Thinley Namgay   

Completing the five-day 203km Snowman Race from Gasa to Bumthang in 31hrs, Gawa Zangpo from the Royal Body Guards won the 2022 Snowman Race.

Gawa was followed by Sangay Wangchuk who took 34hrs to complete the race. Completing the race in 35hrs, Sangay came third.

Gawa started his international debut in the South Asian Cross-Country Championship 2017 where he came fifth.  In the same year, he participated in Laya Run and came second.

Gawa said: “This first-ever title is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. This is very special to me and my family.”

Gawa used to run from his school days. “More than the prize I got, I am happy that nothing happened to any participant.”

In 2018, Gawa came first in the Coronation Marathon and the Thimphu Half Marathon, where he recorded his personal best of 1hrs and 9mins. In 2019, he participated in other international championships such as Asian Athletic Championship in Qatar and South Asian Games in Nepal.

In 2020, Gawa came first in Bhutan International Marathon and recorded his personal best of 2hrs 36mins.

Gawa said he would continue training and participate in the next Snowman Race.  “I will sensitise others on climate change through my experience in the five-day run.”   

In the women’s category, Karma Yangden, 30, from Laya came first. Karma managed to complete the race in 48hrs.

Karma, a mother of three, said her aim was to just complete the race.

“I am very happy, of course. I want to thank officials for the support rendered to runners. They cared for us so much at the checkpoints and aid stations,” Karma said, adding that she had an advantage having spent most of her life in the mountains with the yaks.

She said confidence and training are a must to run in such difficult terrain. “I want to participate in the next Snowman Race.”

Karma took part in many marathons, including the Laya Run in 2016 where she came first, and second the following year.  She also participated in the women’s race for climate action in 2021 and came first.

Kinzang Lhamo, 24, and Lhamo, 23, from the Royal Bhutan Army, came second and third. Kinzang completed the race in 49hrs and Lhamo in 50hrs.

In both categories, the top three winners are awarded, Nu 200,000, Nu 100,000 and Nu 50,000 with a medal. There are also special prizes for the top three winners. Besides the cash prize, Gawa took home the overall winning trophy.

Bhutanese runners trained for more than two months and also went and stayed in Laya for a week to acclimatise.

A total of 29 runners participated, including 20 foreigners.

Snowman Race chairperson, Kesang Wangdi said that climate change is unfair and inequitable. “Top ten percent of the world population or the advanced economies contribute about 50 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions.  The bottom 10 contribute only 12 percent.”

Chief Guest, Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, said that the successful completion of the Snowman Race signifies the hard work and collaboration of all stakeholders and athletes.

Lyonpo said that global warming is affecting the highland communities.  “I hope that all the athletes will share the message of global warming with the world.”