Journal of an India challenge

October 27, 1999

Doug Ulman, a three-time cancer survivor whose story appeared in The Sun on Friday, wrote this report on his way to the Himalayan 100 Mile Stage Race in Sandakphu National Park, India. Ulman, 22, was planning to run only the 26.4-mile Mount Everest Challenge Marathon -- the third stage of the five-day race, on Saturday. Now he is planning to run the full 100 miles. The race begins tomorrow.

Ulman is a member of a team of able-bodied and disabled athletes sponsored by World T.E.A.M. Sports, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing diverse groups together through sports.

He is calling home, sometimes using a satellite phone. His mother, Diana Ulman, is posting the dispatches on the Web site of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, so young cancer patients can read them.

DELHI, India: Monday

Well, it's 8: 40 at night here. Things are fine. It is pretty hard to breathe the air -- and it's kind of dehydrating. We're getting ready to take a flight [into the mountains] first thing in the morning. So I'm going to head to bed now.

This is quite an adventure so far -- pigs, cows and everything out in the middle of the street, people everywhere, no personal space. And many people walk up and touch us. Lots of people talk to us in the street.

There is a huge amount of haze over everything and smoke everywhere and my lungs are really hurting -- everyone's are. Hopefully in the mountains there will be cleaner air, and we'll be able to run.

I've met folks from all over the world who are here to run this trek. Thirteen countries are represented. I met a guy from New York -- I don't know what team he is running with.

I did find out that I'm the youngest person out of the 60 or so here. And also the youngest from years past.

If I finish the run, I think I will set a record.

I'll try the satellite phone tomorrow from the mountains.

Til tomorrow, Doug

DARJEELING, India, in the Himalayan mountains: Tuesday

We are in the mountains now. The plane ride was fine -- a large, new plane. The airport was a tiny one-room place. The luggage was set out on a concrete slab.

We gathered our things and boarded a bus for a two-hour ride on a windy, mountainous road to Mirik Lake Resort. We were on a road of cliffs everywhere we looked. It was a relief to get here.

The countryside that we rode through was lush and so green. Lots of tea and rice farms, bamboo, palms. And we saw beautiful poinsettia trees, rocky stream beds that seemed low on water.

We saw lots of schoolchildren in school uniforms -- slacks, shirts and ties for the boys and jumpers for the girls. We even passed a couple youth soccer games along the way.

Cattle were everywhere, in the fields and in the roads. We passed what looked to be impoverished villages. Of course, it is hard to know what standards to judge by. About half of the signs that we passed were in English, and as we rode by villages of primitive huts we saw phone lines and signs advertising computer classes and Internet sites.

I wonder what understanding of the world the schoolchildren that we have passed have. I can't believe that I am halfway around the world in a place so incredibly different from anything I have ever experienced. I just keep wondering what these people think of us and of the Western world.

As I am talking on this phone, I can hear music and dancing in the distance -- a fiesta-like celebration.

As for our preparation for the run -- we are very tired and feeling short on energy. The journey has been long and somewhat difficult. I have not been eating enough, what with Power Bars to sustain me, so I broke down and ate some cooked rice, bread and potatoes. Hopefully my system will not be upset by it.

The air is cleaner up here, and I hope that my lungs will continue to clear. I brought iodine pills with me to dissolve in the water and a filter bottle to drink it through. The water is slightly discolored.

My goal is to get a lot of rest tonight. The actual event is getting closer, and I'm really excited and anxious at the same time. This place is like nothing I've ever seen in my life -- beyond my imagination. So much to take in.

It is cool to know that you are with me.

Doug

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