Thinley Namgay and Jigme Wangdi
The Snowman Race is tough but for Ian Sharman, 37, from the United States of America (USA) and 28 other ultra-marathon runners are confident to complete the race within five days from Gasa to Bumthang between October 13 and 17.
Ian Sharman is the Shasta Mountain Guide in northern California, which is located at 14,000 feet (ft) or more than 4,000 metres above sea level (masl). She said, “I feel very prepared. I spent lots of time in the mountains without aid stations or support. Although I have never been to the Himalayas, I am confident.”
Sharman is also a writer and it’s her maiden journey in Bhutan. The highest elevation race she took part in, a few years back, was in Argentina’s mount Aconcagua, which is 19,500ft or over 6,000 masl.
Sharman said that her intention for the race is to witness and talk about climate change and share that with the rest of the world. “Through this race, I can able to understand how the ecosystem of high-altitude places is affected by climate change.” She said that, through this race, she can learn and campaign to bring the effects of climate change in Bhutan to the world.
Holly Zimmermann, 52, is the oldest runner taking part in the race. She said that she was proud to be the oldest runner.
Zimmermann has climbed the Alps in Europe. “I was asked to join the race about two months ago. I know I am prepared because I have been training my whole life for something like the Snowman Race.”
Zimmermann said that she regularly trained to build her endurance. “It is a privilege for runners to be in this race as we are raising awareness on climate change. There is no better place to do it other than in Bhutan, the world’s only carbon-negative country.”
She said that Bhutan is a role model for the world when it comes to tackling climate change and that Germany and Bhutan have a lot in common when combating climate change.
The athletes will take part in over 203-kilometre Snowman Race. The participants are highly experienced runners who have had a prolific track record in running across difficult terrain and high altitudes around the world.
These athletes, including nine Bhutanese runners, will compete for five days, crossing the highest point of the race—5,470masl (17,946ft).
The runners include from the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, France, Germany, Singapore, Tanzania, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Bhutan.
Ashly Winchester, a running coach from the United Kingdom, said the race will be an adventure for the runners and an exciting moment for anyone who is paying attention to the climate cause.
“The message that we can give is something very visual such as mountains, and glacial, among others,” he said, adding that he was excited to meet the people in highland communities to understand their concerns and stories related to climate change.
Winchester has been coaching ultra-runners all over the world and conducted many high-altitude training and racing over the years. “I have participated in a race in Nepal which is around 18,500 ft.”
Roxanne Vogel, 37, is an experienced runner who has completed one of the fastest ascents of Everest in two weeks, which normally takes around two months.
The Snowman Race officials said that the safety of athletes is the priority and facilities such as a first aid team, emergency helicopter services, night camps, and GPS facility, will be in place.
Organised by the Snowman Race Secretariat, the event will highlight the real effects of global warming, particularly on the planet’s most threatened ecosystems, such as in the high Himalayas.
The race is an initiative conceived by His Majesty The King to generate awareness about the climate emergency.
Bhutan also aims to boost its position as a vocal thought leader on climate change and continues to promote results-driven, and sustainable development initiatives throughout the country.
Bhutan’s fragile ecosystem makes it highly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change calamities such as landslides, unpredictable weather changes and a rapidly changing ecosystem.
The event will conclude with a virtual climate conclave after the final day of the race.