Yearly Archives: 2016

Conquering Tiger Hill of the Western Ghats: The Tiger’s point Hill Challenge run

As a runner, hills have always intimidated me with their gigantic steep slopes that leaves me gasping for breath. It’s almost like a cliff hanger situation battling between a deadly DNF (did not finish is every runners nightmare) and survival to the finish line. Despite their daunting stature, hills manage to lure runners to their abode, partly to bask in the beauty of the surroundings and partly to feel the adrenalin rush of taking up this challenge.

So when the first edition Tiger’s point hill challenge at Lonavala was announced by Team Runburn comprising of Kalyan Dombivali Runners (KDR), I was bowled over just looking at the images of the scenic beauty of the Western Ghats. “What a place to run”, I thought to myself and I immediately registered, albeit only for the 10 k since the Wipro Chennai marathon which I had signed up for earlier was just 2 weeks after this one.

The team was always prompt about their updates with regards to bib collection, race timing and stay options. While some chose to drive to Lonavala the day before and collect their bibs, my running partner cum hubby Amit and I decided to drive down on Sunday morning directly to the race.

Saturdays-the day before any race is usually spent in watching a move either in the theatre or on TV. That particular day I managed to watch 2-‘Dear Zindagi’ which makes you embrace life again (I made a mental note to embrace the hills the next morning) and ‘Lakshya’. The latter was based on the Kargil war where the Indian soldiers climb the daunting slope of Tiger Hill to assault an attack on the enemy. I decided to use this as a dose of inspiration as I closed my eyes for the night.

I was groggy and droopy when I woke up at 2:00 am the next morning. Managing to gulp down a peanut butter sandwich and munching protein bar on the way, we drove towards the hills, after picking up our runner friend Sunil Talwar on the way. We reached the venue by 5:30 am and collected our bibs from Vishwanath Iyer- our friend and who was also one of the organisers. It was biting cold and I was in half mind to get back inside my car and snuggle back to sleep. Friendly chatter with other runner buddies managed to lift my spirits as we wished good luck to the half marathoners who started 30 minutes earlier. The 10 km race commenced at 6:30 am. Feeling like a zombie still, I decided to take it easy and enjoy the route instead.

As the race flagged off, my strides magically quickened and we were greeted with an incline from the 700 m point onward. From there on began the battle with the slopes. ‘All those hill repeats better come in handy now’, I thought as the slopes seemed to steepen with every 500 metres. High knee, short strides, arms up, I marched up the slopes and looked up at the savana like grass on the sides glistening in the first rays of sunlight. It reminded me of the song ‘wada raha sanam’ from the Akshay Kumar starrer ‘Khiladi’ as I silently hummed the tune to myself.

<img class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-1846" src="http://mumbairoadrunners.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o-200×300.jpg" alt="15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o" width="200" height="300" srcset="http://mumbairoadrunners have a peek at this web-site.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o-200×300.jpg 200w, https://mumbairoadrunners.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o-768×1152.jpg 768w, https://mumbairoadrunners.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o-683×1024.jpg 683w, https://mumbairoadrunners.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o-33×50.jpg 33w, https://mumbairoadrunners.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o.jpg 1365w” sizes=”(max-width: 200px) 100vw, 200px” />

As I ran up these twists and turns, my thoughts traced back to those Tirupathi hills which I had visited last year and wondered what it would be like to run up those hills. I suppose my wish was being granted as I strutted up these slopes. “Boy, Satara is nothing” I thought. Satara Hill marathon was known for its grueling terrain and called as the ultra-half Marathon.  Sufficient volunteers  were present at regular intervals with water and enerzal ready in hand.  After 3 km, the terrain glided up and down reminding me of a snakes coil.  It was a beautiful route no doubt as we took in the pale brown mountains mirrored against the pristine blue sky with wisps of the dried yellow grass and green trees.

15233674_10157779949045335_824576207_o

We soon turned at the 5 km mark and the first thought that struck me was what goes up eventually comes down. I smiled gleefully at the mere thought of gliding down those slopes. As I ran along, I caught sight of a few runner friends and gave them a thumbs up sign. As we finished 7 km, we began to descent downwards.

Now running downhill reminds me of those slides that we used to play with in those parks where we would slide down with squeals of laughter. We sprinted down those slopes with the cool breeze blowing on our faces. “This is so liberating”, I thought as my speakers played the number “My dream is to fly over the rainbow so high” by Yves Larock.  At one point I spread my arms as though I was flying, much to the mortification of those drivers of the vehicles coming up those slopes who probably must have thought that I was some kind of a lunatic.

I continued running  furiously and soon found myself crossing the finish line only to see my buddy Vishwanath Iyer say “Welcome to the podium. You are second.” “Oh wow” I thought. “Not bad considering the fact that I was going to sleep walk through the hills earlier that morning.”

We soon collected our medals and headed over to the stretch area where a physio guided us with our stiff calves post the grueling run. After our customary poses, we decided to grab a bite of the breakfast which served idlis, batata wada, chutney and banana sheera.

15271264_10157779951485335_1686676523_o

By now the half marathoners began to stream in and we stood at the finish line cheering for all of them. The laughter, animated chatter and energetic discussions about the route began. Apparently it was tough till 5 km and it was a terrain of rolling hills post that for the half marathoners. Instant comparisons were made with the Satara Hill run and many runners firmly stated that the Tiger’s point hill challenge was way tougher than the former, jokingly labeling it as Satara’s big daddy.

The prize distribution money took place and it was great to hear some familiar names announced as winners in the veteran and open category. Collecting my trophy and cash prize, we soon headed towards German Bakery for breakfast with a few friends. The celebration continued with more jokes till we drove down back to Mumbai.

15271221_10157779953710335_1143384898_o

As I looked outside at the roads, I wondered what was it we runners gained by waking up at unearthly hours in the morning and putting ourselves through a grueling terrain. The medal? Timing certificate? Adrenalin rush of having conquered a tough route? Overcoming our barriers? A chance to meet and pose with our runner buddies over a cup of piping hot tea? I suppose it was all that and more.

We may groan at the thought of running up those slopes but nevertheless it makes us feel like valiant soldiers having won a battle after conquering those hills. Similar to the movie ‘Lakshya’ where the armed forces flaunt the Indian flag on top of the Himalayan Tiger Hill. Only difference being that we runners flaunted our smiles and medals on the Tiger’s point Hill of the Western Ghats.

Thank you Team Runburn, volunteers and photographs for the great arrangements. Look forward to doing this event next year as well!

‘Let’s race Daddy!’: A heart-warming journey

 Publisher:Serene Publishers

Price: Rs 150

“Let’s race Daddy! – The title immediately caught my attention. It was a post shared by a fellow runner on the Mumbai Road runners’ Facebook page.  I glanced at the book cover with interest. It was an image of a father-daughter duo running side by side wearing toothy grins on their faces. This reminded me of the father-daughter bond that my 2 and a half year old daughter – Samara shared with her father cum my husband and running partner Amit.  Now being an avid reader and runner, books especially those related to running instantly caught my fancy. The book ordered through Amazon was delivered within a few days.

I scanned through the pages curiously and the first chapter had me hooked straightaway. It turned out to be marathon journey, where a run ends only at the finish line and in this case, I put the book down only after finishing the last chapter.

The author namely Soham Shukla traces his running journey from his childhood days in Palanpur where a great amount of emphasis was placed on his athletic training. A sudden demise in the family caused a changeover as his energies were focused solely on his career, leading to a sedentary lifestyle in the process. It was post the birth of his daughter Rene that made him revive his athletic abilities to stay fit in order to match his toddler’s energy levels. Thus began his journey as a runner commencing from the Bangalore 10k run in 2008.

The author’s first run is vividly described and gives one the feeling of having run the entire course with him.  The gradual transition from a 10k to half marathoner to a marathoner and ultimately to an ultra-runner carries the honest feelings that he undergoes at every kilometre mark. The tumultuous journey is interspersed with undying enthusiasm, will power, perseverance, a dose of humour especially while describing the Hyderabad flyover marathon where the author  jokingly asks a cyclist at the 12 km mark if he would get a lift.

The love for the Mumbai Marathon is clearly visible as the author describes the energetic vibes that the city of Mumbai offers during the D day. From a raw runner with no Garmin, science and pre social media days, he transforms into one that talks about aspects like ‘hitting a wall’ and refers to the 35th km mark at Pedder road as the ‘heartbreak hill’ of the Boston Marathon.

Recently diagnosed with a debilitating health condition, he has one longing dream-to run the 2025 edition of the Mumbai marathon with his daughter Renee who will turn 18 by then. He ends his book with a visualizing and imaginative image of reaching the finish line with his daughter in tow. Only time will tell if his dream will materialize into reality. As the saying goes “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”, it leaves the readers hoping the best for him.

15205736_10157761608155335_1577130756_o

It’s an endearing journey that will resonate very well with runners of varied categories-beginner, amateur and the elite. If you are a runner, run to the nearest store and pick up a copy of this 90 page book and if you are not, this read will make you warm up to those miles in due course of time.

It is said in the runners language that “when you cannot run with your legs, run with your heart”.  ‘Let’s race Daddy!’ is penned straight from the heart which is what makes it a heart-warming read.

 

The goodness of a kind word

I was running on marine drive today at a tempo speed. After a point I began to feel exhausted but decided to keep going. Just at that point, I heard a voice say “good running”, despite the fact that my speakers blaring loudly. I looked up to see a retreating muscular figure give a thumbs up sign but couldn’t quite catch the face. All on a sudden, my ego spiked up at this unexpected massage of these soothing words and I began to imagine myself as a champion running in the last leg of the race with spectators cheering for me from the side lines. This helped me pick up pace and finish strong at NCPA.

While I was stretching at NCPA, my thoughts delved deeper than the calm blue Arabian Sea that I was looking at. I wondered what was it that was considered as a good gift to runners or any person for that matter. Good shoes? A smart pair of shorts with a funky singlet? A Garmin watch? A complimentary buffet breakfast at the Taj?? ( Not a bad option;) ) I then realised it was none of these.

A few words of appreciation goes a long way in boosting ones self esteem and the feel good factor. We are forever dealing with scars from past insults or put downs with regards to our abilities or physical appearances. This has led to lowered confidence levels and self doubts to creep in.

In this world where criticism is hurled easily, it becomes a rarity to see goodness in ones words or gestures. As a journalist/ writer, I have strongly believed that words, especially positive ones, go a long way in creating that long lasting impact and remains etched in ones psyche forever.

The best gift therefore lies in these golden words of appreciation that radiates one’s morale in the “long run”. (Pun intended).

Moral: Be sure you give that thumbsup or a word of encouragement to any fellow runner/ person when presented with the opportunity. You never know, these words could help in making someone’s day a tad brighter!

 

Rediscovering the joy of running: My Interview with Bijay Nair

 

My first meeting with the author of #They INSpire traces back to one of the monthly MRR runs. Being a newbie to this mammoth community of runners, intimidation superseded my confidence levels to go up and speak to him. Later a chance meeting at a coffee shop with another runner friend broke the ice as I found him to be a down to earth and approachable person. I also discovered that he was from the naval forces and my respect for him grew double fold.  It was at that time when he was briefly mentioning about a book in the offing which consisted of stories of 42.195 inspiring runners who have made a mark despite their adversities. After a year, I meet the author who I can now proudly call a friend, at the same coffee shop to interview him on his book that has provided the much needed dose of inspiration for runners and non-runners across the country.

 

As he takes a sip of his coffee, he goes on to narrate the reason behind his title which is a tribute to Navy background, as INS denotes the same. He started writing snippets of runners’ stories as a blog on social media which received a roaring response. The need to inspire others through these stories seeded the idea that these posts could materialize into a book and that was how #They INSpire was born. He narrates about how these 42 individuals were known to him personally and how their respective stories moved him-which answered my question about how and why these 42 runners were chosen from the 6000 odd members in the running community.

15127502_10157712181435335_1742558541_o

The conversation moves on to running related topics just as it would when 2 runners meet over coffee and talk. The discussion went on some of the running related aspects of hitting the wall, mental blocs, the competitive element which was slowly creeping in, the ideal time to migrate from a 10 k to a half and then to a full and ultra. It was intriguing listening to his words of wisdom which came from several years of running.  Some of the snippets from the interview can be read below….

 

 

  1. You have mentioned about how runners are known to ‘hit the wall’ after a point. It’s similar to the infamous writer’s bloc where an author is unable to write beyond a point. Being a runner and writer, did you ever face such a scenario? If so, how did you overcome these blocks?

 

Firstly I would say that one needs to have variety in their workouts in order to break their monotony from running. You see working people especially have that alternate corporate life to handle as well and therefore it’s important to maintain that interest levels over a long period of time. If we are mentally not there, then any kind of sport, leave alone running, will fail to give that adrenalin rush.

 

I have personally faced this wall myself especially while training for a full marathon. After 32 km, I tend to give up. To overcome this wall, it’s important to do a root cause analysis of everything right from your routine, rest period, diet, etc. I noticed that whenever I would rest well on a Saturday, my Sunday long runs become relatively easy and that infamous wall is broken. It is similar with writing as well. There are times when ideas flow like the river and times when you are unable to think of any. At that point in time, it depends on what your mental state is like. If you are undergoing a lot of pressure at work or with family commitments, then your attention and energy is diverted to those areas which prevents you from being able to write anything.  Therefore the ability to overcome the wall largely depends on your state of mind.

 

 

  1. Speaking of state of mind, running was primarily taken up by many as a stress-buster from the mayhem of the corporate and work life. However lately the competitive element seems to catching up in the running circuit where runners are stressing over their timing, eventually robbing the joy factor from this sport. What is your take on this aspect?

 

Well I have been a preacher of eliminating the stress factor while running. I believe that you are in this sport for enjoyment. In fact there was a time when I would run for timing but that was mainly to test my limits and endurance levels. Once I realized my capacity, I switched to running merely for the joy factor. This would involve calling out to runner friends, stopping to give a pat on the back, etc. Then I suddenly found myself going back to the race mode again and I missed the joyous element. That’s when realization hit me and I then decided to restrict my competitive element to just one or two races in a year while others could be done for the enjoyment factor.

 

The corporate world can be ruthless and competitive. Running was taken as a solace from this mayhem and it should be that way. However one should also retain that slight competitive element without going overboard to keep that spirit in you ignited always.

 

 

 

  1. Today’s ‘too fast too soon’ approach has replaced the slow and steady aspect causing people to switch jobs frequently, ultimately leading to a burn out. Similarly one sees this phenomenon in running as well where new runners are seen to shift from small distances to larger ones on a rapid basis which at times results in adverse effects. Being a seasoned runner yourself, what would be your advice with regards to this approach?

 

I have in fact known people who have run 5 km and immediately migrated to doing a 100 km. There is nothing wrong with that as long as they find joy in doing this transition. In my opinion, I think you should be able to enjoy something first before you think of raising the bar. It also varies from person to person depending on their body type, availability of time for recuperation, etc. For me I shifted to a full marathon only after running 26 timed half marathons. It’s all about how ready you are both physically and mentally.

 

There will be temptations to jump the gun since you see a lot of people clocking a humongous distance. But you need to evaluate your limits and capacity before doing so. The ‘too fast too soon’ approach can eventually lead to a breakdown if not monitored carefully. I know a lot of people who were quite active in the running circuit in 2009 but are nowhere to be seen now. There is a 20-30 percent drop out every year, either because they have succumbed to injuries or lost the love for running due to this ‘too fast too soon’ approach.  You must also remember that when you are running 100 km, you need to have that adequate time for recovery, else you will land up in a mess.

 

Similarly when you jump from one job to another, you CV will end up in a mess and it will appear to be one without a specific goal or purpose in life.

 

 

  1. Your writing has won you several accolades across the running community. So what do you think makes you a good writer? Does running accentuate that flair for writing?

 

I have been writing for the last 3-4 years now. In my opinion, to be a good writer, you have to be a good listener first. When you listen to people, you tend to get a lot of ideas. For instance the other day, when I was walking with my wife in a market, I was keenly observing everything around me. I felt I could create a blog and weave a story around it. I also feel that people should resonate and enjoy your writing. Therefore whenever I write, even a short status on social media, I pause to think whether people would find it funny or be able to relate to it. I usually get a lot of ideas when I am running. When I am running alone especially I get that time solely to myself which makes me think of ideas. I usually write humorous stuff as humour is my forte. At the same time I also ensure that what I write should not hurt someone which has happened earlier. So yes I feel running does give me a lot of perspective which accentuates my writing.

 

He also narrated how penning this book was a learning experience for him in many ways. This soul stirring rendezvous came to end as he narrated a possibility of another book in the future given his love for writing. ‘It was something everyone would look forward to’, I said as he acknowledged my remark with a humble smile.

 

After thanking him for his time, I walked back home recollecting the words of wisdom and the sensibilities about running.  As a runner I reflected on the reasons as to what made me take up this sport in the first place. Was it the competitive spirit, means to vent out my stress levels, mere joy, solace in having the time and roads to yourself? A little bit of all, but most importantly it was the sheer joy which was derived from those strides early in the morning while sharing your space with the first rays of the rising sun!

Feeling surreal on foreign soil -The Baystate Half Marathon experience

Running an international race was always on my bucket list ever since I started running in 2012.  It was by chance that an opportunity presented itself through an unexpected trip to the USA. It was not exactly our planned holiday. However work beckoned my husband cum running partner to the east coast and we decided to eventually combine it with a short vacation. The runner’s bug in me prompted me to scan through the races scheduled around the time we were visiting and stumbled upon the Baystate marathon. Having received good reviews about being a well organised one, the Boston qualifier aspect only proved to be an icing on the cake. I immediately signed up, brimming with excitement of running my first international race.

My first step was to assemble the appropriate attire, considering it was the onset of winter and the temperatures were most likely to dip.  Suggestions from friends who had run international races came in handy as we set off to the other side of the world. Landing in Boston, we drove down to Lovell in about 25-30 minutes, where the race was scheduled.  We had booked ourselves at the Radisson hotel, Chelmsford where the bib collection was taking place. Shuttle services were also organised by the hotel to the start point of the race which was a 10 minute drive.

We had around 4 days to acclimatize and get over our jet lag. A short 5 km run, couple of days before the race enabled me to get a fair idea about the weather and my comfort factor in being attired like an Eskimo, quite contrary to my singlet and shorts back home in humid conditions.  The weather and the scenic colours of autumn were breathtakingly beautiful and I stopped to take a few pictures of the strewn leaves on the ground adorned by different shades of green, yellow and red trees on either side of the trail. Feeling good, I returned to the hotel to collect my bib later that evening. It was a well organised affair, offering a goody bag and a T shirt for all the runners. Overwhelmed by the fact that we had come so far to run this race, the volunteers were kind enough to present my husband with a T shirt as well, despite the fact he wasn’t running this one.

Now I had no strategy or plans for this race. My philosophy has always been to enjoy every run and not stress about the time.  As I stood waiting for the shuttle at the lobby, I got myself acquainted with a couple of runners from China and also a nice gentleman whom I was seated next to in the bus. They were all running the full and were aiming to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It was intriguing listening to their running and triathlon experiences while I narrated about the running culture in India and talked about the Mumbai Road Runners’ community.

The race for both the full and the half marathon was scheduled at 8:00 am and we reached the holding area at around half past seven. It was freezing and I decided to warm up a bit. I looked around in interest, watching runners from different cultures assembling at the start point. Some of us exchanged smiles and wished each other.  I soon found myself breaking into those strides once the clock struck 8. My feet felt numb initially due to the chill weather which of course was resolved once a few miles were covered. A lot of foreigners overtook me and I could only gape in admiration at their sturdy and strong strides. Though the course was said to be a flat one, there were a few inclines present right from the beginning. I looked around and noticed the dainty array of houses on either side of the roads. Photographers were present along with a good crowd of local folks who cheered us at different junctions. After a few miles, it started getting warmer as I noticed several runners discarding their gloves and jackets on the road. The colours of autumn gleamed in the sunlight and there was this vast lake to our right, depicting a glowing shade of sparkling blue.

14793803_10157572482690335_1514883243_n

Volunteers were stationed at frequent intervals handing over water and gatorade which replenished our depleted energy levels. I felt myself cruising along the roads of Lovell and at one point was in tow with the 3:45 pacer of the full marathon before we broke into different directions. While the full marathon had pacers up to the 4 hour bus, there were none for the half marathon.  The sun began to come out in a strong manner at certain points which made me wonder for a minute if I was overdressed, only to be assured by that brush with cold air that I probably wasn’t.

When I covered about 12 km, I told myself that it was just 9 km more to go and decided to think this as a distance for ‘navrun’. ‘Navrun’ was a unique concept conceptualised by the Mumbai Road Runners as an ode to the Navratri festival every year in October of either running 9 km every day or doing different workouts for those 9 days continuously.

I was going strong until I encountered a breathing problem that was persisting me for a while which makes me feel nauseous and fatigued. It’s sort of a slight congestion of having phlegm in my chest- the one that you face when attacked by the common cold. Despite not having a cold, I would face this during my runs and was advised by my coach to see a doctor regarding this.

I paused for a few seconds and picked up pace. We were doing 2 loops of the same course and during the 2nd loop of the route; there were timers which displayed 1:40. I glanced at my watch which showed 17.7 km done. My eyes popped out wondering if I had really been going at that pace. By now the sun had come out in a fierce manner albeit there was no humidity which proved to be a blessing. I ran up the bridge and knew it was just less than 4 km to go. I psychologically tuned my mind to the home turf on marine drive in Mumbai and imagined myself to be near Chowpatty beach which was about 3.3 km till the finish point at NCPA.

For some reason I hit a wall a little ahead of the 19th km. My eyelids felt droopy depicting the jet lag I had been battling throughout the race. It felt like sleep running at some points until I derived some inspiration from a Chinese runner in the vicinity which kept me going.  It was a surreal feeling when I hit 21 km in less than 2 hours. Did I actually break the 2 hour barrier?? No pacer, no strategy, no planning. I just ran like a raw runner and actually achieved my dream on foreign soil. The medals were garlanded a little ahead of the finish line, where my husband and daughter were waiting for me.

14689297_10157562834365335_1235119782_o

Excitement filled the air as I posed with the Indian flag. The best part about this race was the fact that there was a separate medal for those who bagged their personal best timing as well. So it was a treat to bag 2 medals in a race which is considered as one of the fastest ones in the USA. I also silently thanked the weather Gods and a thought took me back to all those runners achieving a sub 2 in humid conditions back in India. Kudos to them I thought as they were definitely a tough lot.

14689882_10157562834800335_1315087221_o 14689880_10157562834885335_860855842_o 14725219_10157562835235335_814421688_o

Some of the learnings that I incorporated during this race was to ensure that I enjoy every run in the future, see a doctor the moment I land in India, include more mileage during my long runs and break the distance barrier of 21 km to prevent myself from hitting a wall.

The first of anything always bags a special place in your heart. My first international race at the Baystate Half marathon will always be special, not because of my personal best timing but the entire experience of running with people from different cultures was something which words cannot describe. Incredible?  Scintillating? Riveting? Maybe something more than that!

 

 

Gripped by the fitness mania- The Navrun 2016 experience

9 days, 9 km , 9 colours,
What’s life without a bit of fervour?
It was runners way of celebrating Navaratri,
While the others fast, dance , dine or sway in awry.

First day portrayed shades of grey,
Dull and gloomy unlikely the Suns ray.
However adorning orange the next day,
Made us feel happy and gay.

Day 3 saw us all in white,
A peaceful shade warding  off any demons or a fight.
Red followed suit in confidence and grandeur,
Increasing the energy levels to a notch higher.

Navy blue embarked day five,
Exuding a sense of glory with its deep dye.
Contrast to this shade so deep,
Came the colour yellow with a loud beep,
Enough to send us into a joyful cheer,
Demolishing our inner doubts and the slightest fear.

As Day 7 saw us adorn a bright green,
Nature’s colour made our faces beam.
Strutting about  with confidence and pride,
The peacock green shade on day 8 enhanced our stylish stride.

Day 9 in purple made us feel like royalty,
Our commitment towards navrun quite evident with our loyalty.
Those Non stop workouts for 9 days,
Made us feel quite in a daze.

Just as we were wanting more,
The extra 2 days this year made our spirits soar.
The Sky blue Colour on day ten,
Made us feel calmer as though we were in heaven.

The last day arrived in a blink,
While we beautified ourselves in pink.
These 11 days of the festive mode,
Took us through the good health road.

We were all on cloud nine,
As we geared up to dance and dine.
Whether it was a garba or dandiya,
We were all by now gripped by the fitness mania.

14697119_10157525148785335_1713007720_o

‘#They INSpire’: A marathon read of extraordinary souls

Every person certainly has a story behind them which can often be crafted into a book or a movie. It especially turns into an enthralling one when the protagonist has battled several odds and resurfaced with a new identity altogether. It’s a sort of metamorphosis on a physical, emotional and psychological level which makes it seem like a reincarnation during the same lifetime.  It thereby results in a journey by itself, enough to intrigue and inspire other fellow humans to take up challenges and go beyond their comfort zones.

Such is often the story of sportspersons especially those of runners who have an intriguing story behind those confident and majestic strides. ‘#They INSpire’ authored by Lt Cdr Bijay Nair (Retd), also one of the admin of the largest running community called Mumbai Road Runners, takes the readers through an incredible marathon journey of 42 runners who share their stories from being ordinary to extraordinary individuals while displaying their humbling and stirring feats.

The book starts off as a tribute to runners which explains the several sacrifices that they have to make while pursuing their passion while juggling between their professional and family commitments. A special mention is dedicated to women runners who have pursued running seriously amidst those flurry of several roles that is required of them.

The following chapters takes one through a Q and A format with these incredible beings who describe on how they embarked the journey with running, their goals, favourite quotes and enriching tips for upcoming runners. It is fascinating to note the sheer joy that each of these runners exhibit while narrating their experiences and making their transformational experience quite apparent. Spread over diverse backgrounds and age groups from corporate professionals, army, sports backgrounds to gold jewellery polishers, it was absorbing to read about their setbacks ranging from loss of a loved one, financial constraints, loss of vision and a leg. Yet their spirits remain undeterred as they have defied age and conceptualized the saying ‘It’s never too late to start anything’ nor have they mulled over regrets of not having started earlier. Some have even turned into full time coaches and motivational speakers, as a means to create a difference to others’ lives.

Written in a simplistic yet impactful style, Nair weaves his stories like a continuous thread that takes you through the marathon journey encountering several individuals which makes it a riveting learning experience. The book is bound to appeal to the running community largely. However its element of the inspirational dose of defying odds will find its way through the hearts of non-runners as well who will be compelled enough to take to fitness in a large manner if they haven’t laced up  already to hit the roads with a vengeance.

‘#They INSpire’ is not a book. It’s a journey interspersed with the philosophy of being a good runner and most importantly a good human being. The sensibilities shared by these experienced individuals will force every runner to reflect on their respective journeys and retrace their thought processes as to why they decided to venture into one of oldest sports that required bare minimum essentials in the first place.  In this fast paced world which is gripped by the phenomena of ‘too fast too soon’ at an alarming rate, the happiness and contentment exhibited by these individuals come across as a breath of fresh air.

14522053_10157462415310335_448808494_o

 

Publisher: The Write Place

Price: Rs 250

 

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

Navrun-A unique concept by the Mumbai road runners which introduced a novel way of celebrating Navratri. 9 days, 9 colours and running 9 km every one of those 9 days was our runners way of basking in the festivities. 2015 was my first tryst with this novel concept and it was lots of fun, adorning those resplendent colours and sharing your updates on social media. Befriended quite a number of people in the process. Reminiscing the entire journey as I gear up for Navrun 3.0 this year. Thank you Bijay Nair. 
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 ‘Navrun’ 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 albeit 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 these colours reflected the particular state of mind which influenced that particular 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 53 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 colour white on day 7 awakened my inner peace and incidentally its a colour I identify with as my name ‘Sweth’ indicates the same. Day 8 saw me in the ‘pink’ of health literally as I adorned a pink shirt during my strides. Day 9 depicted a lot of clarity in thought just like the clear skies on a spring money.  Clad in a blue t shirt, I finished the last stretch of Navrun successfully with a huge smile on my face.
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.
 14458974_10157433738825335_26089334_n
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 Navrun capitalised on, 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….

Learning on the run -The Bhumi India Run experience

September 11th,2016

There are times when you run for your personal best, probably a podium finish or on a tough terrain to move out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to do something remarkable. However there are instances when you set aside your personal aspirations and decide to make a difference with your strides, where you end up learning something that humbles you as a person.

The Bhumi India run held at Bandra Fort this morning was one such event which was devoid of any timing chip and runners came together to run for a cause- raising funds for supporting education for underprivileged kids. When runner friend Bhavana Diyora invited me to be a part of this run, I gladly obliged. Incidentally, it also turned out to be an educational experience for me as a runner and a person.

It was a 10 k run and I had decided to go easy on this one, considering that I had been racing non-stop for the last 4 weekends.  The route took us through the scenic side of carter road, where we were treated to a splendid sight of the rocks and the pristine blue Arabian Sea on the left. On the right, we passed the luxurious Taj Lands end Hotel and super star Shahrukh Khan’s bungalow called Mannat usually thronged by the fans of the actor. It reminded me of the movie ‘Fan’ which I had recently watched on television. However not being a ‘jabra fan’, I didn’t care to stop to spread my arms and gaze in a starry eyed manner at this mansion.  I chose to focus on my strides instead.

It was a similar route of the IDBI federal Mumbai half marathon promo run which was held sometime in April this year. It brought back some fun memories as I recollected those friendly shouts to fellow runners across the road. The Bhumi India run had volunteers present at every nook and corner. They guided runners on the right track, clapping, cheering and ensuring that the vehicles do not cross our paths. There was a certain amount of traffic that morning due to the Mount Mary fair that was being held. Aid stations serving water and Tata Gluco plus were present at frequent intervals along with the photographers who were there to click our photos.

Now every time I decide to take a run easy, be it a race or a practice run, my mind is free from the pressure of timing which compels me to push whenever I felt like it. So after a while, I decided to increase my pace. The course consisted of a few inclines and there was one steep one at the 5 km mark. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed running up this slope, quite contradictory to my usual response towards hills where my eyes would widen with terror. Like a child playing on a seesaw, I smiled as I went up and down these inclines.

On the way back, I waved at some familiar faces and continued the strides. As we neared the 9th km mark, we were blessed with heavy showers, drenching us to the hilt.  The wet clothes weighed us down but not our spirits as we sprinted towards the finish line with the Garmin showing 57 minutes.  I was eager to go catch up with my runner friends and waited impatiently for the rains to subside. After collecting the medal, I met several of them and posed for the customary clicks which I usually term as ‘memoirs of the race euphoria’ i.e. memories of a good time at any event.  We collected our breakfast in a box which comprised of samosas and gulab jamuns, along with a packet of chips.

We headed towards the stage, from where we could catch the magnificent view of the Bandra-Worli sea link.  Some announcements were made and I soon turned my attention towards the dais as I recognised runner friend cum MRR admin cum an amazing writer-Bijay Nair’s voice on the mike. Listening to his journey was inspiring as he talked about his astounding transformation from being an overweight person to a fit runner that he is today. Also being from the naval forces, his speech held pride as he spoke about his upcoming book ‘#They INSpire’ where’INS’ depicted a tribute to the navy. The book consisted of enthralling stories of several runners who had battled against several odds in order to achieve the impossible which constituted their respectable position in the runners’ community today.

14339296_10157382669775335_717128597_o 14339842_10157382670730335_80784965_o

After this, the stage made way for yet another awe inspiring runner-Satish Gujaran who is a 7 time comrades finisher. Comrades  is a race held at South Africa every year in the month of May and a test of human endurance where one was required to complete 89 km within 12 hours.

I had met Satish several times and found him to be a humble person despite his extraordinary achievements. I listened to him intently while he was narrating his transitional journey from being a chain smoker who could barely run 500 m to now a runner who runs a whopping distance of 89 km every year in South Africa.  He recommended the step by step approach for a runner while making a transition from a 5k to an ultra-runner and also stressed about respecting one’s body by doing the necessary medical check-ups on a regular basis.

14215632_10157382671695335_890317979_o 14315487_10157382669190335_1977200411_o

He went on to narrate a solemn experience of his friend-a runner from China who was extremely fit and yet met with a tragic end post a run.  In relation to this, he talked about the importance of knowing the art of dealing with emergency situations when a runner falls unconscious or when his/her heart beat stops. He also mentioned the importance of wearing a wrist band which carries one’s blood group and emergency number to be contacted during such grave instances.  As he concluded on a light note, I processed all that I had learnt post this event.

I have always believed that every run was a learning experience and a test of our physical and mental abilities. However the learning that I imbibed from the Bhumi India run was an enriching one with the speeches deeply ingrained in my mind as I came out as a wiser soul.

Incidentally this run was to promote education for the underprivileged section of the society and yet I realised how privileged I was to have educated myself this morning. No doubt the saying goes that learning indeed is a continuous process.

Thank you Bhavana for inviting me to be a part of this run, Bijay and Satish for your inspiring and informative speeches, volunteers for doing a commendable job and photographers for making our runs memorable.