After record road runs, ultramarathoner Sufiya Khan covers Manali to Leh in five days-Sports News , Firstpost

Ultramarathoner Sufiya Khan has covered the Golden Quadrilateral, Kashmir to Kanyakumari routes in the past, now she’s added Manali-Leh to her CV.

Ultramarathoner Sufiya Khan (R) during the Manali to Leh run. Image: Instagram

On Thursday, (30 September) Sufiya Khan would cross over to Leh, part of the union territory of Ladakh. In doing so, she would have covered a jaw-dropping 480 kms in 130 hours starting from Manali. With the feat, she would become the first female ultramarathoner to make this journey.

Labelled ‘Himalayan Ultra Run Expedition,’ Under Armour athlete Khan’s journey saw her overcome multiple difficulties in the process. The run which began on 25 September, began at an altitude of 2,000m, reached up to 5,400m with total 9,000m elevation gain throughout the expedition. If that wasn’t a daunting enough ask already, she had to manage fluctuations in temperatures too. The mercury dipped from minus 5 to minus 10 degrees affecting the oxygen levels on mountain passes.

This is not the first challenging route she’s taken. In 2020, the 35-year-old Sufiya, a former aviation professional, got going on the Golden Quadrilateral highway network which is spread across 6,000 kms. With COVID-19 disruptions in between, she completed the run in 110 days, 23 hours and 24 minutes.

In 2018, she ran the Golden Triangle, Delhi-Jaipur-Agra-Delhi, spread over 720 kms in 16 days. The year after, she upped the target to cover Srinagar to Kanyakumari, distance of 4,000 kms, and achieved it in 87 days, 2 hours and 17 minutes. It was the fastest time by a female runner in the “Kashmir to Kanyakumari” category, according to Guinness World Records.

For Sufiya, it is important to break the journey into little targets and milestones. “For Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Golden Quadrilateral runs, it was all road running. Our strategy there was 50-60 kms per day. For Manali to Leh, it’s a challenging route with harsh weather, low oxygen levels, high passes and high altitude so I need to do 100 kilometres a day. Per my plan, I will only get 3-4 hours of sleep and I have to be running all the time,” she had said before embarking on the run.

The planning for the Manali to Leh run got underway six months ago. Supported by her partner Vikas, a cyclist, she arrived in the region 20 days before the starting time. “I ran across the high passes to acclimatise my body, to check if I can even endure such weather. Over the past six months, I’ve worked on strength and core workouts. For the mental challenges, I practice yoga and pranayam which is important for an ultramarathoner.”

“At every pass, we stayed for a couple of days to check my body’s reaction, to see how things will be when I start running. I had bit of a headache at the start but it got better. I then started getting used to the weather by running 10 or 15 kilometres a day.”

Beyond the physical and mental, another aspect for a long distance runner like Sufiya is the diet. It comprises of protein powder, multi-vitamins, fruits, dates with stops at dhabas when required.

“After doing 100kms a day, your body will not be able to take a lot of calories at the end of the day. So my strategy is to keep consuming calories while I’m on the run – to keep taking in something every 15 or 20 minutes.”

Themed ‘Push your limits’, Sufiya doesn’t need to draw motivation from celebrities. She admits to being self-motivated and has the support of her husband Vikas. “When I go for such runs, my motivation is that I’ve started something, somewhere that you’ve reached after a struggle. Your body says you should give up, mind says otherwise. For me, before the run begins, there is a mission to finish it with positive energy and positive thoughts,” she added.

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