ASFL Pangong Frozen Lake Marathon – 20th Feb, The Cut Above and Beyond Sea-level.

Before you begin to wonder, let me cut the slack and post the website link here that answers a lot of your Watttttttts, Whyyyys and Whenn.. but still keep the your excitement levels high when it comes to your Howwwwww as the journey begins in the frozen land of Leh and yes off-course the lake. 
Signing up for event felt easy, Shared my running profile with some KYC information to begin with and a few stints that made me an eligible survivor in the harsh or the harshest condition in Leh, which we will figure out in the later part of the blog. And yes, the registration fees that may raise some eyebrows, but was all worth to give this event a shot for a experience of lifetime and not to forget, the safety aspect. 
THE LAST RUN – This event was in its prime to not only spread the awareness about Global Warming and Saving our Glaciers but also carve your names in to THE GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORD for having run a Half Marathon at an altitude of 4350mts on The Pangong Frozen Lake.
High Regards to the Team that made this happen and majorly spearheaded by Chamba and his colleagues:-

Landed in Leh quite in advance as we always do but the winters can be tricky and it is often advised to show up even more in advance as the below zero degrees all throughout the stay is an added challenge.
The sky view of what’s in the store for you was quite evident from the never ending blanket of snow.

Day 1 was deemed to be rest day as usual before you even think of stepping out in the cold. By the way, the moment you land at the airport, you are well taken care of till you exit Leh. You are in safe hands of the organising committee or atleast you need to think that way and have some by your side to support whenever required.
The Pal Hotel got recently launched and was catering to the crowd with room allocation and all time meals. The staff has been going that extra mile to do everything necessary to keep you in your comfort zone. Next, you either choose a roommate by viewing the list at hand  or pray to sleep next to a stranger who you can vibe with, and especially the reason being the non availability of twin beds. I got lucky to have someone who turned out to be a mutual friend Abhishek Avhad and also a tri athelete who has been pretty busy getting famous. My coffee cravings were sorted as Abhishek carried his own cute little brewery and the roasted coffee beans. So what’s else makes the stay comfy, is the Smart TV in the room where you can binge on Netflix and Prime video during your free time. A close to 24/7 hot running water through the taps, but yes, mornings can be tricky at times.
So Day 1 was all work for me and the warmth from the heater in the room. It indeed got a bit tiring from the 8 hour layover that you tend to handle especially during the night travels. 
A good night sleep and Day 2 had begun on foot at 6:30amish to explore the known territories of Leh covered with snow and the customary visit to The Shanti Stupa which I continue to see from my window too. 

This was -9 degrees

A good walk to soak in all the acclimatisation is a must do. And yes, watch your steps as the steps and the roads are slippery.

Back to the room and continued with work all day again. A short walk post lunch to the market felt good too but with hardly any soul around and the shut stores, it isn’t fancy being out there and hence chose to return to the hotel for the short gathering that overwhelmed all of us with the welcoming gesture. 

By the way, the team had also organised a climb to stupa post lunch as a recommended effort towards acclimatisation. Since we already got done with it in the morning, I chose otherwise as I could not scoot during work hours.
Day 3 had been planned to visit the all mighty Khardungla Peak and can’t wait to witness this site. and we’ll the plan is also to start running from South Pullu to Leh and see how the night mare turns out to be. 
Mandatory medical check done, 92 oxygen, 120/80 Blood pressure sounded good to the ears.
Gear check and dress rehearsals done too 🙂

and the journey begins

The tempo traveller had its own share of stories of not being able to cope up with the ice on the road despite chains on the tyres. With immense hope to reach to the top, we were left asking for more when it stalled a few kms before Khardungla. With fuel too on the lower side, the decision to turn back was made. 

A quick 2kms on the downhill from there and then yet another 12kms from South Pullu towards Leh was all the we could embask in before we started our return to Leh. 

Meeting beings looking for warmth at -9 degrees 

A 11:30am start didn’t seem like a good idea as we were also not carrying much food with us considering the return was scheduled by 2:30pm which did not happen and we ended up spending 7 hours on road till we hit the hotel rooms. Amidst all this, work continued with fluctuating network on the peaks of Khardungla. 
A quick snack, hot water shower and short nap is all that was needed for rest the headache I started to develop due to hunger all day. With dinner scheduled at 7:30pm, I got my hands on it early and planned to hit the bed for the must needed rest. 
Day 4 has been planned for the Ice Stupa visit which I politely declined due to work commitments and this is the site what I missed

Man made Ice Stupa

A short gathering in the evening to put forward the plans for the next 4 days at Pangong was done. Runners will be distributed in to different buses/Travellers and indulge in some touristy stuff on the way to the final destination – The Pangong Frozen Lake. 
The homestays at Maan, Merak, Spangmik and Lukung will be hosting all the runners this winter and with this  have the opportunity to display the hospitality in harsh winters.
Day 5, The mandatory start time for the travel is 8:30am. 

A quick sneak peak in to the archeological history of carved rocks 

and then entering the coldest changla pass ever to capture some freezing moments in the white sheet of snow.

The lunch break at durbuk was a must owing to the slight delay we had due to weather conditions, little bit of traffic jams and yes, collaborating with fellow traveller buses that aimed to reach Pangong in day light.
Post lunch, the drive to Merak took us to respective home stays. These homestays were particularly opened to accomodate the runners and no other guests were entertained. The reasons well known like extreme cold, no flowing water through taps and heating provision and walk out of the homestay to answer the natures call that gave goosebumps in the night and wee hours of winter. Well, for me, this wasn’t the case. Had the liberty of a private room with heater and inhouse western toilet with buckets full of water and very concerned homestay owner who did took care us like a family and that goes to even tucking us in the bed with multiple blankets to save us from the freezing temperatures in the night.

This night had our phones outside the network zone and for once, there was no beeping on the phone that constantly kept me busy in the social world. A good meal and much needed good night sleep in the coziest beds of the homestay took away all the tiredness of the day. A 8am pickup was scheduled the next day for Day 6.

On Day 6, the visit to the war memorial at Rezang La enlightened the crowd with the fast facts of the war and it’s history that lead to the establishment of this memorial to relive the moments of the soldier who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

With heavy heart, we leave the premises with an oath to respect every national braveheart who have sacrificed their life to ensure we can see the sun tomorrow. A Grand Salute!.
The day ended with yet another medical check to ensure all is green in terms of running the first ever Pangong Frozen Lake Marathon.
A pretty end of the day light wrap up just to make sure you are all set for tomorrows run with a headstart at 7am from respective guest houses. The 8am touch down at the venue, an hour before the start time is all what we had in mind. A very light breakfast to ensure our tummie is enough fed and not over eat which can lead to depletion of oxygen levels required for the upcoming run. The wait was killing and was even extended ahead as we had to wait for the dignitaries to arrive and witness yet another event unfold that was destined to make it to the Guinness World Record Book.

As a result, the start time had to be extended till 10am and we began to line-up in batches to start the run. With me in batch 3, with couple of minutes gap between each batches, the run began and in no time as expected ran out of breath which took me a while to balance it out with my pace. This feet were in constant check as the cleats had to be managed while running on the ice. The uneven surface of the lake also had its own challenges and your had to maneuver your pace according to the traction from the Ice bed. 

A very early mild breakfast and a late start wasnt something my body entertained, a regular munch along the route was demanded and gels, water and electrolytes were the only saviour. As usual, the Hydration bag was put on that helped me avoid the checkpoint stop for any refills. The checkpoints were manned by Army officials and were at its best to feed the hungry and thirsty and motivate every passer by with their cheers. We were highly obliged to their support and service provided from the entire event. 

A 2hr 30mins time leverage is mind had its own challenges. The body wasn’t up to run with frequent refills and the sips of water was ofcourse draining the reserves quickly than expected. A walk and run startegy began post the 11km mark and continued till the end. The warm clothes had also begun generate some heat within and had to be loosened for some comfort. The sun wasn’t out much yet and did peak after a while making the glasses a much needed accessory to face the harsh UV rays. You tend to get blinded with white snow and the sun light reflecting off it and at instances like this, do opt for a water and sweat proof sunblocks to avoid the burns. 
Every foot step is heard unlike the road runs which could be light on your feet. The cleats on the foot does leave a mark on the ice and in time also tends to vanish. With over 2 hours now, the restlessness is bound to kick in as your Target your pace but may tend to under perform owing to the conditions around. This was yet another virgin terrain, experienced and learnt from the very well organised half marathon by the team. This helps in gathering the abundance of knowledge while one plans to attempt the Antartica Ice Ultra. A marathon or a ultra here can sow seeds for your passion to go leaps and bounds. Indeed a path breaking experience.
With over 2 hours and 50 mins, the finish line had been crossed. The medal ceremony at the finish line gave the sense of achievement to all and a well cherished memoir that will be lived and loved for ever. Not to forget, all these efforts were to make some noise and make the Global citizens aware of the most demanding need of the hour to save our natural resources and help curb global warming. 
Also to note the prospects to cater to winter tourism and indeed a platform for adventurists and budding runners to be a part of this event known worldwide.
And yes, The Pangong Frozen Lake Marathon has been awarded the Guinness World Record to having completed the first ever run at a altitude of 4350 meters in Pangong.

A few news reads
The medal of pride from The Last Run

Run stats:-

The the most important greet and meets that brings like minded folks together and create history in the wilderness.

To be continued….