[interview] Is this race for you? Participant Virginia Bird gives her view.

Virginia Bird running

With huge mountains left and right, talk of ‘thin air’ and remoteness, a many people are hesitant about considering participating in the Manaslu Trail Race.

In order to help you gauge the standard of runners, we’re going to interview a few past runners, so that you can see what they have done in the past, and importantly, what they felt while competing.

It’s true, we’ve had world-class runners like Ragna Debats, Mira Rai, Bhim Gurung, Anna Frost, Lizzy Hawker and many other extremely accomplished and able runners join us.

But this race is definitely not made for only them.

At the other end of the scale, we’ve had a former running legend in his late 70s, who completed in his own time. A mother and daughter pair looking for a big challenge, who supported each other through every tough moment. We’ve had people who’ve not run a step, and hiked every meter, fundraising for a good cause.

And in the middle, lots of fit runners, who love competing in mountain and trail races, who generally don’t care about their times, but really are there for the challenge and journey through a new experience.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you are unsure if this race is for you. Over the 10 years of this race, we have gained a pretty good idea of how your running, sports and general outdoor experience translate into success in- and enjoyment of this race.

Here’s Virginia Bird (2018) to tell you how she found it.

Virginia Bird (2018)

1. Please introduce yourself! Perhaps mention you greatest running achievement, or your last road marathon time for reference, your age etc. 


My name is Virginia and I have a passion for the mountains, running and exploring different countries and cultures. I’m over 60 and have been running for more than 30 years. I started running the roads in 1990 soon after my older daughter was born, in an effort to keep fit with minimum cost, maximum exhaustion for the time taken, and something I could do when I chose. I guess my best marathon time was 3 hours 40 mins. In 2005 I became more passionate about going long, off road and into the mountains. A couple of races I did at that time were Jordan Dead Sea (50km and I cried in the toilet at the end as it was so hard before swimming in the Dead Sea!) and a little later, the UTMR (A 4 day mountain race around Monte Rosa with 42 km each day and plenty of ascent). It was at this second race that I first met Richard and heard about the races in Nepal. I didn’t actually complete the UTMR as I was timed out on the third day, and it was so wet on the last day that I felt I wouldn’t be safe in the mountains as I was very fatigued. But I absolutely loved the combination of being in the mountains with a light pack and others sharing the place with me, moving at a reasonable pace. I don’t run except downhill, and even that’s pretty steady these days! 

2. Out of all the races in the world, why did you choose the Manaslu Trail Race?

I chose this race because I’d met Richard and he said “if you can do UMTR, you can do Manaslu”. I was extremely interested in the idea of combining a race with a cultural experience, and essentially fastpacking a trek. The idea of doing it with a very light pack and some occasional running was attractive, and my husband liked the idea too. 

3. Did the stages and the course match what you were expecting? Was it more tiring?

I absolutely loved the race as did my husband. The first day was really hard and we were at the back where we made a new friend, Lyndon. But after that we got stronger and stronger and even the really hard day over the pass wasn’t as hard as that first day. I think the heat didn’t help on that first day. The camaraderie that comes from being in a small group with likeminded people from all over the world was fabulous. The food was pretty good considering we were in high mountain terrain and everything came in by mule. The stages and course exceeded my expectations, although I was extremely nervous at the beginning, especially as I was in my mid 50s and some of the runners were decades younger than me. I no longer worry about this aspect!

4. What was unexpected?

The strength of the new friendships made and the support we offered each other. The amazing generosity of the locals and all the support team. The phenomenal scenery. 

5. Were you uncertain about anything at any point?

In the beginning I was very nervous as although I’d done many races I hadn’t done something in Asia, nor something so long or hard. I hadn’t been at altitude and I was worried about my body would acclimatise. 

6. How did you feel at the end of it?

Absolutely amazing sense of accomplishment, elation and exhaustion in equal measure. Sitting in the sun outside the tea house and realising it was over and we’d all be going our separate ways was also sad. I still maintain friendships from this race and I value these relationships greatly. 

7. For someone looking to do this race, how would they gauge if they would be able to survive it with style?

When I started doing these longer races I was living in Hertfordshire where there’s no hills and I was working, so training was difficult. I never did as much distance or as many hills as I wanted. We sometimes did the step machine in the gym but it wasn’t fun so we didn’t do much. Occasionally we had trips to the hills but it was occasionally really. I just maintained a good level of fitness. Now I’m lucky enough to live in Scotland and I do find that having ascent in my legs means I can still manage longer distances when I apply myself. But a lot of these events just require a determination and a mindset that says “I can do this”, and I have this. I don’t think I am not especially strong or fit, but I do love to be outside and in the hills when I can be. 

Thank you Virginia!

If you have questions about the race, or wish to ask us if you have the required experience to join the race, please contact us.

Virginia running the Mustang Trail Race in 2022!
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