Monthly Archives: November 2015

A family that runs together-The Vasai Virar Mayor’s Marathon experience

When you have the roads washed for you the day before, volunteers who wake up wee hours of the morning to hand over the necessary refreshments at regular intervals; the village folk sacrificing their Sunday morning sleep to cheer for you, then you have no reason to complain even when the weather Gods are not exactly at their best.

Despite light showers the day before, Sunday, November 22nd-the day of the Vasai Virar Mayors’ Marathon, still exhibited some humidity in the air. The start line was jubilant with all the Djs and bands playing tracks. The song ‘Bhaag Milka Bhaag’ was enough to make get us going, determined to put our best feet forward. After running just 2 kms, we were surprised to find ourselves drenched with perspiration. Did the calender just turn back to May? No time for such thoughts as we saw the board saying ‘water point 100 metres away. ‘Thanking our stars we rushed to replenish ourselves with enerzal and water which the helpful volunteers handed over with a reassuring look.

Within a short while, around the 7 km mark, we got a glimpse of the breaking dawn as sunrise slowly began to make its way. Just as we were down on our energy levels, we began to spot runner friends, some of them doing the full marathon. A hi five, wave and a smile was enough to set our spirits soaring as we raced past with renewed vigour, well in time to pose obligingly for the chirpy photographers who clicked away as we continued our strides. What an amazing set of people, to wake up and travel this far, only because they could treat us runners with sweet memories of our run, not to mention the eye catching display pictures for our profiles on social media.


As we continued our journey, we found the atmosphere to be nothing less than a carnival. Bands playing, colourful balloons adorned on the road sides, school kids doing their little cheer, lending out their hand in anticipation for a hi five that would make their day, laying yellow flowers for us, handing out bananas, biscuits and their own refreshments. The old and the young folk of the Vasai village kept clapping with exuberance, encouraging us runners to keep going. Volunteers who were present at regular intervals handed over the ice pack/ sponge and sprays to ensure that we runners had a comfortable journey to the finish line. It was welcoming to find aid stations at almost every kilometre. Such unsolicited support from volunteers, crowd and the photographers gave us enough incentive to run with zest and banish those questions that kept creeping in time and again “why did I decide to run this one?”

That reminds me of a few questions I am often asked by non-runners-“How can you keep running? Isn’t it boring? What’s so special about running marathons?”

Well one thing is to experience the runners high, the feeling of setting a target for yourself and achieving it, the congratulatory messages after you get your medal, is all fine. But when you are running towards your goal, you realize that there are others who sacrifice so many things so that they can help you achieve your goal. Right from the organizers, volunteers, photographers, pacers to the crowd- they sacrifice their sleep so that they can come and hand over your refreshments, click your pictures to brighten up your day and cheer you up, when you are almost on the verge of giving up your run. Taking all this into consideration, you realize you are not alone in your journey and it gives you enough incentive and enthusiasm to think of signing up for the next race, no sooner than you have crossed the finish line of the present one.

Coming back to the Vasai Virar run, we soon reached the finish line and were greeted with pats on our backs by the volunteers who personally attended to each of us asking if we were ok and guiding us towards the medals. It was a welcome treat to find a sumptuous breakfast awaiting us, thanks to the suggestion by the Mumbai Road Runners-the running group whom we run from Bandra to NCPA every first Sunday of the month. The Poha and sheera catered to our famished runners’ appetites as they just melted in our mouths. It was a brilliant and a thoughtful suggestion, considering that we runners were up from 3:00 am and travelled far and wide to run this race. It was certainly needed to replenish our depleted energy levels.

Meeting and embracing runner friends post breakfast, posing for pics added to the celebrations. It may not have been the ideal winter weather, which would have restricted many from achieving a good time leading to inevitable disappointments, yet the entire experience of running through amidst the ecstatic and electrical atmosphere was worth the journey. Despite these little drawbacks, we runners went home a satisfied lot. Guess it’s the journey which makes it more memorable than the destination.

A big thanks to all the volunteers, photographers, organizers, the pacers, the crowd and fellow runners for making this event a joyful and memorable one.

On Cloud 9-9 km 9 days 9 colours- My Navran Experience

Its been 28 days since I completed Navran-where we runners ran 9 km for those 9 days during navratri wearing 9 different colours. Reminiscing the journey of running 81 km in 9 days while gearing up for the upcoming marathon season the commences from Nov 22nd.

81 km in 9 days?? That sounded like running an ultra-marathon only difference being that this distance was spread over a generous 9 days. What was I thinking when I accepted this challenge by my runners group? Mumbai Road runners (MRR) the group with whom I run 21 km every 1st Sunday of the month, came up with this fun initiative called ‘Navran’ during Navratri. While several people fasted and did their religious rituals-the only religion we runners know and follow is running. So why not run 9 km for those 9 days wearing 9 different colour t shirts akin to Navratri? An interesting concept but a challenging one undoubtedly. Being mostly a half marathoner, with only 1 full marathon to my credit, I was wondering how to go about this daunting task. But my mind was made up as I clicked on the ‘going ‘button of the event page feeling determined to test my endurance levels.

My first step was to assemble the 9 different coloured T shirts prescribed for those 9 days. The second was to set up a running app and record the distance and time as a proof of the run. I also set up the photo grid app as each of the participant had to post their photo along with the distance everyday on the event page. The eve of Navratri had arrived. I could barely sleep just thinking about the excitement that was awaiting me for the next 9 days.

The first day dawned nice and bright pertaining to the colour of the day-red. This bright shade exuded energy and positivity which was displayed in my running form as I cracked 10 km in an hours’ time. Not a bad start at all. Day 1 of ‘Navran’ was completed successfully. Being someone who isn’t comfortable with selfies, the hardest part of this entire challenge was finding someone to take your picture post the run. But the humble request accompanied with a sweet smile worked wonders as people willingly obliged. I instantly uploaded the photo with my distance and time on the event page. It received a tremendous response which was completely unexpected and that’s probably what made it overwhelming.

Day 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 went by successfully and I had run 54 km so far. Each of those colours reflected the particular state of mind which influenced that day’s energy levels with regards to my run. Ink blue made me feel royal as I conquered the road feeling like a queen. Yellow made me feel as though I possessed the sun’s rays and my body felt like a grid harnessing solar power as my energy levels were spiked for some reason that particular day as I clocked 9 km in 63 mins. Green made me feel like one amidst nature basking in the glory of the environment and surroundings. Grey was a colour that reflected my mood to that of a sober one allowing that little imp of a self-doubt to creep into my brain for a short while only to be banished as I sported an orange T shirt the next day.

Everyday my posts would be received with encouragement and cheer from my friends. It was amazing how everyone shared your journey in their own special way, and encouraged you to complete this challenge with gusto. The last 3 days of Navran were left. By now energy levels for some reason were still high and the positive comments and feedback seemed to spike them up even more, giving some stiff competition to Gatorade and Enerzal. The colours white, pink and sky blue left me feeling calm, peaceful and serene as I ran the last stretch of Navran successfully.

Was it relief, joy, elation or a sense of accomplishment?? I couldn’t tell. Maybe a cocktail of all these emotions as I actually felt the runner’s high to an extent that could probably put 9 glasses of beer to shame.

Now the fun part of this entire journey was getting to see fellow runner participants post their photos, cheering and encouraging them to get through these 9 days. Most of them were veterans and seniors yet their enthusiasm levels were as contagious as that of a child’s. Deriving inspiration from such fun loving beings was one of the factors that kept me going during this festive season. Did I ever feel like giving up? Not once. I realized that once you set your goal, you sort of found your purpose even if it was for a short term, which makes you feel alive as you welcome each day with a new found zest. The runner in me continued to feel alive, despite the humidity levels and despite the fact that my work as a journalist doubled up with the number of personalities I had to interview that month. Each day was a challenge by itself but something in the air kept that positive spirit and the never say die attitude in me.

I realized that every stride was accompanied with the feeling of elation and these 9 days enabled me to discover why I enjoyed running so much. The free spirit in me thrived on this limitless bountiful journey that Navran capitalised, allowing me to actually embrace this beautiful gift called life. Do I feel drained? Far from it. In fact I now know what it is like to be on cloud 9!! And the journey continues….

Perks of running marathons no one told you about by Dr. Vandana Rajesh

I started training for running half marathons in 2011, mostly due to lack of challenges in life- which any crazy type A mum of crazier two year old type A twins (I’m sure about this one!) would understand!!
My existence had gone from being a fulfilled medical professional to a 24 hour dairy farm and a sleep deprived nut farm!
And the benefits of pounding the streets at 5 AM to blaring music were more than I was prepared for! Of course there are the benefits even the non-runners are bored to death over. Having a great body, getting all those likes on all those running pics after every run, blah blah blah. But there are these benefits no one told me about!!
1. Knowledge
Deep deep knowledge. How much and how to hydrate and carbohydrate how many hours before each run. Intense information on the benefits of running shoeless, shirtless, braless, padless, and you-name-it-less! Information on all kinds of diets … freegan to vegan and everything in between. As you can see everyone can write after that! At least a blog if not a book!
2. Partying… Runner’s style
There will be parties after running, and you will be subjected to running after partying! (Yes, we have suffered some drunk guy races as well)
3. Eating/ Drinking/ Breakfast places
Since all the runners are complete foodies, you will become a completely updated gastronomical genius!
4. Hobbies
You will pick up at least one of these from your runner friends along the way. Writing, photography, baking, cooking, painting, sailing, surfing, golfing. You see runners are an interesting lot!
5. Other forms of fitness
Cycling, swimming, trekking, weight training, pilates, zumba. And here you will arrive at a point, where people will begin to doubt your sanity.
6. The joys of match making
If not for yourself, for the others. Please no queries on personal chats for this one! Unfortunately all my attempts at playing Cupid have so far been unsuccessful (so far….)
7. Marathon tourism
Here’s your opportunity to travel on the pretext of running a marathon. Places you would otherwise not want to and places you have always wanted to… From Satara to Switzerland, Bombay to Berlin, Chennai to China, Leh to London!!
8. Forging great friendships
This is especially close to my heart. I have made friends with the most remarkable people, and had unforgettably good times! Running and otherwise!
9. Events and groups
Introduction to events like Bandra NCPA and groups like MRR. MRR was great help in getting started and staying motivated. From the Hal Higdon charts to running routes, got prompt responses to all my queries. Got running company and running events. Got my clever little tips from how to stuff shoes with papers to run the next rainy day and how to runner-knot my shoe laces! And somewhere when time management became an issue, I got hooked onto Bandra NCPA runs for their fuss free organisation. Most of the half marathons were way too far out, some were poorly organised. Bandra NCPA always started on time, had among the best routes in Bombay a person could choose, and fantastic company! Followed by the usual happy jubilant pictures, breakfast with running buddies and camaraderie.
10. Last but not the least. You can get people to read stuff you write… Which no one would otherwise!!
JJ Have a great day!!
Dr. Vandana Rajesh.