Monthly Archives: February 2016

Luck by Chance- An unexpected tryst with Pat Farmer

It was one of those normal evenings, when my editor casually asked me to have a look at a piece of news covered on the website which I work for. The title caught my attention instantly as it read “ Marathon man Pat Farmer to run from Kanyakumari to Kashmir”. “Wow! What a guy”, I thought as I read the article with great enthusiasm. He was a former member of the parliament who had undertaken this robust task to raise funds for the girl child education, which is the Nanhi Kali program of Mahindra and Mahindra. Being a runner myself, I was elated when my editor asked to me to pursue this story and interview Pat.

Gathering my network through various sources, I finally managed to touch base with the right contacts who would help me get through to Pat Farmer. He had commenced his run on Jan 26th from Kanyakumari and would land in Mumbai on February 17th. ‘It would be great if runners could accompany Pat’, I was told which propelled me to encourage my family of runners from Mumbai road runners (MRR) to join this expedition till whatever distance they could while Pat was in Mumbai.

The D day arrived with the route schedule not arriving till the last moment. I could barely sleep that night due to a strange combination of excitement and anxiety. We reached Turbhe flyover at Vashi, where the run was supposed to start. It was still dark considering it was barely 5 am with trucks moving up the highway at a fast pace. We stood in zest holding posters saying ‘Mumbai Road Runners (MRR) welcomes you Pat”. Our guest finally arrived.

Now whenever you meet a fellow runner, it feels like you are meeting a long lost friend as you start bonding from the word go. That’s exactly what happened with Pat. After a round of introduction about the running community and photographs, we set off. The route had changed from what it was stated earlier. Nevertheless we decided to prod on this road less travelled, joined by other fellow MRR runners midway.

Amicably chatting with Pat about Cricket, the weather, Mumbai city and the incessant honking which apparently amused him, we ran along, followed by his crew, right behind us in a car and the traffic police in front, shooing all the other vehicles to give us space. It was truly a celebrity moment as we continued our strides smiling at the astonished faces of the onlookers. The weather wasn’t exactly at its best with the sudden soar in the humidity levels. However we managed to keep pace with Pat. We passed Tata institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and after reaching a point at Chembur, east, we had completed over 13 km. At this point, we decided to bid Pat goodbye as I was planning to meet him later that afternoon to interview him and needed to prepare for it.

It was one of those rare yet delightful moments where my profession (journalism) and passion (running) had come together. As a journalist, it’s interesting to meet people from different walks of life, which enhances my learning curve and growth as a person. It was intriguing to learn about how and why Pat got into running. As I wrapped up my day with this incredible long distance runner, I wished him good luck with his remaining miles. No doubt, with every mile, he was bound to bring a smile on to the faces of little children especially the nanhi kalis!

 

‘Unstoppable’: A running related book about defying odds to run miles

I was first introduced to Mr. Venkatraman Pichumani on Jan 8th 2016 at the SCMM expo by a friend-Vikas Sharma, who had one of his stalls of his company, Dr. Cool there. I found Mr Pichumani to be an extremely warm and unassuming person. Little did I realize that there existed a story behind this nice demeanour just like the ones that prevailed in every runner’s life, only this one being a little appalling and awe-inspiring.

My second meeting with him took place on Feb 7th 2016 at the footsteps4good event, where my husband and I just finished a 10 km run. He was standing near the finish line cheering a middle aged man, running 10 km, to keep going. ‘He was a heart patient’ he told us and that’s when he revealed his own story about being a cardiac bypass patient who took to running and is now promoting running for good health under the banner of ‘youtoocanrun.’

Feeling intrigued I went home and immediately ordered a copy of his new book ‘Unstoppable’ which consisted of 9 inspiring stories of people who had overcome their barriers to fight their way through the finish line.

The foreword by running veteran Fauja Singh was enough to set those pages turning as I got absorbed in the book for an hour. Each story was riveting and intense, be it someone overcoming poverty, their fight with cancer, running with a prosthetic limb, battling obesity, age, alcoholic addiction and blindness or an entrepreneur overcoming a brain surgery to discover the joy of running.

Embracing the second chance that life hand handed them, each individual lapped it up in delight without any trace of bitterness. They had clearly put their painful past behind them, ready to move ahead with those rhythmic strides and conquer the roads. I now vowed to vanquish that impudent voice which says “why does it happen only to me?”, whenever I face a downfall.

As I turned the last page, I was filled with admiration at these spirited stories of human triumph which exhibited nothing short of a fairy tale ending. It banished those old age belief that ‘happily ever after endings’ ceased to exist only in those Grimm Brothers tales of castles and kingdoms.

As a runner especially, I often tend to look for some source of inspiration in the form of a book, movie or a living person. Venkatraman’s book co-authored with journalist Padmaja Shastri certainly gave a good dose of the inspiration pill. Just reading about these 9 determined individuals who broke all barriers to achieve milestones, reaffirmed my faith in the saying that ‘Impossible is nothing’. It enabled me to relearn the joy of living and running which we often lose out in the quest to race against time. As the title suggests, this book is indeed an ‘unstoppable’ read.

Continue reading ‘Unstoppable’: A running related book about defying odds to run miles

Masti at the Valentine run-the HTHM experience

So the D day finally arrived and no we aren’t talking about SCMM here. It was the much hyped Valentine’s Day. Now over time, I had evolved from the conventional celebration mode of flowers and candle light dinners to someone whose idea of a date was to indulge in an outdoor activity. The Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon couldn’t have been scheduled at a better day-February 14th and we couldn’t think of a better way to spend the day other than striding across the roads of Mumbai at the break of dawn. The fact that some of our MRR pals were also running, soared our spirits at the prospective of meeting some of them.

After the arduous back to back half marathon events at Mumbai and Chennai and the 10 k at footsteps4good last week, we decided to go easy on this one, opting to do a 10 k green run instead. Wiping out the pressure and pace from our minds, we decided to just enjoy this run for a change and bask in the glory of the brilliant weather we were blessed with today. It was a ball from the word go, despite being an incline terrain. The place being beautifully lit up and decorated with balloons were a treat to our eyes. We caught sight of our few friends during the course of the run and managed to wave and pose for one of our dear friends cum photographer –Chetan at the 9th km mark.

We crossed the finish line in 58 minutes and it was party from there on as we stopped to chat with our MRR friends. From the mandatory clicks, lively chatter, laughs and jokes floating around, we were literally transported back to our carefree college days. We realized that when we decide to just enjoy a race, not only do we achieve a decent timing but most importantly we take back a beautiful experience and the ecstatic moments which cannot beat the euphoria even when we achieve our PBs.

Someone once told us the importance of stopping to smell the roses once in a while. We sure did that today. After all, what’s a Valentine’s Day without smelling the roses albeit they were imaginary ones? J

Happy Valentine’s Day dear fellow runners! May our love for running never die! Cheers!

“A Goodhearted run”: The footsteps4good experience

A friend had suggested to me before SCMM that I should try running for a cause as the feeling of doing so is much more gratifying. I mulled over it and replied in affirmative stating that when the opportunity arises I will do so.

Indeed the opportunity did present itself when running veteran and a person whom I greatly admire-Sayuri Dalvi asked me if I was willing to run for a cause at the Footsteps4 good event dated on Feb 7th. Being just the week after The Wipro Chennai marathon, I hesitated initially but she assured me saying that it was just a 10 km run to which I happily agreed.

The NGO I was to run for was called Marys clan which helped in the rehabilitation of destitute alcoholics and assisted them to regain sobriety. They took care of our registrations and the fees were donated to the NGO along with the prize money in case the runner either had a podium or a top 10 finish. While collecting the bibs on Friday, I got to hear about the intriguing and moving story of how ‘Marys clan’ was initially founded back in the 80s. Apparently these alcoholic souls were discarded from their own families even after they were cured. Such instances evoke mixed feelings within you- while you are thankful for what you are blessed with, you are also appalled hearing about the plight of fellow humans who are subjected to such harshness. Sort of reminded me of the day and night image of the earth we were taught in our geography lessons-where one side was subjected to light while the other was a complete black out.

With such thoughts embedded in my head, I reached home determined to push myself at the race as a token of doing my bit for them. Now I still hadn’t recovered from my 21 km in Chennai, added to which I was suffering a mild chest congestion, which I thought would disappear by just drinking gallons of hot water.

Sunday dawned nice and chill-an ideal weather to give your best. The event was being held at MMRDA grounds at BKC and was scheduled to start at 6:30 am. The atmosphere was buzzing with various stalls by NGOs, a good mix of enthusiastic runners- some of my friends from MRR and a lot of expats. What made this race different from the rest was the fact that everybody was running for a cause more than for themselves. In a way that makes you push beyond your limits than what you would do when you are just running for yourself and that’s precisely what I did.

From the word go, I set off like a dragon with steel in my eyes and heart, ignoring the little imp called fatigue initially. It was still dark and we were surrounded by nothing but those lifeless commercial buildings all around. A couple of volunteers stood by clapping and handing out water. At the 5 km mark, I started coughing and felt a little nauseous-a similar feeling I had encountered in the Chennai marathon which at that time I had attributed to the humid and oppressive weather. I stopped in my tracks, took a sip of Gatorade and continued my pace. My legs looked strong, yet my lungs did not give me the allowance to push further than my normal pace.

I stopped again at the 8 km point much to the surprise of my running partner cum husband. ‘Just 2 km’ he said signalling with his fingers as my ears were firmly plugged to my ipod speakers blaring a peppy EDM number. I shook my head in despair as I mouthed stating ‘I am unable to push further’. I watched in dismay as 3 expats overtook me at that point. On other days I wouldn’t have turned a hair, but today was different. I wanted to finish among the top 10, for those discarded beings, whom I was running for, so that my prize money would go towards their betterment. I put my best foot forward and dashed again. On normal days I would end up overtaking people at the 9th km juncture but today was just not my day. My lungs refused to comply even though my legs were eager to push. I crossed the finish line in 57 minutes.

Not a bad timing but for the first time, I lacked the feeling of the famous runner’s high. I was disappointed that I could not finish among the top 10 and do my bit for ‘Marys Clan’ in a way I had hoped to, despite the fact I had pre-warned them not to have any expectations from me as I had not recovered fully. In a way I felt that I had let the NGO down, despite the owner reassuring me that I had done my best.

I sat down on the chair and gathered my thoughts. I was probably being too hard on myself by taking my body for granted and not giving it adequate rest. Maybe I was pushing it beyond its capacity. I recollected that a person whom I had interviewed recently told me that one should learn to choose their races and not expect to run every race, by drawing parallels to the famous hare and the tortoise story. I realized that following the tortoise’s philosophy of stopping to smell the roses should be incorporated in some runs.

As I looked up at the cheerful faces around me, I realized that I had run with my heart today, for a noble cause and that’s what mattered. My sensibilities soon returned as I went and collected the breakfast of sandwiches and muffins. I stood there with my hubby, watching the music and dance show put up by the special kids wearing their warm hearted smiles.

During the drive back home, I realized that running for a cause taught me some vital lessons. I may not have necessarily bagged my personal best or that podium finish but I certainly did win a million hearts. Today I felt that I had come out as a better person with a sense of fulfillment, if not a better runner.

 

Humid yet spirited- The Wipro Chennai Marathon experience

                         

Doing a 21 km event within a span of just 2 weeks seemed a little overwhelming considering the fact, we were not ultra-marathoners. However we decided to make it an exception for The Wipro Chennai Marathon this time. Earlier scheduled on December 13th 2015, we signed up for it with great gusto, having had a good experience in the 2014 edition. This gave us a good 4 weeks to recover before the much hyped Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon which was slated to be on January 17th 2016.

 

However as the saying goes’ Man proposes, God disposes’ things didn’t exactly go as per schedule as nature decided to lash out its fury causing a deluge. The torrential flooding left the city handicapped which of course propelled the organisers to postpone the event with all due sensitivities, given the grave situation.

Having been a part of the city in the past, we felt miserable on seeing the appalling conditions that it was subjected to. Feeling crippled and helpless, all we could do is manage a meagre contribution and offer our heartfelt prayers.         The city soon limped back to normalcy and the new date allotted was Jan 31st 2016, exactly 2 weeks after SCMM.

The Mumbai marathon went by in a jiffy and we had barely recovered from the run. However we were determined to run another 21 km in Chennai as a mark of our solidarity, considering what the city had been through. This was one of those rare occasions where my heart ruled over my head as TWCM 2014 was my first half marathon 8 months after my delivery and instrumental in restoring my confidence as a runner. So in a way, I was indebted to this event.

We were given a warm welcome by the Chennai Runners during the bib collection as we introduced ourselves as a part of the Mumbai Road runners. After a friendly chat, we headed home to catch our forty winks, considering the fact that we had to be up at 3:00 am as our race started at 4:30 am.

The holding area was bustling with people wearing blue (this edition’s colour T shirt which was a part of the goody bag along with a Gatorade bottle), green and multiple colours, doing their warm ups sincerely. One would have expected the weather Gods to play it cool, considering it was still winter, technically speaking, unless one moved over to the southern hemisphere. However Chennai conditions took the tag of giving a ‘warm’ welcome a bit too seriously as the humidity slowly began to seep in. The race flagged off and the weather showed no signs of relenting, leaving us to huff and puff as we ran along the roads of South Chennai.

The water stations were adequately placed as the enthusiastic volunteers came towards us handing cups of water and Gatorade which we gulped down as a soother to our parched throats and muttered a breathless ‘thanks’. The route saw us through the Madhya Kailash temple, Tidel Park, the Adyar flyover, Santhome church before we reached the famous Marina Beach. Now this was the beautiful part of the race as we ran along the world’s second largest beach. Last year, we had managed to catch the beautiful glimpse of sunrise. But this year the mighty Bay of Bengal eluded us by submerging in the twilight zone. The cool and gentle breeze at this stretch provided some relief to the oppressive conditions that we were subjected to earlier. We turned at the 12 km mark and prepared ourselves to get to the finish line without feeling like a lame and burnt out duck.

Now this is where the 2:10 pacers came in handy. We somehow found ourselves in the company of these jovial and sturdy chaps holding the balloons like an arm candy. It was sort of a friendly one up-manship game here, where we tried to run ahead of these pacers thinking that even if we lost steam, we would still be around this time zone.

 

We ran past Santhome church again where we offered a silent prayer, crossed the Adyar Bridge and by this time our energy levels were depleted. As we stopped in our tracks, a fellow runner tapped us and encouraged us to go on which set off those strides again. Up the flyover we went, scrambled down and after a short distance we saw that ‘just 1 km to go’ sign. Gathering all our energy from the reserve, we set off like race horses sprinting that last km till we crossed the finish line just behind our balloon men.

“Good running”, they said as we nodded with a faint smile and a thumbs up. If the humidity levels deterred our spirts, the medals and the sumptuous South Indian breakfast comprising of Kesari, Vada, Pongal, Idlis managed to bring back the smiles on to our faces. We left the grounds on a high note after thanking the 2:10 pacers, relief written all over our faces of having braved the infamous Chennai humidity.

A big thanks to Chennai Runners for their undying spirit of bringing back the city from the deluge and conducting the event successfully, volunteers, photographers and the traffic police who often have a thankless job. It may not be a place to attain your personal best, given the humid conditions. Yet the undying, enthusiastic and contagious spirit is what propels us to go back to the next edition.