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BHUTAN HAPPINESS MARATHON
February 21 @ 6:30 am - 5:00 pm
When Bhutan celebrates the birthday of its Fifth Dragon King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, on February 21, 2020, Norter Adventures will introduce the hidden Kingdom’s first international Marathon. Aimed primarily at international visitors, the 36.2-kilometre run will take the participants across a landscape and community that a very few, if at all, have set foot on. The venue is eastern Bhutan, at a place called Trashigang, where age-old lifestyle and culture thrive even as the rest of Bhutan is changing at a dizzying pace. Indeed, this region is one of the few pockets that still preserve the last vestiges of the fabled “Hermit Kingdom” on the laps of the mighty Himalayas.
Bhutan is still the domain of the surreal. It has been voted numerous times as one of the world’s top travel destinations. Defying globalization and embracing happiness as the cornerstone of its state policy, the country’s rich tapestry of culture, traditions and customs – not to speak of its brand as the world’s top environmental hotspot – make Bhutan an enthralling place to be.
With this Marathon, you literally transport yourself back in time. You traverse through awe-inspiring landscapes of rugged mountains on whose breasts hang quaint villages; you will be greeted enroute by a vast mosaic of local culture spawned over millennia, largely unseen by the outside world; you come across various ethnic people whose soulful rendering of folk songs as they till their ancient fields reverberate across the valley and beyond.
That is not all. The local people, dressed in their traditional attire, await you along various points on the route, to extend their welcome, village after village. If you wish to take a quick gulp and rejuvenate your body, they will offer you their home-brewed ara (alcohol) and other snacks of local delicacies. Most of all, you will enjoy a visual feast throughout the run, as you pass medieval temples, prayer flags, farm houses, stone stupas, rice and corn fields, brooks gushing out of rocky hillsides, lush green meadows, and the like. Of course, as it is customary at this time of the year, you will come across village women lined up on waysides using wooden looms to weave the region’s famous raw silk clothes with intricate yet beautiful patterns.
We welcome you to make history by being part of this amazing inaugural Great East Marathon of Bhutan. Come, join us and make yourself proud and happy.
Marathon Route Description
- The route is mostly rural and approximately 50% on hard pack dirt and 50% on pavement.
- The marathon will start on 21st February 2020 at 8:00 AM. The elevation at the start line is 1150m. We recommend you to wear warm clothing over your running clothes and bring any other personal items you might need. Do not bring any valuables to the start line.
- From the start line, the runners will ascend to a village called Dogorom, with beautiful views of Yeozelchholing monastery, Gamrichhu (river), paddy fields, forests, villages and stupas enroute. The route is half rural farm road with some rocky and uneven surfaces and the rest on paved road. The terrain is flat to rolling with up- and downhill zigzags eventually leading to an overall elevation loss of over 1000 feet.
- After Dogorom, we climb to Saling village where we can savour a stunning view of the surrounding rural communities. After this, we ascend gradually to the villages of Phuensong and Yabrang. Hereon, the way is downhill from Jangjunma village to the lowest point at Gamrichhu bridge.
- From here, we take the left flank of the river and run uphill to Phongmey village, known for its rice fields and the diverse ethnicity of the people who inhabit this region. Our next stops are the villages of Khardung, Upper Pakaling, Lower Pakaling and then the final lap to Tsangkhar where our run ends. The aforementioned villages are the bastion of traditional raw silk weaving. At Tsangkhar, we will have a typical Bhutanese ceremony of prize distribution followed by a cultural show of folk songs and dances. The celebration will be joined by the people from the surrounding villages.
- Aid stations are located approximately 2 – 3.5 miles (3.2 kms – 5.6 kms) apart. The stations will serve water and sports nutrition products. There will mile marker signs designating your current run distance, at each aid station. All runners are encouraged to carry a water bottle and any other necessary personal food supplements between aid stations as needed. Aid stations are designed to provide aid to those within the 6.5 hours cut-off time.
- Traffic will be open to vehicles, but will be monitored by local police and transportation officers. Most of this route is in rural Bhutan, so the number of vehicles on the road is minimal.
- Toilet facilities will be set up at each aid station along the route.
Medical personnel will be available at the finish line as well as roving on the course. There will be an ambulance on standby.
Marathon: Friday, February 21, 2020, 8:00 AM
- Start line: Rangjung Yeozerchholing Monastery ground
- Finish line: Tsangkhar Nagtsang
- International Registration Fee: US$ 200/-
- Runners must report at the Rangjung Yeozerchholing ground 6:30 AM
- Race starts at 8:00 AM
Norter Marathon Rules and Regulations
- Pre-race briefing at Tsangkhar Nagtsang ground
- Transportation will be arranged from the finish line at the Tshangkhar Naktsang to the start of the race
- Transport of any personal items from the start line to the finish line
- Technical running shirt with Norter logo
- Special gift for all finishers
- Special prizes to be given to top competitors
- Awards Celebration with Traditional Entertainment
- Aid stations and medical support en-route
- A raffle prize drawing at the Awards Ceremony with a chance for all participants to win prizes!
Thursday, 20 February 2020 – 09:00 AM – 2:30 PM.
Packet Pick Up and race check-in at Tshangkhar Nagtshang. PLEASE BRING A PICTURE ID TO CHECK IN. You will receive your race number at this time, which will needs to be pinned to the front of your running shirt.
Registration fee must be paid in advance for all participants.
Thursday, 20 February, 2020 – 2:30 PM.
Our mandatory pre-race briefing will be right after Packet Pick Up on Thursday, 20 February 2020, at 2:30 PM, also Tsangkhar Naktshang
Friday, 21 March 2020
Marathon runners must report at the RANGJUNG YEOZERCHHOLING MONASTERY GROUND at 6:30AM
8:00 AM. Marathon Race Start.
3:00PM. All runners must reach at the TshangkharNaktsang
4:00 PM. Race cutoff time at finish line.
5:00 PM. Awards Celebration at TshangkharNaktsang.
Cash Prize to top male and female marathon winner:
- 1st Male & Female: 1.5m Buddha thangka (painting) worth USD1490(Each)
- 2nd Male & Female: 1.2m Guru Rimpochhe thangka worth USD1249(Each)
- 3rd Male & Female: 1m Zhabdrung Rimpochhe thangka worth USD1099 (Each)
- 4th Male & Female: 2.5ft white Tara thangka worth USD749(Each)
- 5th Male & Female: 2ft DrukpaKuenlythangka worth USD599(Each)
- Medals for all finishers at the finish line
- T-shirt for all Participants
Arrive Guwahati-S/Jongkhar 105KM 2/30HRS DRIVE
Arrive in Guwahati airport in Assam, India. Meet and take a drive to Samdrup Jongkhar, a frontier town in southeastern Bhutan. Along the way, you will pass through many small Assamese villages and tea gardens. Complete immigration formalities and enter Bhutan. In the evening stroll around the town to see the locals. Samdrup Jongkhar is a trading town for eastern Bhutan. Overnight at hotel
S-Jongkhar-Tashigang – Radhi Tsangkhar Villages LUXURY CAMP 205KM 7/8HRS DRIVE
After an early breakfast, we will drive north to Trashigang. As the road ascends, we pass through a variety of vegetation zones in the Himalayan foothills. Looking back we should get a distant view of the Indian plains. The roadside is rich in plants including ferns, rhododendrons and primulas and we will pass though many small villages. If possible, we will stop in some of them, including a local weaving center in Khaling. Late in the afternoon, we will visit Trashigang Dzong which houses the monastic institute for monks and administrative center for the valley. Drive further to Radhi and overnight at Camp.
Radhi Tshangkhar – explore around the villages
Highlight: Radhi is a well-known community in the east for the production of bura (raw silk) textiles and also known rice bowl of the East. Textile production has become a major income source for the people of Radhi, especially in the off-agricultural seasons. Around 200 households here are dependent upon bura weaving and all use the traditional back-strap loom.
Morning Explore Jonla villages and visit the Jonla temple, Radhi Namdrol chholing Monastery and Pakling temple and drive back for lunch. Afternoon walk around the villages and view women weaving beautifully patterned bura. They will even demonstrate the dying process involved in weaving raw silk. Visit the weaving centers developed for women coming from sections of the non-weaving community to improve their livelihood through provision of training and equipment.
Evening cultural show by villager. Overnight at camp.
Marathon around the villages’ farm road
Day excursion Merak and SaktenEarly morning drive to Merak is one of the most isolated valleys in Bhutan. Like the people of Sakteng, Merak people (Brokpas) are said to have migrated here few centuries ago from the Tshona region of southern Tibet. They arrived here after several months of journey across treacherous passes, set the shrubs on fire and settled down to make it their home called Merak, which literally means “Set on fire”. The inhabitants of Merak are similar to those of Sakteng in their language, dress, lifestyle and spiritual affiliation. However the people from Merak are said to be better built and taller than their counterparts in Sakteng. The houses are built of stones with very small windows and in most cases the houses are one storied only. In Merak the custom of polyandry is practiced, with brothers sharing the same wife. overnight at camping
Early morning drive to Sakten village, where we spend one day to rest and explore the valley. Sakten is a large village of about 200 households at an altitude of 2950m, surrounded by mountains on all sides. Sakteng literally means bamboo field. The inhabitants of Sakteng are similar to those of Merak in their language, dress, lifestyle and spiritual afflictions. It comprises of around 200 households with three main villages, Sakteng, Tengma and Borang Tse but generally known as Sakteng, and the people are known as Saktengpa. Every winter, Brokpas take on drukkor or grain journey to the lowland village, where they have their regular host family, with whom they have close trading and social relationship. They live together as one family for weeks and barter their Yak products with maize and grains. Drive back to camp.
DRIVE TO S/JONGKHAR
DRIVE TO GUWAHATI – FLY OUT
DAY 01: ARRIVE TO PARO AIRPORT
DAY 02: PARO – YONPHULA -TRASHIGANG-RADHI TSHANGKHAR
DAY 03: RADHI TSHANGKHAR
DAY 04: MARATHON DAY
DAY 05: DAY EXCURSION TO MERAK – SAKTEN
DAY 06: DRIVE TO YONGPHULA AIRPORT – FLY TO PARO
DAY 07: PARO – FLY OUT