KATHMANDU (AFP) - Clad in trekking boots and snow goggles, more than 150 runners took part in the world's highest marathon in the foothills of Mount Everest on Thursday, passing yaks and monasteries along the snow-covered trail.
The annual Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon, which kicked off in 2003, is meant to mark the anniversary of the first summit of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary on May 29, 1953.
Runners set off as soon as the clock struck 8.48am, a start time meant to coincide with the height of the 8,848m peak, as local farmers gave them a rousing send-off.
"The marathon trail began from Gorakshep at 5,160m and ended at Namche Bazaar," 1,600m below, said Satish Neupane, one of the organisers of the event.
Although the majority of participants were foreigners, Sudip Kuglung Rai, a 26-year-old Nepalese runner, bagged first place by completing the 42.2km marathon in 3hr 42min 9sec.
"I was not much hopeful that I would finish on top... I am really pleased," Mr Rai said in a press release issued by the organisers.
Bad weather forced organisers to move the starting point from Everest Base Camp - located at an altitude of 5,364m - to Gorakshep, after it was blanketed by five-inch-thick snow.
"This year the race was tough and dangerous. It was chilling cold for last three days," said Robert Celinski, a Polish participant who was first among the foreign category.
Every year, marathon runners intersect with Everest climbers on their way home, but this season, the world's tallest peak effectively shut down after a massive ice avalanche killed 16 Nepalese guides last month.
Runners from around the world including the UK, Canada, Australia, China and Germany, participated in this year's race.