Capital to Country Multi-Day Ultra Marathon 2023 Day One

You’ll Never Run Alone – Helen Ramwell’s Capital To Country Experience

Not all races are born equal. Our Capital to Country five-day, 123-mile ultra marathon through Nepal certainly isn’t.

One of the runners in last year’s inaugural event even called it a cross between the Marathon des Sables and the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc.

Now that’s what you call epic. With entries open for this November’s race, we thought we’d take a look back at the story of one of early adopters, and the person who won the first ever leg of Capital to Country, Helen Ramwell.

If you want to learn more about our Nepal adventure, and how you can enter for 2024, click here: ENTER

All pictures in this article are from Adrian Howes Photography.

In their unrelenting beauty, the foothills of the Himalayas offer a unique challenge for even the most experienced ultra runner.

With sweeping vistas, cedar-covered hills, monasteries and temples, Nepal offers not only a physical challenge but a spiritual awakening.

When Helen Ramwell took on the 27,000ft of elevation offered by the Capital to Country Multi-Day Ultra Marathon through the south Asian paradise she had reason to feel particularly poignant.

Because as she jogged through the undulating landscape, Helen was not alone.

Help and support sat on her shoulder every step of the way.

Not that any of the other six runners taking part in the inaugural five-day, 123-mile sweep through Nepal were close to her.

Although those taking on the event had become friends, once out on the course it was each to their own.

No, the runner on her shoulder as she notched up the miles in late November and early December last year was a familiar, and much lamented one.

Capital to Country Multi-Day Ultra Marathon 2023 Day Four

Just two years before Helen took on the multi-day run starting in Nepal’s sprawling capital city of Kathmandu, her father, Richard – an experienced runner who competed in the UK’s first official ultra at the South Downs Way back in 1990 – had sadly passed away.

“I historically ran a lot with my dad, including at the Marathon des Sables,” she said. “And, I’ve done a number of events with him since.

“Then I lost him two years ago coming out of Covid and, having had the whirlwind of returning to work post-maternity leave and two young children, part of the journey for me was about just having a bit of space to process all of that.

“Running felt a very apt way of doing it, so it was definitely a little bit spiritual.

“That sounds very dramatic. but being out in the mountains and having the headspace to go through all of that and have my dad with me on my shoulder was part of it.”

The process was both therapeutic and challenging as Helen was able to say goodbye to Richard: “As the week went on, I found myself running alone quite a lot. I went into the zone a little bit and managed to focus on what had happened.

“I think I probably hadn’t allowed myself time to be able to really process everything before, even though it had been two years.

“That was good for a bit, but then I decided I couldn’t run and cry at the same time, so it was time to pull myself back together again.

“But everybody needs their time to process and running was my thing with my dad. You connect with people in different ways when you haven’t got screens distracting you.

“We were very close and Nepal was probably the right way to deal with everything.”

Capital to Country winds its way through the Nepalese countryside. Runners are presented with steep climbs and eye-popping scenery.

It begins with 27-miles of jeep tracks and tree covered hills on day one. From there they pass through the ancient home of the Tamang Empire. Eventually, finishing on day five in the welcoming surrounds of Lamaland village.

The event doesn’t mess around when it comes to either distance or elevation. For Helen it was the scenery and people she passed every day that stood out.

“There’s a melting pot of different cultures and different religions,” she said. “And there’s something about being in the mountains in proper fresh air, with not many people around

“There’s a purity in the people that we did pass by. They were living very tough lifestyles, with women bent double, carrying massive loads on their backs, and yet every single one of them stopped and smiled at us.

“We were doing this weird thing that they couldn’t get their heads round at all. They are seeing a woman, a blonde woman, running, wearing shorts, but yet they were still having that human connection with people.

“That was incredible. It just brings you back down to a basic human purpose.”

Helen said the whole experience made her realise something important. She realised, “how little you actually need to be able to get by and still be happy”.

She remembers one moment when, after she had been running for four hours in the middle of nowhere, she came across a man carrying a massive piece of plywood.

“He was carrying it on his head,” she said. “He was just walking up this mountain with a huge bit of wood.

“And I was just laughing to myself thinking, ‘I bet he gets there. And his misses goes, no, you got the wrong type of wood’

“It was just unbelievable stuff like that.”

Capital to Country Multi-Day Ultra Marathon 2023 Day Four

Helen said Country to Capital allowed runners to embrace their surroundings. The race has a small field and the relaxed, non-corporate way the event was organised allowed for this embrace.

She said: “At the start of the week, there was a lot of, ‘oh, you can’t accept a banana off a guy on a motorbike, because that’s cheating’.

“We all had a bit of the big corporate Marathon des Sables-style mentality. That changed as the week went on.

“It felt more personal from an organisational point of view and as a running group we had a good connection.

“Another thing I’d reference is that from a safety point of view, particularly as a woman running, I felt really safe the whole time. If there were any bits of the course where any of the Nepalese team were concerned that there were any kind of question marks – a busy town or whatever, then there would be somebody on a motorbike a metre behind me.

“I’d say to people that they should definitely do it. It’s different. It’s thrilling, but equally its manageable and exotic. I loved it.

“I feel like I’ve come back with a bit of renewed energy. It ticked a lot of boxes for me.”

Helen will always have the thought that you’ll never run alone thanks to the experience in the Himalayas.

Whether you are looking for a new relaxed challenge or seeking answers to big questions, Go Beyond Challenge and the Capital to Country Multi-Day Ultra could be the race for you. It will return to Nepal in 2024, running from November 25 to December 1.