Mira Rai is already well known in Nepal and in the international athletic community as a trail runner, and a new book spreads her fame beyond that by introducing her to other audiences around the world. Fantastic Female Adventurers by Lily Dyu features Rai as one of 13 contemporary women who have had extraordinary adventures.
Mira Rai from Bhojpur did not know that mountain running could be a sport, until she won a race. Born and raised in a farming family, Mira was used to walking up and down steep mountain paths every day carrying grass for cows. She walked two days to the nearest market with her mother whenever they needed groceries. This stamina came into good use when she briefly joined the Maoists during the conflict. After the war, when she learned that what she did every day could be a sport, she competed in some of the world’s most challenging trail races, won several awards, and broke three world records.
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Rai’s story is an extraordinary one, since she achieved so much despite not being able to afford training or proper equipment. But even more extraordinary is the possibility of what could be hiding in Nepal: how many other ordinary young men and women going about their everyday tasks are so toughened by the rough terrain of Nepal that they are already elite athletes?
Like many other Nepali youngsters Rai was planning to go to Malaysia to work, and would have done so if her life had not taken the dramatic turn it did. Today she is busy competing in races, leading environmental initiatives and helping other youngsters in athletics.
Lily Dyu brings Rai’s story alive in her book, documenting her phenomenal rise in sports. Mira Rai’s chapter is beautifully illustrated by Chellie Caroll, with a village street scene of traditional mud houses, women carrying fodder and hens pecking at the ground.
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Author Lily Dyu hated sports as a child but took up running in her adulthood. She realised that one of the reasons she had been averse to adventures was that she had never known examples of women adventurers. Like everyone else, she had grown up seeing and reading about male explorers, and thought that outdoor activities were for men. After cycling all over the world, hiking and swimming in far-flung places, and even coming to Nepal to complete the Manaslu circuit, Dyu decided to write about other women who were out and about in the world.
Dyu’s book features Ann Daniels, who skied to the North Pole; Jin Jeong, who cycled around the world; Karen Darke, who hand-biked in the Himalaya; Sarah Outen, who kayaked in a ring of fire; Emma Timmis, who explored Australia on a stand-up bike, and others. Between them, the women cover not just half the sky, but the entire planet.
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