For many of the 160 runners who complete the 48th annual Brookings Marathon on Saturday, it will be a crowning achievement – dreaming, planning and training culminating in 26.2 miles of undulant emotions capped by the joy of crossing the finish line. Memories of that morning will pop in their heads for weeks and months afterwards.
For Bruce Allen, it nearly will be forgotten in two days.
It’s not that Allen, 54, of Flandreau, has a short memory. It’s just that on Sunday, Allen hops on a plane in Sioux Falls and 27 hours later will be in Katmandu, Nepal. Two weeks later, he will run the world’s highest elevation marathon, the Mount Everest Marathon. He is being joined on the trip, but not the marathon, by his son, David, 15.
“It will be an eye-opening trip. I’m pretty excited about it. It will be the pinnacle of my whole marathon career,” said Allen, who has run 32 since 1999 with most of them since 2010.
Allen, who was born in Sioux Falls and is an enrolled member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, played high school sports in Buffalo Center, Iowa, but didn’t get the running bug until later in life. In 1981 he moved to Flandreau, where he family was from originally. He served as health administrator for the tribe in 1993-98 and got into preventative health.
It was then he rediscovered running. Allen ran his first marathon in San Diego in 1999 in 3:20. The owner of Allen Steel Construction has run the Brookings Marathon four times.
He has turned his love for running into an opportunity to see the world. Allen has run all six of the world’s major marathons – Tokyo, Boston (several times), London, Berlin, Chicago and New York and eventually wants to run a marathon on every continent.
He has already run marathons in North America, Europe, Asia and Antarctica.
It was the 2016 trip to Antarctica that puts his sights on the Mount Everest Marathon. On the chartered voyage to the Antarctica Marathon March 13, many in the group of 127 runners were discussing how challenging the run would be. However, a gentleman from the Netherlands told of an even tougher 26.2-mile challenge – the Mount Everest Marathon.
A place with even more difficult terrain to traverse? Let’s go for it. About 30 Antarctic runners made a commitment to run the Mount Everest Marathon in 2017. Allen said 20 have been able to follow through.
“It will be nice to run with people I know,” Allen said, noting he has met some of the group at other marathons. It includes a runner from Minneapolis, but no one from South Dakota.
Everest Marathon details
The May 29 marathon starts at Everest Base Camp (17,598 ft) and finishes at Namche Bazaar (11,306 ft). The 42.195 km (26.2 mile) course is over rough mountain trails and there may be snow and ice on the upper part with considerable wind exposure along much of the marathon route. Although the course is basically downhill, there are two steep uphill sections.
The course map shows 15,000 feet of descent and 9,110 feet of ascent with the longest ascent being 1,700 feet right after a steep descent to mile 22.
Mount Everest Marathon is a timed event with prize money. In 2016, it drew 146 entries with 137 finishers. The majority of the runners are international, but, not surprisingly, the top finishers are Nepali. Allen, whose marathon PR is 2:53 set in Brookings in 2013, didn’t enter with the idea of it being a race, “but when you toe the line…”
He said he plans to open with a nine- to 10-minute per mile pace. “The biggest goal for all of us is to complete the race and be healthy,” Allen said.
Preparing for Everest Marathon
This will be the first time he has been higher than 11,000-foot elevation, but isn’t terribly concerned about that because of the two-week acclimation period. During that time the group, both runners and hikers like his son, will hike nine days, including one to Kalapatthar, the highest point of the trek at 18,200.
From there, the group can “enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of Himalayan peaks, ranges and glaciers including Mount Everest a stone's throw away,” according to the event website.
The event began in 2003 to mark the 50th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary. That was on May 29, 1953, hence the race is always on May 29. Allen notes this is the same time of year that the climbers of the world’s highest peak – 29,029-foot Mount Everest, make their attempts.
The Mount Everest Marathoners will be far below the death zone that still takes lives.
“The only danger is if there is an earthquake again,” Allen said.
On April 25, 2015, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck near Katmandu and was felt in much of the country, including Mount Everest, where it triggered an avalanche that killed 25 people. Overall, the quake killed nearly 9,000 people and left nearly 3.5 million homeless. Many remain so, according to news accounts.
Run to aid Flandreau boy
Some in the Mount Everest Marathon are raising funds for Nepali relief, but Allen is raising funds for a 6-year-old boy from Flandreau.
Hovakah Bosin is successfully fighting leukemia, Allen said. Donations he receives will go to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Bosin family. He invited people to pledge based on the number of miles he runs from the month before the Boston Marathon, which was April 17, and the Mount Everest Marathon, including training mileage.
Allen expects the effort to raise a few thousand dollars. Pledges can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or going to Bean & Vine in Flandreau.
“I just think it’s going to be a great experience for me and my son to run for a cause and try to make it a way we can give back and support our friend,” said Allen, who noted Hovakah, “is an inspiration to all of us. If we all could face each new day like Hovakah with such courage and energy…Hovaka is truly living to the meaning of his name.”
It is the Kiowa word for wolf, specifically the alpha dog that has a warrior spirit, scouts out danger and leads the tribe into battle.
Hovakah may be able to see same-day pictures of Allen’s Mount Everest Marathon run. “There are cell phone towers up there so I may be able to send Facebook photos,” Allen said.
During their time in Nepal, the group will be served by Sherpas who carry belongings and the tent city as well as prepare meals. The cost is surprisingly affordable–$2,500 plus international airfare, some meals in Katmandu, tips and souvenirs. “I can go to the Boston Marathon and spend more than that. It’s a real reasonable price.”
His 2018 adventure marathon is already planned–the Inca Trail Marathon in the Southern Peruvian Andes. It bills itself “the most difficult marathon in the world.”
After doing the Mount Everest Marathon, he will certainly have something to compare it to.