It was during a regular weekday evening, was little drained and tired of mundane office work and was doing a random browse and suddenly something grabbed my attention. A page with title of “The Hell Race” a one and only kind and first ever sky running event in India. Well this was just the beginning of what was to come next and going to change the things forever-How we believe in ourselves and how we perceive thingsWell the question comes to mind why I signed up!! Well honestly I don’t know may be I was looking for something different then to routine tar road runs in and around concrete jungle or may be I had inquisitiveness to try out something insane.

I got some breather from work I had always that special love for mountains and running so why not mix both and see if that cocktail works in giving a little kick that one seeks in life. Biggest challenge for me was to get a break from work in literally peak of business almost nearing year end was more on pressure side. So I somehow managed a single day leave which turned up as a road trip of 13+ hours from Delhi to a place close to my heart “Manali”, do the run and same day have to detour

It’s a saying when intent is right and you are religiously following something everything starts conspiring in your favor and so it happened and things started falling in place right from reservations to finding a great buddy in Arvind (Hell Race enthusiast) travelling is the same bus.

So day before the race day come we arrive in Manali got picked up by a cab to HQ’s (Hotels), met many run enthusiasts “Nakul, Myra Johnson” and many more. Post lunch start the pre-race briefing session and BIB distribution, unveiling the beautiful hell race tee… saying “Not for weaker of will” well that was just the beginning for hell gates to open. So finally briefing started with Nupur and Vishwas sharing their insights on course, elevations and what not.

  I still remember those words which were used again and again “It’s a technical course” and I kept on wondering why the hell they are using this again and again or is there some catch and then in between comes the master stroke watch out for snakes, stinging nettle, even wild bears. Whenever we Hell Race buddies Tarun Walecha, Karan, Nischint catch-up we still laugh remembering those movements, what were the looks on our faces when the briefing was happening. 

Well briefing done now was the time to give glimpse of what’s next to come “A sneak peak of Hell Race”. We went for a little mountain trek off course covering little of rivers, gorges and all more what was in store of us on next day. Well it was perfect setup get acclimatized, get a little tired come back eat light and right and sleep tight. My biggest fears always are not getting proper sleeps prior to race days in excitement but that day was magical I dozed off at 9:30.

At 4:30 alarms rang, all were up and had our light breakfast and boy can’t narrate the feeling. 5:30 AM sun-rays just about to make the valley come to life and some 50 of fierce, crazy, funny run enthusiast were waiting at the start line wishing luck to each other and then the magical words “Let the race begin” and boy first 10 KM were a mix a of tar and trail with sun-rays peeping out it was something magical and beautiful that can never be described in words, one had to be there to experience it to live it.

It was fantastic by then with a few slants and I was wondering may be I had an outside chance and then the gearshift with all the technicalities coming in the play that Vishwas was speaking a day before and man all of sudden I was praying just to make to finish line on time. It was one hell of test of not only your physical strength but the mental strengths.

Best and toughest was the stretch with highest elevation gain. The Bakartaach (Beas Kund Glacier) at 3350 m was magical, it was mix of 3 KM steep uphill 2 KM downhill and it continued. There was a point when we’re finding it literally tough to find weather to enjoy the magic and picturesque views or just crash down.

So being located to metropolitan cities didn’t had any exposure to gradient training though as a makeshift tried in elevated terrains and treadmills and then was the thin air making it literally impossible to climb run those elevations. So we ran, we walked, we crawled and we slipped but got up again.

It was one experience in terms of overall trail, some part required steep climbing, and some crossing slippery grassy patches and some was with that balancing act of crossing the river on man-made wooden log bridge. Toughest part is when all heaven is around you and all hell is cutting loose on you, you are literally confused to enjoy it or curse yourself why the hell you joined it. It’s a true survival challenge in every sense. (“Courtesy: Nischint Katoch”)

This race gave me many fond memories- some really good and emotional moments, made me stronger-there were times when my body was giving up but mind wanted to conquer it. I got some real best buddies through this race who are still in touch. I want to tell you something, this is not just a casual tar road run but if you are up for something different & exciting in life, boy this is your game surely. Trust me you will a completely different person at the end of start line with the memories you going cherish your whole life.

This is indeed one hell of a race and I am going for the 2nd time make sure you are there.. Ohh yes I am going for Bir Biling Half Marathon also as starters before moving to main course.

Last but not the least many thanks to the amazing organizers Vishwas and Nupur for such wonderfully organized event. The brain box behind this event, it was magical experience right from transportation, accommodation, race track selection and markings to refreshment stations. Special thanks to photographers capturing those awesome moments in those tough terrains.

Guys you are awesome and I am really thankful for giving us this awesome hell of an experience. If hell and heaven are on earth together at one place it’s on Manali trail surely!!!

Forever Sky runner..

Nishant Sharma

About the Author : Nishant Sharma

Based out of Delhi, He is an IT pre-sales manager by profession, an athlete by passion and an explorer at heart.

“To run is to explore inner self and move from strength to strength. You will either find me running on roads or trails or up in the mountains.”