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Sukhjeevan Singh Bhimber- Mukkabaaz

This young athletic boy was born and raised in the town of Meerut. Enrolled in the St. Mary’s Academy known for its sports facilities, Sukhjeevan was perpetually on the ground. A short distance sprinter, he excelled in the 100m, 200m besides participating in Long Jump and High Jump. Later Sukhi took up Boxing, even winning a Silver Medal at the State Level. However it all came to a grinding halt when he got injured dislocating his jaw at the age of 21 😕.

Sukhi joined the Marketing Department in Paharpur Industries after completing his MBA in Ghaziabad. Needless to say, the constant travelling and tight work schedules resulted in a complete break from Sports.

Post marriage while working at Bericap India in Pune in May 2007 he developed health issues and was diagnosed with High BP. A full Body Analysis showed that despite his weight being in appropriate range, his muscle mass seemed to be completely enveloped by the fat percentage indicating his body age as 65 years 😨. Sukhi was prescribed a whole load of supplements to counter the same. This served as a Wake-up call and Sukhi decided to focus on his health and took up Gymning determined to get back in prime health over the next year 😊.

During this time, his Boss Christian invited Sukhi to join him for a Half Marathon (HM) at Mainz in Germany. Sukhi questioned him, “Do I have to run throughout?” On getting an affirmative reply he said that he couldn’t do it. Christian encouraged him to train by doing couple of weekly 10K runs. Sukhi started off with running 5K initially. After a month he graduated to 10K.

In 2009 landing in Mainz, Sukhi joined Christian running 12K two days prior to the event to get acclimatized. On the day of the marathon; Sukhi went all out, feeling exhausted at 15K and started walking. However when he saw an old guy running past, he was inspired to run again. The same was repeated when an older female runner passed by him at about the 18K mark. He pushed on successfully completing his first HM in 2:07 😃.

In 2010 Sukhjeevan and Aarti Bhimber moved to Mumbai with their 3-year-old son Angad. In 2011 Sukhi participated in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) finishing in 1:59 as Aarti and Angad cheered him on.

The following year the couple participated together for the very first time 😃. That’s where Sukhi met Nita Khurana who mentioned about the monthly MRR (Mumbai Road Runner) run.

In January 2013 Aarti and Sukhi met MRR Stalwarts Ram Venkatraman, Giles Drego and Raj Vadgama amongst others during the monthly Bandra-NCPA run. In February they attended the MRR Awards and ever since have been regulars at the monthly runs.

In 2014 both Aarti and Sukhi were podium finishers at the Total Sports Run India Run Event and went on to win the Best Running Family Award at the MRR Awards in 2015 😎.

They have also been Brand Ambassadors and Race Ambassadors as well as Pacers at couple of Events.

This Runner Couple had to figure out how to go about their training schedules as they did not have support to take care of young Angad at the time. Aarti would go for her runs in the mornings while Sukhi would go for evening runs.

Every Saturday evening they would drive together and park at NCPA. Aarti would run from 9-11 PM when Sukhi would feed Angad and put him to sleep in the car. Then Sukhi would take off from 11-1 AM whilst Aarti waited eventually winding up with a super late dinner at Pizza By The Bay only returning home to crash at 3 AM 😌. They followed this schedule for 3+ years till they managed to get decent household help.

Since 2017 Sukhi started following structured training plans given by Coach Daniel Vaz after which he finished his HM in 1:38 following it up with a PB of 1:35 in 2018.

When a friend commented, “You are a Marathoner only when you finish a Full Marathon (FM),” Sukhi took his words to heart and decided to attempt his maiden FM at the IDBI Delhi Marathon in February 2018 finishing in an amazing 3:36 😎.

However the intense training took a toll on him. He says those 3 months prior to the Race were truly grueling when he neglected his family and both Angad and Aarti had to bear the brunt 😑. Sukhi experienced Burn Out and took a break from running for almost 5-6 months.

He went on to participate and finish the HM at the Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM) 2019 in 1:53 following it up with 1:50 at the Navi Mumbai Half Marathon despite the running break. He credits his timing to his Cross Fit Regime.

Being a sportsman, Sukhi is a firm believer in Strength training. After about 7-8 years of gym workouts he has recently taken up Cross- Fit. He attends 1-hour Cross Fit sessions 6 days a week. His current training schedule involves running thrice weekly including 2 short runs of 8-10K after 1 hour cycling and Sunday long runs of 20-25K.

At the moment Sukhi wants to enjoy running shorter distances. He believes the 10K is the toughest distance to crack. He advises that one should ensure systematic training and not race too much. He suggests racing 3-4 Races including 2-3 HM’s and 1 FM in a year. He says one can participate in every 10K in your city but choose to race in selective good HMs and FM in other cities. He signs off saying, “Don’t shrug away from weight or strength training and always enjoy your Race or Run”

Ami Upadhyay- Keep on Tri-ing

Born to an Engineer-Scientist Father and Teacher Mother in Gujarat, Ami Paneri was the eldest of three sisters. Someone who thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors running and cycling in the paddy fields, climbing trees and playing Kho kho and Kabaddi spending hours outdoors daily 😊. She did her BSc, MSc and MPhil in Physics traveling from Gandhinagar to Ahmedabad. Initially teaching was her passion, and along with studies, she would teach University students as well as IIT-AIEEE students.

Fascinated by Computers from an early age thanks to her father, Ami learnt about Micro Chip programing and to operate the Wireless 😯. Her Research project during Mphil made her join a professional course in Computer Programming and she won a Gold Medal in PGDCSA – Computer Science & Applications, after which she got a campus job in Intech systems Pvt ltd. Of course Sports took a backseat by then.

Ami got married to Sopan Upadhyay and moved to Mumbai in 2007 joining All E Technologies commuting from Kandivali to Vikhroli daily. The grueling commute, desk job and household responsibilities besides taking care of her diabetic mother-in-law who also had cardiac issues, took a toll on Ami 😕. Furthermore her first pregnancy resulted in her weight climbing from 58 Kg to 75 Kg. Subsequently, they were blessed with a beautiful baby girl Aastha in 2008.
Eventually she quit her job in 2009 post which she suffered from a period of depression and lethargy 😑. In 2010, Ami finally took charge and started walking intermittently.

In 2011, Sopan who was working with IDBI Federal Life Insurance encouraged Ami to join him in the Dream Run at the SCMM (Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon). That’s when they were bitten by the Running Bug 😁.

The following year in 2011 Ami conceived once more. This time her weight climbed up to 89 Kg as she was advised to rest up and stop all activities by her Doctor. The accident-prone girl had broken her leg 5-6 times since childhood resulting in left ankle tendon injury that was further exacerbated by this weight gain 😓. During the birth of their son, Shlok she suffered from severe trauma and blood loss taking a lot of time for Recovery.

In 2012, Ami completed her 1-year Diploma in Food and Nutrition from SNDT (IGNOU) to understand basics of diet and nutrition. Determined to get back to work, she joined Serv Pro Technologies conveniently located walking distance from her home. Yet again with household and work responsibilities taking precedence, running took a backseat. In 2013 and in 2014, Ami participated in the HM at the SCMM without preparation and naturally struggled finishing in 3:37.

In 2015 they shifted house. By then Ami hit 93 Kg and somehow completed the SCMM HM in 4 hours 😕. That served as a real Eye-opener and she steadily lost 6-7 Kg over the next year feeling much better in the process.

In 2016, Sopan’s friend, Keyur Kapadia who was organizing the Wada Duathlon encouraged them to participate in August. Cycling being her first love, Ami immediately leaped at the opportunity. She enjoyed the 2.5K Run+20K Cycling+2.5K Run tremendously.

Meeting Sunil and Sangeeta Shetty at the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Half Marathon in 2016, Ami and Sopan were introduced to the MRR (Mumbai Road Runner) Community. First Sopan was nominated in the Most Improved Runner category & the following year they both went on to be nominated in the Best Running Family Category at the MRR Awards 😎.

In November 2016 Ami joined the local cycling group – Malad Cycling Group. For the first time she was part of group rides while getting comfortable in long distance cycling.
Towards the end of 2016 Ami met Ritu Singh as their kids studied in the same school. Ritu invited them for the monthly Bandra-NCPA Runs.

After attending the Run with Ash workshop in 2017, Ami realized that she had recovery issues taking a longer period. Ashok Nath advised her to lose weight before continuing Running.

Furthermore a visit to Physiotherapist Rajani Patil led to Ami discovering that she was not only over-pronating but her left leg was weaker resulting in balance issues while running 😥. She diligently followed the exercises as advised over the next 3 months along with 1-1/2 hour activity.

In September 2017, she took part again in Wada Duathlon sprint Duathlon – 2.5k Run + 20k cycling + 2.5K run winning her very first podium 😎.

In 2018, spotting the Ladakh Marathon stall at the TMM (Tata Mumbai Marathon) Expo, Pradeep Kumbhar advised the Upadhyays to participate in the same. Post TMM, Ami joined the Mad Menon Academy following a structured training program for the very first time under the able guidance of Viv Menon.

Now all she needed to do was complete her 10K in less than 1:25 minutes to qualify for Ladakh HM. Participating in the 10K at the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Marathon in Delhi, she finished in 1:27 improving massively on her previous timing of 1:41 🤗. She went on to finish in 1:21 at the Morehelp Marathon 10K on 15th April and 1:18 at Bandra 10k on 29th April easily achieving her goal 😃.

She ran the April and May editions of the MRR Bandra-NCPA 21K along with Sopan in preparation of Ladakh.

Ami participated in the Tarblazer in June finishing her HM in 3:03 elated about running comfortably without any injuries.

Meanwhile she was introduced to Triathletes in Viv’s training group. Since she enjoyed Cycling more than Running, she decided to give it a go and focused on the upcoming Kolhapur Triathlon Sprint (750m Swim+20K Bike+5K Run) in November.

In June, Ami learned swimming though she didn’t really make much progress in the first month. She joined Shankar Thapa who helped her fine tune her Free Style over the weekends in July; managing to swim 500-700m comfortably within the month 🙂.

Meanwhile Ami comfortably completed the Ladakh HM in 3:32 in September which was a huge milestone for her.

Unfortunately in October Ami was laid down with constant Allergy attacks as well as Work, Maid and Household Issues. As they say, when it rains it pours 😠. As if it wasn’t bad enough that she could not get any experience in open water swimming; Ami came down with Tonsillitis and had fever 2-3 days prior to the Kolhapur Triathlon, even wondering if she should just forego the event.

Eventually they reached Kolhapur late and she could not practice open water swimming. The next morning, Ami could not stabilize and hardly managed to swim 200m resulting in a DNF. However the Organizers encouraged her to complete her 20K Bike and 5K Run which she finished quite comfortably.

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Once back, Ami was determined to focus on herself in the New Year. With the entire family pitching in, things soon streamlined. She registered for the Olympic distance (1500m Swim+40K Cycle+10K Run) at the Gandhinagar Triathlon in February determined to achieve her goal come what may 😚.

For the next month after the TMM, she pushed Viv to help her improve in swimming. He would guide her in swimming once or twice a week and as the distance slowly increased, her confidence was boosted.

With the Home Ground advantage, this time everything fell in place and Ami finished in style completing the Olympic distance in 4:21 🤗.

Now Ami’s immediate goal is to improve in the Olympic distance over the next year and then work on attempting the 70.3 Ironman 😌.

Ami’s current training schedule consists of 3 Swimming Sessions, 3 Cycling sessions, 3 Running sessions besides 2 Core & Strength Training Sessions with Mondays being Rest Days.

Ami says that one should not attempt too many things too soon. She also says that she has learnt the importance of consistency in training. She signs off stating, “Getting Fit is more important than just losing weight. Believe me, You are way stronger than you think you are.”

Prakash Wani- Once A Cop

The fifth amongst 8 siblings Prakash Wani was born in a simple lower middle class family in Pune.  Their father was a hardworking farmer and mother worked as an Ayah in the nearby hospital to support the growing family.  Though both parents were uneducated, they strived to provide the best possible Education to their children .

An Athletic kid, Prakash enjoyed participating in various sports right from his school days.  His adventurous streak continued in College when he joined NCC (National Cadet Corps) even learning Gliding in 1973.  In fact he was even selected as a General Duty Pilot courtesy NCC 😎.  However, he did not join due to his mother’s reluctance.

Prakash went on to do his graduation in B.Com.  During his final year, he got a job as a clerk in LIC.  However when he was transferred to Daund, he quit choosing to focus on his graduation and higher studies.

In 1975 during the Emergency, after his MPSC (Maharashtra Public Service Commission) exams Prakash applied for the post of Sub Inspector.  He was selected and sent for training to Nashik for 2 years.  Subsequently he joined on duty at the Matunga Police Station in 1978 settling down in Sion with his wife Sushila.  They were blessed with two children Arti and Sameer.

Meanwhile Prakash went from strength to strength climbing up the ladder in the Police Department- including a stint as Ambassador for United Nations for its Peace Keeping Mission in Kosovo in 2002-2003, eventually retiring as the ACP (Assistant Commissioner of Police) Crime Branch in 2012.  However, thanks to his rigorous duty hours and constant postings he put on tons of weight hitting almost 100Kg 😑; his infrequent gymning sessions during his executive postings didn’t really make much of a difference.

Post retirement, after a bit of traveling with family, Prakash joined the Shamrao Vitthal Cooperative Bank as the Chief Security Officer in April 2012.  On a site visit to Nashik, he felt some giddiness and immediately consulted a local Physician who advised for an in-depth health check-up. On returning to Mumbai, he consulted his family physician who put it down to Obesity advising him to lose weight.  That served as a wake-up call and Prakash decided to shift focus on himself and his health.  In fact he joined the local AF10 Gym at Chembur on 31st December itself 😁.

In the Gym, Prakash met Marathoner Girish Bindra who was instrumental in getting him into running.  Prakash had always aspired to run the Mumbai Marathon ever since its inception.  Girish advised him to run the 10K at the Run India Run event in July 2013 in Borivali so as to qualify for the SCMM (Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon).  He even helped him to get his registration done.  He went on to finish his first 10K in 1:03:52 and the Runner was born 😃.

Prakash did his first HM (Half Marathon) at the SHHM (Satara Hill Half Marathon) in September 2013 in 2:37:07 followed by another HM at the Goa River Marathon in 2:32: 09 and finally the SCMM finishing in 2:19:35.  He even postponed his 60th birthday celebration that year as it clashed with the SCMM 😀.  He got his PB (Personal Best) at the SCMM in 2015 finishing in 2:03:31 🤗.

In 2015 Prakash Wani met MRR Admins Bijay Nair and Viv Menon at the monthly Bandra-NCPA Run.  He also met Pedong Express-Roshni Rai who was organizing her first Half Marathon in Darjeeling from Kalimpong to Pedong in a bid to scout and support local talent.  Prakash immediately pitched in sponsoring the medals for the event and registered for the same.  He finished the same in 2:53 well within the cut off despite the elevation and hilly terrain.

Ever since Prakash Wani is the go to person for most Runners and Event Organizers; whether it is a Security issue faced by a female runner, a sponsorship issue, support for a needy runner or a permission issue faced by an Organizer.  Always willing to give a helping hand, this warm hearted Runner is perpetually available to the Running community 😊.

Thereafter Prakash has participated in 40+ 10K and 25+ HMs.  Besides winning couple of podiums at various events; the latest being the GSC (Goregaon Sports Club) Spirit of Sport Run in February 2019, he has also been Race Ambassador of different events like Nagpur Marathon, Veterun, Pachmarhi Marathon etc.

As far as his training is concerned, Prakash gets his training advice from Coaches Raj Vadgama and Girish Bindra preferring to train on his own at his home grounds of BARC.  He runs thrice weekly including variations like speed workouts, hill repeats and tempo runs besides doing Pranayam and Stretching thrice weekly.  He also goes to the Gym once a week.

Prakash states that he has observed with the Budding running culture, there is increased health awareness and increasing running events.  Overenthusiastic newbies have a tendency of going overboard participating in one event after the other resulting in injury.  He is very proud of the fact that till date he hasn’t really suffered from any Running injury.

He signs off stating “If one is not an Elite, one should just compete with oneself.  After all finishing a Race without injury is an achievement in itself 😁.”

Interview with MRR award winner – Pooja Varma

1.     How does it feel to win the MRR award?
 I’m elated! It was my most desired award and winning it was a dream come true for me.
2.Tell us about your association with MRR? 
I got associated with MRR around a year back after my Tata Mumbai marathon in 2018. I got to know about their monthly runs which are organized on the Mumbai marathon route. They have an amazing volunteer support as well. So, I started running with them since then. I have learnt a lot from this community.
Personally, I was weighing 79 kg few years back. Though I was working in the education field in a good post, I was very unfit and had breathing issues as well. My husband encouraged me to start running in order to lose weight. When I started, I was amazed at the results. My colleagues got encouraged and inspired towards running as well. So gradually I started participating in running events and there is no looking back since then. I am happy and humbled that I have managed to inspire many people to take up running and adopt this healthy lifestyle as well.
3.  What are your goals for 2019?
I am starting 2019 on a very positive note in spite of my debacle in the Tata Mumbai Marathon. I am looking forward to participating in fewer events as compared to last year.  I am focusing on mainly doing events that challenge me. This year I am taking it step by step and preparing for one event at a time.
4. How do think the running scenario in India can be improved? 
Firstly, we have to educate people about why running is important. As ambassadors, we have to set examples and encourage people to join us.  Especially women as they are reluctant to run or give importance to fitness. Running destresses me, keeps me positive and gives me energy to face the day ahead. I think this applies to most of us.

Mayuri Sutar- Fire And Ice

Born to a Carpenter Father and Homemaker Mother in Kandivali, this spunky young girl was a born athlete. From the tender age of 10, Mayuri participated in athletics and group sports like Langdi and Kho Kho in her school Dr. T R Naravne Vidyalay. Usually the Winner or First Runner Up on the School sports day; Mayuri would represent the school participating in the inter-school athletic competitions of the schools located near the Western Line.

She would invariably get first place in most competitions despite not practicing regularly. In fact, Mayuri went on to represent the State in Kho Kho, Maharastra in Langdi and even won a Bronze medal in the Western Zone Maharashtra Athletics participating in 1500m and 3000m in 2014-15 😎.

In 2010, Mayuri participated in a running event organized by the Dahisar Star Sanskriti Krida Club where she ran the 3K in 11 minutes and stood Second 🙂. Her 3K PB is 10:38.

In 2011 when she was in seventh standard, she was spotted by the School PT Teacher, Mr. Yuvraj Naik. He identified about 15 young athletes (boys and girls) and gave them after school training. These kids would have after school practice 6 days a week from 6-8 pm while racing on Sundays. A month prior to the Event, they would start early morning training as well. That’s when the rough diamonds began their journey of being polished to shine 🤗.

Mayuri was encouraged by her sports loving Mom though initially her Father was opposed to all the physical activity fearing undue changes and societal repercussions that their daughter might have to undergo. However now they are both very proud of her.

Yuvraj moved on to become the Regional Sports Authority at Sangli while the kids started training in the Dr. Naravane Sports Academy under the able guidance of Coaches Trupti Nakhwa and Jaydeep Adarakar.

Participating and winning in several Mini marathon events, Mayuri did her first 5K in 19:32. In 2014, Mayuri did her first 10K at the Mumbai Pinkathon where she stood Second winning a Refrigerator after finishing in 43 minutes 😎. She repeated her performance at the HTHM (Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon) standing Second yet again.

However, the prize closest to heart was given to her by an unknown reporter 😁. In 2014 while participating in the 1500m in the Divisional Athletics Event at SAI complex, Kandivali; a barefoot Mayuri stumbled and fell before getting up and continuing on bleeding feet ensuring she kept her word to her coach, Yuvraj Naik winning Second place 😌. An old reporter was so impressed with her that he gave her a Rs. 5000 voucher of SCS Sports telling her to continue scaling new heights 🤗. There was also a media mention regarding her win despite the fall in Mid-Day.

After HTHM, she took to participating regularly in different 10K events in a bid to win prize money and help her parents. She has participated in 30+ 10K running events with a PB of 42 minutes.

In 2016 while riding her cycle during the Ganpati Festival; the handle just came off, resulting in Mayuri suffering from a major back injury 😔. Ever since, she had to reduce running and drop pace to avoid exacerbating her back. She was also advised to increase her weight and prescribed medications besides getting regular massage for the same. During this period, Mayuri also turned to Yoga in order to build her muscle strength and gain flexibility. Despite her injury, Mayuri still managed to maintain her State level participation in Athletics 😌.

She also shifted focus to her studies in Junior college enrolling for B.Com in Viva College, Virar. Currently she is studying in Second Year BCom. Inspired by Civil and Fire Engineer Samadhan Labhade, she has also enrolled for the highly competitive two-year Fire Engineering Course thanks to the sponsorship of the India Bulls Foundation. In fact, Mayuri will be amongst the first few Female Fire Engineers in India 😎.

In a bid to get back to her pre-injury form, Mayuri ensured that she did not go all out in Races and has also restricted her training to jogging only once or twice a week for 5-6K with more focus on Yoga, Stretching and Strength training.

In 2017 when MRR (Mumbai Road Runners) was scouting for two good female runners for their MRR Elite Team to participate in the IDBI Federal Stadium Run, Mayuri’s name was recommended to Deepa Raut by Satish Chavan. This team went on to win the top position in the event 🤗.

Though initially sponsored by MRR, currently the India Bulls Foundation takes care of Mayuri’s Marathon Registration and Training Needs. Time and again, she continues with her winning streak making her Supporters proud. Subsequently, Mayuri has been nominated in the Best Female Runner Category for the MRR Awards 2019.

Last year, after turning 18, Mayuri graduated to participating in HMs (Half Marathons). She did her very first HM at the AFMC Half Marathon where she stood 2nd finishing in 1:45. Thereafter she has participated and been a podium finisher in several other HM’s 😊.

These days Mayuri trains in Aarey running 2-3 days weekly while doing strength training and yoga daily every evening. Currently she has decided to focus on HM’s and controlling her pace due to her back issues and intends to race twice a month.

Despite all her physical and financial issues; at times even having to stay at the Railway Station going directly to the Event Venue in case of Outstation events, this young girl continues valiantly on her journey gathering laurels moving on with strength and confidence.

After completing Fire Engineering; Mayuri wants to pursue Naturopathy and thanks to the encouragement and support of Angel Runners like Cdr. Sunil Handa, aspires to join the Indian Navy. She also dreams of starting her own Running Academy to train underprivileged Runners like her 😃. After all what better way to give back to the Community? With youngsters like her, our Future is definitely in safe hands 🤗.

I got my PH

As 2019 dawned nice and bright, someone asked me what my running goals were for this year.

“To achieve my PH”, I replied promptly.

“PH?” asked that person with a quizzical expression. “What’s that?”

“Personal happiness”. I grinned and went on to explain.

The sheer happiness and enjoyment that I derive by completing an event irrespective of the distance is what I term as PH.

At one point I was chasing PBs be it in my running or triathlons. I kept glancing at my garmin feverishly whenever it buzzed at every km. There were times when I would come back from an event with a scowl on my face failing to cherish the scenic routes or the spirited atmosphere.

“How was your run?”would be met with a grumpy “I have done better” answer much to the chagrin of my partner. It got me reflecting back to the main reason why I took up running.

The runners high and the sheer kick of the endorphins is what got me hooked to the sport initially. Nothing can beat the adrenalin rush pulsating through your veins when you cross the finish line with million strangers cheering for you. No point running if I cannot derive joy from it, I decided.

Does that mean I criticize/ ridicule people who chase PBS or podiums? NO. Not at all.

As I firmly believe in the phrase “Different strokes for different folks”, I choose to respect people  for their goals and congratulate them for their achievements irrespective of the fact it may differ from mine and vice versa.

‘Live and let live’ is my motto.

Meanwhile I am just reveling in my newfound mantra as I look forward to some interesting events this year and as long as I live.

If I can feel the magic in every stride and in every mile without those tiresome niggles or injuries, I consider that my PB oops PH.

Next time someone asks me what my target is and how my run was, I hope to answer with this line “I got my PH”! #IamMRR

Ashok Someshwar- What The Fish

Dreaming of a better life, a young 19 year old fisherman from the tiny fishing village of Someshwar in coastal Mangalore decided to move to Mumbai.  After getting a job as an industrial worker, he got married and was joined by his wife. Settling in Mumbai,  initially at Mazgaon and later at the industrial housing board colony at Tilaknagar in Chembur, they had three kids.  In a bid to give them a good education, the father, now a textile mill worker toiled very hard, working double shifts whilst their mother, a whiz at stretching their limited income looked after their every need.  Aware of their daily struggle, the youngest sibling Ashok was particularly focused and hardworking as he saw education as his only escape from this hard life.

Totally absorbed in his studies, there was no scope for sports, or any other leisure pursuits.  However, his father who had played football,  would send them out to run during their vacations, to get some exercise.  Ashok graduated in Commerce and immediately joined Indian Airlines as an Accounts Assistant while continuing his higher studies.  He went on to do a Masters in Commerce, a degree in Law, and also qualified as a Company Secretary, as he continued working side by side.  It was while working with Indian Airlines, that Ashok had a first taste of an organized sport, when he learned to play Badminton and was soon playing well enough to be considered in the official team 😎.

During his college days, Ashok went for his very first trek for 3-4 days to Rajmachi along with a friend who  was in National Cadet Corps and was hooked, soon becoming a compulsive trekker.  He later joined the Youth Hostels Association and was an ardent participant of their Mumbai unit which organized local treks.  He went on to learn Rock climbing and did more than 90 treks.  In fact, all his vacation would be spent on either exams or trekking 😂.

After 1 ½ years with Indian Airlines, he felt stagnated and moved to the private sector- Advertising, where he worked up his way for eight years, during which time he completed his studies. Since  the Company Secretarial course required him to undergo training in a corporate secretarial set up, he had to leave the job.   The Finance Manager at Everest Advertising, helped him with his contacts in Mafatlal’s  and Ashok soon joined NOCIL for a year as a trainee under Bharat Vasani, who later went on to become the General Counsel for the Tata Group.

Ashok also  took up Cricket, even playing in the Corporate team for 2-3 years 😊.  He would also go to a nearby Gym run by national weight lifter, Mr. Khan after coming back from work. Seeing Ashok’s potential, Mr. Khan even wanted him to participate in competitions within the year.  However, everything went for a toss when Ashok was detected with back issues at the young age of 21.  Playing Badminton, Cricket as well as Gymming simultaneously besides his hectic work schedule seemed to have taken a toll 😥.  So weight training  went out of the window, and badminton was also restricted, but with regular playing, the pain was mitigated to a large extent and only reappeared on excess strain.

Badminton stopped once his family moved to a 1BHK in Borivali.  That’s when Ashok started regularly going to the Borivali National Park (BNP), running about 6-7K, in order to strengthen the leg muscles for trekking and rock climbing.  He would usually run upto Kanheri caves and  then practice  rock climbing at one of the many popular spots.

After his divorce, Ashok moved to Powai in 2003.  Though he would run regularly in his building later venturing to Hiranandani and Eastern Express Highway (EEH), he didn’t think he could really run a Marathon.

During the 2005 Mumbai floods, Ashok had stayed back at his office near Keerti college.  The next day he walked back home covering a distance of 20K in about 4 hours and participating in a Half Marathon no longer seemed so daunting 😀.

Ashok started training for the upcoming Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) 2006 doing short runs on week days and weekend long runs at EEH.  By December he was doing 20K easily.  Unfortunately, he was hit by a hamstring injury 15 days before the  run 😫.  He visited the physio at the Sushrusth Hospital at Dadar.  He still went on to participate and managed to complete his first HM in 2:37.

On a visit to the US in 2007 when his nephew took him to a huge shoe store in Princeton, Ashok was like a kid in a candy story and bought his first technically assessed running shoe, along with his first GPS watch (Garmin ForeRunner 305).  Reading up a lot about Danny Dryer and Chi Running he subsequently bought the book and DVD on the same.  These helped him to work on his form correcting his Heel Strike to a Mid Foot Strike.

In 2008-9 a colleague invited Ashok for a group run in BNP.  That’s where he met the original MRR Gang- Giles Drego, Ram Venkatraman, Milton Frank, Bhasker Desai, Raj Vadgama, Kaushik Panchal etc. This was also the time he started running at Aarey and met Coach Daniel Vaz.  Then the whole group started having regular group runs on Saturdays.  They created the MMR (Mumbai Marathon Runners) group on the Runners for Life Page (later rechristened as Mumbai Road Runners on FB).  MMR organized their first 6K Event in BNP on 21 March, 2010,  and went on to organize three Half Marathons in BNP in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

In 2011-12 Ashok started going regularly to the Nike Run Club (NRC) at the Police Grounds near Wilson College, Marine Lines, and later at Sports Authority of India (SAI) track at Kandivali, for his speed intervals, tempo runs and plyometrics training under Coach Daniel Vaz and Coach Melwyn Crasto who were instrumental in correcting Ashok’s form.

In 2010, having checked with Dan, Ashok started training for his first FM in 2011.  The focus was on building mileage for 5-6 months after which the actual race training would commence in the remaining 5-6 months.  Unfortunately, Ashok had yet another setback and in November at the peak of training, he was detected with a severe disc prolapse at the L4-L5 region in his spine 😕.

Though initially advised surgery in order to continue running; Ashok took a second opinion on the advice of his physiotherapist Garima, who sent him to Dr Abhay Nene, a spine specialist and a Marathoner.  Dr. Nene told him to continue running focusing on strengthening and said that they would opt for a microsurgery only if required 😌.  After a period of rest and doing regular strengthening exercises with Garima, Ashok finished his first FM in 5:11 although the last 10K was tough 😣.

After the SCMM in 2011, his office colleague referred Ashok to Acupuncturist Dr. Ajit Mistry in Mulund.  A medical professional, the doctor gave him a Pilates DVD to help in back strengthening while commencing with Acupuncture.  After 20 sessions Ashok felt some relief and after 30 sessions felt 70% better.

That year for 7 months, Ashok completely stopped running though he stayed active by swimming, gymming, doing pilates etc.  Once recovered he celebrated by running 28K at Amby valley with friends.   Subsequently, he went on to do the SCMM 2012 in 4:23 😎.

In 2016 during the IDBI Promo Run at Bandra Ashok was running at a fast pace without adequate warm up, and got injured 😔.  He was diagnosed with Tenosynovitis of Flexor Hallucis Longus tendon (fluid retention) and plantar fasciitis which had him go off running for 6-7 months.  Despite having registered for IDBI and TMM he decided to give them a miss focusing on his rest and recovery.  Following Dr. Nikhil Latey’s advice, he used temporary foot inserts to release the tension and reduce pain. After the prescribed rehab, he slowly got into running again and since then, things have been going much better 😁.

2017-18 has been a tremendous year, what with a hat-trick of PBs for Ashok 🤗.  He got his 10K PB at the Navy Run finishing in 47:59, 21K PB at the Powai Run finishing in 1:45 and 42K PB at the IDBI Delhi Marathon finishing in 3:54 😎.  Besides all this he also has some podiums and a race ambassadorship in his kitty.

A regular fixture on the Mumbai running circuit, this Angel never deters from helping others be it his awesome photography, giving advice or volunteering.  He says that one should not get taken in by the whole Social media hoopla.  For fitness and good health, a 5K run 3-4 times a week is enough along with some other sport.  Strength training is a must at least twice a week and Yoga helps in flexibility.  Trekking, Cycling and Swimming are also good forms of Cross training. It is only people who love to run longer distances who should  take up distance running.

He advises that you should always enjoy your run.  “Don’t think of it as punishment.  Only the Elites are justified to think that way.  Improve at a particular distance before increasing the mileage.”  He suggests completing 10K in 60-61 minutes before proceeding to 21K.  Since recovery is fast, one can race or do a time trial of 10K every 15 days.  Besides 10K is a sweet distance to run 😊. However, if contemplating an FM, one should ideally be able to complete a HM in 2:10-2:15, and further  planning  and training for  an FM should begin a year in advance.  The devil is always in the training, so if one is consistent and regular at training, race day is just another day.

Though a normal diet is enough for  recreational runners, for distances upto a Full Marathon, one must consult a Nutritionist in case one is participating in Ultra Marathon distances.  Adequate rest is the most important part of any training.  In case one is  feeling tired or fatigued then one should opt for Rest instead of Training.  Always stop at the first sign of injury.  If the pain lasts for more than a week, it is not just muscle soreness and one  needs to consult a good Physiotherapist.  He signs off saying, “Don’t ignore your injury and Race just because you signed up for it.  Never ever run in pain, you can always volunteer and give back to the Running community instead, something one should do any which ways 😄.”

Neha Lodha – Beyond the Veil

The eldest of four siblings, Neha was born and brought up in a traditional Marwari family in Raipur, Chattisgarh. When her grandmother was detected with cancer, this young girl took on the household responsibilities so that her mother could take care of her ailing grandmother. Though always very active in her creative pursuits, Neha started focusing excessively on her studies at the cost of everything else. Therefore, after her 12th Board exam, when Neha wished to pursue Engineering her father recommended that she take up Commerce instead so that she could continue her creative endeavors. Heeding her father’s advice, she completed her B.Com along with a Higher Diploma in Computers.

Married at age 21 to Sameer Lodha in November 2000, she moved to Mumbai into an orthodox Marwari joint family set up much to the delight of her parents. It was a major cultural shock for Neha moving into a tiny 1 BHK flat from her spacious home in Raipur. After an unfortunate miscarriage, Neha was soon pregnant again. During her Pregnancy due to water retention & other complications her weight shot up from 54Kg to 84Kg leading to difficulties in even performing normal activities. In August 2003, Neha gave birth to her son Namit 😊.

Determined to lose weight Neha started going for swimming with a neighbor; Babita Didi, who took her kid for lessons at the Probodhan Thakare Swimming Pool at Vile Parle in 2004. However she discontinued the same after about 2 months considering the travel time.
Neha then switched to doing different activities like Yoga, Gymming, Swimming etc at the Holy Family Campus nearby.

Fed up off the constant change from Sari to Tracks, Neha ingeniously got a readymade sari with Velcro stitched from a local tailor in order to save her time in the Gym ☺.

In 2007 due to Sameer’s transfer Neha and Namit moved to Hyderabad and later to Belgium with him where she took up walking regularly. Neha started doing Yoga along with some fad Idli diet in Hyderabad and managed to get her weight down to 64Kg ☺.

Once back in Mumbai in 2008, Neha would indulge in High intensity Yoga and Aerobics for about an hour daily at the Step N Dance studio for about 3 years. This was also when encouraged by her supportive Hubby, she started a Toy Library having experienced a dearth of the same in the market ☺. For the first year, the entrepreneur couple shared the same office space with Sameer running his business during the weekdays while Neha ran her toy library on weekends ☺. Later, Sameer moved out to a new office space while Neha successfully ran her library till 2016 when she had to shut it down due to Building repairs 😔.

 

Every now and then whenever he gained weight, Sameer would run on a 2.5K loop close to home giving up intermittently getting into lazy mode ☺. In January, 2015 Neha decided to join him for the same. She managed to do the 2.5K loop in 25 minutes. Both of them registered for their very first 10K at the HTHM (Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon) in February. Practising on the same loop upto 7.5K Neha completed her first 10K in about 65 minutes while Sameer did his in about 59 minutes ☺. They followed that with running 12.5K at the BNP Endurathon in July finishing in about 1:30.

Connecting with other Runners, Neha did her first 15K with Niyati Sawant, Ann D’silva, Ritu and Varada Gokhale from Lokhandwala to Bandra where she met MRR Stalwart Coach Giles Drego. She started running with the Parle Panthers and with Jayraman Rankawat & Praveen Sah in JB Nagar.

An FB query led to Neha connecting with Manohar Rodrigues and Vijay Kamath who told her about MRR. In fact Neha did her first 21K at the monthly MRR Bandra-NCPA Run in 2015 along with Niyati Sawant and Rohan Joshi as they ran together egging each other on ☺. Interacting with other runners she made new friends and even ended up participating in a group dance performance at the MRR Awards night in February 2016.

Neha did her first HM (Half Marathon) at the SCMM in 2016 and first FM (First Marathon) in 2017 despite an ankle injury in November finishing in 5:15. However the Runs seemed to have started affecting her negatively and she wanted to quit. She tried consulting a nutritionist at the HEAL institute but later consulted Nutritionist Roopali Mehta referred to her by Anand from Parle Panthers. Roopali’s diet plan was a big help and Neha was back on track finishing Satara Hill Run in September 2017 in 2:07 improving drastically from her earlier timing of 2:28 in 2016 ☺. She also went on to participate in two editions of the Mumbai Ultra consecutively 😁.

So far, Neha had resorted to running mostly solo due to time constraints & family commitments. During the Satara trip, MRR Runners Ritu Singh and Babloo Tarwale convinced her to join the Road Burners group at BNP to train under Coach Daniel Vaz. Reluctant initially, her second visit had Neha signing up for 6 months training with Dan. She went on to do her practice run at VVMM (Vasai Virar Mayor’s Marathon) in December 2017 finishing her FM (Full Marathon) in 4:35. That’s when Tushar Pednekar convinced her to consider participating in the Comrades Marathon in June 2018.

After discussing with Sameer, she decided to take a call after her FM at the TMM (Tata Mumbai Marathon) in January 2018. Neha ran brilliantly throughout enjoying her run finishing in 4:14; unbelievably overtaking the 4:15 pacer Amit Kumar at the end, though her goal had been to finish in 4:30 ☺.
Now the next goal was well and truly set as Dan gave her an online training plan for Comrades. Unfortunately, she started experiencing middle toe swelling of her left foot. An MRI had her Physiotherapist advising her to skip the Tata Ultramarathon 50K at Lonavala. She went on to do the same through sheer grit later taking a break from running for a month indulging in Gym and Swimming instead.

Fortunately she was back on track and managed to finish her FM at Surat in 4:50 without any pain. Despite the backlash at home from her in-laws and extended family due to her long training hours as well as running attire Neha stuck to her guns. She went on to finish the Comrades Marathon in June 2018 in 10:44:54 thoroughly enjoying this fantastic carnival run to the very hilt ☺.


Neha has a few podiums to her credit like the AGF Swasth, Aarey Forest Run, Songs of Sunrise, Raipur Let’s Run Marathon etc, besides being nominated for the most improved female runner category at the MRR Awards in February 2018. She was also a Brand Ambassador and Pacer for a few events.

Currently she is training with Coach Daniel Vaz focusing on speed till TMM and later more on endurance for the Comrades Marathon in June 2019. She does strength training at the Gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday is Running Drills and Interval training with Melwyn Crasto at BNP. Thursday is Tempo Runs with Dan. Saturday is Rest Day while she does her Long Runs on Sunday. She will also inculcate 3-4 weekly yoga sessions 3 months before Comrades.

Neha advises Newbies not to go too fast. Instead of the “What Next” mode one must learn to enjoy the “Just Fun Run” mode. She states that one can go overboard with social media sometimes and it can get highly time consuming. She encourages new runners to take advice from Veterans. Last but not the least, Neha emphasizes on the importance of Yoga, Gym, Run and Nutrition. She signs off saying that correct Nutrition has helped her a lot especially in Recovery after her Long Runs.

Comeback run on home turf

“What was I thinking when I signed up for the 21 km distance? I must have been crazy. I would have been better off doing the 10 km run.” These thoughts kept plaguing my head while humidity was busy sapping the energy levels from my body.

Having barely landed in India, hardly gotten over the infamous jet lag and just recovering from my ironman event couple of weeks ago, it must have been sheer madness to run a 21 km too soon. Or was it the exceeding levels of enthusiasm of a runner who hadn’t run on home turf for 15 months? I choose to believe that it was the latter.

I was finally coming home after being away for 1 year and 3 months. While I had run several races in California, what I missed there was the effervescent community of the Mumbai road runners, the hi fives, hugs and the lively chatter post a running event.

So Amit (my running partner cum hubby) and I had planned our trip in a manner where we could run the IDBI federal life insurance half marathon and attend the monthly run of the Mumbai road runners this time.

Brimming with enthusiasm on race morning and planning on taking the run easy, we walked towards the holding area at Jio Garden, BKC.

Greeting runner friends, engaging in animated chatter and catching up with them briefly-It almost felt like we had never left. The race began sharp at 5:15 am. Slowly finding our way through the sea of runners, we cruised the first few kilometers in a strong manner, shaking our shoulders to the the drum beats and waving to the iconic cricketer-Sachin Tendulkar at the start.

After the 6th km, the humidity levels took a toll on us. Feeling oppressive thanks to the weather Gods being so uncooperative, we slowed down. Just as our legs were almost giving up, we spotted an aid station that served enerzal, water and some bananas.

We stopped there to replenish our depleted reserves and continued. After a while we were forced to take a break again. It almost felt like our bodies were overtaken by an evil force that didn’t want us to run. Had we become shadows of ourselves? Dismissing these eccentric thoughts, we continued along the course. By the time we finished the first loop, we were drenched with perspiration.

Deciding to walk for a few minutes, we debated whether we should continue another loop. Being otherwise strong runners we thought an easy 21 km would be a breeze for us. However we had underestimated the fact that we hadn’t run in this sort of humid conditions for a really long time. While there was raw heat in California which we were used to by now, running in humidity was a different ball game altogether.

Deciding to get to the finish line, we adopted the run walk method and pulled along. While we didn’t have a great run, it still was one of the best days of our lives.

It was wonderful to see so many fellow runners enroute, chat with them and enjoy the experience of running in Mumbai. Great arrangements, foot tapping drum beats , relishing the delicious sheera served at breakfast, the post run photo sessions, chatting and laughing with friends are some delightful moments that we take back with us.

No doubt California may have its Golden Gate Bridge, scenic trails and panoramic views of the pacific. However there is something about running in the city of Mumbai, despite its humidity, pollution and crowd. The vibrant community? Friends cheering you on when you are looking for some motivation? The contagious energy? Not sure.

Despite its flaws it will always remain Mumbai meri jaan.

Chitendra Shetty- Kaala Chashma Rocks

The middle sibling amongst three brothers, Chitendra Shetty was born and brought up in Mumbai. As a child his only association with sports was his indulgence in local games like football, cricket etc. along with the other neighboring kids.

At age 45, sensing some discomfort, Chitu went for a health check-up and was diagnosed with high BP, cholesterol and sugar in 2011. This was despite being a teetotaler and non-smoker. Looked like the job related stress as a Safety Officer with the Central Railways had started getting to him 😓. The doctor put him on medications for the next 2-3 months and told him to start walking regularly.

Needless to say, Conscientious Chitu started going for hourly walks daily in the morning as well as the evening. He also started going to Mickey Mehta’s Holistic Gym over the next two years 6 days a week. In 2013 while visiting his younger brother Venugopal in Pune during Diwali vacation, Chitu joined him for a Run with Milind Soman and some other Pinkathon Runners at Magarpatta. On seeing him run 5K comfortably, Milind encouraged him to keep going and he easily completed his very first 10K 😊.

Then onwards, Chitu started running regularly twice a week and participated in his first timed Run at the Mumbai Daud in Borivali in December 2013 finishing in 54 minutes 😃. Following it up with another 10K at the Powai Run in January 2014, Chitu went on to do his very first Half Marathon (HM) at the Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon (HTHM) finishing in 2:02 😊.

As he started running regularly, in 2013 he attended training sessions with Darshan Divakaran and Ravi Kalsi at the Lokhandwala Running Club (LRC) for 2-3 months after getting his very first podium at the 6K organized by them 🤗. This was when he met MRR stalwarts and other runners like Suresh Pillai , Sunil Shetty,Sangeeta Shetty ,Ram Venkatraman, Girish Bindra, Giles Drego, Apurba Das, Ashok Someshwar, Raj Vadgama, Abbas, Inderpal Khalsa, Sharmila Munj, Beverly Mathews as well as Vishwanathan Jayaraman aka the Hubli Express who gave him much needed running related insights.

In 2014, Chitu Shetty and his Management buddy Abhijit Dube decided to their first FM at the Vasai Virar Mayor’s Marathon (VVMM). Fortunately for them, VVMM was postponed to December avoiding the October Heat and they finished in 5:05 😎. Meeting and interacting with MRR Stalwarts Sanjay Bhingarde, Breeze Sharma, Suresh Pillai, Girish Bindra etc prior to the race certainly helped.

Ever since, MRR is like family for this solo runner. Since May 2014 he has never missed a single Bandra-NCPA Run except when traveling or Running event.

In 2015 Chitu was the 5:30 pacer at the VVMM along with Punit Chandiwala 😎. This was one memorable event for him as they had Coach Daniel Vaz accompanying them for 37K. Dan kept them on track, controlling their pace, slowing them down and they went on to bring the Bus home on time helping BNP Runners Pawan Agarwal & Falguni Vora to achieve their targets 😊.

In February 2016, Chitu did his very first Ultra at the immensely tough Silvassa Endurathon 54 organized by Shashidhar Shankar. This one is essentially a training run for the Comrades Runners 😌. That 54K in the grueling heat was his toughest runs ever. Chitu ran the first 27K blindly following K Haridasan Nair who was pacing Girish Nair and Suresh Raman. The remaining 27K he ran with Leenesh Bhuleskar as Sunil and Sangeeta Shetty cheered them on. Fortunately for him, fellow runner and good Samaritan Mohan Jayraman drove him back to his Hotel, an hour away from the Starting point 🤗.

In 2016, Chitu got his first podium in 10K at Rajendra Tembe’s event- Keep on Running (KOR) where he stood second in his Age category.

Chitu completed 70K at the Mumbai Ultra in August 2016 and also got his HM Personal Best (PB) at the Navy Marathon finishing in 1:53:32 😎.

He was recognized for his achievements and was awarded the Second Runner Up Trophy in the Most Improved Runner Male Category at the Mumbai Road Runner (MRR) Awards for that year 🤗.

2017 began with a bang as Chitu got his PB in the FM at the Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM) finishing in 4:23 😊.

Chitu again started training with Asics Training Club Mumbai under Head coach Girish Bindra and Varun Singh Thakur learning new techniques but could not continue due to official commitments. Now days, Coach Girish guides him as and when required.

Chitu went on to participate and clock 80K at the Mumbai Ultra that year and went on to pace the 75K Bus in 2018 😎.

Another podium followed at the Alpha Trail Run in July 2018 where he finished his HM in 2:33 on the tough route.

Though Chitu no longer goes to the Gym due to time constraints, he makes sure that he does Power Yoga thrice a week for about an hour besides his half hour post run yoga stretches.

He runs 10K thrice a week though his days are flexible and does his long runs on Sunday. Usually Saturday evening, plans are made with buddies Girish Bindra, Dayanand Shetty and Pratik Jhunjhunwala regarding the distance and place of their long run the next morning 😁

Being a diabetic, Chitu makes sure his pockets are always filled and always eats and runs. He carries dates, jaggery, and energy drink preferring to run on the nearby Shivaji Park to NCPA stretch as the shops there are conveniently open 24 hours.

He advises runners to be careful whilst running on roads especially during speed intervals considering the ensuing traffic. Chitu states that one should always listen to your body making sure we run when enjoying and stop to walk whenever required; after we are all amateur runners and not professionals.