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Mount Everest Marathon - April 1999

Report by: Richard Byram

Sue Millican and Dot Hand

Wakefield Harriers Dot Hand and Sue Millican took part in this year's gruelling Everest Marathon raising around 4,000 for Nepalese charities and Wakefield Hospice in the process.

Prior to April's race, only 55 women had ever competed in the bi-annual 26-mile race and the pair spent a busy winter training around Holmfirth and the Peak District, as well as taking part in the Snowdonia Marathon and the Haute Route in the Alps.

Dot, a social care manager and Sue, 53, a nurse, had also completed nine London Marathons between them, but nothing could have fully prepared them for what undoubtedly one of the toughest sporting challenges on earth.

Here Dot recounts the diary of their trip and the terrifying moment she was struck down with altitude sickness just 300m from the start of the race.

Saturday, March 20: We flew from Heathrow, arriving in Kathmandu the following day, spending the next three days sightseeing, attending meetings and being split into groups where we received information about the trip, underwent a medical and received our gear for the trek ahead.

Thursday, March 25: At 5am we began a ten hour bus journey to Jiri, followed by a three-hour uphill hike to our first campsite, then trekking eight hours a day for the following eight days.

Friday, April 2: Arrived at Namche Bazaar. Here we were allowed 12 kilos of gear, which included sleeping bags and mattresses. Our equipment was put into a kit bag, which was carried by a porter - each porter had between 60 and 80lbs on their back - and we both carried a day sac containing our daily things.

Daily Routine: Involved camping under canvas every night until we were awoken at around 5.30am with a cup of tea. Packed for the day and had breakfast around 7am. Lunch was prepared for us en route and we were in bed for 8pm each evening.

Sunday, April 4: Left Namche Bazaar to trek to the race start at 17,000 feet. Spent next two days climbing.

Wednesday, April 7: Rest Day.

Thursday, April 8: Climbed to Lobuche which is 300m from the start of the race, which was due to begin at 7am on April 11.

While making final preparations for the race Dot began to feel unwell with symptoms which she described as being like "a drunken man." A doctor was called but soon after she collapsed and was found to be suffering from altitude sickness, which had caused water on the brain.

"I was put in a Gammow Bag, similar to one used by divers suffering from the bends, but when I was put in I panicked. So Sue got in the bag with me for 30 minutes until I began to feel well enough to be taken back down the mountain to Pheriche."

"I was carried all the way by one porter with another one by my side carrying oxygen. Sue stayed with me all the time and there was a real chance I could have died."

"During all this time Sue had also been suffering with sickness, diarrhoea and a bad cough, as did many of the others with us. Some also suffered from altitude sickness and had to make their way down the mountain."

The pair were eventually declared fit enough to join the race at Pheriche, seven miles into the race and they ran on bravely to complete the final 18.7 miles.

"We were both very disappointed not to have completed the whole race and although Sue could have gone back up the mountain, she refused to leave me, a sign of true friendship. I will never forget her kindness and concern for me."

Sue and Dot said that despite the trauma of Dots illness they had both enjoyed their month away, the people they had met, and seeing the sights and scenery.

"We would like to thank everyone who helped and supported us in any way, our family, friends and colleagues and all those who donated sponsorship money."

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