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Running in a bubble:The bubble run experience

Running always made me feel like I was living in a bubble. At least for that short period of time. It was just me, myself and my strides. Free from all that anxiety and stress that accompanied with the rigmarole of routine life.

So, when I actually got a chance to run amidst some bubbles, I seized the opportunity. The municipality grounds at San Jose was hosting a 5 km bubble run. It was family and stroller friendly as well.  Along with my daughter and husband, I set off on a Saturday morning to have a blast! We saw several people lined up before the start line. They were released in small groups. Only after they crossed a certain distance, the next group was released.

Snow White land: The start line was filled with a white foamy froth. Puffs of bubbles whizzed away in the light breeze- a sight that evoked squeals from little kids. Adults forgot their age and basked in the joy of these giant bubbles as well. Jumping, catching the foam in our hands, we spent a good amount of time playing in the white sheet of foam.  Some of it stuck to our legs but later got evaporated as we moved along the course which was a barren land.

Apparently where were 4 points with different colored bubbles that were to greet us during the run.

In the pink of health: We were soon greeted by a pink foam. It reminded of the cotton candy that I often had as a little kid. The kind that was available by the beach where a rugged looking man would be selling it in his cart.  Except that this one would have tasted like soap unlike the original sweet one.  It sort of felt surreal being surrounded with pink bubbles.  Almost like one of those fantasy stories that I grew up reading. I half expected to see a unicorn standing on top of the foam. No such luck. It was just the volunteers working hard to spray the foam on the runners to ensure we had the time of our lives.

Our white T-shirt’ gifted by the organizers at the packet pick up was beginning to pick up stains.

Go green: The next stop was at a green foam. The shade was a light one, reminding me of the color of a cat’s eye. It also took me back to witch stories where a light green smoke would come of a big bowl when a spell was being brewed by them. We quickly moved on to the next one.

In blues: Being my daughter’s favorite color, her joy knew no bounds. She basked in the color of the sky. Indeed, the sky was the limit when it came to her fun quotient that morning.   Wading through the blue froth, squeals of laughter escaped her little lips. I couldn’t remember the last time I had so much fun.

Basking in the sunshine: The sun was out by now and what a perfect last stop. It was A yellow foam that greeted us at this juncture before we made our way to the finish line.  By now we were completely drenched.  Wading through the slush and foam made us look as though we had been out on a walk in the rain.

What a start to the weekend! Dashing through bubbles, getting wet and dancing in the foam, without a care in the world. We had certainly traveled back in time to become kids again. Life truly felt like a bubble this morning. It was only when we went out and called out for the uber, we realized, we were back into the real world as responsible adults once again.

 

Miles with smiles : A poem on global running day

Penned down something on the occasion of global running day.

When you run
You feel alive
Every breath of air
Makes you want to jive.

When you run
You battle the blues
Demons and inner voices
Soaking in joy and the morning dew.

When you run
You have a different view
The lens has changed
Of the world around you.

Trees seem to cheer
Birds chirp and sing
Flowers bloom in their glory
Nature treats you like a king.

When you run
You face the rain, wind and sun
Difficult as it may be be
It sure is a lot of fun.

When you run
you listen to your heart beat
On the hills and road you wander
The rhythm embedded in your feet.

When you run
You sometimes wonder why
Yet when you cross the finish line
You face the unmistakable feeling
Of the runners high!

When you run
You realize the journey is worthwhile
After all what is life
Without a few huffs and puffs
Without which you may end up being senile.

Happy global running day everyone! Keep those miles and smiles going.

Warrior on the run-the armed forces half marathon experience

They might call me crazy. I don’t blame them. Who else would travel 92 km in the wee hours of the morning in a foreign land, with just 5 hours of sleep? A runner of course. Yet this was no ordinary run. It was the armed forces half marathon, organized by the US armed forces inside the naval weapons station which was otherwise off-limits for civilians. Who would pass up such a golden opportunity to run inside an area that served as an ammunitions depot for several wars fought in the past? Not me for sure.

 

Concord is a city which is situated north east of San Francisco. It took about an hour and 20 minutes from Stanford during the day in peak traffic hours. Driving through the reserves, foothills and wildflowers, I reached Todos Santos Plaza, situated in downtown of concord. Registered runners had to pick up their running bibs and T shirt here. It was a beautiful area, surrounded with a lot of restaurants and shops. The park was picturesque with green lawns, rose bushes and a pretty fountain in the middle. People sat in the benches, munching a sandwich or sipping their coffee from the Starbucks joint in the neighborhood. I spotted the bib collection area and collected my packet. “The run starts at 6:30 am sharp. You might want to come at 6:00 am.” The organizers said. I nodded.

 

Usually runners face insomnia the day before an event. Mostly due to the fear that they may sleep through the alarm. I tossed and turned that night, dreading what may happen if I slept through it. With barely 5 hours of sleep, I left my place at 4:45 am and reached Concord by 6:00 am. The area was bustling with runners wearing colors of the American flag. Incidentally I wore a red t shirt that day so I managed to blend in with the crowd dressed in reds, blues and stripes. Some were doing their stretches and warm ups before their run while others were engaged in a friendly banter with their groups. I stood there and surveyed the crowd. The young and old were assembled there. I was surprised to see a good number of Indians as well and from their chatter I gathered it was their first run.

 

A loud voice boomed across the park asking runners to assemble near the start line. The national anthem was sung and the announcer thanked runners for showing up at an event dedicated purely for the armed forces. I felt goosebumps just being there, despite the fact I was from another country. I had great respect for the armed forces. Their ability to lay down their lives for the nation never ceased to intrigue and amaze me.

 

We started off the run sharp at 6:30. The weather was quite pleasant in the morning and it was nice to run the first 5 km inside the city. I slowly got into a rhythm and comfortable pace. However, the lack of sleep began to catch up with me and my eyelids began to feel heavy. Stopping at the aid station serving water and energy drinks, I splashed some water on my face and took a sip of the energy drink. Feeling much better, I entered the naval weapons station.

 

What a place! I gazed around the chain of small hills, surrounded with tufts of dried grass. If I didn’t know about this place being a weapons station, I could have easily mistaken it for a meadow. Spread in bountiful acres, the entire area took my breath away as I ran along the road. Some runners stopped to click pictures on their mobiles and I did the same. So, this was the place where ammunitions were stored. It made me wonder what this place would have looked like during wars. Just thinking about the secret codes and strategies devised here made me shiver. Feeling goosebumps prickling my tender skin, I was awestruck by the majestic splendor of this place. The sudden excitement dispelled my sleep and by now I was wide awake. My body refused to recognize any sign of fatigue just thinking about those selfless souls who had served their country with pride. How many sleepless nights would have been spent in fighting for their nation, I thought.

 

I saw a big hill approaching at the 11thkm. My stomach clenched into a nervous knot just looking at the intimidating slope. However, the view from the top made the arduous climb really worthwhile. I stared in awe at the sight of small green shrubs towered by dried grass and the illuminating sheet of grey clouds hovering above like a protective parent. It was one of those moments when I wished everything would just come to a standstill so that I could bask in this surreal moment forever. The quick footsteps of runners climbing up the hill brought me back to reality. The clock was ticking seconds away with every heartbeat of mine that was pulsating through my veins. It was a downhill for another mile and there was music being played just at the point when the slope descended downwards. The beats pepped the runners to help them recover from a vigorous climb and reach the finish line in a strong manner. It was just a few more miles before we were handed the finishers medal.

 

It was another incentive to run strong as this time finishers would be rewarded with the commemorative armed forces medal. Despite tiredness catching up with my legs, I continued going in a strong manner, aided by energy drink and gel. I reached a point which was just 2 km away from the finish line. A couple of men were running along with their dog. “Here boy here,” they beckoned to him when the dog came towards me. I smiled and waved saying “A good running partner.” The men grinned. My legs were almost giving up-a result of a stressful week and sleepless nights coupled with all the triathlon training. I kept going and soon heard the announcer’s voice. The finish line was just around the corner. Gathering all my reserves and clenching my fists tightly, I ran and ran until I crossed the finish line and was garlanded that precious medal.

 

I gazed at it in awe. Round and huge, the US flag along with the army bunker was carved on it. Humbled and exhilarated at the same time, I held it proudly while the official photographers clicked my picture. My body was now invaded by the famous runner’s high-a feeling of having completed a good run. I couldn’t wait to get back and share my experience with my family. It was an hour and 30 minutes before I would reach home. As I called for the uber, I realized that travelling 90 plus km back and forth was worth it. It isn’t every day that I get an opportunity to run in one of the most privileged area that has held a great deal of significance for the country. What made it special was the fact this run was just couple of days before the Memorial Day on May 28th!Wa

Running without music

Races banning headphones end up being a blessing to runners in many ways. Besides listening to sounds of nature, it enables you with the ability to be in tune with other people and their conversations that you inadvertently overhear and learn a lot from.

This happened at the Big Sur event on Sunday. The hilly course intimidated several runners prompting them to pep talk one another to get to the finish line in one piece.

At the 5th mile, I overheard a father-son duo engaged in a deep conversation.

“How much more?” Panted the son.

“Easy there. Take a deep breath.” The Father encouraged.

“I just have to finish this one. I am already dead. “

“You can. Just keep at it. You are doing great.”

“Dad! My legs are dead.”

“Buck up John. You got this one”.

“Dad what if I don’t? “

“You will son. Just keep at it.”

“Dad! If I don’t do this, my friends will laugh at me. I mean I will be the laughing stock on social media. “

Just then we paused at the aid station.

“Listen son. You run for yourself. Got that? The minute you run for other people, you are finished. “

“Dad but..”

“No son. You are a lot happier when you run for yourself. It’s about you! Run because you want to, not for your friends or anybody. The day you do that, you will be a much better runner. “

I took off from the aid station to cruise on those rolling hills. When I reached the finish line, That old man’s message still rang in my ears- “Run for yourself, You will be a happier person”.

What a profound message! In need of the hour where pressure of social media prompts people to push beyond their limits which ultimately robs the joy of running.

Unfortunately couldn’t meet him later but thank him for his inadvertent golden words. However his words will echo in my journey as a runner and triathlete forever!

Aparna Bhingarkar D’souza- Gimme Pink

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This working Mom of two started Running in 2013 in a bid to encourage her teenage daughter to join her in order to lose weight. Though Alisha did not join in then, Aparna discovered that she enjoyed Running. It gave her that much needed “Me time” to clear her head and plan the day. After all she had indulged in Athletics during school; so what if it was more to get out of studies 😉. Later in college, she would walk as much as possible in order to save up her pocket money 😁.

Aparna did her very first 10K at the Pinkathon in 2013 encouraged by her ex-colleague Sharmila Munj. Of course, getting to meet Milind Soman was an added incentive to participate 🤗. Thereafter, she also joined in for the monthly XPTC runs. For someone who did not like Gyms, Running was the easiest activity to take up. Aparna would run solo for about 5-6K daily depending on the time availability as she also had to commute to her office in Marol from Mahim. She enjoyed exploring different routes to keep things more interesting.

2015 onwards, Aparna became more focused and wanted to increase her pace in a bid to improve her timing. She was introduced to the Mumbai Road Runners by her Pinkathon buddies who told her to join in for their monthly Bandra-NCPA run as she wanted to do her first HM at the SCMM in January. Aparna connected with Samuel Chettiar and Bijay Nair amongst others and started volunteering and helping out during the monthly MRR runs 😊.

Since Volunteering gave her so much pleasure, it became a regular affair as Aparna helped out whenever feasible and took on the onus of managing the 21K which were introduced at Pinkathon over the last three years. With a cut off of 2:30 each female runner was paced by individual male pacers. This HM was started in a bid to help Women Runners improve their timings and achieve their PB’s 😎.

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When Pinkathon started their Inter-city Runs, Aparna felt inspired watching so many runners running long distances from one city to another for days together. While volunteering during one such Run, she mentioned to Sonia that they should at least do Mumbai-Pune when Milind Soman happened to overhear her. He encouraged them to do so and that’s when Terrific Trio of Sharmila Munj, Sonia Kulkarni and Aparna D’souza accepted the Challenge 😯. They trained for a period of 3 months putting in the required mileage whilst also working on Strength training with one compulsory Rest Day following the schedule provided by Milind. The tough ladies managed to achieve their goal of running from Mumbai-Pune in 3 days with elan 😎.

In 2016, Pinkathon also introduced their Har Ghar mein Pinkathon initiative in order to further promote fitness in women. The idea was to encourage women to take out time for themselves and focus on their health. They started free training groups in different localities. Aparna heads one such group at Shivaji Park. They meet regularly from 5:45-6:30 on alternate days when she usually runs from her home in Mahim to join the Gang.

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Having successfully completed the Mumbai-Pune Run in 2016, Aparna decided to join the fun yet again in 2017. This time, they upped the ante and a group of 20 women who trained for 6 months were shortlisted based on regular tests that confirmed their readiness and capability for the humongous task ahead.  She says that she felt the first time was easier as she could enjoy running at her own pace whilst the second time she had to ensure she ran along with the others in her Pacing Bus.

Aparna intends to hop on the Bus yet again in 2018, when the plan is to get 50 women to run from Mumbai-Pune.

Recently, she got her very first podium finish in the 10K where she was the Second Runner Up in her Age Category at the Malad Run in February 🤗.

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Since Aparna enjoys Ultras so much, she now wants to get proper Coaching in order to also work on her pace. Her goal is to participate and successfully complete the much touted Comrades Marathon at South Africa in the following year 😎.

On a parting note, Aparna states that she really admires other Women Runners who manage to juggle and work out despite their busy schedules. She advises Newbies to find time for themselves and take care of their health. After all; when you are healthy and happy, your family will definitely be happy isn’t it? Oh Yes- these days Aparna’s daughter Alisha has started Running too. As for her son Abhishek, he wants to beat his Mom in a 5K pretty soon 😄.

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Tri thrill at Half moon bay: My 2nd olympic distance triathlon experience

Six months back, doing an Olympic distance triathlon seemed like a mammoth task.  When I conquered my second one last Sunday (April 22nd 2018), it felt like reconnecting with a long lost friend. Does it mean that the distance was easy? By no realms. It just means that I went with the flow literally speaking.
Half moon bay is a just a 45 minute drive away from Stanford. “The water is freezing” , I had heard people say at the swim clinic one week prior to the event. On race day when we went for a warm up lap in the sea, I noticed some Americans shivering despite wearing wetsuits and  despite being used to swimming in cold waters.
Swim: It started off as a foggy morning and blurred the visibility for swimmers. The 1.5 km was in the harbor where the boats were docked. We had to swim around them and the orange buoys to get to the beach.  At midpoint, my face froze and went numb along with my hands. Not to mention my goggles were fogged, making sighting quite a tedious task.  It turned out to be a bit of a struggle to ensure I don’t drift away from the course. Managed to pull through the swim despite the ocean being cold and dreary.
T1:  I felt wobbly as soon as I got out of the water but that didn’t stop me from running in my wetsuit towards the transition area to pick up my bike.  Removing the wetsuit on the way, I reached my bike, buckled my helmet and bike glasses, slipped on my t shirt and shoes. The hardest part of the triathlon event is probably getting off your wetsuit, an art that I need to practice a lot more.
Bike: I mounted on my bike after gulping down a gu gel.  The first few km felt miserable as I was still shaky from the swim. A sip of the magical Gatorade worked wonders and I zoomed on a course which took my breath away. It was one of the most picturesque routes that I have biked on. The rolling hills were sandwiched between green contours on either side adorned with plantations and flowers.  Now whenever I bike, I have this little voice cautioning me against a flat tire- a cyclists nightmare.  As I pedaled deftly on these hills, I chanted ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’- a plea to the lord of obstacles to help me and my road bike reach the transition without hiccups. It’s an old folklore that when you pray to the elephant faced God before doing anything major event, there would be no obstacles in my way. So here I was chanting this mantra all the way, smiling and waving at the volunteers who cheered us on until I reached the transition area.
T2: Wheeling my bike, I mounted it on the stand, removed my helmet and took a sip of water before I went on to do my third leg.
Run: Just when you think, you are done with the race, you still are 10 km away from the finish line. The first 3 Km was hard especially since I had exhausted my reserves on the bike.  Volunteers entrusted a gu gel in my hands insisting that it would help me going forward. Bless them!  It was a 5 km loop and I noticed a lot of runners coming on the other side. “Great going girl, you got this one”, they shouted , giving me a hi five. “I love your bright colour” a lady smiled pointing to my radiant orange t shirt that would have probably blinded even the sun which had come out by then. Thats the fluctuating California weather for you!
The course was along the coast and partly on a trail with a few rollers. The sound of the alluring waves pacified my wrecked nerves and muscles as I ran along.  I spotted some surfers on the waves and families with little kids and their pet dogs.  The dogs were playing on the beach, getting splashed by the friendly waves. How I longed to join them and laze around instead of pounding  my half dead legs.
Pop! Went another gu gel as I turned at the 5 km point and zoomed ahead. It was sunny and I was glad to have worn my sun glasses. I could hear the sound of the race announcer and before I knew it, I crossed the finish line in a jiffy.
The finish: I plonked myself on the chair after receiving the medal, letting cold water trickle down my throat. I glanced at my watch and saw that I had shaved 10 mins from my previous Olympic distance triathlon.
As I walked to the transition to collect my bike, I heard a voice say “She did the Olympic distance.” I turned to see couple of women smiling at me. “Way to go gal”. They chirped.
I smiled. That was the best part of doing races here- the non judgemental attitude, the sportsmanship, ability to appreciate even those who are not necessarily the fastest. Something that I treasure even more than my medal!
A big thanks to the volunteers and USA productions for putting up a great show! A big thanks to my coach Viv under whose guidance, I have grown stronger.

Skechers 10K – Santacruz

Yesterday, i.e. 22nd April, 2018, MRR organised its first Skechers 10K run. The event was hosted by Skechers at their newly opened showroom at Linking road in Santacruz. The event page was hosted by MRR in its FB group, page & twitter.

Before the run Skechers offered their GoRun6 sports shoes to few runners to test it out during the run and give their feedback. About 4 male runners and 2 female runners opted for that. Their feedback was posted on the MRR FB group.

Sandeep Gupta took the pre run warm ups and Manohar gave instructions on the route. There was one water stop at Carter Road near CCD.

The run started at 6.04 a.m. from their showroom and went down Linking Road towards Bandra, turned right at the H.P. petrol pump, onto Turner Road, all the way down to Carter Road, facing the Arabian Sea, towards the CCD where we took a right turn to go into the Pali Hill Road. This was an incline for about a mile or so at the inner roads of Pali. There was a lot of tree cover and shade in this particular part of the route. We descended from Pali hill towards the Police Commissioner’s office again onto Carter Road, this time we took a right to keep going towards Khar Danda, where our nostrils were assailed by the smell of fish and dry fish.  Thankfully it passed and we kept going towards Linking Road and then a left to the store again.

 The post run stretches were again taken by Sandeep Gupta and then there were some goody prizes to be won on a quiz questions, which was enthusiastically done. Breakfast was offered to the runners.  About 80 runners took part.

This run will be held once a month.

Conquering Morgan hill: The South Bay Duathlon experience

             

Run-bike-run! Sounds like fun, right? It sure is if you don’t mind your legs wobbling like jelly at the end of it and when I say jelly I don’t mean the mouthwatering dessert that you see at those fancy tea parties. It means that they feel like a pile of bricks tumbling down in an earthquake.

March was considered the start to the triathlon season in California and I decided to inaugurate mine with an Olympic distance duathlon event organized by USA Productions-one of the largest west coast based event production companies that organize endurance events. The venue was at Live Oak school, Morgan Hill which was about 50 minutes away from Stanford. The event began at 7:05 am and participants had to be there an hour prior to set up their stuff at the transition area.

It was still dark when I arrived and I could see several strong looking triathletes setting up their bikes and bags in the transition area.  I set up mine and stood there shivering in the cold despite having worn an inner warm clothing.  I looked around at the friendly folks who were laughing and joking with one another. They made it a point to include me in a couple of their jokes which helped in easing those bouts of nervousness that had suddenly consumed me like a dark spell. “I didn’t bring my other bike as I am still not comfortable with it.” Said one guy. “Then you should ride more often on it to get comfortable. What say?” he looked at me laughing and I grinned.  The ambience was certainly that of an easy going one, a far cry from the seriousness that I expected out of high performing athletes. I decided to relax and walk around for a bit before the start of the first leg which was the 10 k run.

While talking to one of the volunteers, I discovered that this wasn’t an entirely a flat course and that the bike course had one steep hill.  I cringed my face as my hill cycling was at its worst. Running up the hills was a far easier feat than peddling those wheels up the slopes.  I offered a silent prayer to Lord Ganesha to help me complete this event without any obstacle. Fortunately, there was no cut off timing for this event as the organizers strongly believed in the spirit of participation more than anything.

The first leg 10 k run: The weather was quite chilly and an ideal one for someone to aim for their personal best. However, the thought of having to bike 40 k and run another 5 k post weighed on my mind as I paced myself cautiously like a chicken which had just hatched from its egg and was exploring the world for the first time.  While the other women sprinted from the word go, I paced myself sensibly.  It was 2 loops of the 5 k course and we passed through some cherry blossoms, mustard fields and green mountains in the vicinity. The entire sight reminded me of Switzerland and clippings from those famous Yash Raj Films.

The mustard plants transported me back to the song “Tujhe dekha to yeh jaana sanam” from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge. I suddenly heard a bell and looked up surprised only to see a volunteer jingling one to encourage participants instead of a demure looking cow wearing a cowbell on its neck like it was shown in the movie. I smiled and shook my head at my idiosyncrasies and ran ahead.  Before I knew it, I had completed one loop and was on my second loop.  I saw some cyclists whizz past me like a whirlwind. So, some of them were on their second leg now, I thought, making me marvel at their finesse and athletic abilities to sprint their way through each division. Probably enough to give me an inferiority complex making me wonder what a tortoise like me was doing amidst these cheetahs. However, living in the Silicon Valley for 8 months taught me one thing-never give up even if the odds are against you and hold your head high irrespective of what you do. When I heard the volunteers shout “you go gal”, “you are my hero”, “you got this one”, I revived my spirits, overtaking a couple of runners as I crossed the mat in 59 minutes.

T1: Ideally, I had to just put on my helmet and glasses and wheel my bike towards a point from where I could start cycling. However, a momentary confusion and getting that clarified from a volunteer costed me 3 mins.  I mounted on my bike, ready to rock the roads. “Have fun”, a volunteer shouted. I nodded smiling. That’s what I was here for right? To have fun.

40 k bike: Residing in Stanford campus gave me ample scope to navigate around on a cycle whether it was to go to my classes, library, gym or just buy groceries and carry them on my bag pack. Quite an adventure by itself and a pleasant change from being coped up inside a car especially since I was prone to car sickness.  The rainy weather had Stanford entire winter had made it challenging to clock mileages outdoors so all those long hours on the bike were spent indoors on the wahoo kickr trainer.

It was lovely to be back outdoors especially since the weather gods had decided to be nice today.  It was 5 loops of an 8 km course and a picturesque one, making it hard for me to tear my eyes away from the postcard like surroundings and focus on the road ahead.  Volunteers stood at every juncture, directing us in the right manner lest we get lost.  The roads were perfectly divided with cones to separate the regular traffic from the event course. Feeling the fresh breeze on my face, I cruised ahead taking in the fields and the green carpet of nature that had cascaded on either side of the roads.  Everything was going fine until I reached that gigantic hill near the dam. Oh boy! This looked deadly as I lowered my gear and peddled up. After a point, fatigue took over my legs, prompting me to get down from my bike and wheel it up. A couple of concerned cyclists and volunteers asked if I was ok to which I responded with a cheerful nod till I reached a point where I could mount my bike again and cruise on the roads like a free spirit. One loop done and four more to go. With every loop, my legs were getting stronger barring that ugly hurdle which probably costed me at least 5-7 minutes of my cycling time.  I had finished 40 km in 1:50, a significant improvement from my previous timing of 2:05, all thanks to my coach’s training.

T2: It hardly took a minute to remove my helmet and glasses and hit the roads again with my strides.

Third leg 5 k run: My legs felt numb. Wait a minute! I felt like a ghost on a run, almost invisible until I heard a few cyclists egg me on shouting “you go gal”. Alright so I hadn’t turned into a spirit but why did I feel like I had no legs.  I looked down to see that they were still in one piece.  In my mind, they felt like a 2-story building crumbling down in a natural disaster. A gulp of electrolytes handed over by the kind volunteers restored life back to them. By now the sun was up and glaring down at us. I felt the cyclists whizz pass me-the sprint category participants and each of them had a word of encouragement for me, making me feel as though I was on a quest to break a world record.  “never give up, you can do it, you are almost there”, were the words I heard till I reached the finish line.  The last 5 k was in 33 minutes as I plonked myself on one of the chairs after collecting my medal.

Breakfast was being served and I grabbed a couple of oranges, a bowl of blueberries and half a muffin as I was famished. There was provision to check our finish timing at the timing kiosk if we entered our bib number. I was pleasantly surprised to see 3:29:31 when I thought it would be somewhere around 4 hours. Compared to international timing, it was pretty mediocre but for an Indian who is from a non-athletic background, I was elated as I had performed better than expected.

It doesn’t matter if you are the last, it doesn’t matter if you re slow but what matters is you finish like a champion holding your head high, strong enough to lift your bike which has been your ally throughout this journey!

A special mention to all the volunteers at this event and without their support, I wouldn’t have reached the finish line.  Take a bow USA Productions for a well-organized event. A big thanks to my coach Viv whose constant guidance helped me grow strength to strength.

Lata Alimchandani- Live Life Neeru Size

This sprightly 60-year-old young girl took up Running only at the age of 55. Lata was always physically active throughout though sports were fairly limited to Kho kho et all in school in those days. Post marriage, she ran her own boutique and made quite a name for herself designing wedding outfits. She travelled from Kashmir to Amritsar, Delhi and finally moved to Mumbai. Business and family jaunts would regularly have her traveling abroad. On one such occasion, she was detected with Brain Tumour for which Lata had to undergo Surgery. Fortunately, everything worked out perfectly and she was up and about within no time 😇.

Post-Surgery, when she was living in Bangkok; early riser that she was, she would regularly head to the close by Garden for stretching when loads of youngsters would be returning back from Discos. There she learned Yoga and continued to practice the same for 4-5 years. Always eager to learn new things, she also took up Aerobics later in Mumbai.

Encouraged by her Aerobics friends, she did her first running event- 10K at the Pinkathon in December 2013. At the time, Lata was clueless about Marathons thinking that everyone ran as a group starting and finishing together 😁. In fact, she ended up carrying her timing chip since she didn’t know that the timing tag had to be attached to her shoe and her timing wasn’t recorded at the Pinkathon 😑.

All gung ho, she decided to do her very first Half Marathon at the SCMM in January 2014. She convinced her husband to register her through a Charity Bib as she did not want to lose out on precious time. She went on to do a 25K during training and finished in 2:10 despite her shoes giving her trouble during the Race.

This was followed by another HM at the Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon in February 2014 where Lata stood fourth. Subsequently, it was at the IL&FS 10K where Lata tasted sweet success and got her very first Podium. Elated, she was literally jumping up and down with Joy 😁. Of course that was followed up with several more podiums practically all over the place as she soon became a familiar face on every Victory stand.

Subsequently, she went on to do about 60-70 events including several 10K, HM, FM besides track events at the Masters; both Domestic as well as International. Having qualified for Boston, now Lata is training for the World Masters as well as Asian Masters and also wants to complete the World Majors- 6 major international marathons at the earliest.

Not being Social Media savvy, Lata only learned about Mumbai Road Runners from Sunil Shetty. She got connected with MRR in 2015 when she enjoyed the monthly Bandra-NCPA run with them. She was delighted to be awarded in the Best Female Veteran Runner Category subsequently at the MRR Awards in 2016 when she got to meet and interact with several other Runners 😊.

Initially, Lata would train Solo thinking no one can teach you Running. She felt all she needed to do was run more than the required distance during practice. Later, she connected with Sunil Shetty and other Puma Brand Ambassadors and went on to be mentored by different Marathon Coaches. However, Lata continues to adapt her own training plans giving far more importance to Strength training. She believes that one should always Listen to One’s Body and Run or Race accordingly.

Lata follows follows a 3-4 days Run schedule followed by post run Stretching and Strengthening besides 2 days of Strength and Functional Training though now she gives less importance to Weight training. She keeps trying to do different things and enjoys dabbling in variety. She is highly inspired by the Labor Class who run and says that they manage to find time to work out despite their heavy work load 😎.

She advises that one should always be active keeping the mind occupied so as to keep aches, pains and illness at bay. There is always so much more to do besides just plonking down in front of the TV. This way you will always be healthy and happy.

Lata loves her Running-centric Life which has given her so much Respect, Adulation and Admiration. She still cannot believe when people message her saying that she is an Inspiration.

On a lighter note, Lata states that she has told her most ardent supporter- her Hubby that he must arrange a Marathon after her death when he is to give away all her medals and trophies. After all, what better way to be Remembered and Cherished by fellow Runners 🤗.

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!