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Post 2015 Oxfam Trailwalker talk with Ramesh – coach of AWOO Team Nepal

It was definitely a day to remember for AWOO Team Nepal. High hopes, pre-race optimism backed by tough training and confusion and disappointment only few minutes into the race…

Just before the AWOO Team Nepal left Hong Kong we sat down with the boys and their coach at the Hong Kong International Airport for a quick chat and reflections on the day that did not not work out as planned.

Injured Ras Kubir of AWOO Team Nepal with impromptu hiking pole

Injured Ras Kubir with impromptu hiking pole Photo: Lloyd Belcher

We started with the big question that was on many people’s minds – especially Llloyd Belchers’ who had to chase them really hard down the road with all his photo equipment:

AWOO:
Many runners are curious why were your runners sprinting so fast ahead of the pack right after the start.

Ramesh:
Normally in such a big race as OTW with four or five starts and also with first start with so many runners if our runners run fast for first 400-500 meters their pace will not be affected.

Previously many years ago when I was a gurkha in Hong Kong during my British army days when the gurkhas started this race they were in the middle or behind the lead pack. And while they were running they were accidentally pushed and they fell down, they could not continue or could not improve their speed. So my instruction to the runners was to sprint up 400-500 meters so they would get clear of the pack and then after they settle into their cruising speed they would not face any problems or injuries.

AWOO:
Unfortunately very soon after the start they had some problems. There is a bit of a controversy now. We would like to know what is the story your runners told you. What happened?

Ramesh:
What happened was… First of all going back we have done 3 or 4 route checks and on Monday my runners went from the starting point to the dam. High Island Reservoir dam. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday – four days later after the start just when entering the dam road the official, volunteer or the policeman guided them to turn right. So my team leader thought that there was a bit of change of the route. So he followed to the right, the three runners followed to the right and they were lost.

AWOO:
So how did race go afterwards? We know they ended up back at the starting point while the leaders were already at the end of the reservoir. So what happened afterwards in the race?

Ramesh:
Then when the team came back to square one at the starting point I received a call from the team leader saying that they were lost. I said “how come you are lost?”. He told me that an official or volunteer had guided them in the direction to the right. So I said nevermind, just follow, go backwards and then you continue. Only later I found out they came back to the starting point. So I said “anyway, does not matter, just continue” that was my instruction to him.

Chatting with AWOO Team Nepal before their departure.

Chatting with coach Ramesh and Kiran, Suman and Arjun before their departure.

AWOO:
So they lost approximately an hour, fell back around 10km. Then they started to catch up slowly, move up. So what exactly happened later? We know they haven’t finished as a complete team.

Ramesh:
At CP2 – we were there for the support – they were at 21st position. I was not informed about the injuries. Anyway I just told them ‘keep on going, do your best, does not matter, somehow you will recover’. So by CP3 they managed to recover lot of distance and they were at 10th position. Still I had no knowledge about the injury one of my runners suffered.

Then we were supporting at Shatin Pass. There they were also quite fresh. That time they were at 7th position. I told them ‘that’s very good, you have made very good progress, keep it up’.

Then at Shing Mun Reservoir where we were doing our support the team leader finally informed me that one of the runners has an injury on his right thigh. Still I thought may be a muscle cramp, muscle pull or muscle strain. So I massaged him and gave him lots of encouragement.

Afterwards we went to Tai Mo Shan (Route Twisk) for our next support. Then finally I was told that this runner suffered the injury after that right turn after start after being given the wrong direction. While running downhill he slipped and he hit side of his right thigh. So that is where he got his injury …

Anyway, I saw the situation that he no longer could continue for the last 21km. I informed the CP officials and I instructed the 3 runners to continue the race. That is what happened, that’s why the whole team could not do well.

AWOO:
So the injury actually happened right at the beginning of the race after that wrong turn.

Ramesh:
Yes.

AWOO:
And he continued for 80km with the injured leg without telling anybody.

Ramesh:
Exactly. They thought that he might just about to make it to the finish line. But it became worse. From Shing Mun all the way to next CP after Tai Mo Shan the team had to walk and take care of the injured runner.

AWOO:
At the end the three remaining runners still finished in OK time.

Ramesh:
Reasonably they completed the race at about 15 hours. I think it is quite good that the three of them at least completed the race.

After that we turned off the voice recorder and went on eating our lunch. But we kept on casually chatting with the coach and the boys for another hour elaborating further on that unfortunate race. If you have more questions please send them over – you can use our Facebook page. We may already have answers or we can pass your questions to Ramesh.