Nowadays I am in Gangtok, Sikkim, India. Well, not exactly in Gangtok but somewhere in its upper reaches. I must tell you that if you are in India, visit to Gangtok is a must. The pristine beauty of the majestic Himalayas is just breath taking. The lush green mountains with the cover of pine trees, the houses with abundance of flower pots with beautiful flowers adorn the hilly roads. I have come here for some work for a month or two and I took this perfect opportunity to do some hill running or road running here.
The mountains, I feel, makes you a humble person because of the dangers and difficulties it presents. The lung bursting upslopes and quad smashing downslopes makes one understand the joys and pains of running in the mountains. I came here last month and ran for a week. I, thereafter, went down to Bagdogra for few days where I ran a local 5k race. I must say I was running without much effort. I kept it easy and still I came in a decent time. Now again I am back and have resumed my running in the hilly roads. I am running around 6-7 km nowadays. Thereafter I am doing few strengthening exercises with some light weights.
So, here is the list of things I have learnt while running in the mountains. They may help you too and you may plan a running trip to the mountains soon.
1. Mountains are tough
One has to respect the mountains. The upslopes and downslopes presents a lot of difficulty for newbies. Apart from the lack of oxygen, the legs take a real beating. The calves and achilles will feel a little sore in the beginning and the lactic acid build up will be phenomenal. Whatever mileage you are running in plains, be sure to cut it down to half atleast for the first week unless you want to invite Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis.
2. Wear clothes in layers
Nowadays, it is quite cold in this part of the country. Atleast I am feeling it. I generally prefer warmer or tropical climate. I hate cold but my job usually takes me to the mountains so I have to suck it up. Make sure to wear a warm cap, a couple of layers of uppers, gloves and a lower. Recently I bought a North Face full sleeve dry fit upper. It proved to be an ideal layer below the wind cheater I use. I make sure not to take out any piece even if I am profusely sweating. I will take them out only when I am back in the room.
The mountain air is brutal like the slopes. They burn the skin and cause cold injuries to the exposed parts of the face atleast. Be sure to put a layer of cold cream and suns cream before you head out of the door. Also as an added protection, put a layer of Vaseline on the tip of the nose and cheeks and tips of ear lobes. They help avoid direct contact with the cold wind. Though you will be all sweaty once you warm up but it is worth the mess.
The peculiarity of high altitude is that we don’t feel thirsty. The water is used by the body as it is being done in the plains, maybe not at a faster rate. But it is there and we must make sure to drink sufficiently during the long runs. You may feel the natures’ call quite frequent but it is worth the effort.
More often than not when you are running uphill, you will be grunting, sweating and your expressions will not be quite a thing to admire. Though while on downhill, you will feel invincible with the the widest grin. Try and make an endevour to smile whenever somebody who is not running passes you by. They will think you as a tough person seeing you effortlessly run up the mountain. When they pass by, by all means get back that gross expression.
The mountains in Sikkim are making me tough, no doubt about it. My recovery time is dropping day by day and I stay fresh throughout the day. The fresh and cold mountain air is such a great tonic. Its now more than three weeks that I am here running in the mountains. It can get, sometimes, lonely here but it is a nice little break from the hustle bustle and pollution of the city. But I am missing my wife and kid.
Any other tips to follow while running in the mountains?
What is the best thing you like while running in the mountains?