Monthly Archives: November 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!