It Keeps You Running

Sean Burch     Photo: Photo by AP (Burch)

In October, Warrenton, Virginia–based fitness consultant Sean Burch finished a 1,250-mile run along the length of Nepal's Great Himalaya Trail in a record-setting 49 days, six hours, eight minutes. (It takes most trekkers five months.) For the 40-year-old Burch, it was the latest record in a life filled with them: he set a Guinness record for the fastest ascent of Kilimanjaro and set the record for the fastest time (3:43:17) in the North Pole Marathon. He also owns various speed records for ascents of Aconcagua, Mount Fuji, and a slew of remote Tibetan peaks. In Nepal, he ran the equivalent of a marathon a day at an average elevation of 12,000 feet while climbing and descending a total of 95 vertical miles. For his efforts, Burch received a Goodwill Ambassadorship from Nepal, becoming one of the first Americans to earn the honor.

OUTSIDE: Why does the trek need to be a record?
BURCH: I'm working with a nonprofit called the Nepal Trust, and we want to use the record to increase awareness of Nepal's less touristy regions.

Did you see those less touristy regions?
Oh, yeah. Besides the beginning and when the trail crossed Annapurna, I rarely saw another tourist. I was always staying in villages, and I was the first foreigner that a lot of locals had met.

What was your favorite area?
Upper Dolpa, in the west. High, brown mountains. Lots of rivers. Deep, deep canyons. I awoke the first morning there, at around 15,000 feet, and just said, "Wow."

Worst part of the trip?
It rained the first 30 days, and I had to pluck leeches off my legs. I fell into a river and nearly got hypothermia. I was sick constantly, chased by drunks. You name it, it happened.

Any recommendations for those of us not into a marathon-per-day pace?
Just go. Anything you're into, Nepal's got. There's something for everyone.

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