Dreaming of a better life, a young 19 year old fisherman from the tiny fishing village of Someshwar in coastal Mangalore decided to move to Mumbai. After getting a job as an industrial worker, he got married and was joined by his wife. Settling in Mumbai, initially at Mazgaon and later at the industrial housing board colony at Tilaknagar in Chembur, they had three kids. In a bid to give them a good education, the father, now a textile mill worker toiled very hard, working double shifts whilst their mother, a whiz at stretching their limited income looked after their every need. Aware of their daily struggle, the youngest sibling Ashok was particularly focused and hardworking as he saw education as his only escape from this hard life.
Totally absorbed in his studies, there was no scope for sports, or any other leisure pursuits. However, his father who had played football, would send them out to run during their vacations, to get some exercise. Ashok graduated in Commerce and immediately joined Indian Airlines as an Accounts Assistant while continuing his higher studies. He went on to do a Masters in Commerce, a degree in Law, and also qualified as a Company Secretary, as he continued working side by side. It was while working with Indian Airlines, that Ashok had a first taste of an organized sport, when he learned to play Badminton and was soon playing well enough to be considered in the official team 😎.
During his college days, Ashok went for his very first trek for 3-4 days to Rajmachi along with a friend who was in National Cadet Corps and was hooked, soon becoming a compulsive trekker. He later joined the Youth Hostels Association and was an ardent participant of their Mumbai unit which organized local treks. He went on to learn Rock climbing and did more than 90 treks. In fact, all his vacation would be spent on either exams or trekking 😂.
After 1 ½ years with Indian Airlines, he felt stagnated and moved to the private sector- Advertising, where he worked up his way for eight years, during which time he completed his studies. Since the Company Secretarial course required him to undergo training in a corporate secretarial set up, he had to leave the job. The Finance Manager at Everest Advertising, helped him with his contacts in Mafatlal’s and Ashok soon joined NOCIL for a year as a trainee under Bharat Vasani, who later went on to become the General Counsel for the Tata Group.
Ashok also took up Cricket, even playing in the Corporate team for 2-3 years 😊. He would also go to a nearby Gym run by national weight lifter, Mr. Khan after coming back from work. Seeing Ashok’s potential, Mr. Khan even wanted him to participate in competitions within the year. However, everything went for a toss when Ashok was detected with back issues at the young age of 21. Playing Badminton, Cricket as well as Gymming simultaneously besides his hectic work schedule seemed to have taken a toll 😥. So weight training went out of the window, and badminton was also restricted, but with regular playing, the pain was mitigated to a large extent and only reappeared on excess strain.
Badminton stopped once his family moved to a 1BHK in Borivali. That’s when Ashok started regularly going to the Borivali National Park (BNP), running about 6-7K, in order to strengthen the leg muscles for trekking and rock climbing. He would usually run upto Kanheri caves and then practice rock climbing at one of the many popular spots.
After his divorce, Ashok moved to Powai in 2003. Though he would run regularly in his building later venturing to Hiranandani and Eastern Express Highway (EEH), he didn’t think he could really run a Marathon.
During the 2005 Mumbai floods, Ashok had stayed back at his office near Keerti college. The next day he walked back home covering a distance of 20K in about 4 hours and participating in a Half Marathon no longer seemed so daunting 😀.
Ashok started training for the upcoming Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) 2006 doing short runs on week days and weekend long runs at EEH. By December he was doing 20K easily. Unfortunately, he was hit by a hamstring injury 15 days before the run 😫. He visited the physio at the Sushrusth Hospital at Dadar. He still went on to participate and managed to complete his first HM in 2:37.
On a visit to the US in 2007 when his nephew took him to a huge shoe store in Princeton, Ashok was like a kid in a candy story and bought his first technically assessed running shoe, along with his first GPS watch (Garmin ForeRunner 305). Reading up a lot about Danny Dryer and Chi Running he subsequently bought the book and DVD on the same. These helped him to work on his form correcting his Heel Strike to a Mid Foot Strike.
In 2008-9 a colleague invited Ashok for a group run in BNP. That’s where he met the original MRR Gang- Giles Drego, Ram Venkatraman, Milton Frank, Bhasker Desai, Raj Vadgama, Kaushik Panchal etc. This was also the time he started running at Aarey and met Coach Daniel Vaz. Then the whole group started having regular group runs on Saturdays. They created the MMR (Mumbai Marathon Runners) group on the Runners for Life Page (later rechristened as Mumbai Road Runners on FB). MMR organized their first 6K Event in BNP on 21 March, 2010, and went on to organize three Half Marathons in BNP in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
In 2011-12 Ashok started going regularly to the Nike Run Club (NRC) at the Police Grounds near Wilson College, Marine Lines, and later at Sports Authority of India (SAI) track at Kandivali, for his speed intervals, tempo runs and plyometrics training under Coach Daniel Vaz and Coach Melwyn Crasto who were instrumental in correcting Ashok’s form.
In 2010, having checked with Dan, Ashok started training for his first FM in 2011. The focus was on building mileage for 5-6 months after which the actual race training would commence in the remaining 5-6 months. Unfortunately, Ashok had yet another setback and in November at the peak of training, he was detected with a severe disc prolapse at the L4-L5 region in his spine 😕.
Though initially advised surgery in order to continue running; Ashok took a second opinion on the advice of his physiotherapist Garima, who sent him to Dr Abhay Nene, a spine specialist and a Marathoner. Dr. Nene told him to continue running focusing on strengthening and said that they would opt for a microsurgery only if required 😌. After a period of rest and doing regular strengthening exercises with Garima, Ashok finished his first FM in 5:11 although the last 10K was tough 😣.
After the SCMM in 2011, his office colleague referred Ashok to Acupuncturist Dr. Ajit Mistry in Mulund. A medical professional, the doctor gave him a Pilates DVD to help in back strengthening while commencing with Acupuncture. After 20 sessions Ashok felt some relief and after 30 sessions felt 70% better.
That year for 7 months, Ashok completely stopped running though he stayed active by swimming, gymming, doing pilates etc. Once recovered he celebrated by running 28K at Amby valley with friends. Subsequently, he went on to do the SCMM 2012 in 4:23 😎.
In 2016 during the IDBI Promo Run at Bandra Ashok was running at a fast pace without adequate warm up, and got injured 😔. He was diagnosed with Tenosynovitis of Flexor Hallucis Longus tendon (fluid retention) and plantar fasciitis which had him go off running for 6-7 months. Despite having registered for IDBI and TMM he decided to give them a miss focusing on his rest and recovery. Following Dr. Nikhil Latey’s advice, he used temporary foot inserts to release the tension and reduce pain. After the prescribed rehab, he slowly got into running again and since then, things have been going much better 😁.
2017-18 has been a tremendous year, what with a hat-trick of PBs for Ashok 🤗. He got his 10K PB at the Navy Run finishing in 47:59, 21K PB at the Powai Run finishing in 1:45 and 42K PB at the IDBI Delhi Marathon finishing in 3:54 😎. Besides all this he also has some podiums and a race ambassadorship in his kitty.
A regular fixture on the Mumbai running circuit, this Angel never deters from helping others be it his awesome photography, giving advice or volunteering. He says that one should not get taken in by the whole Social media hoopla. For fitness and good health, a 5K run 3-4 times a week is enough along with some other sport. Strength training is a must at least twice a week and Yoga helps in flexibility. Trekking, Cycling and Swimming are also good forms of Cross training. It is only people who love to run longer distances who should take up distance running.
He advises that you should always enjoy your run. “Don’t think of it as punishment. Only the Elites are justified to think that way. Improve at a particular distance before increasing the mileage.” He suggests completing 10K in 60-61 minutes before proceeding to 21K. Since recovery is fast, one can race or do a time trial of 10K every 15 days. Besides 10K is a sweet distance to run 😊. However, if contemplating an FM, one should ideally be able to complete a HM in 2:10-2:15, and further planning and training for an FM should begin a year in advance. The devil is always in the training, so if one is consistent and regular at training, race day is just another day.
Though a normal diet is enough for recreational runners, for distances upto a Full Marathon, one must consult a Nutritionist in case one is participating in Ultra Marathon distances. Adequate rest is the most important part of any training. In case one is feeling tired or fatigued then one should opt for Rest instead of Training. Always stop at the first sign of injury. If the pain lasts for more than a week, it is not just muscle soreness and one needs to consult a good Physiotherapist. He signs off saying, “Don’t ignore your injury and Race just because you signed up for it. Never ever run in pain, you can always volunteer and give back to the Running community instead, something one should do any which ways 😄.”