How do you top climbing Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain?” It’s a question no doubt asked numerous times, of those who have actually climbed the great peak, and anyone else who has conquered a seemingly insurmountable objective.
On May 23rd of this year, Nadhira Al Harthy became a ‘darling’ to millions when she topped the iconic peak in the Himalayas. In her hands a memorial message to her coach Khalid Al Syabi, who had himself scaled the mighty mountain exactly nine years earlier, but tragically perished just before his protégé was to realize her dreams. It is an indication of the mental strength of the young mountaineer that she was able to put this tragedy behind her and achieve her objective.
Put to Al Harthy that the popular perception is that one climbs Everest, in the words of George Mallory, the British mountaineer who challenged the peak three times before his death on the rugged North Face of the mountain, “Because it’s there,” it’s iconic, and has challenged mankind forever, I asked “Why are you doing Oman by UTMB, ‘The Beast?” She responded very positively saying, “Although I took part last year, it was simply a part of my training for Everest, along with other races I did. Now, this year, my goal orientation is around balance points, exercise and strength, and of course it is something different.”
She continued, saying that, “I have spoken to other participants sometimes, to get a feel for the event, and having a DNF next to my name last year I don’t lack motivation or focus for this, one of my favorite challenges. I’m excited, I’m nervous, my emotions are all over the place, but my training is going really well and with increased miles in my legs every week, and careful attention to my nutritional requirements, I feel like I’m in a really good place just now.”
Many others around the Sultanate will be refining their focus, appraising their form and fitness now as ‘The Beast’ looms large less than three weeks away. OmanSail Communications Director Assim Al Saqri told the Observer that local participation has “gone through the roof, as the local athletes are keen to take on ‘The Beast.” In fact, the high local participation is a stunning validation of the very first conqueror of Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, that “Even the mediocre can have adventures, and even the fearful can achieve,” and to paraphrase him. “It is not ‘The Beast’ we conquer, but ourselves.”
Mental strength and fortitude will certainly provide the basis for Al Harthy’s tactical approach to the race, and having tasted the event in 2018, she explained that she has, “a clear picture of what I need, and what I must do to perform well in a long race such as this. I have had some minor issues with my knees, a consequence of an earlier training regime, but I am presently training really well. Of course being a proud Omani, a role model, and a young Islamic woman, I have special clothing and equipment needs for the race and in terms of sustenance, rehydration, and support, I feel I have everything in place, and I’m looking forward to it, as I said nervous and excited.”
It occurred to me that mountaineering is a purposely deliberate activity, where climbers contemplate every move, and weigh their options, much like a game of chess, so “will ‘The Beast,” I asked, “not take you out of that comfort zone?” Al Harthy responded positively however saying, “The Beast has its own reputation already, and is a high level event that will surely challenge my body and mind, but I will challenge myself hard, and to do so in a race like this, in my country, how good is that?”
Nadhira Al Harthy, herself iconic, a role model and a minaret for young Omani women, has set herself a bold new challenge, to tame ‘The Beast,’ and is robust enough, mentally and physically, to get the business done. This time maybe not “because it’s there,” but because as Hillary also said, “People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.