Monthly Archives: August 2016

Being a ‘High’ Point Someone-The IIT Bombay monsoon run experience

Not all races are meant to be run with a competitive spirit. Some need to be enjoyed for its scenic route and the views that you would normally not be treated to, especially in a crowd jostling city like Mumbai.  Being a nature lover, I often found solace in running amidst the shrubs and trees-a sort of gratification which the traffic laden roads failed to offer. So when Ram Venkatraman- a seasoned runner cum the MRR (Mumbai Road runners) admin asked me if I had ever run in IIT Bombay campus, proclaiming the picturesque route that it offered, I immediately signed up for the 11k run at IIT Bombay Monsoon run event.

Considering it was just a week after the IDBI federal Mumbai marathon where I had run a gruelling 21.1 km, my coach Samir Singh asked me to take this one easy. Continuous pushing, he said, would drain my reserves and could result in fatigue with a probability of injury or so. “Choose your races appropriately and just run the others for your own personal satisfaction”, were his golden words.

It was raining cats and dogs on the race day, quite living up to the name- the monsoon run. We finally arrived at the IIT campus where we were dropped off at the gate as outside vehicles were barred from entering inside. The start line was still a good 1 km away and the runners could avail the services of the bus and auto rickshaws to take us to the holding area-a thoughtful initiative offered by the organisers. When we reached the holding area, there was still ten minutes left before the 11K race commenced as we basked in the lively spirit of IITians and our run buddies.

Now IIT always aroused my curiosity, considering how it was the aspiration for many.  Students dedicating their heart and soul into the entrance exams by toiling for months which reminded me of the preparations that a runner goes through especially while training for a full marathon. Those days of waking up early, compromising your social life and dedicating several hours of running on the road was certainly no piece of cake.

As clock struck 6:30 am, I began the race, this time not in the quest for a PB but to get a tour of the vivid surroundings of one of the most prestigious colleges in India. The first kilometre was a little crowded and it was difficult to overtake another person for the fear of shoving or pushing them unnecessarily. Slowly and gradually I paved my way through the army of striders, taking a good look at the scenery. I spotted a small lake at the 2 km mark along with lush greenery that adorned both sides of the roads. We ran through a patch of shrubs which opened out into a forest like area before we hit the roads again. The route certainly was not a cake walk as it consisted of some rolling inclines, similar to the ones at Aarey milk colony (situated in eastern suburb of Mumbai).  However there were water stations at every 2.5 km with energetic volunteers fervently handing out those tiny Bisleri bottles that runners could carry with them during the run.

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The trees formed an arch casting a gloomy shadow on the pathway which was enhanced by the dark looming clouds ready to burst into a shower. I could spot some large patches of green to my right. ‘Probably designed for hockey and football’, I thought, as I cast an admiring look at the well-manicured lawns. As I cruised along, I got a glimpse of the residential quarters, laboratories and research centres. These sights reminded me of the movie ‘3 Idiots’ based on the novel ‘Five Point Someone’, which brought an amused smile to my face as I recollected some of the comical scenes from the film.

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I soon spotted a steep incline ahead of me. Despite the vigorous hill training sessions for the last couple of months, I always get a little nervous on spotting a slope. Suddenly a famous line from the movie popped up in my head which aided me through this patch. ‘Aal izz well, aal izz well’ I told myself as I swung my hands upwards and cruised through the incline. I heaved a sigh of relief when I ran downhill and was instantly treated to a mesmerising sight of mist up the mountains in yonder.

Basking in the tranquillity of the surroundings, I soon got immersed in my thoughts as I listened to the music playing on my ipod. It was the Eagle number from an old band called Abba which sang out the lyrics ‘Flying high, high I’m a bird in the sky, I’m the eagle that rides on the breeze…’ Imagining myself to be a bird, I went into a meditative mode and began to pick up pace as the rains came pelting down. I soon passed the 10 km mark and before I knew it I crossed the finish line where I joined Amit-my hubby cum running partner.

After receiving the medals, we posed for some pictures which were clicked by the photographers at the event. A good breakfast of sandwiches, salad and hummus was served for the runners post the run.

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The best part about any race is engaging in a tete-e-tete with our runner friends and hearing about their special experiences. Whether it is about their training for the upcoming races, discussing the route which we had just run or something unique which they had encountered. For instance, one of my friends Ravi Malhan was vividly describing about his unexpected run in with film actor Siddharth Malhotra (of ‘Student of the year’ fame) while searching for the baggage counter and how he had a conversation with him. Apparently Siddharth had been invited for the IIT Bombay monsoon run event and we had unfortunately missed seeing him.

It was still pouring incessantly as we walked back towards the entrance. We soon parted ways bidding goodbyes as we were heading home in different directions. I looked back at the enthralling campus, glad to have been a part of IIT in some form, even if it didn’t mean cracking the intimidating IIT-JEE (not that engineering was of my area of specialisation) or attaining the status of a five point someone. However considering that I had encountered the runners’ high, I was contended just being a ‘High’ point someone!!

Thank you Ram for giving us this wonderful opportunity to run amidst this beautiful campus, volunteers and photographers for their selfless gestures, the students of IIT B for giving us a good experience of running this one.

 

Run on Home turf- the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Mumbai half marathon experience

Being residents of Colaba/Cuffe parade for the last ten years, the iconic landmarks such as the Gateway of India, Taj Mahal Hotel, Oval Maidan and Marine drive always caught our fancy whenever we would go cycling or do our long runs. It made us wonder why a marathon could not be organised in this part of town. Of course the famous Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon did take us through the route of Marine Drive. However besides that there wasn’t any other race conducted around this area. Little did we realize that our wish would be granted soon.

In April 2016, we got to hear that a marathon was being held in South Mumbai by Nagaraj Adiga along with an accomplished and well known couple in the running circuit- Sunil Shetty and Sangeeta Shetty. The several promo runs organised in different parts of the city gave us a preview of what runners could expect from the main event which was to be held on August 21st. We signed up for it instantly.

The IDBI Federal Life insurance Mumbai half marathon as it is called, commenced at 5:45 am from Oval Maidan. For once we had the luxury of waking up at leisure, instead of the usual 3:00 am routine that we were normally accustomed to while doing other events. It was not more than a couple of km away from our residence and we were excited at the prospect of running in our own backyard.

It was the usual camaraderie of cheerful greetings and chirpy chatter with our fellow runners as we assembled near the start line. All on a sudden, shouts of “Sachin Sachin” filled the air, taking us back to the Wankhede stadium during the IPL and other matches. As we looked up, we were thrilled to see the renowned Indian Cricketer wave to us from the side stage. It sort of gave us that initial boost in our strides as we geared up to conquer the lanes of SOBO (South Bombay).   Now at the start of the race, my running partner cum husband-Amit had suggested that we follow the 2 hour bus to which I raised my eyebrows doubtfully but finally relented to keep pace as long as I could.

The route took us through the lanes of Colaba where we were sandwiched between the intimidating Gateway of India & the alluring Taj Mahal Palace hotel. A wave of nostalgia took over as our previous residence was very close to the Gateway of India. We soon ventured into Colaba causeway-a place where the famous Cafe Mondegar and Leopold were located.  We proceeded towards Cuffe Parade-my current neighbourhood where we crossed the Taj President Hotel generic celebrex.

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As the minutes ticked by, the humidity levels soared with the rains doing their disappearing act. It was clear that the weather Gods were in no mood to relent. The pacer was well within my sight till about 8 km after which the heat took a toll on my body which was just recovering from the gruelling Durshet Forest half marathon which I had run just 2 weeks ago. Fortunately the aid stations at every kilometre mark came to our rescue as the volunteers fervently handed over water and enerzals, boosting the runners’ energy levels along with the much needed morale. “Bless them” I thought to myself. “If we achieve our goals and target in a race, it’s all because of these selfless souls who aid us through the entire journey.”

As we turned at a particular juncture, I caught sight of a few fellow runners and greeted them with a smile and a wave. Somehow it gave me a sense of comfort that I wasn’t alone in this arduous journey to the finish line which made me stronger. I decided to focus on my strides, determined not to be bogged down by the warm weather and turned up the volume of my ipod speakers a notch higher.

We soon reached NCPA to run along Marine drive- reminding me of all my practice runs here, ever since I took up running. Surprisingly the usually cool sea breeze decided to elude us as well and the oppressive climate was showing no signs of mercy.  As far as I was concerned, it was war. My strides were strong and I wasn’t about to let Mr. Sun play spoilsport to my rhythmic strides. “Now look” I told myself.  “You have run this route before-be it peak summers, humid conditions and chill winters. You own this road and nothing can stop you unless you want it to.”

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I swung my arms furiously, ran along Marine drive and turned at Wilson College. This stretch reminded me of the last 4 km of the SCMM route. “Alright, I can do this”. I said to myself. Every time I crossed a kilometre mark, I would silently cheer. I soon reached the Intercontinental Hotel which was to my right and it was just a km to go from there on.

Something snapped inside me at that point as I suddenly recollected the words of my coach- Samir Singh. “When you see that finish line, give it all you have and finish strong.” I increased my pace and started sprinting, oblivious to everything else but the finish line. “The final leg of the war”, I thought. The timing mat was visible and with just a few strides, I finally embraced the finish line in a strong manner.

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I sat down, suddenly feeling drained of all my resources, managing to finish in a decent time of 2:11. I must have looked dazed and zonked as a few of my runner friends Manasi, Rupal and Rodman asked me if I was fine. I nodded my head. Spotting Ashok Sir with his camera, I smiled and posed weakly. I vaguely remember Sunil Shetty-the organiser tapping me on the shoulder as I turned to congratulate him on a well conducted event.

After regaining my energy levels, I collected my medal, met my runner friends, clicked the customary photographs and headed towards breakfast which was a lavish buffet spread of Poha, Upma, Sheera and wada Pav.

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As I left the ground, I realised that being on home turf, this race had ended up being a psychological battle more than anything, considering the tough conditions we were subjected to and despite being given a beautiful and most importantly a flat track.

Thank you Nagaraj Adiga, Sunil Shetty and Sangeeta Shetty for a well organised event, the breakfast which catered to our famished appetites, volunteers for their unconditional support and the photographers for making every race memorable.

 

 

The Green carpet welcome- the Durshet Forest marathon experience

    Beauty always comes at a price. Little did we realise that this exorbitant price would involve steep slopes and slushy mud paths where every step had to be watched with a hawk’s eye.

This was our second time at the Durshet Forest marathon. Situated at Khopoli, about 8.6 km from Adlabs imagica, it was just an hour and a half hour drive from Mumbai in the wee hours of the morning. Accompanied by our two runner buddies Rodman and Sunil Talwar, we headed towards the Durshet Forest lodge, indulging in animated chatter throughout the journey.

It was a carnival like atmosphere when we reached there. Meeting our runner buddies felt a tad more special, considering it was friendship day which was followed by warm hugs and cheerful hi fives. Some of our pals were doing a relaxed 10 km while my hubby and I, along a few others opted for the 21 km. The 32 km race had already commenced an hour back.  We assembled near the start line, waiting for the flag off.

At 7:00 am sharp we set off, the initial 200 metres being a downhill start, before setting foot on the tar roads for about 2km, after which the smooth roads paved way to an uneven terrain of rocky pathways and rolling hills.  The unmistakable cascade of greenery was a visual treat to our eyes and it literally felt like a green carpet welcome. The mystical woods looked even more beautiful in the monsoons with the streams gushing gently on either side.

As we continued our strides, we soon encountered muddy slushes-an after effect of the torrid rains the day before. Added to which, the humidity levels soared with not a speck of rain that particular day.

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Now running on the roads was one thing and running on pebbly pathways where a slip and a fall could result in a severely bruised knee, was a different thing altogether. It seemed to zap our energy levels to an extent that we were drained after 5 km.  Fortunately there were aid stations with volunteers at every kilometre mark, handing over water, enerzal and bananas. A sip of enerzal did wonders as we prepared ourselves for a long road ahead.

At the 7th km, we were greeted by a steep gigantic slope. I remember staggering up this incline like an old woman with a hunchback, last year. However this time, I fought my mental block and ran up fiercely, determined not to let the hill get the better of me. The village folk cheered us on as we turned at the 8 km mark and descended downhill, encouraging our fellow runners who were struggling with this monstrous incline.

I relaxed and decided to bask in the beauty of the surroundings. Running in the forest tends to remind me of stories that I have read during my childhood. The pebbles on the muddy route took me back to the story of Hansel and Gretel, where Hansel left a trail of the same to get back to his cottage from the woods.  I spotted a huge tree at a distance which traced me back to the magic faraway tree story with its queer folk of pixies, elves and gnomes residing in it. Just as I was smiling at these pleasant memories, we were asked to turn back and follow the loop up to that horrid slope again.

The 21 km route had apparently changed from the previous edition. I stared in disbelief and managed to conquer that incline once again and came gliding down smoothly, subsumed again in my thoughts about the peculiar creatures from Grimm Brother’s fairy tales and Enid Blyton. It certainly helped in taking my mind off the tough conditions that we were subjected to.

As we ran along further, I imagined the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland popping up and me posing a question to it- “How far do I have to go?” To which I get a reply, “It depends on where you want to go”. I persist saying “To the finish line please” to which pat comes the reply “Then you will just have to keep going.” My eyes blinked as my garmin buzzed at the 16 km mark. “Well just 5 km more to go”, I comforted myself.

We soon spotted the tar roads and bid goodbye to the woods. I picked up pace and continued my strides  when my garmin buzzed a 21 km at 2:18.   I stared at it in confusion as the finish line seemed a good stretch away. Nevertheless I put my best foot forward, ran like a person possessed and finally came to the 200 metres uphill stretch to the end zone. I glanced at my watch which showed 21.87 in 2:24 at 6.3 pace.

After collecting our medals and doing the customary poses, we headed towards the breakfast area which served poha, sheera and upma- sufficient to cater to our famished appetites. While discussing the run, it was apparent that the route was stretched a little further according to everybody’s garmin and the 21 km was certainly tougher than that of the previous edition.

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Durshet Forest Marathon was a well-organized event with its cheerful bunch of volunteers and photographers. It guaranteed me of being amidst natures surroundings with its resplendent beauty. Yet it also offers its intimidating stance about not being easy to conquer nature’s abode.

A fraction of a second led me to wonder if I was probably safer, signing up for city marathons where one needn’t tread on uneven surfaces or be appalled by the timing. However I realised that stepping out of your comfort zone and taking up such challenges moulds your mind into that of a stronger person.

I may not have bagged a podium or my personal best with regards to timing which certainly is not in my priority list when I run a race. But I have certainly emerged as a tougher person, managing to finish 6th overall.

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It is the journey which ultimately matters as I pen each moment down with immense fervour, as a record of one of life’s greater experiences.

Thank you Run buddies for a wonderful experience and a great event!