India's first "frozen-lake marathon" at Ladakh's Pangong Tso at a height of 13,862 feet will be held on February 20 and the army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) have been roped in to implement a "proper action plan" for the event, a senior government official said on Sunday.
The 21-kilometre marathon, with Lukung as its starting point, will end at Maan village. Seventy-five selected athletes from India and abroad are participating in the run, giving them an opportunity to make a bid for a Guinness world record for the world's highest "frozen-lake marathon", officials said.
The marathon is being called the "Last Run" to highlight the issue of climate change, they said.
It is being organised by the Adventure Sports Foundation of Ladakh (ASFL) in collaboration with the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council-Leh, the Tourism Department and the Leh district administration.
"All necessary arrangements have been worked out for the success of this challenging event being organised with a message of sustainable development and carbon neutral Ladakh. All stakeholders are on board. The Indian Army and the ITBP were also roped in to execute a proper action plan," District Development Commissioner, Leh, Shrikant Balasaheb Suse, told PTI.
Spread along the border of India and China, the 700 square metre Pangong Lake records a temperature of minus 30 degrees Celsius during the winters, freezing the salt water lake.
"Tourists mostly visit Ladakh during the winter for Chadar Trek (in Zanskar) and snow leopard sightings, and we are expecting that the frozen-lake marathon will help promote tourism in other parts, especially in the Changthang region," Suse said.
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Vibrant Village Scheme" will help develop habitats along the Line of Actual Control through tourism opportunities.
"The select group of 75 athletes, include 50 from outside Ladakh. Four international runners besides local athletes who have represented the region at national level are taking part in the marathon. We have devised a standard operating procedure (SOP) which will be strictly followed," he said.
Suse said participants not from Ladakh have to undergo mandatory acclimatisation, including three to four days stay in Leh, to overcome high-altitude sickness.
"The participants will be subjected to medical checkup one day prior to the event, while the whole 21-km stretch will be covered by medical teams. We are also prepared for air-evacuation in case a need arises," the district development commissioner said.
He said the recce of the entire 21-km lake stretch is being undertaken jointly by the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), the Indian Army and the ITBP in close coordination with other stakeholders.
Suse invited people to come and watch the event.
In a short video on the event, ASFL founder Chamba Tsetan said the event was named as the "Last Run" to give a message to the world about the "rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers due to global climatic change".