Interview with Lizzy Hawker post race

We were honoured to have Lizzy Hawker come and run in the 5th Annapurna 100 race. We got back to her some weeks after the race and asked her to reflect on the race and her experience.

lizzy hawker receiving prize annapurna 100 nepal

Lizzy Hawker at awards ceremony

How was the race for you? Your preparation was a bit tough (no sleep, long bus journey, chilly hotel etc) – did it affect your run? Were you pleased with your performance?

The Annapurna 100 was a wonderful race to experience.  I love making a journey in the mountains, and this was exactly that – a journey of 100 km starting out from Pokhara and returning (under my own power) back to Pokhara…. on the way making a great circuit on mountain trails from village to village.

Personally I don’t feel I was ‘racing’ my best.  As you say preparation perhaps wasn’t ideal (no sleep, long bus journey, no hot water, late breakfast before racing etc. etc.) so to a certain extent this would have affected my run.  However, I guess that these things also become ‘part’ of the challenge of the race – when you travel for races, particularly in a country like Nepal (where things don’t always go to plan!!) then while there are things you can control (at the top level we usually like to keep as much as possible to our ‘pre-race routine’ – partly as preparation, partly as ‘getting in the mood’, partly to keep pre-race nerves under control), there are also things you know you won’t be able to control – and you have to be willing to ‘go with the flow’ to a certain extent.

One thing I would change – I left Europe already tired from work commitments and bad timing of the flight meant that the travel took more out of me than I’d realised.  So had it been possible it would have been a better idea to have more ‘recovery’ time to get the jet lag and journey out of me before racing.

In some respects yes I am happy – I felt lucky to be part of a wonderful race and enjoyed sharing the experiences with both the other Nepali and foreigner runners.  In one respect I achieved ‘my goal’ – to finish the 100km as the 1st woman.  However, you always ‘question’ and ‘think over’ a race.  Deep down I know I could have achieved so much more, and I don’t feel I necessarily ran my ‘best’. Every race is a learning experience – in this one I probably didn’t eat and drink enough, so I was running on empty for quite a while.  Ideally I would have also started more ‘rested’ too ….  It might sound silly, but I also felt ‘rude’ trying to continue quickly onwards in the villages when they offered a kata or tikka and wished us Happy New Year!  In the later stages of the race I was running alone until the end of the road section where I found three Nepalese at the checkpoint and I got tempted by the possibility of some toast to stop longer than I was planning.  From there with renewed energy I could have pushed more on more strongly, but didn’t like to leave the Nepali I was running with (and wasn’t entirely convinced of finding the way along that track). I think in the end parts I wasn’t running any longer with my ‘race head’ on!

You’ve apparently done one or two 100 km races before, how did this one compare with other races?

Each and every race is so different, each has its own unique beauty and challenges.  Perhaps that is part of the fascination of ultra running. Within a race you can experience a great diversity of terrain and landscape, and you can experience a huge range of emotions within yourself.  It is knowing that you can get yourself through times which feel hard and the times that feel easy… and in the words of Rudyard Kipling ‘treat those two imposters just the same’.

What was the highlight of the race for you?

– Dawn light over Annapurna, feeling humbled by running at the foot of an 8000 m mountain.

– Running alone for so many kilometers, knowing I had it in me to make the distance if I could keep strong mentally and physically.

– Running in company with some of the Nepali, feeling that spirit of comaradary.

– Running out of Pokhara in the dark of the pre-dawn with the anticipation of 100 km in front of me,  feeling excited, scared, apprehensive, hopeful all at the same time.

– Running back into Pokhara to the finish line in the dark of the evening thankful to have made the distance, looking forward to cleaning up with hot water (?!), a bit of food, a cup of tea drank sitting down instead of a snatched sip on the run, seeing friendly faces and a bit of sleep – but perhaps a little disappointed to be so far behind the leaders …

What was your impression of the winning time, and Nepali runners in general?

The winning time was made in a fantastic performance by Sudip.  The Nepalese have great potential as trail and mountain runners – and an incredible country to explore!  And I was really happy that so many Nepali women were encouraged to enter in the first ultra.  I really hope it will be the opening of a window [of opportunity] for them 😉

Would you recommend this race to others?


What advice do you have for the organisers!?

Perhaps a few (small) things as I mentioned on the race feedback form

– tea, crackers or cookies at checkpoints would be gratefully appreciated for those of us who don’t ‘go’ on veg noodle soup!!

– clearer directions just at a couple of points – eg. coming out of Birethanti, on the track after the road section

– more of a welcome at the finish of the 100 km

– recommend your international entrants to give themselves enough ‘recovery’ time?!

– different hotel in Pokhara or allow each to arrange something and have a common meeting place

– what WAS really nice was that many of us foreigners were with Rodger at the Summit Hotel in Kathmandu and could meet and enjoy a meal together the night before the bus to Pokhara, and share the journey together.

7. When will you next be back in Nepal?

SOON I hope!  I hope to return again to Nepal in the autumn of this year (2011) to attempt running the length of Nepal along the newly created ‘Great Himalaya Trail‘.  My dream is to take a high level route between Kachenjunga Base Camp and Mount Kailash – depending on permits, permissions, weather etc. etc.  I will hope to make a personal exploration of my physical, mental and emotional limits – while raising awareness of the cultures and traditions I meet along the way, and raising awareness of climate change.