Category Archives: Race Reviews

The run that I did not race: Pune Women’s half marathon experience

The runners’ appetite in me often seeks to run on new routes and different terrains. When Sangeeta Lalwani of Freerunners sent me an invite to the first edition of the Pune Women’s half marathon scheduled on March 12th 2017, I immediately embraced this opportunity to run in the city of Pune.

Despite living in Mumbai for a good 11 years, my travels somehow seemed to have eluded this neighbouring city. This particular running event was a good chance to see Pune and meet some of my runner friends simultaneously.

I always believed that not all runs/events are meant to be raced. While you select a few that you want to race, others are meant purely for the enjoyment factor. Considering I had run hard both at Auroville (Feb 12th) and at Kundalika (Feb 26th), I decided to relax and take this one easy. Besides I had already commenced  Maffetone training-a heart rate based running program where the long runs are done within your aerobic zone.

Amit and I along with Samara drove down from Mumbai and reached Pune in 3 and a half hours. We were in good time to collect the bibs, meet the organiser and chat with some runner buddies. We learnt that this event was one of its kind which had received full support from the Police and Military forces. Though it was meant for women runners, there were male pacers who would be pacing several timed buses. My eyes lit up when Sangeeta mentioned about the army band that would be playing during our run. Being an ardent supporter of our selfless armed forces, I eagerly looked forward to running past them the next morning.

It was quite chilly as I assembled at the start line the next day. The race was supposed to commence at 5:45 am. Greeting and chatting up with a few fellow runners, I learnt that it was quite a hilly terrain and that the 19th km especially had a deadly slope. Nikhil Shah from Runbuddies-the organisers of the Kundalika River marathon was present there as a 3 hour pacer. I jokingly told him that after running a grueling hilly terrain at Kundalika in the sweltering heat, these slopes would be a baby in comparison.

For the first time, I left my speakers behind, deciding to enjoy the route for a change and go easy. So I slowly railed behind the 2:15 bus. At the 2.5 km mark, I caught sight of the army band laying some peppy music as the men in uniform stood there cheering for us. My left hand automatically went up in a form of a salute as I ran past them, encountering goose bumps and a sudden rush of energy.

Being still pitch dark, it was gratifying to see volunteers on cycles holding out lights lest we fall down on our faces. I could hear the birds chirping and the darkness soon gave way to light as the sun’s first rays crept in. I could see the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology to my left as I went up and down the slopes. Basking in the beauty of the surroundings, I soon feel into a trance little realizing that I had overtaken the 2:15 bus and was soon nearing the 10.5 km mark.

Volunteers and photographs stood on the side-lines cheering and clicking our strides away. I gave hi fives to some of my runner friends, quite enjoying every moment of the run and at the same time kept checking my Garmin to ensure that I was within the heart rate aerobic zone.  There were some gardens to my right which made a pretty sight with its bright green grass and pink flowers.

I soon crossed the late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam memorial which made me feel rather wistful. Being a big fan of his writings, I recalled how I almost came close to interviewing him but failed to do so due to his sudden demise. A noble, intelligent and a humble soul not to mention one of the best Presidents India ever had. My eyes turned moist as I looked ahead and decided to concentrate on the run for a few minutes.

I encountered the threshold point according to my Garmin at the 17th km mark which made me stop and walk for a bit till my heart rate normalised. I began my run again and encountered volunteers and fellow runners on the way who shouted ‘good going mam’. At the 18.5 km, I once again ran past the army band whom I waved to and derived a sudden adrenalin rush from.

As I kept going ahead, I caught sight of the ‘gigantic slope’ at the 19th km. A sea of orange (the colour of the event’s t shirt presented to every runner) had cascaded the slope. While many chose to walk this deadly incline, my hill training in the past refused to let me do so and up I went, taking short strides and swinging my arm upwards. As I descended down, I suddenly found that I picked up pace and sprinted that last 700 metres and crossed the finish line in a decent 2:10.

“Not bad at all” I thought to myself. Considering the fact, I had done heavy strength training the previous week (something that I would avoid before a race) and that I didn’t listen to music throughout the 21 km (something that would up my pace), it was a very satisfying run altogether.

Being a new kid on the block, this first edition of the Women’s half marathon was quite a success considering the huge turn out and being a well organised one. With water stations at regular intervals, getting to run in an army zone with full support from the Pune Police and Military forces, free registration and timing chips, resplendent Orange T shirts, a sumptuous breakfast, free stretching session by Celebrity Yoga guru Payal Gidwani Tiwari, this event was a runner’s dream.

As I drove back to Mumbai later, I pondered over my strong finish. I realised that the moment I decided to not push myself or stress on timing, I end up running well. I suppose it’s a psychological aspect for me as I don’t work well under pressure. I am probably like that wild horse which likes to run free in the meadows without its reins or without being pushed. Maybe I am just a free runner after all (pun intended)!!

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.

<img class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-1846" src="http://mumbairoadrunners.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o-200×300.jpg" alt="15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o" width="200" height="300" srcset="http://mumbairoadrunners have a peek at this web-site.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o-200×300.jpg 200w, https://mumbairoadrunners.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o-768×1152.jpg 768w, https://mumbairoadrunners.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o-683×1024.jpg 683w, https://mumbairoadrunners.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o-33×50.jpg 33w, https://mumbairoadrunners.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/15225419_10157779946885335_124970091_o.jpg 1365w” sizes=”(max-width: 200px) 100vw, 200px” />

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.

15233674_10157779949045335_824576207_o

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.

15271264_10157779951485335_1686676523_o

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.

15271221_10157779953710335_1143384898_o

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!

Feeling surreal on foreign soil -The Baystate Half Marathon experience

Running an international race was always on my bucket list ever since I started running in 2012.  It was by chance that an opportunity presented itself through an unexpected trip to the USA. It was not exactly our planned holiday. However work beckoned my husband cum running partner to the east coast and we decided to eventually combine it with a short vacation. The runner’s bug in me prompted me to scan through the races scheduled around the time we were visiting and stumbled upon the Baystate marathon. Having received good reviews about being a well organised one, the Boston qualifier aspect only proved to be an icing on the cake. I immediately signed up, brimming with excitement of running my first international race.

My first step was to assemble the appropriate attire, considering it was the onset of winter and the temperatures were most likely to dip.  Suggestions from friends who had run international races came in handy as we set off to the other side of the world. Landing in Boston, we drove down to Lovell in about 25-30 minutes, where the race was scheduled.  We had booked ourselves at the Radisson hotel, Chelmsford where the bib collection was taking place. Shuttle services were also organised by the hotel to the start point of the race which was a 10 minute drive.

We had around 4 days to acclimatize and get over our jet lag. A short 5 km run, couple of days before the race enabled me to get a fair idea about the weather and my comfort factor in being attired like an Eskimo, quite contrary to my singlet and shorts back home in humid conditions.  The weather and the scenic colours of autumn were breathtakingly beautiful and I stopped to take a few pictures of the strewn leaves on the ground adorned by different shades of green, yellow and red trees on either side of the trail. Feeling good, I returned to the hotel to collect my bib later that evening. It was a well organised affair, offering a goody bag and a T shirt for all the runners. Overwhelmed by the fact that we had come so far to run this race, the volunteers were kind enough to present my husband with a T shirt as well, despite the fact he wasn’t running this one.

Now I had no strategy or plans for this race. My philosophy has always been to enjoy every run and not stress about the time.  As I stood waiting for the shuttle at the lobby, I got myself acquainted with a couple of runners from China and also a nice gentleman whom I was seated next to in the bus. They were all running the full and were aiming to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It was intriguing listening to their running and triathlon experiences while I narrated about the running culture in India and talked about the Mumbai Road Runners’ community.

The race for both the full and the half marathon was scheduled at 8:00 am and we reached the holding area at around half past seven. It was freezing and I decided to warm up a bit. I looked around in interest, watching runners from different cultures assembling at the start point. Some of us exchanged smiles and wished each other.  I soon found myself breaking into those strides once the clock struck 8. My feet felt numb initially due to the chill weather which of course was resolved once a few miles were covered. A lot of foreigners overtook me and I could only gape in admiration at their sturdy and strong strides. Though the course was said to be a flat one, there were a few inclines present right from the beginning. I looked around and noticed the dainty array of houses on either side of the roads. Photographers were present along with a good crowd of local folks who cheered us at different junctions. After a few miles, it started getting warmer as I noticed several runners discarding their gloves and jackets on the road. The colours of autumn gleamed in the sunlight and there was this vast lake to our right, depicting a glowing shade of sparkling blue.

14793803_10157572482690335_1514883243_n

Volunteers were stationed at frequent intervals handing over water and gatorade which replenished our depleted energy levels. I felt myself cruising along the roads of Lovell and at one point was in tow with the 3:45 pacer of the full marathon before we broke into different directions. While the full marathon had pacers up to the 4 hour bus, there were none for the half marathon.  The sun began to come out in a strong manner at certain points which made me wonder for a minute if I was overdressed, only to be assured by that brush with cold air that I probably wasn’t.

When I covered about 12 km, I told myself that it was just 9 km more to go and decided to think this as a distance for ‘navrun’. ‘Navrun’ was a unique concept conceptualised by the Mumbai Road Runners as an ode to the Navratri festival every year in October of either running 9 km every day or doing different workouts for those 9 days continuously.

I was going strong until I encountered a breathing problem that was persisting me for a while which makes me feel nauseous and fatigued. It’s sort of a slight congestion of having phlegm in my chest- the one that you face when attacked by the common cold. Despite not having a cold, I would face this during my runs and was advised by my coach to see a doctor regarding this.

I paused for a few seconds and picked up pace. We were doing 2 loops of the same course and during the 2nd loop of the route; there were timers which displayed 1:40. I glanced at my watch which showed 17.7 km done. My eyes popped out wondering if I had really been going at that pace. By now the sun had come out in a fierce manner albeit there was no humidity which proved to be a blessing. I ran up the bridge and knew it was just less than 4 km to go. I psychologically tuned my mind to the home turf on marine drive in Mumbai and imagined myself to be near Chowpatty beach which was about 3.3 km till the finish point at NCPA.

For some reason I hit a wall a little ahead of the 19th km. My eyelids felt droopy depicting the jet lag I had been battling throughout the race. It felt like sleep running at some points until I derived some inspiration from a Chinese runner in the vicinity which kept me going.  It was a surreal feeling when I hit 21 km in less than 2 hours. Did I actually break the 2 hour barrier?? No pacer, no strategy, no planning. I just ran like a raw runner and actually achieved my dream on foreign soil. The medals were garlanded a little ahead of the finish line, where my husband and daughter were waiting for me.

14689297_10157562834365335_1235119782_o

Excitement filled the air as I posed with the Indian flag. The best part about this race was the fact that there was a separate medal for those who bagged their personal best timing as well. So it was a treat to bag 2 medals in a race which is considered as one of the fastest ones in the USA. I also silently thanked the weather Gods and a thought took me back to all those runners achieving a sub 2 in humid conditions back in India. Kudos to them I thought as they were definitely a tough lot.

14689882_10157562834800335_1315087221_o 14689880_10157562834885335_860855842_o 14725219_10157562835235335_814421688_o

Some of the learnings that I incorporated during this race was to ensure that I enjoy every run in the future, see a doctor the moment I land in India, include more mileage during my long runs and break the distance barrier of 21 km to prevent myself from hitting a wall.

The first of anything always bags a special place in your heart. My first international race at the Baystate Half marathon will always be special, not because of my personal best timing but the entire experience of running with people from different cultures was something which words cannot describe. Incredible?  Scintillating? Riveting? Maybe something more than that!

 

 

Learning on the run -The Bhumi India Run experience

September 11th,2016

There are times when you run for your personal best, probably a podium finish or on a tough terrain to move out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to do something remarkable. However there are instances when you set aside your personal aspirations and decide to make a difference with your strides, where you end up learning something that humbles you as a person.

The Bhumi India run held at Bandra Fort this morning was one such event which was devoid of any timing chip and runners came together to run for a cause- raising funds for supporting education for underprivileged kids. When runner friend Bhavana Diyora invited me to be a part of this run, I gladly obliged. Incidentally, it also turned out to be an educational experience for me as a runner and a person.

It was a 10 k run and I had decided to go easy on this one, considering that I had been racing non-stop for the last 4 weekends.  The route took us through the scenic side of carter road, where we were treated to a splendid sight of the rocks and the pristine blue Arabian Sea on the left. On the right, we passed the luxurious Taj Lands end Hotel and super star Shahrukh Khan’s bungalow called Mannat usually thronged by the fans of the actor. It reminded me of the movie ‘Fan’ which I had recently watched on television. However not being a ‘jabra fan’, I didn’t care to stop to spread my arms and gaze in a starry eyed manner at this mansion.  I chose to focus on my strides instead.

It was a similar route of the IDBI federal Mumbai half marathon promo run which was held sometime in April this year. It brought back some fun memories as I recollected those friendly shouts to fellow runners across the road. The Bhumi India run had volunteers present at every nook and corner. They guided runners on the right track, clapping, cheering and ensuring that the vehicles do not cross our paths. There was a certain amount of traffic that morning due to the Mount Mary fair that was being held. Aid stations serving water and Tata Gluco plus were present at frequent intervals along with the photographers who were there to click our photos.

Now every time I decide to take a run easy, be it a race or a practice run, my mind is free from the pressure of timing which compels me to push whenever I felt like it. So after a while, I decided to increase my pace. The course consisted of a few inclines and there was one steep one at the 5 km mark. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed running up this slope, quite contradictory to my usual response towards hills where my eyes would widen with terror. Like a child playing on a seesaw, I smiled as I went up and down these inclines.

On the way back, I waved at some familiar faces and continued the strides. As we neared the 9th km mark, we were blessed with heavy showers, drenching us to the hilt.  The wet clothes weighed us down but not our spirits as we sprinted towards the finish line with the Garmin showing 57 minutes.  I was eager to go catch up with my runner friends and waited impatiently for the rains to subside. After collecting the medal, I met several of them and posed for the customary clicks which I usually term as ‘memoirs of the race euphoria’ i.e. memories of a good time at any event.  We collected our breakfast in a box which comprised of samosas and gulab jamuns, along with a packet of chips.

We headed towards the stage, from where we could catch the magnificent view of the Bandra-Worli sea link.  Some announcements were made and I soon turned my attention towards the dais as I recognised runner friend cum MRR admin cum an amazing writer-Bijay Nair’s voice on the mike. Listening to his journey was inspiring as he talked about his astounding transformation from being an overweight person to a fit runner that he is today. Also being from the naval forces, his speech held pride as he spoke about his upcoming book ‘#They INSpire’ where’INS’ depicted a tribute to the navy. The book consisted of enthralling stories of several runners who had battled against several odds in order to achieve the impossible which constituted their respectable position in the runners’ community today.

14339296_10157382669775335_717128597_o 14339842_10157382670730335_80784965_o

After this, the stage made way for yet another awe inspiring runner-Satish Gujaran who is a 7 time comrades finisher. Comrades  is a race held at South Africa every year in the month of May and a test of human endurance where one was required to complete 89 km within 12 hours.

I had met Satish several times and found him to be a humble person despite his extraordinary achievements. I listened to him intently while he was narrating his transitional journey from being a chain smoker who could barely run 500 m to now a runner who runs a whopping distance of 89 km every year in South Africa.  He recommended the step by step approach for a runner while making a transition from a 5k to an ultra-runner and also stressed about respecting one’s body by doing the necessary medical check-ups on a regular basis.

14215632_10157382671695335_890317979_o 14315487_10157382669190335_1977200411_o

He went on to narrate a solemn experience of his friend-a runner from China who was extremely fit and yet met with a tragic end post a run.  In relation to this, he talked about the importance of knowing the art of dealing with emergency situations when a runner falls unconscious or when his/her heart beat stops. He also mentioned the importance of wearing a wrist band which carries one’s blood group and emergency number to be contacted during such grave instances.  As he concluded on a light note, I processed all that I had learnt post this event.

I have always believed that every run was a learning experience and a test of our physical and mental abilities. However the learning that I imbibed from the Bhumi India run was an enriching one with the speeches deeply ingrained in my mind as I came out as a wiser soul.

Incidentally this run was to promote education for the underprivileged section of the society and yet I realised how privileged I was to have educated myself this morning. No doubt the saying goes that learning indeed is a continuous process.

Thank you Bhavana for inviting me to be a part of this run, Bijay and Satish for your inspiring and informative speeches, volunteers for doing a commendable job and photographers for making our runs memorable.

Yeours’ truly an uphill task-The Yeour Hill run challenge experience

Hills have always intimidated me and it’s been an arduous battle trying to conquer them.  Despite doing the famous Satara Hill Marathon last year, I still could not get over my inhibition for inclines which prompted me to train harder under the guidance of my coach in the last couple of months.  When Vivek Soni- the organiser of Yeour Hill run challenge asked me if I would be interested in participating in the same, I immediately agreed. It was either a 15 k hill run or a 10 k run with obstacles. Unsure about the latter I opted for the former one which was scheduled on September 4th, 2016.

14248823_10157345636265335_133504289_n

Yeour Hills is situated in Thane district in Maharashtra and is highly recommended as a beautiful terrain albeit a tough one, by many runner friends’ who would often train there.  Now considering that the month of August had been a gruelling one, starting with the Durshet forest marathon, the IDBI federal Mumbai half marathon and the IIT Bombay monsoon run, I decided to take a back seat and bask in the beauty of the surroundings instead of pushing my heart rate beyond its limits. After all, I have always believed in the philosophy of not racing in all my runs and stopping to smell the roses once in a while.

A few days before the event, I was delighted to find that several of my runner buddies were participating in this run and one of them was pacing the 2 hour bus. Excited chats were exchanged about how we will all eventually get our sub 2 (every half marathoner’s dream) at least in this one. The D day arrived, commencing with a long drive to Thane along with another runner friend –Abhijit. We passed a gigantic Ganesha statue being carried in a truck for the much awaited Ganpati festival which commenced from the next day (Sep 5).  Considering this as a positive sign, I knew that I would survive the unrelenting hills. We soon reached the venue and eagerly caught up with some of our friends.

After a round of the warm up session, we headed towards the start line. The Sub 2 topic emerged again sending us into peals of laughter. Giggling like school children going on a picnic, we even talked about strolling up the inclines if we found it too tough to surpass them with our strides.

The start of the run proved to be a little shaky as I had accidently set my Vivoactive garmin on the swim mode and had to pause to set it right. Besides my ipod began to play some 90s Bollywood number instead of the electronic beats that I normally listen to during a run which had to be adjusted as well. Losing a couple of minutes, I sprinted to catch the 2 hour bus. I ran just a little ahead, thinking that even I lost steam; I would end up being with the rest of the gang. I slowly found myself going ahead and soon came across my first slope which I surpassed. ‘Not bad’, I thought as I continued my strides and soon spotted the majestic Upavan Lake to my left at the break of dawn.  This vast body of water was spread like a colourless sheet of tranquillity carrying the reflection of the sky above.  Just at that juncture I bumped into one our renowned photographers-Michael whom I greeted with a cheerful good morning. ‘You are fourth’, he said excitedly and I acknowledged with a thumbs up.

The course offered more rolling hills just as I had anticipated. ‘I can get through this’, I told myself. All those hill training sessions might as well come in handy now. At the 4th km, came the dangerous curve that men would usually rave about. Unfortunately I was no man and certainly didn’t appreciate curves especially since this one reminded me of that deadly 4-7 km stretch at the Satara Hill run. I decided to run up this one as long as I could before I adopted the walk-run method. After a while, I chose to walk a few steps and look around. The surroundings were an enchanting green as we were embedded between jungles on both sides reminding me of those hill station trips to Ooty and Kodaikanal I took as a little girl.

14191767_10157345636770335_136615437_o

As I came across more slopes, I gasped and stopped in my tracks. “What goes up will always come down”, my hubby cum running partner Amit told me. That was enough to set that fierce runner in me on fire as my feet cruised up those inclines and turned at the 7.5 km mark. There were aid-stations offering water and fast & up to replenish our depleted energy levels. On the way down, I caught sight and waved at several runners, smiling and cheering them. The downhill run is always a joyful ride, making you feel like a child coming down a giant slide.  From thereon it was no looking back till we reached the finish line which we crossed with our customary sprint in 1 hour 30 minutes, with me ranking 4th.

We headed towards the holding area to collect our medals and breakfast of idli, wada and chutney, an energy drink which was followed by a cup of tea.  Considering how all of us loved south Indian cuisine, these breakfast boxes were devoured like hot cakes. As our friends gathered, we ended up discussing the incredibly beautiful route and also the euphoric feeling that we felt on completing such a challenging one. Our mobiles greeted us with a message from the organisers about our race timing which was sent to us as soon as we crossed the finish line. The results and our ranking were mailed to us once the winners were announced. The promptness in this service impressed us as we thanked the organisers for giving us an opportunity to run amidst nature within city limits.

14215225_10157345637010335_1535388263_o

No doubt, it was a daunting task having to conquer the hills as intimidating as that of Yeours’ truly (pun intended). But as I left the grounds, it was those memories of the mesmerising lake, jungles, laughter, photographs and elated discussions that continued to linger on my mind which left a grin on my face throughout the ride back home.

Nevertheless the battle with the hills continues…

Thank you Vivek Soni, Joints n Motion, Fast & Up, volunteers and photographers!

Where there is a Hill, there is a way-The Satara Hill marathon 2015 experience

Hills are a nightmare for most runners and I was no exception. Despite this fact, I still signed up for the 4th edition of the Satara hill half marathon in April 2015,with great zest, after hearing rave reviews about the beautiful course that runners were treated to. It was just 4 months away. Training for it was literally an uphill task especially when summer was at its peak and the humidity levels were enough to deter ones spirit to run on those long winding slopes.
The Satara hill marathon was slated to be the toughest one in India- not surprising as it’s called the ultra half due to its elevated tough terrain. Satara is a small district tucked away in the interior belt of Maharashtra. It is about a 5 hour drive from the city of Mumbai and close to the hill stations of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani.  Runners from various parts of the country flocked to this hilly destination this year as this edition was to be recorded in the Guinness book of world records.
 The D day soon arrived as I set off to conquer the hills, early Saturday morning. After collecting my bib from Satara marathon expo, I proceeded to Panchgani which was an hour’s drive away from Satara, to halt for the night, before my run the next morning. As the sun set slowly, so did my spirits. Nervousness began to set in gradually-a similar feeling which I encountered before my Class 12th  CBSE board exams.
Getting sleep the night before the marathon is a challenge as there is a flurry of emotions-excitement,nervousness, restlessness. However I did manage to get some good rest before my alarm rang the next morning.  I left the hotel to pick up my runner friends on the way to proceed to the start line.  We soon reached the holding area-where the runners assemble before the race. The atmosphere was lively with the music blaring from the speakers, some runners were doing their warm ups while others were posing for photographs and engaging in a lively chatter.
I soon spotted a familiar face from my Mumbai road runners group (the group whom I run 21 km with every month). It was Coach Giles Drego who was a marathon veteran and a wonderful guide.  He acknowledged me with a smile as I approached him. After exchanging pleasantries, I expressed my nervousness and apprehensions. He reassured me saying that it was only the 4-7 km stretch that would be challenging while the rest of the course was doable. His words worked like magic as faith slowly began to find its place.  Despite doing 6 half marathons, 1 full marathon and several practice runs, I knew this was no ordinary race. It was a test of one’s limits and endurance. The worse part was that Amit-my running partner cum husband- was not here to accompany me on his journey so it was a lone battle with the hills for me that day.
The race flagged off at 6am. The initial 3.75 km stretch was through the village of Satara. I was surprised to see many people up in the wee hours of morning to cheer us runners. The steep ascent began at the 4 km point and this was where the real challenge commenced. As I ran uphill, I remembered to bend my body forward as instructed by my trainer in the past and take slow strides.  I experienced a sudden wave of light dizziness and my eyes began to feel heavy. I instantly took out my GU energy gel packet and consumed it, followed by a sip of water. It worked for some time until I felt drained again. It was evident that the hills were not going to relent easily and were putting up a fierce fight. I looked at the other runners around me-some were walking up, some jogging lightly. Deriving some inspiration from them, I too put my best foot forward, literally. However the climb worsened and my inner voice instructed me to just go along with the electronic dance music booming from my ipod and pretend that this run was a dance.  It kept me going for a while until I realized that I was running out of water. The next aid station was only at the 7 km mark. As I started to walk slowly, I was almost on the verge of giving up when a fellow runners voice boomed behind me saying ‘”Come on, don’t stop. Keep going.’ He was truly God sent at that juncture as those words restored my spirits to run up to the 7 km mark.
 Sometimes that gentle nudge from an unknown source works wonders. I may not even meet such kind souls post the race or in my life again, but strangely I will always regard such individuals with gratitude as they were crucial in aiding me through this arduous journey.
During the course, I was treated to some sights of nature- a light cascade of waterfall to my left. A little ahead I spotted some monkeys on the right who were curiously looking at this bunch of 2 legged creatures in shorts and t shirts, perspiring all over and staggering up the mountain slopes-probably wondering what on earth we were doing at their abode so early in the morning. As I reached the 7 km aid station, I got the necessary refreshment in the form of an orange drink which spiked my energy levels to that of a race horse.  I found myself cruising up to the 10.5 km mark where we had to take a U- turn. It was a downhill and a flat stretch from thereon and my legs suddenly seemed to have grown wings as I raced down like a person possessed-probably to make up for the lost time in the 4-7 km stretch.
 14182308_10157328141465335_1463708168_n 14163931_10157328136295335_654785188_o
Now this time there were 3 medal categories-hill champion for those who finished under 2 hrs, hill conqueror for those who finished between 2-2:30 and a hill challenger for those who exceeded 2 hrs 30 mins. I desperately wanted that hill conqueror medal and was prepared to put  my heart and soul into this race. They say when your heart is really set on something, all of the universe conspires to help you realize that dream. I offered a silent prayer to the hills and the sun which for some reason came down on us fiercely. I soon caught up with the 2 hr 20 min bus and even overtook them at one point.
When I reached the village, there were more people on the road cheering and clapping hard for the runners. At this stage, your legs want you to stop but the heart urges you to go on. I soon spotted Coach Giles in the last 500 m stretch who had collected his medal and goody bag and was on his way home. An appreciative nod and a thumbs up from him was enough for me to sprint that half a km.
I crossed the finish line in 2 hours 19 minutes. Words cannot describe the feeling when you reach the finish line with a decent timing especially after running such an arduous race as this one. Relief, exuberance,exhilaration all engulfed me as I silently thanked everyone who guided me before and through the race. They say faith can move mountains; in my case while I didn’t exactly move them, I did manage run 21 km amidst the mighty Ghats and comeback as a happier person.
 14218392_10157328109585335_2103047763_n
Such experiences are humbling as you realize how tough it is to take on nature. It’s even more humbling when veteran runners come up to you and congratulate you on your feat,making you feel like a star. Satara hill marathon is one unforgettable race, for its undeterred spirit of fellow runners which leaves a lasting impression on you. As I drove back to Mumbai, I looked back at those daunting hills promising to visit them the next year. I learnt that while such terrains are difficult,it is not impossible as where there is a hill, there is a way.

14203540_10157328119610335_949434334_o

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.

14159705_10157309104625335_1684109326_n 14111768_10157309104995335_1907341338_n

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.

14139425_10157309105875335_1863681720_o

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.

14163919_10157309105405335_1874004217_o

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.

 

The unexpected birthday gift- KOR 10 K Race event

I first heard about the KOR 10 k race from my runner friend Mihir who was organising this one along with his partner Rajendra Tembe. When I enquired about the date of the event, he categorically told me that it was going to be held on June 26th 2016. On hearing this, I smiled as it was on the eve of my birthday which was on June 27th.  ‘What better way to bring in my birthday than run a race conducted by a friend”, I thought. Besides it was his first event and my husband and I wanted to show our solidarity, which made us sign up for this race immediately in the month of April.

The summer months of April and May went by with the weather showing no mercy as the mercury levels soared, making it difficult to clock my mileage. I was barely able to go beyond 14 km. Added to which I was to participate in a stadium run on June 19th that required me to run for 2 hours around the 400 m track, as a part of a relay team consisting of 6 members. It certainly didn’t help that I was following something called the ‘Keto’ diet which strictly deluded carbs from my intake and I had to survive only on proteins and fat.

My senses soon instructed me to patch up my estranged relationship with carbs which turned the tide in my favour.  It worked like magic as my depleted energy levels came bouncing back and so did my strides. The stadium run comfortably saw me through a decent 17.5 km in those 2 hours, considering the humidity levels in my slot between 8 am -10 am.  Confidence returned as I geared up for the KOR 10 k race.

Monsoons had paved its way into the city by then, bringing down the temperature, however the humidity levels refused to budge. Updates of the KOR race began to occupy my Facebook event page as I grasped the information about the route being a flat one and conducted at Vile Parle. As I got a glimpse of the pacers, most of them were known to me through the running circuit and I was glad that I would be running with friends.

As my husband cum running partner- Amit scanned through the pacers page, he saw that the 55 minute bus was being paced by Girish Bindra. I knew Girish through the MRR community and regarded highly of him as a fantastic runner. I had also read about his journey of running which intrigued me further. ‘Let’s run along with Girish’, Amit suggested. My eyes popped out as I remarked saying “Are you serious? No way can I keep up pace with him. Besides I had just pushed myself last week and 55 minutes will be a tough target.”

The D day finally arrived and the butterflies in my stomach showcased the anxiety pangs as we left towards the venue. It was drizzling as we got out of the car and went to meet our runner friends. We ran into Bijay- MRR admin, spirited runner friend and a pacer for that day. “Do aim for the podium”, he told me as I had a good chance according to him. I shook my head and replied saying that no way I could push myself that day and was planning to take it easy.

We soon bumped into Girish Bindra. After exchanging pleasantries, he asked us to run with his bus. Nervousness showed on my face as I expressed my concerns stating how exhausted I normally get, every time I tried to push myself. He reassured me saying that we could run till whatever distance we were comfortable with and take it forward.

Something in his words seemed to work like a magic pill as I started my strides. I ran ahead to keep up with him. It was a pleasure running along with him and another runner friend Chitu Shetty. I had kept pace with them until my shoelace decided to play hooky. I unfortunately lost a minute there along with my momentum but somehow managed to pick up pace. I could spot Girish and his bus at a distance. I kept going, determined not to stop. The rains decided to make their appearance and it was a wonderful feeling running with the raindrops pelting on our faces. We soon neared the finish line and I sprinted the last 500 m to finish in 56 minutes. I was exhausted by then and sat down, trying to catch my breath. “Not bad”, I thought, considering that this was the off season and I had never achieved this timing for a 10 k distance in the monsoon months.

After the race, it was the usual custom of posing for selfies, photographs and basking in the lively chatter. It was a well organised one with sufficient volunteers and photographers. Breakfast was provided in the Sathaye college canteen, where the event was being conducted.   After relishing the spread, we got out to listen to the announcements being made.

Chitu Shetty had won a podium in his age category and we all cheered and clapped for him. As they announced the open category results for women which was the 18-40 age group, I was surprised to hear my name being called out as the second runners up. I collected my cup in disbelief and profusely thanked Girish for his pep talk and amazing pacing. I remembered Bijay’s words earlier that morning and immediately messaged him celebrex 100 mg.

13835460_10157133906900335_550190090_o 13833023_10157133906450335_1123874077_o

What a lovely surprise before my birthday! It certainly set the tone for celebration and brought back some of my confidence which had depleted along with my energy levels. I resolved to work harder than ever and put my best foot forward. I went back home to bring in the new year with new resolutions.

Thank you Mihir and Rajender for a wonderful event, Girish for the great pacing, Bijay for the wonderful words of encouragement, the volunteers and photographers for making this event a memorable one.

My Maiden Half Marathon!

My 1st half of life’s story goes like this – Coming from a Brahmin family with lot of emphasis on studies to make it big in itself was quite daunting leaving very little room for any other sports / extracurricular activities. One day as a kid, I accompanied my best friend for a Table Tennis practice session and was instantly smitten by Table Tennis. The passion grew multiple folds acquiring prestigious titles at the District / State / National level championships.

Thus started my journey of being a sport person and training hard which gradually became the way of life. Little did I know board exams meant a yearlong break into sports!!! Then there was graduation / post graduation and finally corporate life that killed it all. There have been very few happy moments when I have held the racquet in my hand and played some challenging opponents in the corporate world (which I do look back and cherish).

 

Coming to the 2nd half of the story of my life – ‘Marathon Running’ sounded so elite and only the chosen few could achieve long distance running is what I always thought!!!

I was so wrong….

I started training for as small as 5 km distance back in 2012. Successfully completed my first 10km in 69 min in 2013 and receiving the medal was ‘Out of the World’ experience. Did 2 -3 more 10 km / 11 km only since Half & Full marathon was never meant for me (I thought!!).

I then gave a good break of around 2 years where all the calories had accumulated and time had come for me to change my wardrobe (can’t be more depressing for a Lady..)

 

How I managed to get back into action!

I realized our company (IDBI Federal Life Insurance Company Ltd) swore by fitness! I came across some spectacular achievements in the world of running by few colleagues and was floored.

What next? Registered myself for a marathon (10km) in Dec 2015 and started training for a few weeks. My colleagues at work asked me to pen a few lines around running, however told them I am awaiting ‘The Moment’ when I’d run a Half Marathon. I completed 2 successful 10km marathons and that surely boosted my confidence.

During training, I would constantly seek the experiences of Karthik and Manish who were absolutely the ‘Go to’ persons and I can’t thank them enough (small, big, silly, funny queries – they answered it all with a smile). Small tips yet such profound benefits, I could see them all as I trained.

So finally, I mustered the courage and gave in my timing for our very own company sponsored New Delhi and Kolkata Half Marathon 2016. The list was out and the feelings were mixed. Firstly, I was elated since I made it to the Delhi list secondly, nervous on how to accomplish my very first half marathon.

I gave in my best to train hard for that special day with never ending words of encouragement and tips from our company’s kitty of strong runners.

 

‘The Day’ arrived –IDBI Federal NDM2016, Feb 28th

Excitement started to build at the holding area as I saw the countdown began for the flag off. Karthik had been more than kind to be my pacer (couldn’t have asked for more). I took off well until 2 km, and then there was a dip only to up my pace until 7km. I was quite comfortable and managed pretty well to the mark of 14km. The next leg was harrowing since I didn’t know how to stay on my feet beyond 2hrs over 14km and to me it was entering into a No Man’s Land.

 

It dawned on me at one point, ‘Will I be able to finish what I started’??? I kept those tiny voices from within at bay as they would do no good if I strayed. I saw the 19km mark and said to myself they have fooled us with the KM marking since the course seemed endless (such were my thoughts!!!).

I was doing everything I could, math calculation, anticipating no water stations ahead, will I do it sub 3hrs…

Karthik said we are doing good to be able to complete at 2:50, which silently brought a smile to me.

At 19.5km my feet almost gave way. At 20km, I put my head down and said I shall run for my life’s greatest moment. As I turned left, I saw the grand ‘Finish Line’ and there was sudden dip in my energy levels. It was as that point I thought so close yet so far.

Karthik clutched my hand and dragged until a few meters before the finish line and said it’s your moment, so finish it in style with both your hands in the air with a victory sign!

On a lighter note I felt like the movie scene from DDLJ – ‘Jaa Simran jee le apni Zindagi’  JJ

‘I DIT IT’ I said! I clocked my very first half marathon in 3:02. I realized the ‘Pleasure in Pain’ is beyond imagination as I ‘ENJOYED’ staying firm on my feet for 3hrs. That was my moment of euphoria!

 

I discovered a lot of people run for fame, peer pressure, social status, catching up with the Fad, selfies. We need to have a clear sense of purpose of ‘Why we are running’ navigate here.

My purpose of Running is sheer JOY, what’s YOURS?

 

‘….I chose to pursue a fulfilling life rather than an impressive lifestyle’

What’s your choice?