in every weather – dry heat and heavy rain. I ran in the Tibetan highlands at nearly 4000 meters of altitude on muddy roads with honking trucks passing by. It was often far from being fun. But I persevered.
I don´t know if I managed to bring my body enough into shape to successfully finish the race. I don´t know how my body will react to the challenge of running in such high altitude. I don´t know how my joints will react to 50km of downhill running on a paved road. But not knowing is exactly what drives and motivates me. It is those places and situations of uncertainty that I am constantly drawn to. Why? Because I believe this is where life is hiding its treasures and secrets. Because by going into the unknown, you tear down the limitations you constructed for yourself and it will make you discover things about yourself that might otherwise stay forever hidden inside of you. And most importantly by going into the unknown, you will feel your soul jump out of joy. At least that is my experience, looking back at my life and the decisions I made so far. In the end, it was also the excitement of not knowing what triggered our decision to leave the supposedly safe harbor and to decide to travel east for an unknown period of time.
Besides that, there are not just unknown variables. I am relying on my experience of two marathons and many half marathons, I know my body really well, I know the pushing effect of adrenaline and dopamine running through my blood once the race has started and I am assured of the support of my beloved partner in crime, Mia. Fingers crossed that the boarder police will play along and lets us enter Pakistan.
I am doing this competition first and foremost as a personal challenge. However, I am also running to support the Team Satoshi project, a sports team founded by my good friend Vitus Zeller, to create awareness for bitcoin and bring forward the decentralization of money and power. If you´re interested about further information, just click on the following links: http://teamsatoshi.org/wiki/Main_Page or http://teamsatoshi.org/wiki/KHUNJERAB_PASS_CHALLENGE