KATHMANDU (APP) – Gasping for breath and clad in trekking boots, more than 150 local and foreign runners on Sunday took part in the world’s highest marathon race in the snow-covered foothills of Mount Everest.

The annual Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon, which began in 2003, is meant to mark the anniversary of the first summit of the peak by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary on May 29, 1953.

Runners kicked off the race at 07:00 am local time, with the trail taking them from Everest base camp at a height of 5,364 metres (17,598 feet) to the finishing line about 2,000 metres below in the town of Namche Bazaar.

About 130 foreign runners, including from Britain, United States, China and Australia, joined another 30 from Nepal.

Local soldier Bed Bahadur Sunuwar took first place, completing the 42-kilometre run in four hours and 10 seconds.

“The route is very challenging but amazing too. I feel proud to be the winner,” the 29-year-old said.

The air at base camp contains only half as much oxygen as at sea level, leaving many runners gasping for breath on even the slightest incline along the narrow, rocky mountain paths.