The race route starts at Udumwara, underneath the cliff that the Tiger’s Nest is built on. The route is approx. half road surface and half farm trails, on the full marathon there is a 4km section of single track.
The first 8km are on road surfaces and slightly downhill alongside the Paro Chu (river). At 8km the half marathon splits off to the right and makes its way up and behind Paro Dzong (Fort). The full marathon carries straight on with a long and gradual climb alongside the Wang Chu (river) on farm tracks above rice fields.
At 18km the marathon route crosses the river and returns towards Paro on the other side on a gentle downhill gradient to 25km. Here, the route has the toughest climb, for about 4km on road, rising above the Paro National Museum, then on single track for 1km to the highest point of the race at 2.560m.
Dropping back down to the Paro Chu the marathon and half marathon re-join beneath Paro Dzong to cross the famous wooden bridge. The last 10km for both distances are on a gradual but long uphill climb on a mix of road and wide farm track, rising above Paro Chu, with views of the river and rice fields, before dropping into the finish back at Udumwara.
The total height gain on the marathon is 995m and for the half 450m. The altitude at the start is 2.400m and the lowest point, in Paro Town, is 2,200.
The entry fee for the Thunder Dragon Marathon Bhutan is included in the price of the Marathon package.
There are no qualifying times for the Thunder Dragon Marathon
The Thunder Dragon Marathon starts at around 8.30am. Note that the exact time will be confirmed during the tour.
The cut off time for the Thunder Dragon Marathon is 8 hours but has some flexibility depending upon the weather conditions.
All Runners who do not achieve the cut off will be picked up and driven to the finish line.
Final details about the timing will be announced in your participant guide.
The Thunder Dragon Marathon and Half Marathon will be manually timed.
Your race pack will be given to you upon your arrival
There are no official pace setters for this event
There will be water stations at approximately every 4km along the routes. Water will be served in bottles.
Some stations will also serve energy drinks and bananas. Gels will be available at the 30km point.
Personal Refreshments and Clothing
There are no provisions for runners to leave personal refreshments along the course
Transfers to and from the race is included in the price of your package.
Finishers T-shirts, Medals and Certificates
All travellers will get the event t-shirt, all runners who finish the event will get a medal and a certificate.
Prizes will be awarded at the Celebration Dinner
The expected temperature on race day is 23 degrees Celsius
GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS – RUNNING IN BHUTANGross National Happiness - Running Bhutan’s Himalayan Kingdom Half Marathon The day dawns gently over the Paro valley as I stretch and peer out over the valley from the chalet amongst the pines. ...
Gross National Happiness – Running Bhutan’s Himalayan Kingdom Half Marathon
The day dawns gently over the Paro valley as I stretch and peer out over the valley from the chalet amongst the pines. Below me the expanse of rice paddy fields and small farms watered by the Paro Chhu River slowly comes to life. The light strengthens and, while the valley turns a variety of green hues in response, the pre-monsoon drizzle drops dully off the pine trees onto the pine cushion carpet outside my window. The pine needles smell fresh and invigorating in this early morning hour. Across the valley ethereal wisps of cloud caress the pine-covered Himalayan foothills and draw a brief curtain across the buttressed walls of the Paro Dzong, the fort monastery and administrative centre of this peaceful agricultural community. This idyllic visage is, however, not the reason for my early rise.
I am awake because I am in Bhutan’s mountain kingdom, a small landlocked country in South Asia located at the eastern end of the Himalayas, approximately 255 kilometres east of Mount Everest; bordered to the north by Tibet and to the south, east and west by India. I am awake at this early hour because I am running the Himalayan Kingdom Half Marathon today in a country where gross national happiness – a core Buddhist value – is a counterpoint to gross national product; where economic growth is a means to achieving more important ends such as cultural heritage, health, education, good governance, ecological diversity and individual wellbeing.
And, with calf and upper leg muscles still somewhat stiff from a climb to the prayer flag festooned Taktshang Goemba or Tiger’s Nest Monastery at 10,000 feet above sea level in Paro’s vicinity two days ago, I approach the start line to witness the unique yet simple and evocative Buddhist ceremony to bless the race. As the countdown commences all the advice and information I have gleaned to date flitters through my mind until, all of a sudden, I become focussed, and we are off into the early morning.
Running at 8,000 feet above sea level is somewhat unusual; running at this altitude for the first time is even more so. I listen to my own derived advice and start off slowly. My heart beats strongly and my breath is short as I try to find my rhythm.
Walk, run, walk, run for the first few kilometres and then through a narrow rocky path before I break free onto a stony country road. At last, I have some rhythm now. On my right the Paro Chhu River, swollen from the overnight rains, warbles over the rounded river stones – all descendants of the great rocks and crags that thrust heavenwards into the Himalayan sky. On my left is an irrigation canal and homesteads, with resident dogs cuddled up against the chill, children in the national dress on their way to school, and farming families toiling in the paddies.
The kilometres pass by and I have settled down. But running at this altitude is hard work. I pass a few runners and we exchange friendly greetings and words of encouragement.
Then, at around the ten kilometre mark it starts to rain and with supporters cheering us on at the water point we turn away from the urbanized centre of the Paro valley and progress up a gentle ascent behind which the upper reaches are white from the previous evening’s snowfall.
The road becomes somewhat stony now and more care must be exercised over the surface. I reach the fourteen-and-a-half kilometre mark at 7,545 feet, feeling strong ahead of the four kilometre climb to the highest point of the race.
I am part of a group of runners and our progress ebbs and flows as we come to the realization that this is a serious, serious climb. Walk, run, walk, run as the route continues to ascend, leaving the tarred surface behind until even the dust surfaced road gives way to what can best be described as a basic trekking path. The narrow path ascends past irrigation furrows then alongside a fence until it winds through thick brush and the ever-present pines. Upwards, ever upwards and, just as I thought it would level off far above the Paro Dzong, the path edges upwards once again. My calf muscles are threatening to seize up on me now as I coax myself ever upwards until the gradient eventually tempers and I have crested the hill at 8,313 feet.
I rapidly realize that with just over two kilometres to go there is little likelihood of a swift descent. The track is very narrow, without any camber and at one point it runs dangerously close to barbed wire fencing, while at other points the descent to the valley below on my right is best described as cliff-like. A missed footing, or a wrong turn and one could end up far from the designated route within seconds.
I hear the footfalls of a fellow runner behind me and listen to the question that is on every runner’s mind as we descend to the valley floor: ‘When will this punishing bush path end?’
‘Focus, take one step at a time and the descent will inevitably end,’ I reply as we pass the route markers and check points with leg muscles straining against the pull of gravity. And then, almost unexpectedly, I burst out of the bush onto a tarred road at the twenty kilometre mark and utter a primeval cry of joy, knowing that the end is near. My fellow runner passes me and down the road I go, switchbacks and wet surface and all until race officials, well-wishers and finishers clap me across the finish line.
I have conquered the altitude, the notorious hill and my tired calf muscles. But, more importantly, I have once again conquered myself, as our greatest victories are always over ourselves. What a feeling of euphoria and accomplishment! The Himalayan Kingdom Half Marathon is tough but every finisher knows full well that they have been tried and tested and that they have overcome the adversity. After all, isn’t this why we run?
Welcome to Bhutan
Bhutan, the land of the Thunder Dragon, is mystical, enchanting and like nowhere you have ever been. Voted one of the world’s top travel destinations, Bhutan remains accessible only to the privileged few.
Nestled between Tibet and India it is a country of raw natural beauty; from stunning mountain scenery to tropical plains. This pristine scenery is home to exotic wildlife and is one of the last refuges of species like the Black-Necked Crane, the Golden Langur and even the Royal Bengal tiger. The Bhutanese people with their Buddhist beliefs have a strong sense of identity and of the interdependence between man and nature. This is expressed in the national policy of Gross National Happiness and concern for the environment.
Travelling Fit are offering a choice of 3 packages:
5 Day / 4 Night – Weekend Package
Get a taste of the beautiful and mystical country that is Bhutan. This long weekend option takes you to the famous Tigers Nest Monastery and a day visit to the capital city Thimphu.
7 Day / 6 Night – Punakha and Paro
A tour that captures the wide variety and rich culture of Bhutan. The Paro Valley with its surrounding pine clad mountainsides; Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan; and the Punakha Valley, a lower lying valley with a semi-tropical climate. This tour can be combined with the Great Wall Marathon by adding flights from Beijing to Bangkok with an overnight stay in Bangkok.
9 Day / 8 Night – Paro, Thimphu and Druk (Thunder Dragon) Trail Trek
Bhutan has some of the best trekking in the world and as part of this 9-day package it offers a fully supported 4-day trek on the famous Druk (or Thunder Dragon) Trail. With much of the hike up and around 4,000m it also helps you acclimatize for the race (which has an average altitude of 2,300m). The 9-day itinerary also takes in a visit to the famous Tigers Nest and an overnight stopover in the capital Thimphu.
- ALL PACKAGES INCLUDE:
- Guaranteed Race Entry (runners only)
- Return flights Kathmandu to Paro (flights from Delhi, Bangkok or Singapore is possible at an additional cost)
- Guided hike to Taktsand Monastery (Tigers Nest)
- All Meals
- Celebration Dinner & Cultural Show post Marathon Event
- All sightseeing & entrance fees as indicated on the itinerary
- Transportation in Bhutan as indicated on the itinerary
- Visa for Bhutan
- Tipping for Guides and Drivers
- Personalised Travelling Fit Running Top
Exclusive to Travelling Fit Clients
- Invite to Travelling Fit's Thunder Dragon Marathon Closed Facebook Group
Exclusive to Travelling Fit Clients
- PACKAGE 1 ALSO INCLUDES:
- 4 Nights' Accommodation:
Thu 25 May | Check out: Mon 29 May
- Guided tour of Capital City Thimphu
- PACKAGE 2 ALSO INCLUDES:
- 6 Nights' Accommodation
Check in Tue 23 May | Check out: Mon 29 May
- Sightseeing in Punakha
- Guided hike to Soela Gompa
- Drive to the Capital City Thimphu & hike up to Buddha Point
- PACKAGE 3 ALSO INCLUDES:
- 8 Nights' Accommodation
Check in Sun 21 May | Check out: Mon 29 May (Including 3 nights camping)
- Guided 4-day Druk Path Trek
- Guided tour of Thimphu (Capital City) including hike to Buddha Point
|$500 per Runner and $400 per Supporter|
|Friday 17 February 2023|