Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Double delight:My first US podium experience

Good things come when you least expect it.  I landed up at the Palo Alto Bay lands nature reserve with the intention of enjoying a run by a trail and experience my last double road race of the season organized by Bob Anderson-founder of Runner’s world magazine. Little did I realize that I would be rewarded or should I say awarded.

The concept of a double road race is where a distance is split into 2 races. For instance, if it is a double 8 k, runners run a 5 k first, take a break for 45 minutes and then run a 3 k. Now once someone is done with running a certain distance, it’s always challenging to run the second leg of the race especially after a break.

The venue was just 15 minutes away from Stanford and I landed there nice and early, admiring the sight of some migratory birds and the marshlands around.  After collecting my bib, I chatted with Bob for a few minutes, trying to understand the route. The weather was nice quite chilly and I walked around for a bit, clicked some pictures and eventually started my warm ups. A good number of people had assembled, some familiar faces that I recognized from the previous double road race events.  Despite their age, most of them looked strong and sturdy enough to give the younger ones a run for their money.

The race commenced at 8:30 am. I decided to follow Bob and test my pace. Now Bob who had turned 70 recently was a 3:30 full marathon finisher.  Gathering all my reserves, I put my best foot forward and ran like there were hound dogs after my life.  I kept Bob within my eyesight as we entered the trails surrounded by a carpet of green on either side.  It was a 2.5 k loop and at the turn, he gave me thumbs up which boosted my spirits. After 3.5 k, I was drained and paused for 10 seconds before I took off again. It wasn’t entirely a flat course and the gradient probably took a toll on my legs for running at a fanatic pace. I eased out and decided to focus on finishing strong instead of exploding my lungs.  5k was done in 27 minutes and I plonked on the ground catching my breath.

The past 2 months hadn’t been easy as I had injured my ankle at the gym sometime mid-January, causing it to swell to an extent that it appeared as though a golf ball had been tucked into my ankle bone. Doing my speed and tempo runs had become a challenge for a couple of weeks. After a lot of icing and stretching, I resumed running albeit with a moderate pace, enough to take me to the finish line. The viral bout which started February end and the relapse the previous week added fuel to the fire and certainly didn’t make things easier. Nevertheless, I kept persisting to build back my strength.

I grabbed a couple of oranges and a few raisins placed on the refreshments table before the next leg began.  The 3 k was scheduled to start at 9:45 am and I decided to replenish my muscles in the meantime. Just as we all gathered near the start point, I ended up getting into a conversation with a few people. A lady was doing the 100-mile event in a couple of weeks and it was quite intriguing to hear about her schedule and training plan. Doubly inspired, I geared up for the 3 k and once again I decided to trail Bob. Oblivious to him, he ended up becoming my pacer. At the 1.5 km mark, the thumbs up again from him spiked my energy levels and I cruised the 3k course in 16 minutes.

Collecting my medal, I hung around for a bit chatting with Bob and some other runners, one of them who was a triathlete. Soon we were immersed in a discussion about the upcoming triathlons and duathlons when I suddenly heard my name being called out. I looked up curiously and to my surprise, I had come 3rd in my age category.

Wow! My first podium in the US! I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming. It was a privilege to receive the winners’ medal from Bob who said there was a remarkable improvement from my first double road race in August 2017. “You were running fast today”, he said which was a huge compliment as I stood there beaming like a student who had received an A grade report from her teacher.

Glancing at both my medals, all those thoughts about me being a useless runner which had haunted my mind last 2 months, were dispelled instantly. Most importantly I realized that the minute I decide to go to an event with the intention of just merely enjoying it, that’s when I ended up doing my best. I looked around at the cherry blossoms and the flowers blooming in their full glory while going back home. Spring was already on its way and it felt like a new beginning!

 

 

 

 

 

MRR Aarey 10K Run

The Aarey Training run took place on Sunday 18th of March 2018 and was an awesome training run.

The neither the humid weather nor sweat could dampen the enthusiasm of 100 plus odd runners who joined for the training run.

Runners began to assemble at the designated start point by 6 am but the event started around 6:15 am as it was dark and the roads are not in good condition. The training started with warm ups by Muffadal followed by the explanation of the route to the runners present who had to do two loops of New Zealand hostel route by going a little ahead till the junction. The route would be helpful for runners who wanted to do training. The weather was humid outside but it was cooler inside the forest which made it easier for runners.

The runners covered distances from 5-10 kms, some even covering 16 kms too.

Pictures of today’s run have been uploaded. Thanks to Rodman and Kartik Iyer for being the photographers for the day .

Ms. Seema Bhavani from the #SaveAarey Group joined us for the run and was a pleasure to have her with us on the training run. She distributed the green ribbons to runners for wearing it and running to support Aarey forest. Also a pledge was taken in the end to save Aarey Forest.

Last but not the least, thank you to all the runners who came for the training run. Hope you guys enjoyed running the in the green lunges of the city, Aarey forest.

See you in the next month 5-10 k training run.

Here are a few comments by runners on running inside Aarey and what it meant to them and why the forest should be preserved for posterity.

Shilpa Shyamsunder Bharadwaj

Our first time in Aarey today Amar & I.
This place was absolutely surreal with cattle huts, pond with birds, green fields on either side where the sun was slowly peeping out which have been common to us as kids maybe.
We loved the experience & want it to stay that way. We also felt horrible when we saw on one side far away full of concrete buildings and realized how Stark!!! 😔
So, we breathed good, quality air and thank you MRR for this lovely opportunity.
#SaveAarey #LoveAarey #SupportAarey

Rajeev Bharadwaj

Fresh air.. dense forest.. diverse variety of trees n plants.. amazing chirping birds..oxygen levels highest in the city.. picturesque meandering roads.. peaceful surroundings..!!
Infrastructure is needed fr d city.. so is THIS FOREST COVER. Shud b preserved..!!🌲🌱🌴🌳
Lets raise our voice..! Every voice counts
#SaveAarey #savetreessavelife

Pulkit Singh

It was a real good experience, running in the lungs of Mumbai and the site where I saw construction activities made me feel bad.

Arshad Patel

I explored many routes in Aarey today. Such a calm and quite place with fresh air, mesmerising sounds of birds, abundance of oxygen, variety of trees. No doubt development is required but not at the cost of this beautiful aarey.
#SaveAarey

Harshad Nerurkar

Thank you for arranging today’s training run. I run in Aarey few times because it gives runner all kinds of running exposure; trail run, hill run, roller coaster roads, bad roads etc etc and yet you are still in Mumbai. You dont need to go out. Though today humidity was high with experiencing profuse sweating, still you dont feel tired as you run through lush green nature. Its little more safer to run here rather than roads in Mumbai.
And you are not running alone.
I guess it is ideal location for Yoga and training runs.

Mufaddal Hararwala

Running in Aarey firest is heavenly bliss, it puts you in a trance and you feel like gliding on and on. The mesmerizing dense jungle on either side and the cool brezze and birds flying in distance as the sun breaks out slowly and early morning mist with the rays of sun filtering through the canopy of trees fills heart with deep pleasure.

Deepak Soni

Always such a bliss running in Aarey… Addicted to Aarey…
#AareySpring

Sujeet Sanzgiri
I usually run in Aarey & have taken part in the couple of runs organised by Aarey tigers…This was my first run with MRR and first time that I tried the NZ hostel incline and did it twice…Thank you so much to MRR & Aarey tigers to organise such runs…Aarey is the best place to run in Mumbai…the forest…the trees… they help you so much…thanks to them it’s so pleasant there…that you don’t even feel like you are in midst of the Mumbai city…We are just lucky to have Aarey here…hope this luck never runs out…#Save Aarey

Amol Pednekar- Be The Change

This young boy from Sawantwadi was one of three siblings born to Middle Class working parents. Amol’s father worked in the Health Department while his mother was a teacher. A happy childhood spent in the beautiful Konkan region with the major focus being on studies and scholarship for the bookish roly-poly young lad. Amol went on to do B.E. from the Walchand College of Engineering, Sangli followed by MBA at the MET Institute in Mumbai. Whilst enjoying his Hostel and Bachelor life with not enough home cooked meals the kilos continued to pile on 😑.

Once settled in his job he married Dr. Prachi, a Doctor who works in the ICU at Bhaktivedant Hospital. Soon they were blessed with a beautiful little girl, Sara. As work and home responsibilities increased, his health continued to be neglected until finally realization dawned on Amol as the weighing scale showed that he had almost hit triple digits in 2014 😥. Too embarrassed to enroll in a Gym, he immediately bought a Treadmill and started using it diligently walking for 20 minutes on alternate days. Slowly his efforts started paying off as the kilos slowly started to melt away 😃.

Amol enrolled for his very first Running Event at ICT where he completed 7K in 50 minutes. That’s when he had a major shift in mindset and felt free for the very first time. Watching other older Runners passing him by as he too overtook other slower runners gave him that special Runners High 😊. He ended up doing back to back 10K at the Khushi Awetism Run as well as the Mira-Bhayander Run.

Catching sight of several Runners in the lovely green Mumbai Road Runners t-shirts, he found out about this wonderful group on Facebook. Soon it was time for this solo Runner to join this lively Running Community. During 2014-2015 Amol diligently started going for the monthly MRR Run. He would join from Dadar and run all the way to NCPA covering a distance of about 15K. In fact his very first HM was also at the monthly Bandra-NCPA Run 🤗. The best part was the social interaction with other Runners getting much needed inputs and information. In fact, it was through MRR FB posts that he realized he just might be suffering from an ITB injury approaching a Physiotherapist at the correct time. That’s when he understood the importance of Strength Training to support Running.

In November 2015, Amol connected with Prashant Pankaj and Niyat Anjaria on the Net. These likeminded local Solo Runners got together and the Mira Bhayander Runners (MBR) group was born. The motley group of 3 grew to 200 within a year, further growing to 600 within 2 years.

MBR has grown quickly into one of the biggest groups within a very short time span 🤗. The monthly picturesque Mira-Bhayander Long Run has soon become one coveted monthly event. MBR Gang also conduct Boot Camps, Awareness Camps, Kids Events etc so as to encourage all kinds of physical activity and not just restrict it to Runners.

The goal is to inspire more and more people to be healthy and happy as well as increasing Running Awareness in the MBR Area 😊. MBR also sponsors several underprivileged speedsters in a bid to empower and enrich their lives. Currently, all these initiatives are completely managed on the basis of Individual Contribution by the members. Goes to show that when your heart is in the right place, everything does have a tendency to fall in place for you to make a difference 🙂.

Amol did his first official HM at IDBI Federal Life Insurance Mumbai Half Marathon in 2016 finishing in 2:50. He quickly followed that with participation in about 8-9 more events that year. With regular training Amol got his PB of 2:14 at the SCMM in 2017. Unfortunately he ended up getting a Ligament tear due to Overtraining 😫. Deciding to take the Conservative route, he rested for about 6 months despite being advised for 3-4 months break by the Doctor. During this period, he chose to volunteer and help others pursue their individual goals instead 😎.

Amol completed his Marathon Training Course from ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) and became a certified Marathon Coach in order to further their goal. He has founded Xponential Fitness, an endurance training academy to create awareness and help Runners and Beginners. Through this new initiative he has started taking sessions on Fitness, Running & Marathon preparation at Running Summits and different Corporate Sessions as well training Kids and Marathon Runners.

He usually follows a 3-days Run and 2-days Strength training schedule with 1-2 days of Uncompromised Rest Days. However, while training for an event he runs 4 times a week including Speed Interval or Hill Run, Tempo Run, Short Run and Long Run. Of course all this takes a backseat in case of any Injury and all focus is totally on Rehabilitation ensuring sufficient Rest and Recovery.

Amol ends on a note advising Newbies- “Don’t pursue running with Legs & Lungs but pursue it with your Heart & Soul. If you do so, I promise you- it will lead you to places you could never dream of. It will take you on a journey to discover the deepest part of your life, the parts that you never knew ever existed.”

When the going gets tough-The Santa Cruz half marathon experience

March 4th, 2018 could have been a memorable date in my life as I was initially supposed to the iconic Napa Valley marathon which would have been my 2nd full marathon after 2013. Fate had other plans as I decided to focus on triathlons in the bay area and shelved my plans for the 26.2 miler. The lack of company for the training runs was another reason as doing those long distances all by myself was quite daunting. So, I signed up for the Santa Cruz half marathon which was scheduled on the same day and it was just an hour away from Stanford.

Recovering from a mild bout of viral, I wasn’t exactly at the peak of fitness when I stood at the start line.  Nevertheless, I decided to take this as a training run and began doing my warm ups facing the calm waves of the Pacific to my right. This was Cowell beach where we would be finishing and the same place where I had finished my triathlon a few months back.

It was an uphill from the word go, as it was in many other races that I had done in the past. Hills were quite synonymous with the bay area and such races made you forget the very existence of a Garmin or words like pace, timing, cadence, heart rate, etc. It was just humbling to reach the finish line in a strong fashion and cherish the moments of actually finishing a race-a phenomenon that was diminishing these days.

 

The route was a beautiful one as we ran along the cliffs overlooking the pristine blue ocean and the foamy waves that kissed the sandy shores in a teasing way. The gradual uphill made my legs wobble after a point. I took a sip of water that was mixed with electrolytes, hoping to revive those stiff legs which seemed to be cursing me for putting them through another torture. I could just imagine them talking to one another and saying things that would make my ears burn.  “Another Sunday wasted in such torture when I could have actually caught up on my forty winks.” One leg would say to another and the reply would be like “Oh well same here. I don’t know what prompts this crazy woman to run every Sunday and trouble us. We are not getting younger.”

 

The roads gave way to trails with some gigantic slopes that resembled the neck of a dinosaur. The sun was shining fiercely and the trails were covered with pebbles and puddles as a result from the rains the previous week. It appeared as though the sun was taking revenge on the rains for having dominated the entire valley.  At the 7th km, it felt as though I was running inside a microwave oven. No shade, no respite and the sun hit my eyes so badly that I had to close my eyes for a few minutes, making it feel as though I was sleep running.  I poured water on my head, letting the cold-water trickle down my face as I trudged  slowly on the never-ending hills and trails.

I have had better days when my legs were sturdy enough to carry me through tough terrains. The blisters on my feet made me pause for a minute and it felt as though someone had cast reins on my legs, controlling my movement, like those horses which were pulling carriages.  I didn’t have my music with me either to pep me up during this run. At this moment, I recollected the words of my old trainer who always stressed on using the core to run when your legs and hands would give up. He would always give us those vigorous exercises that would strengthen our core to such firmness that it could give an iron rod some stiff competition.

Fortunately I continued doing those exercises and it came in handy. Using my core, I ran ahead bearing the brunt of the blistering heat as my Garmin ticked away those miles. By the time I reached the road which was just 5 km to the finish line, I felt drained as though someone had sucked all the energy levels from my reserves. The entire route reminded me of a race that I had done in India-the Kundalika river marathon, which was a grueling route of hills and heat.

I heard one of the volunteers saying, “I would end up looking like this had I run this route”. My face had become so withered that it looked like burnt toast from an oven.  It was 100 m downhill to the finish line which ended on the sands of Cowell beach.

I grabbed the medal and plonked on the sand, listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. The sky was streaked with the rays of the sun and at one point it looked like they were white lines connecting it to the ocean. It had been a badass day with the weather and route being unkind. I remembered the saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

I held my medal proudly celebrating my 24th official half marathon and 14th medal on the 4th of March. A fantastic 4 finish! I might not have earned my personal bests in these races but what I did earn was a great deal of self confidence and awareness of the fact that such routes would only make me tougher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dish without the spoon: A taste of Stanford running club

When you are in Stanford, not getting a taste of the dish is like visiting San Francisco and not visiting the Golden gate bridge. When I say Dish, I am not referring to a creamy pasta or those sumptuous puddings, but the recreational area behind Stanford campus which is popular for its hiking and running trails. Being a habitat conservation, it is used for academic research and the dish itself is a radio telescope that is still in use.

When Leland Stanford arrived in California in the mid 19th century, he told his wife that these hills in yonder would make a fine race course and that’s how the dish race commenced as a tradition of the Stanford running club.

Being a runner and a Stanford student, I could not afford to miss this run even if was just a measly distance of 5.2 km. The fact that there was no medal given at the end of run didn’t bother me either.  Having been in this prestigious campus for last 8 months, I have run in the Dish in the past.  The hills are so steep that it makes the fittest want to resort to a walking stick to get past these grueling inclines.

The race was scheduled at 9:00 am and for the first time I could cycle to an event-an advantage if the venue happens to be in your backyard and when there is provision for bike parking.  So here I was assembled at the start point as I watched other runners doing their warm ups and stretches. It was an uphill right from the word go, an incorrigible one which kept getting steeper and steeper, my lungs feeling as thought someone had sucked all the oxygen out of them.  I could hear the heavy breathing and panting by even the sturdy looking runners which sounded like a breathing of a dragon, reassuring me of the fact I wasn’t the sole victim of the hill’s brutal treatment.

 

It was a continuous climb and as we went higher, we were blessed with the panoramic views of the bay at a distance and the golf course which a green carpet spread in acres. The day was rather peculiar as 2 forces of nature seemed to play tug of war with one another. The sun shone fiercely making me want to discard my jacket while the wind blew with all its might and the icy breeze made me cling to my jacket. Shaking my head at their childish play, I focused on the scenery around me, watching the tufts of grass swaying and the mighty dish which we would be running past soon. Just then I heard a mother talking to her daughter, cajoling her that they were on an adventure, every time the daughter felt like giving up. “How far mom”, she said in a resigned manner. “Oh, just look at that dish honey”, the mom replied. “ That’s where we are going. There is magic there.”

I looked at the dish for the second time-gigantic and semicircular in shape, standing haughtily as it knew that this area derived the name by its presence.  It reminded me of a space ship, a magical device that could transport you to a place in yonder! Magic! That’s it! What I needed! If I could make it up to the dish, it would all be downhill from there.  Gathering all my reserves, I kept the dish in sight, eager to get close to this magnanimous object, edging closer and closer. The winding slopes coiled like a serpent which I chose to ignore until I found myself face to face with this magical object. I jumped in joy, increased my pace and off I was on a downhill which felt like coming down on those slides at the park which my 3-year-old daughter immensely loved.

Overtaking a few runners, I cruised all the way down, my feet suddenly finding wings. Was it the magic of the dish? Maybe! I spotted the arch in the vicinity with the volunteers cheering for us.” That’s what I call a strong finish”, a lady yelled at me as I waved back and crossed the mighty arch! I was home! The 5.2 km felt like a 10 k run,-such is the toughness of the dish.

It’s certainly not sweet but salty with a tinge of sourness which is worth as it caters to the runner’s appetite of getting a taste of the Stanford running tradition. They saying goes “what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.”