As a girl from a remote village in the Himalayas, Mira Rai should not have the status she holds; one of the world’s best ultra-runners and a champion of women. Young girls from isolated and impoverished Nepalese villages often have their life story written out for them; Mira dreamt of something different.
As part of the latest Red Bull Media House series The Way Of The Wildcard, which shines a light on astonishing athletes who have beaten the odds and made a name for themselves, Mira shares her story of ultra-running success and female empowerment.
Mira’s running journey began in extreme circumstances, forced as a young girl to wake up at 4am to run three hours over mountains to collect bags of water, oil and rice (weighing 28kg) back to her family. Mira’s physical ability would continue to excel at the expense of her own education as she dropped out of school to help with jobs around her village.
Following a visit from a rebel army promising two meals a day and a life of adventure, the then 14 year old Mira left her family in the middle of the night. In the remote mountain woods, she underwent army training taking a particular shine and ability to beat her male counterparts at running. When the civil war ended in 2006, Mira continued running for fun and signed up to a local 21km event in which she ran on an empty stomach, with no money for food, and collapsed 400 metres from the line – but still won.
Having discovered competitive running and ultra-running, Mira soon entered and won the famed Himalayan Outdoor Festival in tracksuit bottoms and trainers that cost £2.60. Victories in eight other ultra events eventually led Mira to the 82km Mont Blanc Ultra in France, where she burst onto the global scene by winning the women’s race 21 minutes ahead of the runner up.
As Mira crossed the finish line with a Nepalese flag in her arms, her country rejoiced. It was a collective moment of hope and national pride for Nepal who had just suffered a devastating earthquake that killed over 8,000 people and left 20 million homeless. Nepalese media label Mira an inspiration and a symbol of hope, the national minister of youth and sport gifting her three million rupees for “spreading the name of Nepal all over the world”.
Female empowerment is now Mira’s mission, as she reaches out to young women across Nepal to help them on their own path. The 2017 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year created the Mira Rai Initiative which provides funding, opportunities and mentorship as well as empowering the trail running community.
Mira said, “It’s incredible, wherever I go throughout Nepal, I have a lot of fans and people that look up to me. This is what motivates me, to be the best ultra runner and to continue to work for others so that they have the same opportunity as me.”
Way of the Wildcard is a Red Bull Media House series created in association with Just So and is available to watch exclusively on Red Bull TV.
Watch the full documentary here
For more information on The Way of the Wildcard, visit RedBull.com