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Athletes & Explorers

Oct 29, 2019

Book Review: Tales from the Trails

From the top of the world to the end of the earth, essays from a marathoner’s odyssey to compete on every continent and the lessons learned of friendship, life and pushing past borders

WRITTEN BY

Douglas Baughman

In the predawn moonlight, 65 adventure runners, wearing headlamps to hack through the darkness of the dense taiga forest and backpacks outfitted with provisions for survival in the probable—or at least, historical—event of calamity, gathered under a makeshift banner for the start of the annual Sunrise to Sunset Marathon in Khovsgol National Park in the far north of Mongolia.

Read next on TOJ: Solo Running in the High Himalaya

The course would be treacherous. Already a mile above sea level, it skirts the shores of Lake Khovsgol, known as the “Blue Pearl of Mongolia,” one of the most pristine and ancient lakes in the world, estimated to be between two to five million years old, before climbing another 2,400 feet to Chichee Pass. From there, the race heads south along a ridge, drops into a marshy river valley, then climbs again up to Khirvesteg Pass on an extremely narrow precipice, where a few years earlier an unfortunate runner suffered a spine-breaking fall.

View of Kilimanjaro from Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Photo by Sergey Pesterev.

“The pages of Tales from the Trails are packed with adventure.”

For publishing exec Michael Clinton, it would represent the penultimate challenge in a shared quest with his sister Peg to run a marathon on every continent, seven on seven—the first in London, followed by Buenos Aires, the Gold Coast of Australia, Philadelphia, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and finally culminating in Antarctica. He chronicles these adventures, and aside misadventures, in an inspiring collection of personal essays from his latest book, Tales from the Trails, often with self-deprecating honesty and humor:

“My confidence was so sufficiently eroded that I wondered if I would ever be able to complete such a challenging course,” he writes in “Mongolian Madness” on the eve of the Sunrise to Sunset race. “All of a sudden, running Tokyo, a normal city marathon on flat roads, seemed like it would have been a much smarter choice! Maybe I hadn’t done enough research or focused on the details, but there I was in the middle of nowhere with nothing else to preoccupy my time except getting my head around how I would find the courage and stamina to conquer this newfound feeling of fear that permeated my whole being. …

It became apparent that everyone was feeling a bit anxious, evident when the gallows humor set in. Who would fall down the mountain? When we learned there could be wolves on the course, we identified who would be the most delicious runner to eat.”

From Tales from the Trails: Runners’ Stories that Inspire and Transform by Michael Clinton, copyright © 2019, published by Glitterati Editions.

For certain the pages of Tales from the Trails are packed with adventure and stories about the transformative power of confronting and overcoming challenges, both common and personal, mental and physical. But if would-be readers expect a book solely about running, they may also be surprised to discover a few pleasant sidetracks. Clinton’s brisk narrative pace makes ample time for an occasional “off the beaten path” anecdote, in true travelogue style, such as the all-out city sprint to find the last sports bra in Buenos Aires, or the matter-of-fact rationale for remaining calm in a Tasmanian rainforest whilst picking leeches from one’s private parts, even tricks to survive seasickness on a creaking Russian vessel crossing the Drake Passage.

In fact, with respect to some of the more poignant passages in Tales, running itself is nearer to a middle-distance metaphor, a means to facilitate connection, whether through introspection or a way of threading together generations of family, such as in “The Irish Surprise”:

“More than forty years since there had been any contact with our Irish family, my sister Peg and I decided to search for our roots there. It had all started with our decision to run the Dublin marathon, a stop on our quest to run races around the world from Mongolia to Argentina. Ireland was a natural choice since it was the birthplace of our paternal grandparents. Little did I know at the time that it would have a profound impact on me in ways I could have never expected.”

…or pausing for life’s precious and fleeting moments in “Time to Run for Your Life”:

“Life’s mantra should be to chase your dreams with a vengeance. What is important to you? Does your family want you to be an accountant, but your true passion is working with animals? Does your partner complain that he or she hates the idea of long flights, but your dream is to go on a safari in Africa?

Too many people argue they are too old to start running or to go back to school or change careers, yet there are countless stories of people who started running in their sixties, finished college in their seventies, or find an exciting third chapter that has turned their hobby into a business. Every single day that you ignore the deep dive into the depths of your soul, you are not being true to yourself, and that is what always matters first.”

From Tales from the Trails: Runners’ Stories that Inspire and Transform by Michael Clinton, copyright © 2019, published by Glitterati Editions.

The second half of Tales from the Trails is reserved for an elite group of contributors—Jean Chatzky, financial editor of NBC Today; George A. Hirsch, chairman of the New York Road Runners and former publisher of New York magazine, Runner’s World and Men’s Health; and Lucy Danziger, former editor-in-chief of Self magazine, among many other distinguished marathoners—each paying tribute to the motivational magic of this oldest and most basic human sport—running.

Tales from the Trails is available at major booksellers and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Athletes & Explorers

Oct 31, 2019

New World Record: Nirmal Purja Summits the 14 Highest Peaks in Just 6 Months

Nepali ex-soldier Nirmal Purja just smashed the record for summiting all the 8000ers in just half a year—the previous record? The same achievement took Kim Chang-ho, over seven years.

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WRITTEN BY

Himraj Soin

Nirmal Purja is a Nepali mountaineer and a former British Marine. He joined the British Army in 2003, became a Royal Marine in 2009, and only started climbing as recently as 2012—when he decided to climb Everest. In 2018, Purja was awarded the MBE, a civilian honour, by Queen of the United Kingdom.

According to his Instagram post on October 29th, Purja or “Nims”, and his team reached the summit of Shisha Pangma at 8:58 AM local time. This was his 14th peak, and his team members were Mingma David Sherpa, Galjen Sherpa and Gesman Tamang.

Previously, South Korean climber Kim Chang-ho was the record holder, completing the summits in seven years, while Polish climber Jerzy Kukuczka completed them in a little under eight years.

Purja climbed Annapurna in Nepal on April 23rd, Dhaulagiri in Nepal on May 12th, Kanchenjunga in Nepal on May 15th, Everest in Nepal on May 22nd, Lhotse in Nepal on May 22nd, Makalu in Nepal on May 24th, Nanga Parbat in Pakistan on July 3rd, Gasherbrum 1 in Pakistan on July 15th, Gasherbrum 2 in Pakistan on July 18th, K2 in Pakistan on July 24th, Broad Peak in Pakistan on July 26th, Cho Oyu in China on September 23rd, Manaslu in Nepal on September 27th, and finally Shishapangma in China on October 29th.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

United we conquer ! Here is to The A-team 🙌🏼 . .(Climbing team ) @mingma_david_sherpa , @gesmantamang , @geljen_sherpa_ @zekson_srpa ,Halung Dorchi . . . The journey of 14/7 has tested us all the way though at many levels. Together we have been through so much, we climbed not only as a team but as brothers with one sole goal to make the impossible possible pushing the human limitations to next level. Now, the BROTHERHOOD that we share between us is even STRONGER ! . . #trust #brotherhood #team . . 14/14 ✅ #14peaks7months #History . . #nimsdai #BremontProjectPossible ‬ #dedication #resilience #extremehighaltitudemountaineering #uksf #extremeoftheextreme #nolimit #silxo #ospreyeurope #antmiddleton #digi2al #adconstructiongroup #omnirisc #summitoxygen #inmarsat #thrudark #gurkhas #sherpas #elitehimalayanadventures #alwaysalittlehigher

A post shared by Nirmal Purja MBE – Nimsdai (@nimsdai) on

Apparently, he could’ve made better time had it not been for a few hiccups along the way—from being help up for permissions to climb in Tibet, to stretching out his Lhotse, Everest, and Makalu climbs to take a break. During his descent from Annapurna, Purja and his team rescued Malaysian climber Wui Kin Chin, who was not doing well at 7500m. On their descent of Kanchenjunga, Purja and his team gave up their oxygen to three climbers who had run out of their supply. While climbing Everest, he had to wait in line for hours, and ended up taking the viral photograph of the “traffic jam” on Everest.

Today, Nims gave a shout out to his teammates on Instagram, “United we conquer! Here is to The A-team! The journey of 14/7 has tested us all the way though at many levels. Together we have been through so much, we climbed not only as a team but as brothers with one sole goal to make the impossible possible pushing the human limitations to the next level. Now, the BROTHERHOOD that we share between us is even STRONGER!”

Apart from climbing all 14 of the world’s 8000m peaks in under 7 months, and partly due to this enormous feat, he also holds a few other records—most 8000m mountains in the spring season (climbing six), most 8000m mountains in the summer season (climbing five), fastest summit of the three highest mountains in the world—Everest, K2, and Kanchenjunga, fastest summit of the five highest mountains in the world—Everest, K2, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu, fastest lower 8000ers, Gasherbrum 1, 2, and Broad Peak, and fastest higher 8000ers, consecutive summits of Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in 48 hours (beats his own previous record of five days).

The backbone of the climbing industry in Nepal, sherpas are often overlooked and don’t get nearly as much international recognition as their comrades from the west. In Purja’s case, as his website mentions, the reason you may not have heard of him before is that he spent the last 16 years serving in the UK military. For more information on Purja, head over to projectimpossible.co.uk.

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