Born and raised in the remote mountains of Bhojpur village, running has always been a part of Mira’s lifestyle. As a child, her daily chore comprised of farming, gathering fuel, fodder and grass for livestock, and walking about an hour every day to fetch water for the household. But she wanted to break free from her rural village lifestyle, defy the gender stereotype, support her family and do something significant but did not know what exactly at the time. It was this sense of urgency and desperation that led her to join the Maoist army while she was still a child.
“I was just a regular village girl and was living a simple village life but I aspired to do something big and meaningful, defy the socio-economic constraints that held me back.”
During her three years in the army, Mira never saw combat but she did find a solid training ground for karate, running, and other sports which also paved the way for trail running. After the end of the civil war and the onset of peace process, Mira was all set to leave for Malaysia in search of foreign employment. However it was her guru, Karate coach Mr. Dhurba Bikram Malla, who gave her the opportunity to move to Kathmandu city and start training and running together with friends like Bhim Gurung, another notable ultra-runner from Nepal.
Before she knew it, she had won the Himalayan Ultra Race (50k) back in 2014. It is there where she met her mentor and guide, Richard Bull, Director of Trail Running Nepal and Lizzy Hawker who have played a pivotal role in Mira’s career and helped her reach new heights in trail running. A month after winning the Himalayan Ultra Race, Mira won the Mustang Trail Race and in September won two races in Italy Sellaronda Trail Race (57 km), Trail Degli Eroi (83 km) which helped cement her place amongst the elite trail runners from around the world.
Mira Rai now is a recognizable figure in her field where she has had amazing opportunities to participate in local, national, and international events and races across the world. She feels proud to have been able to represent her people and country in national and international arenas. She has also had enormous support and encouragement along the way and have been bestowed with several awards, titles including an honorary doctorate.
“I now wish to give the same opportunity and platform which I have been so lucky to have to aspiring athletes and trail runners like me in Nepal who have so much potential. I hope to be that bridge for them and give back to the young generation who seek opportunity in trail running through my non-profit Mira Rai Initiative. Athletes and sports in general in Nepal do not have much support at the national level.”
Mira aspires to promote trail running as one of the mainstream sports in Nepal given its perfect geography comprising of steep slopes and hills and introduce more runners and athletes to this sport while giving them the opportunity to change their lives the same way it has changed hers.