Project Davos: Live Hard, Run Hard?

The fourth in a series of articles about training two Nepali runners to compete in a top European trail race.

By on July 14, 2010 | 3 comments

I had a wonderful e-mail from Heather through the iRunFar site. Her recollection of Nepal is one of tough lives where people “are taught to deal with hardship that we can’t even imagine right from birth.” And that is very much sums up life in Nepal.

Nepali kit washing

A friend of Sudip washing his kit.

Bed and Sudip both lead very hard lives. They work 12 hours days, 6 or 7 days a week. After work they must wash themselves, wash their clothes (no washing machines!), kill dinner, cook it, eat it, clean up… I think that just to live as they do is endurance enough for many westerners. Yet Bed and Sudip manage well. It’s all they’ve ever known. And they are healthy, still find time to train, smile, joke, laugh…

It’s interesting to see how these aspects of their lives help them in their running. They’ve lived this way all their life. So they are used to being on the move all day every day. They work most days – if it’s not earning money, it’s farming to feed the family. Their bodies have an incredible capacity for low intensity activity. And their bodies recover oh so fast – they have to if they are to get through the next day.

Sudip made me laugh the first week in Ramesh’s training hostel. He’d been out on a 50km run up some very big hills in the morning, and he’d spent the afternoon in the kitchen helping there. Then a huge delivery arrived with big boxes to go up the stairs. He was first in to help and last one to finish. It’s as though he’s only happy when running or carrying things.

Nepalis seem to have no concept of “stopping.” It is simply not an option in Nepal. Sudip was a porter on a trekking route. It’s simply not allowed to stop lugging someone else’s bag up the mountain. If he did that, he won’t work again. Stopping is not an option. So it seems to me that they always have to push through their limits. That’s normal life for them. So when things get tough, they just put their head down and push on. What better way of dealing with a double marathon up a steep hill!

Life in Nepal really is this hard, and their way of approaching life is a world away from the way we see things in the West. Bed once told me how he had to leave school at 14 and flee his village to escape the Maoists. That really put things in perspective for me, and motivated me even more to give these guys the chance to have a different life.

But what wonderful strengths these hardships have created in our two runners – the capacity to keep going and smile.  And incredibly strong and enduring physiques. What more could a coach want!

Rob Cousins
Rob Cousins is a contributor to