27-year-old Mira Rai has come a long way. Growing up in the jungle-draped hills of Bhojpur in eastern Nepal, she became a Maoist rebel in the country’s long-running civil war at age 14.
A chance encounter led her to take up the sport of ultra-running in 2014. Since then, she has rapidly ascended the global ranks, most recently winning the prestigious 2017 Ben Nevis Ultra in Scotland. She’s now a national celebrity, and was even named National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year 2017.
How did you get into ultra-running?
I stumbled upon two guys training near my hometown and they invited me to join a 50km race with them. It took me nine hours to finish, but I did, through rain and hail – and I won! After that, the race organiser approached me to see if I wanted to run more, and it all started from there.
Why do you love it?
As a child, I was running across the hills looking after goats. I just love being surrounded by nature.
Are Nepalese particularly suited to the sport?
There are good runners in flatter countries, too! But we certainly have a good start here in Nepal – we run trails from an early age.
This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of Silkwinds magazine.