India’s Parwez Malik won the 111km La Ultra-The high marathon on Tuesday in just 17 hours and 57 minutes. Malik is a kabadiwala (scrap dealer).
When the first La Ultra took place in 2010 (an ultra marathon is anything over the recognised Olympic distance for marathons — 42.195km), two of the three
participants dropped out due to exhaustion. Since then, the discipline has grown and 15 participants from nine countries, including four Indians, participated in this year’s (sixth) edition in the 111km, 222km and 333km categories with most runners being experienced marathon runners.
Most marathons take place on flat terrains but this one is different, taking place in the Himalayas and passing the highest motor able road in the world — the Khardung La pass at 17,500ft. The conditions then are torturous. Here, runners experience four seasons in a day. From temperatures as high as 40 degrees to a shower, then a high blizzard followed by snow with temperatures as low as -10 degrees. It’s not all about stamina here.
Malik, who started running just six months ago, may have surprised his more seasoned competitors with the win, but at 22, his rags-to-riches story may have just begun.