A total of 58 competitors representing 12
countries competed in this 18th running of the five-day event, which took place
in and around the Singalila
National Park in West
Bengal, India. The race route, which bordered Nepal
and lay in the shadow of four of the world’s five highest mountains
(Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu and Everest),
took place at altitudes between 1 900m and 3 600m, and incorporated a
total cumulative elevation of almost 20 000m.

The race is said to be one of the toughest 100
mile trail races on the global calendar, not for its technical difficulty or
extreme weather conditions, but rather for the challenge it presents running at
altitude, being the highest multiple-day mountain running event in the world.

"As ultras go, the Himalayan 100 Miler is
certainly not in the same league as the more extreme stage races, like those in
the Atacama, Gobi and Sahara Deserts, which are about 100km further and require
the runners to be self-sufficient," says Doke. "But this race comes with its
own set of challenges – like having to run at pace from 1 900m to
3 600m on Day One! The higher we climbed, the thinner the air became – it
was like trying to snorkel using a straw!".

The Himalayan 100 Miler incorporated the Everest
Challenge Marathon on day three of the race, with a sprinkling of additional
runners jetting in especially for the single day event.

The overall winner of the five-day race was
world mountain running champ Hubert Gantolier of Austria, in 14:58. New Zealand
running star Sara Winter secured the women’s title, in 17:31.

Doke says she chose to do this race for the unique
experience of running in the beauty of the Himalayas.
"The race took us across such varied landscapes, from lush forests to desolate,
stark hillsides that are battered during the winter months by howling winds and
icy temperatures.

"We ran through small villages and settlements
that were so remote the inhabitants seldom see outsiders, and there are no
roads for vehicles to pass through. This was definitely one of the most
memorable races I’ve done."

Read on to find out more about Linda…

Let’s start at the beginning:

I was born and raised in Harare. After school I left to study
journalism at Rhodes – although most of my family are still in Zim, South
Africa has been my home for the past
<gulp> 21 years. I’m a journalist, and work freelance from my home in Hout Bay, Cape Town.

How did you get into long distance running?

Rather rapidly, really – I started running in ’94,
doing 5km, three times a week. Before long I’d upped that to 12km, 21km, my
first marathon, and then the next step was obvious: the Two Oceans 56km. I
added Comrades to the mix in my third year, and found I loved long distance.

When I moved from Joburg to Cape Town in 2003, I found a new love: trail
running. For me running on the mountains added a dimension to my life I’d not
discovered – it became my soul food, any excuse and I’d be up the mountain.

What events have you done?

For years, living in Jhb I stuck to tar, not knowing
there was a whole wonderful world of trail out there. So I’ve clocked up
thirteen consecutive Two
Oceans, and hope to run
my tenth Comrades in 2009. While I still do road running, trail is now my
passion, and for me the further the better!

The most exciting events I’ve done are the Tuffer
Puffer (from the Waterfront to Cape Point, and back to the Waterfront, over the
mountains, 160km), the Cape Odyssey, Mont Blanc
marathon in France, Ironman and the Himalayan 100 Miler. And I’m hoping to add
lots more to the list!

What does your training entail?

Training for long distance events requires a lot of
dedication. Building endurance and stamina involves building up your weekly
distance to about 100km a week, lots of hill work, and ideally some
cross-training, whether working out in the gym, swimming, cycling – or all
three. I built up a solid cross-training foundation when I did Ironman in 2006
and 2007, and although I no longer do triathlons, I still know the benefit of
using those other disciplines to keep all round fit.

What advice do you have for women keen to start running?

To start! Don’t talk about starting tomorrow or as a
New Year’s resolution: start today! The most common excuse I hear from people
who don’t run but who say they want to, is that they "don’t have time". That’s
never an excuse! No matter how busy your life is, there’s always time to run –
you only have to want to, and you’ll find the time.

Running’s actually the easiest sport to find time to
do – it’s convenient, you can do it virtually anywhere, and all you need is
your running shoes. I remember once travelling through Delhi, I wasn’t keen to run in the hectic
city traffic and pollution, so I did 100 repeats up and down the stairs in the
subway, under Connaught Place
in the city centre!

So don’t talk about it, do it. And once you’ve
started, you’ll be hooked – it’s the best way to boost your energy levels,
manage stress, and inject health into your life. And the best part is, for
those who love their food, running enables you to eat what you want!

Personal Bests
Comrades 2005 – 8:07
Tuffer Puffer 2006 – 1st woman, 2nd overall finisher
Tuffer Puffer 2007 – 1st woman, 2nd overall (new women’s record: 25hr20)
Cape Odyssey 2007 – 1st women’s team, 4th team overall
Cape Odyssey 2008 – 1st women’s team
Mont Blanc Marathon 2008
– 6th woman
Himalayan 100 Miler 2008 – 2nd woman, 8th overall finisher
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