Running 5 marathons on 5 consecutive days is not easy – but doing it on the Manali to Leh road takes it to another level altogether.
We had 4 competitors in the 3rd edition all in the marathon category, but only two could finish within the cut-off times.
The race with no shortage of emotion; happiness, anger, irritation, satisfaction and sometimes, no emotion at all. Just the will to keep pushing ahead in conditions that were far from perfect, especially the constant, low-oxygen altitude and the unrelenting cold and the winds. Here are the champions who faced it all. But in the end, there were guts, there was glory, and there was also the heartbreaking failure. But everyone walked away as champions.
Paramdeep Singh Soodan, the winner of The High 5’s in 38hrs 19min. Feisty is how you can describe him but appearances can be deceptive. A man of prayers, he would have a prayer on his lips anytime he was not running. A jovial man, but during the race, he ran like a man possessed. After finishing the 5 marathons his words were – “To finish such a race it’s not just physically that you need to be strong but also Spiritually.”
Udai Singh, the first runner-up in 39hrs 01min. Never having run a marathon before and having trained very little for the High 5’s, his performance was off the charts for a novice. What he lacked in training, he made up for in strategy and an iron will. Fun-loving when the situation called for, but mostly silent; but not to be fooled by outward appearances, he exuded a quiet determination and confidence which brought him the second position, when it came down to getting the job done.
We had 8 competitors in the 2nd edition across various categories.
They faced an average altitude of 4000m, temperatures ranging from a sunny 30 degrees to a freezing -10 degrees. The extreme weather conditions also pushed the runners to their thresholds, with sudden snow and hail storms apart from dips and spikes in wind speeds. Each day, the runners set out with ample motivation, prepared for every eventuality, which helped them to overcome whatever conditions were thrown at them.
David Cole stood winner in the marathon category setting the course record of 35hrs 1min 40sec. His nonchalance and easy going demeanor masks an extreme athlete’s outlook; there was no point during the race where he was short of motivation. Not just motivating himself, David always had a word of support for the other runners in his category, trading stories and enriching the full marathons on each and every day.
Lowell Woodin, finished 2nd in the Marathon category. He registered for the 21 km category but was encouraged by other athletes at the outset to push his limits further than what he was confident of, which resulted in him trying out the full marathon(42km) category instead. Whatever skepticism he had about it, quickly dissolved in the first 2 days when he realized that his limits lay further than he’d imagined. Lowell, pushed and pushed himself on the extreme terrain, braving cold winds and snow storms to clock great times each and every day.
Simon Hollis, finished 3rd in the marathon category. He is a classic example of how the mind can take the body to limits that were previously unimagined. After clocking competitive times for the first 2 days, Simon’s body started to protest, but he dug deep into mental resolves to overcome extreme high altitude challenges to finish all 5 marathons. His resilience and mental resolve was out there for all to see, and he remains an inspiration to those of us fortunate enough to see the guy in action.