"I want to compete in more races and put Nepal on the world map"

  •   2017-12-03      

MIRA RAI is a trail runner from Nepal specializing in ultra-distance mountain races. She started her career in 2014 and has represented Nepal in numerous races all over the world. Humble and down to earth, she had a humble beginning in her village in Bhojpur and even joined the Maoists during the insurgency period. She was the winner of 2017 Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic. She spoke to nepaltraveller.com about trail running, her early life and her future plans: 

Tell us about your early life. How difficult was it growing up in Bhojpur?

Life was very simple in Bhojpur. As a child, I used to run a lot around my village Sano Dungma. From an early age, I used to help my mother with her daily chores like cutting grass for the cattle and getting water from the source which was nearly an hour downhill. I also used to accompany my mother who used to walk 2 days to get to a market in Hills to sell goods. I used to accompany her with a bag which was 7-10 kgs in weight. As I come from a farming background, I must say life wasn’t easy back then because there were times when we had to think about where the next meal was coming from. So when I look back at those time, I’d say it was an adventure growing up.

 What made you choose trail running? Why did you become a trail runner? How did you get into trail running?

I had never planned to get into trail running. And as I think about it, I still think this is a dream. In 2014 I was in Kathmandu to apply for a visa to go to Malaysia. As I was getting ready to go to Malaysia my karate guru told me to stay here in Kathmandu and do some running. So I stayed here and did some track and road running.

One day a few of my friends called me to Shivapuri to run with them. I thought they had called me to train with them but as I reached Shivapuri I found out that it was a 50 km trail race. I was taken aback as I didn’t know anything about trail running. Everyone, there were fully prepared and had all the essentials but I didn’t have anything. Come to think of it I didn’t even have proper shoes. But thankfully I completed the race because there were times I felt very dizzy. The race reminded me of my hometown and the roads around there. This trail race gave me the confidence and the will to get into trail running.

After this, I took part in the Mustang trail race which was organized by Trail Running Nepal. That race was challenging as runners from around the globe took part. I won in the woman category and came overall 5th which gave me a self-belief that I could participate with people from around the world. After the race, an Italian runner asked me if I was going to Italy for a trail race happening there. I really wanted to go, but I didn’t have the finances to get to Italy which is why Richard Ball from Trail Running Nepal arranged my trip to go and compete in Italy. I took part in 2 events and won one where I created a new record which gave me even more self-belief.

Mira Rai Adventurer of National Geographic

At any point in time did you ever think of quitting?

Never. I want to compete in more races and put Nepal on the world map. Even when I got injured, I had the urge to get back on the track and compete. I want to do nothing more than to represent my country on the world stage.

Which places in Nepal have you been while trail running? What is your favorite?

I’ve been to a lot of places. I’ve been to Mustang, Manaslu, Pokhara and many more places. There isn’t a specific favorite because our country is really beautiful. Everywhere I go I see green valleys and majestic mountains. And the trails are just lovely too.

When you travel abroad, what opinion do people have about Nepal?

I couldn’t believe how well known Nepal is over the world. Every one I’ve met has been to Nepal and most of them are in awe of our beautiful country. When I tell them I’m from Nepal people are very happy and refer to me as a Gorkhali and tell me about their different experiences in Nepal. I’ve been to USA, Norway, France and in all those places the love for Nepal has remained the same which makes me really happy.

How was your experience hosting the trail race in your hometown?

It was a wonderful experience and a tiring one. The trail race was a success as we got a lot of participants from the village. I loved the fact that everyone took some time off daily schedule and participated in the race. We had around 200 runners to whom we gave a small platform which all of them really loved. People as old as 50 participated which made me very happy. All of them were very enthusiastic and wanted to complete the race in first position. That enthusiasm is something I will never forget.

What are your future plans?  What race will you be running now? Will you be participating in the 2020 Olympics?

Run as much as I can and also promote this sport here in Nepal. I plan to visit different places in Nepal and share my experiences with them. I want to give others the same opportunity I got so they can do something meaningful with their life.

I’m also running an international race in Hong Kong for which I’m training for nowadays.

Olympics is something I haven’t thought about as much. But it would be my honor to represent Nepal in the Olympics and who knows win a medal too (hopefully gold).

You are a role model to many young girls in Nepal. Do you have anything to say to them? 

I want to tell them that we won’t always know what we are good at. However, there will be some people who will know what we’re good at because all of us have something in us. It’s good to meet young kids who want to be like me and follow me. Even now I’m trying my best to support those kids who want to get into this sport because I see good future in this. I know it’s not going be easy but we have to try hard to reach the top.