Monthly Archives: February 2018

Valentine run with nature: The golden gate trail experience

A sight of the golden gate bridge is always a treat to the eyes. Probably the reason why I keep signing up for running events at San Francisco. Most courses take you either on the bridge or close enough for runners to click their selfies and flaunt it on social media.

The Golden gate bridge trail was yet another opportunity to get a glimpse of this architect wonder and also run amidst nature.  I started at 6:30 am from Stanford to reach Marin county by 7:45 am as my half marathon race was scheduled at 8:15 am. The start line was at Rodeo beach, the only point where I would be at sea level as I gazed at the mountains above. I tried to calm my nerves d by averting my gaze to the waves before the race director did his countdown.

From the word go, it was uphill throughout, getting steeper and steeper as we made our way through the unpaved terrain of rocks and sand.  A proper trekking trail, I thought, making me wonder if I should have invested in a pair of shoes designed specifically for trail running.  There was no way anyone could run on this unless they were mountain goats or conditioned their body to such trails from their childhood.  I decided to discard my watch and just enjoy this date with nature.

 

I noticed some of the runners carrying a small backpack and they were huddled in groups.  At one point, one of the runners told another girl to go ahead if she wanted to. “It’s fine”, she said.” It’s just my training run. I will wait for you.”  Running may be a solo sport but it’s important to stick to your pack in times like these where the going gets tough.

As I ventured higher, the climb was getting steeper and at one point, there were actual steps which we had to tread on cautiously.  My mind couldn’t bear to think what would happen if we lost our balance and rolled down the hills. I shuddered and scolded myself for ruining such a beautiful date. The setting was perfect I thought, looking at the blue skies and cascade of greenery all around.

Reaching the first aid station at the 6-km mark which was stocked with fruits, nuts, pretzels, water and cookies, I grabbed some raisins and ran ahead. Greeted once again by a continuous spiraling slope, I decided to walk up instead of expending my reserves especially on a sunny day like this. A lot of people seemed to be on my page as they walked up this hill. Getting into a conversation with a few other runners, I learned that this trail was apparently on their bucket list. One of them drove down from San Diego which was a 9-hour drive to San Francisco. The conversation steered towards the importance of enjoying such tough terrains rather than stressing on pace or timing.  I stopped to get a few pictures of the pristine blue Pacific Ocean, below.

At the 9th km mark, the ascent gave way to a flat pathway and my strides, overtaking many runners who were still huffing and puffing.  I turned into the woods and entered winding muddy terrains at the edge of the mountain. There was a steep fall on the right and I tried to focus on the route ahead instead of looking down which would have led to a heart attack otherwise.

I stopped at the 12th km mark to get a picture of the Golden gate bridge. What an incredible sight of the bridge surrounded by clear blue waters! The view from the top was worth this arduous climb.  I continued running and at one point overtook many more runners.  At the 14th km, I grabbed more raisins, refilled my water bottle at the aid station and continued cruising on this road less traveled.  One more ascent greeted me at the 16-km mark along with dirt roads which prompted me to walk up again till I reached a point where I could continue my strides.

I was close to home, I thought. The muddy pathway gave way to the roads and I soon spotted some cars parked on the road. The sun was up shining in its splendor which prompted me to gulp more water as I trudged along. My legs now felt like a jelly pulp ready to be eaten by hungry hounds. I paused for a moment, tired out from the run when I heard a voice behind “Hey not now. Just a km to the finish line.” I pepped myself to keep going up the slope and go down again only to embrace the finish line and the medal garlanded around my neck.

 

I plonked myself on the grass and stared at the skies above. I was in one piece after this grueling run, so thank you, I mouthed to the heavens above. I recollected the number of times in the past where I kept telling myself that never again would I go through such torture. Yet I never listened to that inner voice which was always telling me to quit! It was worth the sweat, blood and tears. Especially when you go back home and look at a stronger reflection in the mirror!

It had been worth it. Besides its not too often that you get a taste of nature’s splendors along with an iconic marvel! An invigorating date was what I needed with nature, especially since it was just a few days before valentine’s day!

 

Rahul Agrawal- Flab to Fab

A Logistics Businessman, originally from Indore, Rahul moved to Mumbai in 2001. What with the move, a bulk of his time went in setting up his new business and settling down in the Thane Suburb. The long hours of work, untimely meals leading to poor eating habits as well as total lack of exercise led to a major weight gain. Reality hit badly in 2006 when Rahul woke up to the fact that he had bloated up to 100kg with a 42” waist L. That was the much needed wake up call.

In 2006, when the Agrawals moved to their new home in Hiranandani Meadows at Thane, Rahul started going to the Gym regularly. Henceforth, he decided to exercise regularly in the Gym including running on the Treadmill and Weight training. With this regular regimen of Gym and mindful eating he reduced his weight to 73kg within the year 😎.

In November 2007, there was an advertisement by the local Talwalkar Gym. They were offering a 10 week Training program by which Beginners were assured entry for Registration at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) in January. Rahul enrolled for the same and that’s when he met his future Mentor K Haridasan Nair J. He went on to finish his first HM in 2:15 at the SCMM in 2008.

Rahul and other friends formed a small group named Masthane and continued the same training regime for the next 2-3 years. Rahul fondly remembers those days when Marathon was a very new sport and unlike today there were hardly any events. Running season use to start 3 to 4 months before SCMM and used to end with SCMM. In fact, it was only in 2011 that Rahul did his first outstation Marathon at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM).

Then onwards, Rahul started training for his first Full Marathon at the SCMM in 2012. He finished his first FM in 5:08 in 2012 and went on from strength to strength achieving a PB of 4:12 in FM later at SCMM in 2016. Meanwhile, he continued doing several HM’s in the interim achieving his HM PB of 1:53 in the process at Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon organised by HERWA in December 2015 😊.

In 2012, Rahul was introduced to the Mumbai Road Runners by Bijay Nair. He liked the idea of all the Mumbai Runners coming together once a month to run and have fun. Also, the yearly MRR Awards Night post the Mumbai Marathon was one big Dhamaal event that he looks forward to eagerly. Today MRR is one of the biggest Running community of India helping so many runners realize their dreams 🤗.

In 2013 besides running in several more events, Rahul did his first 50K Ultra Midnight Run from 12 am-6 am along with Hari Sir. Under his able guidance, Rahul did 73K in his first 12-hour event at the Shivaji Park Mumbai Ultra in 2014. He considers Hari Bhai as his Friend, Philosopher and Guide and was the first student when Haridasan Nair formed his own running group “Runtastics Dilse” in 2014.

Although Rahul shies away from calling himself as an Ultra runner, he has done some serious distances. He has done Shivaji Park 12 hour Ultra in 2014, 2015 and 2016 running distances of 73K, 77K and 80K respectively. This was followed 100K at the Bangalore Ultra in 2015 and 24 hours Bangalore Ultra in 2016. He has also done 12 Hour IDBI Fed Life 12 hours Stadium run in 2016 and 24 hours Stadium run in 2017 where he clocked 131K. He still considers the 54K Ultra marathon done in Silvassa in 2016 as his toughest run due to extreme heat and steep inclines 😱.

Rahul also enjoyed playing the role of pacer for the very first time at Pinkathon in 2015. One which Rahul relished and went on to pace at several more events like Satara, HTHM, Indore, IDBI Fed Life Half marathon etc.

The best part was when the entire family joined in the fun and started to run 🤗. Radha, his Nutritionist wife and biggest supporter joined him in running in 2011 SCMM. Though now she is more into cycling rather than running; she has run all the editions of Mumbai marathon since then. Their daughter Urvi did her first 10K at Pinkathon Thane followed by her first HM at Tarblazer in 2017 while their son Pranjal has done couple of 4K Runs at HTHM.

Rahul trains with the Runtastics under K Haridasan Nair Sir following 5-days a week schedule. It’s a mix of Strength training as well as Stretching on two days and speed intervals as well as hill training on two days followed by Sunday long run. Rahul says that more than the run it’s the group and meeting with friends he looks forward to every morning. What better way to start the day 😁?

It has been more than 10 years that Rahul has been running Marathons regularly. Even today, he feels that as Recreational Runners, we should not focus too much on timings. He advises Newbies to enjoy this beautiful sport. According to him apart from running equal importance should be given to Strengthening and Core exercises. One should increase the mileage gradually and choose events wisely whilst giving a good amount of time to recover.

He says Running for him is like Nirvana that gives him opportunity to be with himself. It’s the most wonderful gift he has got from life which he will cherish forever 😁.

 

 

 

MRR Race Rating for January 2018

The Skechers Performance MRR Race Rating for January 2018 is out. It is the first rating for this year. Valsad City Half Marathon takes pole position followed by Tata Mumbai Marathon and Vadodara International Marathon in that order.

Where TMM dipped severely this year is in the post race (quality of refreshments on offer). Vadodara also suffered on that same count. Perhaps if they can improve upon that factor, then people would rate it higher.

8th MRR Awards Nite

Mumbai Road Runners organised its 8th Awards Nite in a glittering function held on Saturday, 3rd February, 2018 at Kamal Amrohi Studio, Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road, Mumbai. More than 400 runners took part in this function. The event was co hosted by Bijay Nair and Neelam Vaswani. There were performances from Kamakshi Soni which was a dance performance and guitar performance by Yogesh Namjoshi & co.

The winners at various categories were

Best Debutant – Female

1) Ishita Advani;
2) Reena Chauhan;
3) Megha Shetty;

Best Debutant – Male

1) Sandeep Gupta;
2) Abhimanyu Sharma;
3) Abhishek Dubey;

Most Improved Runner – Female

1) Meghna Chhugera;
2) Kimberly Pereira;
3) Rachanna K Puri;

Most Improved Runner – Male

1) Hiral Thanawala;
2) Jay Mali;
3) Sourav Maiti;

Best Running Family

1) Chetan Pujary & Prajna Pujary;
2) Hitesh MehtaDaksha Mehta & Dev Mehta;
3) Vaijayanti Ingawale & Deepak Ingawale;

Most Valued Pacer

1) Bijender Vats;
2) Gaurav Bhardwaj;
3) Prerna Parwani;

Best Runner (Pune)

1) Muthukrishnan Jayaraman;
2) Kavitha Reddy;
3) Taru Mateti;

Best UltraMarathoner

1) Kumar Ajwani;
2) Ishan Dutta;
3) Pinto Mandal;

Best Runner – Female (Veteran)

1) Kranti Salvi;
2) Lata Alimchandani;
3) Pervin Batliwala;

Best Runner – Male (Veteran)

1) Sunil Handa;
2) Ravi Kalsi;
3) Rajat Malhotra;

Best Runner – Female (Open)

1) Simta Sharma;
2) Sayuri Dalvi;
3) Payal Khanna;

Best Runner – Male (Open)

1) Dnyaneshwar Tidke;
2) Dnyaneshwar Morgha;
3) Deepak Bandbe;

Most Inspirational Runner of the Year

Sundaresan Renganathan;

Best Rated Marathon of the Year

Airtel Delhi Half Marathon.

 

Journey of the running legend-Interview with Bob Anderson

Bob Anderson boasts of 55 years of running, having started his journey at the age of 15 in 1962. In 2012, he ran 50 races to celebrate 50 years of running which is covered in the movie ‘A long run’. A desire to find more information about running and racing lead to his career in magazines. He is the founder of the Runner’s world magazine which he sold to Rodale press in 1984.  He also founded the Ujena Swimwear and a new concept of racing called the double road racing in 2012 where a distance is broken into 2 stages with a recovery break time in between for the legs.

Recently Bob turned 70 and he is in conversation with Swetha Amit, reflecting on his running journey, the concept of double road racing and his goals.

  1. So how and when did your journey with running begin? 

 I started in 1962. Initially I had a hard time running even a mile. Then when I started to run a mile, I slowly began to enjoy it and that’s how I fell in love with running. 

  1. You founded runners’ world magazine which is considered as a bible for many runners. How did that idea come about?  

I was running in high school and was quite a decent runner. At the age of 17, I wanted to run the Boston marathon and asked my track coach on how I should go about my training. He had no idea so I found some addresses of people who could help me with my training. I gathered all the information that I needed. One day on a track meet, I was telling my school pal about the information that I had collected and how I wanted to share it with others. I told him that I wanted to start a magazine and call it the distance runner magazine. That’s how it started and this was in 1966.

  1. From the time you commenced running, what changes do you see in the running culture? 

 When I first started running, it was looked upon as something that only a few people can do. In fact, when you were on the roads wearing those running shorts, you were labelled as an oddball. Running became popular only when Frank Shorter won the marathon in the 1972 Olympics in Munich. That brought a lot of attention to the sport. Today many people have taken up running . The fact that it doesn’t require complex skills like in the case of  Tennis or golf, makes it easier. All you require is to put one leg in front of another and you are good to go.  That’s the reason why I like it too. The accumulated knowledge in runners’ world helped educating people about the nuances in running. The more educated people got, the easier running became. Today I see women outnumbering men especially at races.

  1. You are also a pioneer of an interesting concept called double road races and you organize these events all across the world. Could you tell us more about how this idea was initially conceived and how has it been received by runners? 

 During one of our training runs, my son and I thought we should do something different. Initially we thought we would do a triathlon but then I am a terrible swimmer and not too comfortable on a bike. When we were brainstorming, we started to think about track meets where we do a mile first and then another mile. We realized that the second leg was more fun than the first one and that’s how the idea for the double road race commenced. Everyone had to run 2 legs of a particular distance where the first leg is longer than the second with a half time break in between.  When we initially tried it, a lot of people loved this concept and we have now done close to about 100 double road races in the world.

  1. In which countries have these double road races have been conducted so far?

 We have conducted them in Greece, Tokyo, Mexico, USA, Indonesia and Kenya. In fact, in Kenya we had a double half marathon starting with a 10 miler in the first leg followed by a 5 k. We had guys running at 1 hour 1 minute that too at an altitude which was incredible. We are looking to conduct these races in different places. It’s an interesting concept and one has to be mentally ready for it.

 

  1. Considering your experience in running, what advice would you give to all those who want to take up running seriously? 

 I think that anybody who is interested and really serious,  have to realize that there is a lot of training and dedication involved. You are as good as your training is.  Now training hard does not mean you have to do 100 miles every week. You can commit to running say 40-50 miles a week and have a goal that you want to run fast. It may take some effort but the rewards at the end are just unbelievable. Imagine running at a pace you never thought you could ever do. It’s an amazing feeling.

However, having said that I will warn people that running is addictive. Beware of it. That addiction should empower your life rather than getting in the way of your family time or job. It should be more of a positive addiction.

  1. Speaking of addiction, the ‘too fast too soon’ phenomenon is taking over where people jump distances wanting to achieve their long-term goals soon. What is your take on this? 

 It is very easy to want to jump ahead. Sometimes there is a tendency to want to move too quickly to a point where you get prone to injuries. Everything takes time like wine. So be patient. Start off first by building a base and then focus on working on your speed. Keep it fun. When you step out of that door and you begin to feel running is more like a chore, take the day off or just run slow or walk. I am also a firm believer in having 3-4 pairs of running shoes. It’s important that you don’t have the same strike to the ground that you would if you ran with only the same pair of shoes every time.

  1. Turning 70 is a special occasion and you are as fit as a fiddle. What keeps you going? 

 I am addicted to running and that’s what keeps me going. You know it’s actually interesting to be a runner when you turn 70 as you move into an entirely different age group. Now I am in the 70 plus age group and in a race, you don’t see too many people in this age category. I believe that age is just a number. Having said that, I do realize that things are different but I don’t make a big deal of it.  There are days when my legs feel numb which may not have been the case when I was younger. However, there is always a next day and I look forward to each day. I have only been 70 now for about a month and I am looking forward to doing  races that I have done earlier like the Carlsbad race in San Diego.

  1. What has been your most memorable race so far?

 By far, the most memorable race has to be the Boston marathon which I ran in 2013. You feel like a rock star while running that race as it’s a great course and you have a million people out there cheering for you. I ran the course in 3:32 when I was 65. Yes, it was a tragic incident as the bombings during that year caused quite a stir. 

  1. What are your plans and long-term goals? 

 You know I really want to continue doing things and turn people towards running.  This includes individuals of all age groups and from different countries. Running has transformed my life to a large extent and I want to do everything possible to capture people’s interest towards running.  At present, I am conducting Double road races. We are also doing a website called My Best Runs to encourage people to get into racing. If people don’t race then it could result in a tendency to not continue. A lot of people write continuously but do not publish. Racing is like publishing in the writing field.

I have run 50 races in 2012. To me that was too much and a lot of pressure. At present, I would say 15-20 races is a good number to target in a year. Look for those which have good courses. I personally enjoying traveling to races. The most important thing about running is the people. Its these people who make your journey worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run amidst the Redwoods

Huddart Park was known for its scenic trails and magnificent redwoods. It wasn’t very far from Stanford, where I currently resided. Coastal trail runners, known to organize a lot of trail runs, had an event scheduled on January 21st. It was on the same day as the Tata Mumbai Marathon, the big daddy of all the races back in India. My friends back home were obviously running this one and I was missing out on all the fun that occurred during the time of this race.

 

I needed a dose of nature and signed up for the half marathon initially, a decision which I had to revert at the last moment. An unfortunate accident in the gym due to someone’s carelessness of misplacing dumbbells, caused an ankle injury. The swelling was to a great extent which resulted in me hobbling like an old woman, a far cry from the strong and sturdy runner cruising up those daunting slopes in San Francisco a few days ago. Nevertheless, a visit to the doctor and physio helped in bringing down the swelling. I was shown a few stretches to strengthen the weak area. There was no way I could do a 21 km on those daunting trails and requested the race organizers to downgrade my distance to a 10 k, which I could easily manage.

 

In another part of the world, my runner friends would be running one of the biggest marathons in the city amidst a huge crowd while I would be running in the solitary company of the woods.

I reached Huddart Park at around 8:00 am to collect my bib and hang around till my race started at 9:15 am. Those running the 50 k ,35 k  and 21 k had already started their run. At 9:15, the race director flagged off the run and I found myself cruising downhill into a single dirt road covered with big stones. Carefully, I treaded on them and ran past the shrubs effortlessly.  It was getting darker, the further I ventured into the woods.

 

Trail runs were something that I enjoyed as there was no pressure of timing or pace. I could just enjoy the scenic surrounds, click a few pictures and go slow as opposed to city runs where people run as though they were being chased by hound dogs.  2 km were already done as I began my ascent on those steep climbs which sucked the energy from my quads and calves. I decided to walk up and looked around at the tall redwoods that were shielding me from the harsh glares of the sun. Well lucky me! I spotted some wild mushrooms and decided to capture the images and also of the gigantic trees in the vicinity. Green ribbons were placed at appropriate places to guide runners in the right direction lest they get lost.

My watch buzzed when I reached the 5 km mark. Half the distance was covered. Woods always fascinated me as they were an essential part of my growing up years whether it was through the faraway series by Enid Blyton or those fairy tales of Hansel and Gretel or Red riding hood. I looked around, half expecting to see a wily face of a grinning wolf behind those trees. However, all that I saw were some squirrels swinging their bushy tails playing hop scotch on the bed of dead leaves. The sign board at the entrance did mention about deer and wildlife though. I kept my eyes and ears open just in case.

I passed a bridge and soon found a marker saying, ‘To the finish line’. Already? I thought in dismay at the thought of leaving nature’s abode. I quickened my pace as it was all downhill from there. My ankle seemed fine and I was cruising down like those seagulls that I had watched on the sea shore as they swooped down to pick up their titbits from the sand. The surface was uneven and no sane person would probably think of sprinting down this pathway. There is a moment of insanity that takes over the sane mind when it came to sports. I guess that was applicable to running as well as I ran down the hill. Anyone watching me would have believed that I was being chased by a bear, but no such luck. It was just me eager to receive my 12th medal in a hurry which I did as I crossed the finish line in style.

There were cookies, buns and pretzels offered as snacks which I avoided considering the health buff that I was. Strolling around the woods, I posed with my medal and made my way home to simple home cooked lunch as it was noon by then. The run certainly left a trail in my mind which prompted me to sign up for one more event in February…