Like any other capital on the planet, Kathmandu has quintessentially turned into a concrete jungle. This City of Temples is now populated with skyscrapers, arterial roadways, and millions of people pouring in every day for new challenges and opportunities. Even the outskirts of the historic valley, bordered by thick jungles and high hills, are now subjected to deforestation, plotting, and being whole new residential areas.
Under such circumstances, it can be quite challenging to find a place or trail to go running. While running will help you rewind and relax, get away from the hustles of the city and find your peace of mind; finding a location to go for running can give you a headache.
Whether you are Kathmandu’s long-term resident or a traveler visiting the city, here is our handy little guide for you.
Day-to-day running in Kathmandu
At first, it can be unnerving to arrive in the bustling Kathmandu with a regular running habit that needs to be maintained. Often there’s very little space to walk on the pavements in the city, let alone run.
In Kathmandu, life starts at the crack of dusk, even during the winter season. But, traffic is almost non-existent, and there are very few people on the streets. So, if you are an early bird, you wouldn’t want to miss this opportunity. Since there will be very few vehicles on the street, you will also be spared the infamous pollution that’ll follow in later in the day. Instead, you will be met by the warm smile and courtesy of temple-goers and fellow joggers.
Now, the question arises: What place/street is suitable for an early morning run. The answer is: any. The optimal time is between 5:30 and 6:30 am, before the traffic commences. Running a bit late than this is possible, but you will have to dodge quite a few vehicles and pedestrians. Even the busy streets like Durbar Marga and Thamel have their fair share of runners who take advantage of the quieter mornings. These streets – that are so challenging to navigate during the day – can be seen in a new light around dawn.
My personal favorites are the three Durbar Squares. Alongside the health benefits, you will be rewarded with some true Nepalese cultural sights that will be invisible during the day. You will be able to witness worshippers, street vendors selling fresh produces, and elderlies basking in the sun in old courtyards.
Trail Running in and around Kathmandu
Once you go past the infamous Ring Road, opportunities wait for longer runs in pretty much any direction. Picturesque villages and green foothills welcome the curious trail runners.
Shivapuri National Park is one such popular and easily accessible location. The hills to the south of Lalitpur, like Champadevi and Godawari, are also amongst local favorites. The area around Thankot Park, on the foothills of Chandragiri Hills, is also an easy, good choice.
All of these trails are characterized by a mixture of jeep and dirt tracks. You will also be walking through small footpaths and between rice fields. At the same time, you will witness ancient temples, old towns, and traditional villages. It will be an excellent cultural experience to see just how much the life is different in the capital and the villages that are located just a few kilometers apart.
You can join social networking sites like Facebook to connect with local running groups. For instance, Kathmandu Trail Running Group for those north of the Bagmati River, and Lalitpur Trail Running Group for those in the south. These groups organize regular group runs, often with a social cause.
Trail Running Events
If you have a competitive edge to your running, make sure to keep an eye out for Kathmandu Trail Race Series, which regularly hosts short and medium distance running events in and around the valley. These events are easy, friendly, and well-organized. You will be running on clearly-marked trails and will be treated with refreshments en route.
For runners who want to go an extra mile, Trail Running Nepal organizes several “ultra” distances around the valley. For instance, in March 2018, it held a Stupa to Stupa challenge, which saw runners covering the distance from Swayambhu Nath to Boudha Nath. If you don’t fancy the full 50km course, of course, you can break the challenge into either 20km or 30km.