The Run the Rann 100 miler in Dholavira, India proved to be the most unique and challenging ultra race I have ever done. The combination of GPS orienteering, desert heat, course terrain (including cliffs, 3″ thorns and salt flats) as well as the runners I befriended made for a one of a kind experience that I will never forget.
We ran off trail, up and down cliffs, through never ending thorns. Photo courtesy Uphill EMG.
The base area for the race was spectacular. I met runners from all around the world and the day before the race we explored ancient ruins which were awesome.
Dholavira is a very remote village, home to one of the largest, most advanced metropolises of the 5000-year old Indus Valley Civilization.
We stayed in a tent village that proved to be comfortable and relaxing. I loved chatting with runners from around the world. Photo courtesy Uphill EMG.
The food prepared by the race was absolutely fantastic. It was some of the best food I’ve eaten in my life and I had to hold back and not eat too much new food before the race. I’d wait till after the race to pig out (and I did).
Naan made in a traditional tandoor clay oven.
We ran through and explored extremely remote villages in the area.
Race morning started out with temperatures in the 60’s. After less than 10 miles when 100 milers separated from the other race distances, we had to start using our GPS units to navigate the race course. This proved to be very tricky and slowed us down a lot. I ran with several other 100 milers for a while as we learned just how difficult orienteering in this desert terrain was going to be for the next day or two. We got lost a lot, had to backtrack and we all got very frustrated with having to run, walk and crawl through thickets with 2-3″ thorns.
Running through 2-3″ thorns is mentally and physically brutal
Winner Dan Lawson is an ultra phenom. He holds the world record for running 521 miles on a treadmill in 7 days.
I ran with Dan Lawson up until about mile 30. We had run over 3 hours without water (aid station 5 was non-existent, a terrible mistake that led to several runners not finishing) and I become very dehydrated with temperatures approaching 100 degrees. We made it to aid station #6 and I was 100% convinced I was going to quit. Dan continued on and I waited over an hour before other runners came in. Finally, Linda Doke motivated me to continue going and we ran the rest of the race together.
Running at night on the bright white salt flats was my favorite part of the race. Linda and I chatted underneath a nearly full moon and even turned off our headlamps several times and ran under just the moonlight. We were running so fast (or so it seemed).
Super star ultra runner Linda Doke and I ran much of the race together and finished together.
Linda and I continued to run into the next day and watched the sunrise over the desert. After crawling through thorns, running through salt flats, scrambling up and down cliffs, we finally finished the 100 miles tied for 2nd place in over 32 hours with no sleep and very little stopping. I was incredibly happy to finish to say the least. The race was my most mentally challenging race to date. I’m grateful to Linda for helping me push on and finish together.
Restocking at our drop bag with food, water and other goodies. Photo courtesy Uphill EMG.
After finishing, I almost immediately headed to the dining area and ate at least a couple thousand calories of amazing India food. I then took a cold shower and chatted with other runners about their races. I finally fell asleep later that night exhausted.
Over two weeks since finishing the Run the Rann 100 miler and I do not feel like I have yet processed the race. It was a very surreal experience and I have many vivid memories of the painful, challenging, exhausting yet wildly exciting race. I highly suggest this race if you are a person who seeks extreme challenges, adventure and does not mind a lot of pain. This is not your ordinary ultra marathon. It involves navigation, painful thorns, desert heat and never ending adventure and excitement.
Khachenjunga, the world’s 3rd highest mountain. Viewed from the Singalila Ridge trail.
Two days after completing the Run the Rann 100 miler I headed to the Himalayas where I backpacked, camped and stayed with Nepalese families. I gazed at Everest, ate with Buddhist monks, meditated in remote monasteries and ate a lot of great food. I’m amazed I was able to hike 20+ mile days with a heavy backpack so close to a 100 miler. I will write about that adventure soon, stay tuned.
Damian Stoy is a coach, professional ultra runner, biomechanics specialist and nutritional consultant.