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Swetha Amit- Snakes and Ladders

A chubby little girl who enjoyed good food, Swetha was more of a Bookworm in her School and College Days. Venturing out to play Hide and seek and Lock and key with her friends was as far as she went in Sports. Incessant teasing about being fat led her to find solace in food as she further retreated into books due to her confidence taking a severe beating. Being diagnosed with PCOD (polycystic ovarian disorder) with hormones playing havoc in her Teens didn’t help matters either. 😔

In 2008 post marriage, Swetha got hooked on to gymning courtesy her Marathoner husband, Amit. Weight training sessions alternated with Cardio and some diet changes brought a miraculous transformation in her physique giving her a new found Confidence. Despite Amit’s best efforts, Swetha was not inclined to Road Running. After all, that would mean giving up her enjoyable Saturday night parties and ushering in Early morning Sunday long runs 😕. Marathons were better left to Amit while she managed just fine with her convenient 20- minute Treadmill Run.

However, Fate had something else in Store. In December 2010, Swetha was hospitalized after severe bouts of vomiting and high fever having consumed something dodgy at a wedding. She was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, lost a lot of blood and was very weak. Hitting Rock bottom, she regained her strength and even overcame the loss of several friends who drifted apart during this phase.

The fighter in her rose as she decided to build back her strength through Running. Swetha decided to run 21k at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) in 2012. She also quit her job as Counselor to take a break and find her true calling. Hubby Amit as well as her Trainers provided her with the much needed support throughout. She went on to effortlessly finish her very first HM in 2:03 and the Runner was truly born. 2012 turned out to be truly special as she even found her calling as a journalist. 😎

Swetha went on to do many more running events that year. Eventually she even did her first Full Marathon, again at the SCMM in 2013 finishing in 4:59, realizing the FM was more mental game rather than physical strain.

Thereafter in 2013 Swetha and Amit decided to start a family. Once again, the tides turned when she was diagnosed with Ulcers yet again in her 8th month of pregnancy 😒. Fortunately; despite loss of blood and strength, due to timely medication she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Samara in April 2014 🤗. In fact, she even went back to running within a month and did a 10K in June 2014 😮.

It was another new beginning for the new mother as she struggled to juggle her responsibilities at home and work whilst trying to stay fit, what with a demanding newborn to take care of. After an unsuccessful stint trying to make things work with a couple of nannies, they finally asked their parents for support. Of course, this was a major shift from the Nuclear to Joint family Set up. There were obvious clashes at the beginning between the two generations though they did manage to resolve their differences eventually. Thankfully Amit, proved to be Swetha’s staunchest supporter yet again. 😊

From 2015 Swetha went on to do several events and even won podiums in a few of them. She was introduced to the Mumbai Road Runners (MRR) community by Ajit Singh in April 2015 when she did her first Bandra-NCPA Run with them. Here she met some like-minded people and the MRR monthly runs brought back some sanity into her otherwise chaotic life. 🙂 MRR got her to leave her cosy corner in Colaba and explore greener pastures in places like Aarey, BNP and salt pans of Mulund giving her a whole new perspective towards her beloved Mumbai City.

Bagging the role as one of the ambassadors for Puma and the IDBI Federal Life insurance Mumbai half marathon 2017 was the icing on her cake. With her daughter growing up and support from family, things finally became smoother until another challenge cropped up.

During this period, Amit was looking for a break in his career to realign his goals and gain more clarity in his career pathway. It came as a bolt from the blue when he got admission at the Stanford Business School. After discussing, they decided to take this opportunity and go to California for the year. Of course it was an exciting prospect but at the same time daunting, in terms of settling down in an alien country along with their 3-year-old with no help or support.

An Open mind helped Swetha take advantage of this golden opportunity. She decided to make the most of the time there and enrolled for some writing courses in Stanford in order to further sharpen her journalistic skills 😊.

Signing up for varied types of Races, exploring different terrains, indulging in outdoor Cycling, and even getting into Open water swimming; Swetha made sure she enjoyed all the things that she didn’t get to do in India. She even managed to do her very first open water sprint triathlon there in 2017. 😎

Initially being an avid gymner helped Swetha while training for Half Marathons. Her training schedule included thrice weekly Runs- Speed Intervals, Tempo and Long Runs alternated with Strength training and Cross training. As Running increased, Swetha neglected strength training and paid the price with her left ankle injury 😓. During Full Marathon training this was rectified as she focused on Boot camp training including plyometrics and loads of core strengthening.

Currently in the US her focus being Triathlons, her fitness regime is even more intense. It consists of 3 days of swimming, 3 days of cycling, 3 days running- speed intervals, tempo and long runs as well as upper and lower body strengthening. 😌

Swetha advises Newbies to make sure they enjoy their fitness regime be it Zumba, cross training, sports, running; whatever makes them feel good. She states Consistency is the Key for getting successful results. Increasing the intensity slowly is the key to avoid hitting that wall. Whilst training for Marathons, take it slow instead of going out too far too fast. She equates strength training to Karna’s kavach-kundal that helps prevent injury 😎.

Swetha also vouches for investing in a good shoe after getting gait analysis done as well as ensuring you replace worn out shoes which could cause injury. Lastly, she advises that one should always listen to your body. Rest is as important as workouts if not more. Avoid workouts during Ill-health instead of trying to be a Hero. Another lesson that she learnt the hard way when she landed up in Hospital due to self-neglect. 😫

Life seems to have come a full Circle as Swetha has once more learnt to run her Races purely for enjoyment with no time pressure whatsoever. Furthermore, some of her detractors have even come around to asking her for fitness tips 😁. Soon enough it will be time for them to fly back home to their beloved Mumbai. When life gives you lemons, Make Lemonade; after all it’s all in the attitude dontcha think? 😊

The Christmas double run: The 15k double road race experience

The double road race is an interesting concept introduced by Bob Anderson-the founder of the Runners’ world Magazine where the distance is split into 2 races. For instance, if it’s an 8 k double then participants would have to run a 5k race, take a break for 45 minutes and then run the 3k race. The total time of the 8k will be a sum of the 5k and 3k timings.

 

Sounds easy, right? Not quite as Bob said it was more of a mental thing than the physical distance. Imagine running your heart out however small the distance maybe. When you sit down and relax, the thought of having to run another distance sounds daunting as you are beginning to feel lethargic. Your senses tell you to just go back home and laze around on your sofa and catch your favorite movie on television.

 

Deciding to end 2017 in a challenging manner, I opted for the 15k double. It was split into 10k and 5k races and the sum of the timings of these 2 races would be the total time for a 15 k. It wasn’t a great start to the morning as I ended up getting my menstrual cycle.  I landed outside a church at San Juan Bautista which was basking in festive celebrations as it was just 10 days before Christmas. It was an hour away from Stanford where I resided.  Some runners had already assembled, adorning red Santa hats and some interesting looking costumes. I looked down at my black and grey outfit wondering what in the world prompted me to dress up in such dreary colors which stood out like a sore thumb amidst the resplendent reds and greens.

 

It was sunny and predicted to be a windy day, so much that some of the parks were shut in anticipation of a tree fall causing injuries to walkers or hikers. At that moment, a gale of wind blew across the area knocking down one of the stalls much to everyone’s aghast. It was soon restored to normalcy and we gathered near the start line.

Last time I did the double race in August, the weather aided my pace and I had achieved a PR.  I was hoping to run hard in this one and end the year with a bang.  I started off at a stupendous pace of 5:05 especially since there was a downhill at the very beginning. Big mistake! Whenever I started fast, it has considerable affected my long runs, a lesson I never seemed to learn.  By the 4th km, I was drained which prompted me to take a walk break. Just as I was finding my rhythm, I was greeted this heavy headwind that pushed me backwards.

 

I was running on this road with barren land on both sides which accentuated the headwinds to blow with all their might. Looks like I was not the only one hoping for a PR, I thought. Just then an old looking hefty runner ran past me. “Crazy, isn’t it”, she said referring to the wind. I nodded as I struggled to fight against the wind which in turn slowed my pace down. Around the 7th km, the sun had come out in full force and a few inclines greeted me.  I sighed and just kept my rhythm while the volunteers in Santa hats were egging us on. At the 8th km, I overtook the hefty runner and ran with all my might, eager to get out of the heat. Besides, wearing black certainly wasn’t helping my condition.  There was a huge incline leading up to the finish line which prevented me from doing my customary sprint. Nevertheless, I finished in 61 minutes and plonked myself on a chair feeling disappointed. “Hey, take it easy. You just got your chums. Give yourself a break.” My inner voice told me.

 

I sighed and looked around. Several people were complaining about the headwinds. So, they were affected by it too, I realized. I looked at the row of pacers and cursed myself for not starting out with the 1:30 pacer. I could have started with him and maybe gone ahead in the last 2 km which was my strength whenever I started a run at an easy pace. It was time for the second leg of the race and this time I stood near the 1:30 pacer at the start line.

 

The entire race felt like playing in a test match where if the first innings’ score didn’t live up to the mark, there was always a chance to make up in the second innings which was what I was hoping to do in the 5k run. It wasn’t going to be easy, considering it was 11:00 noon and the sun was up shining brightly. I noticed that half the runners were wearing either singlets or sports bras while I was wearing a full sleeved jacket. I started with the 1:30 pacer this time and ended up overtaking him in between. As I turned at the 2.5 km mark, he jokingly pointed to me saying he will catch up with me. Giving him a thumbs-up sign, I ran strong, praying that the GU gels would do their job. At the 4th km mark, I suddenly noticed the pacer catching up with me and I quickly increased my pace and ran as though I was running for my life, in this case to salvage my pride.

 

I could spot the finish line and prodded up the incline and crossed the finish line in 29 minutes. I heaved a sigh of relief as I received my medal and sat down on the grass. The 1:30 pacer came up to me and said, “good running”, giving me a hi-five.  After chatting with Bob, I rushed back home feeling a little down.  Dejected that I had messed up a good race and was almost in tears much to my husband’s surprise.

 

I sat on the couch the entire afternoon trying to cheer myself up with a good book. Santa must not have wanted any sullen faces before Christmas eve as I got a pleasant surprise that evening. Opening my mail, I checked my results on the page and was pleasantly surprised to see that I was 4th in my age category with my timing being 1:31.

I shared this with my husband who said “See! I told you that the conditions were not easy! Still you ran a good race!

 

It was a good end to 2017 and silently wowed to crack a sub 1:30 in my next 15k race which was in January 2018. Was Santa listening?

The Sweetest run-My experience at the Hot Chocolate run

Who would pass up at the chance to have hot chocolate and fondue post a race? The very thought enticed me into signing up for America’s sweetest run-the hot chocolate run. It was a 15k  which made it an ideal distance for a Sunday long run without necessarily having to do the grueling half marathon, which made me wonder why there weren’t more  15k races held.

The event was held at Golden Gate park in San Francisco, one of the most scenic parks in the city with some incorrigible inclines enough to challenge your lungs. I had run here earlier during the San Francisco half marathon in July and recollected huffing and puffing my way up these deadly slopes. Yet that didn’t deter me from aiming for a sub 1:30. I had kept up with my fitness regime even during my Christmas vacation at Hawaii, thanks to a 24-hour gym and a pool at the resort. Besides I made sure to stay away from those sumptuous Christmas goodies ensuring that my waist line remained intact which resorted to me munching on salads much to my husband’s aghast. I felt lighter and fitter as I left for the event on Sunday morning.

It was a 40-minute drive to San Francisco state parking from where the participants were to board the shuttle buses that would take them to the park. Shuttle tickets were to be bought in advance online.  Reaching the park at 6:40 am, I had 90 minutes to kill before my run commenced at 8:10 am. It was a huge area with stalls selling the hot chocolate merchandise. I sat down in one of them suddenly tired from the travel. I had woken up at 4:30 am to catch an uber from my home at Stanford at 5:15  and catch the shuttle at 6:00 am.

I could see a sea of purple streaming across the green grass, some of them being 5 k runners making their way to the start line as their race started at 7:15 am. I sat down observing people around me, a past time that I enjoyed if I wasn’t scrolling down my smart phone scanning for the latest news. Some of them were chatting gaily with their groups while some sat on the benches trying to relax themselves before the run.

It was soon time for my race as I slipped into my designated coral. Doing my warm ups, I braced up to give this run my best.  It was initially an uphill that greeted me followed by a number of downhills as I managed a steady 5:30 pace. I was going strong, passing by a pond with ducks swimming, some tufts of green grass and a windmill.  My watch showed 27 minutes once it touched the 5k mark. Not bad, I thought.

The next 5 km was at a gradual gradient and could not keep up the pace that I wished to. The pace kept flip flopping between 5:40 to 5:50. It was a beautiful route and we passed by the beautiful Pacific Ocean. The sun was not out that morning yet so the sea had a silvery appearance to it as it washed its foamy waves on the sandy shores. I turned and stared at the view before I crossed the 10k mark making my watch buzz as it displayed 57 minutes.

I was on track and all I had to do was keep a 6:00 pace for the next 5 km. I was going strong till 11km until fatigue overpowered my legs. To my dismay, it was a continuous uphill from thereon with only one small downhill.  I noticed other runners walking around me and decided to adopt the 10 seconds walk method. It worked and my legs no longer felt like jelly that was being heated to a pulp. Just 2.5 km I told myself, clenching my fists in determination and glancing at my watch fervently like that rabbit in Alice in wonderland which kept saying “I am late I am late’. The pace had slipped to 6:30 making my eyes pop in horror. No! I cried to myself. Not when I am so close to my target.  At that moment, I came across one of the aid stations which were serving marshmallows. I grabbed one greedily, popping it into my mouth and the sudden sugar rush upped the pace to 5:55.

Reaching the 14th km mark, I noticed 1:23 flashing on my watch and the uphill seemed to be never ending. The sub 1:30 was still within my grasp if I kept at a decent pace. The inclines were not going to make it easy but I will show them who is boss, I thought fiercely. After all I needed something to celebrate with that hot chocolate drink post the run. I wasn’t going to race at any more events for a while as the remaining events were trail runs where no person with a reasonably sane mind would want to take nature to task.

My legs were crying in pain reminding me of a similar feeling at the 36k mark during the standard chartered Mumbai marathon in 2013. I ignored them and kept going. It was one thing to run at a good pace on flat courses and another on grueling steady inclines that coiled like a snake, ready to raise its slimy head at any point. Fortunately, it was the caricature of the hot chocolate cup that greeted me as I neared towards the end of my run spotting the familiar arch to the finish line.

Hurrah! It was 1:29:49. Was expecting to finish in 1:27 but considering the terrain, I was thrilled at the outcome. Collecting the spectacular medal which was huge and shaped in the form of dark chocolate, I thought this was an ideal one for that famous runner’s bite post a race. Trudging long the park, I made my way towards the tents which were given out finisher mugs in blue color to the participants. Hot chocolate, fondue, marshmallows and cookies beamed out of the cup as I gulped the drink, saving the rest of the goodies for my 3-year-old daughter.

No doubt it had been a sweet start to the year but the course was far from being sweet. Probably that’s what made me relish the hot chocolate even more without worrying about the calories for once. I was glad of having run a good race as it would be a while before I put those legs of mine to torture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

KRANTI SALVI- SECOND INNINGS

Born in a Regular Middle class family in Dhule, Maharashtra, Kranti grew up in a safe, secure, protected environment. Along with being a bright Scholarship student, she was also good in Sports and participated in Athletics in school at Sanjivan Vidyalaya, Panchgani.

Invariably; Sports took a back seat, once she enrolled into her Engineering Degree Course. She completed B.E. in Electronics and Telecommunications followed by Masters in Computer Science from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and now is a Director at the Alfa Group of Companies.

Chirag, her 6-year-old boisterous son was advised to enroll in some Physical Activity by School in 2011. Kranti took him to Priyadarshini Park (PDP) for training in Athletics. Obviously, like most mothers, she would wait there itself till he was done. Approaching his Coach, she asked if she too could start track training under him instead of just killing time. He readily agreed and the inborn Athlete rose once more 🤗.

In 2011, Kranti ran her first 5-Kilometer Race at PDP and won the Silver medal completing in less than 25 minutes. Next, she participated for the 6K Valentine Run from Police Gymkhana to NCPA organized by Nike Run Club when she got a Nike T-shirt as a prize and set the ball well and truly rolling.

In 2012, Kranti participated in her first Half Marathon at SCMM. Unexpectedly, she stood 5th in her Age Category finishing in 2:01 despite running Easy and even taking a Loo break 😯. Till then her only real training had been running on the PDP Track as per Chirag’s practice sessions whilst juggling Household Chores, Office and diligently climbing 15 floors to her home daily.

In 2013, Kranti was to do her very first Full Marathon, again at SCMM. Chirag, her son, was selected to participate in the State Level Long Jump Event at Aurangabad on the very same day. Chirag left along with some other friends and their parents on Friday Evening. That Sunday turned out to be super eventful for Kranti as she stood Second in Women and 1st in Indian Women in her Age Category finishing in a brilliant 4:12 🤗. They ended up rushing straight to the Airport after the race to pick up Chirag.

Thereafter, Kranti has gone on to win podiums at practically every Race that she has participated in India. She manages to balance her family, work and training with Elan. The Athletic Salvi family enjoys participating in running events together. They even plan a yearly Runcation abroad every July and have run in Mauritius, Philippines and the Gold Coast Marathons. In fact, Kranti stood 4th in Mauritius. Besides Olympian Lalitha Babar, she is the only other Indian woman in top 10 overall rankers of an AIMS certified Marathon. She got her PB of 3:47 at Gold Coast and went on to complete the prestigious Boston Marathon in 3:51 in 2017 and plans to do it again in 2018 😎.

Kranti has a Holistic approach to Fitness thanks to learning Yoga. She tries to make sure her Core is engaged even whilst doing chores- be it making Chappatis, mopping the floor or scrubbing clothes 😎. Consuming self-cooked home food helps her ensure fixing the Menu as per the Workout plans. Fresh vegetables, fruits, poultry and sea food are all part of the regular diet. On Long Run Days; Carbohydrates are increased while on Strength Training Days; the Protein is boosted. She trains from Monday to Saturday in the evening at PDP along with her son, Chirag. Workouts consist of Strength, Core, Circuit, Plyometrics, Speed and Easy long runs so as to avoid Monotony.

Essentially training on the Synthetic tracks, Kranti looks forward to her Long runs on the Road. Though Interaction with MRR is mostly restricted to Facebook, she joins in the Monthly MRR runs enroute at Marine Drive every chance she gets. The whole atmosphere of high spirits, harmony and joy as well as post Run gathering and meeting Runner buddies whilst exchanging ideas and thoughts at NCPA is something that she enjoys thoroughly 😊.

Kranti advises Beginners to take it easy, gradually increase time and intensity of load while seeking Expert guidance for specific goals. She states that Patience is required for long term benefits of Running or any kind of sport. Rest and Recovery are equally important; Sleep especially cannot be ignored since that’s when our Body Recovers. Kranti says desired performance can be achieved only when the body, mind, soul and external forces all work harmoniously towards it. Furthermore, keeping log of Runs helps in monitoring progress and staying motivated. Last but not the least, never compare your performance with others as each one is different.

Kranti has been a Brand Ambassador for TomTom, Puma as well as the Face of several Running Events. Now, she regularly endorses and promotes Running in Schools, Institutes and various Organizations in different Cities in Maharashtra. From that quiet, petite, young girl she has blossomed into one Powerhouse Inspiring so many 😃.

MRR Race Ranking 1st December, 2017

The MRR Race Ranking as on 1st December, 2017 is out, which means the races in November are included in the list. And we have a new race leader i.e.

Airtel Delhi Half Marathon is the new Race Leader.

IDBI Federal Life Insurance Spice Coast Marathon, Kochi enters the list at a super creditable no. 7 ranking while Aurangabad Heritage Half Marathon debuts at no. 9 in the list. Both Kochi and Aurangabad have performed admirably to come in the top 10. It helps that both have Runners as main organisers.

WNC Navy Half Marathon, Mumbai comes in at no. 15, IL&FS I Run for Fun, Mumbai at no. 22, Adidas Uprising 10K, Mumbai at no. 24, IIT Bombay Half Marathon at no. 36, Pune Running Beyond Myself Marathon at no. 39. WNC Navy Half scored well on all parameters but lost out on the timeliness aspect i.e. starting the race on time. They probably need to work on that aspect next time around. The ranking list is given here.

Lots of races lose points in the “During the Race” element. That is the absolute core for any race, the most key element in organising a good race vs an average race. Organisers need to pay attention to this factor the most – frequency of water/ energy drinks/ refreshments, medical facilities en route, km markers, traffic arrangements etc.

We have created another list this time, that of races which did not garner adequate responses, but we have done the rating for them, but not included in the ranking list. For races to enter into the ranking list, we need at least 10 responses, which itself is inadequate but since this is a first year, we thought of keeping a low threshold. This list is given here.

Here also from the limited responses, if you see, Jalna has done well and so has Surat and Gurgaon. The situation will obviously change if there are more responses. We hope that more and more runners take part in this rating exercise so that a good database could be built which will be helpful to the runners in future. This is the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

A total of 68 races have been rated so far this year, which exercise started in February, 2017.

The Mad Hatter Run-Dedicated to MRR

Random browsing on Facebook made me stumble upon this interesting event which was called the Zombie Halloween run hosted by Coastal trail runs.  It was apparently an event where one was supposed to wear Halloween costumes and run in the scenic Hellyer part at San Jose, a place which was less than an hour away from Stanford.  Runners are known to be a crazy lot and it was this little eccentric nature that takes us to the finish line even under the most trying circumstances. Wearing a costume only added to the fun element as my mind started racing through the several possibilities of what I could wear.

Fortunately, in the USA where Halloween was a big thing, I was spoilt for choices.  After a lot of deliberation, I decided upon the costume of the mad hatter-the character from Alice in wonderland.  I was somehow fascinated with most of the characters of this classic as they were a little weird and exhibited their tinge of madness that often evoked a smile. So here I was wearing a black and white outfit, matched with white gloves, a stick, a hat with rabbit ears which gave it an interesting tinge of the March hare, a horrendous long blond wig added and a walking stick.  Since the race began only at 9:15 am, my husband and daughter decided to accompany me to the event.

Reaching the venue, I was dismayed to see the other runners dressed in their ‘normal’ attire. Was I the only one to be dressed in this manner? What if I stuck out like a sore thumb? “Let’s go back” I told my hubby. “I am not getting out of the car like this.” “Oh, come on Swe, this is not India but USA. People just won’t care. Just come out and collect your bib. You have worn costumes run with our Mumbai road runners gang. What’s the issue?”  Reluctantly I stepped out and walked towards the start point where the bibs were being given. It was a beautiful park with a pond in the middle and ducks floating on it gaily.  It appeared to be a popular spot for running considering the number of runners doing their rounds and they hadn’t necessarily registered for this particular event.

I was greeted with smiles and comments like “great costume” as I collected my bib. I let out a sigh of relief as my daughter, myself and my husband basked in the beauty of the surroundings. We watched the runners come in and some of them had dressed up as bees and super heroes. It was gratifying to see children dressed up as little princes and princesses as they geared up for the 5k run. There was a full marathon, half marathon and a 10k run as well and I was participating in the latter. Running a half marathon in that fanciful costume seemed too daunting a task to complete.

At 9:15, we set off after the race director gave his go. It was a 1.5 km around the lake before we dashed off into the woods.  The course was a little muddy with a good number of inclines. I passed some shrubs and trees on the way, taking over a group of women dressed as nurses.  The course soon gave way to a trail with blades of grass as we approached the aid station serving energy drinks and water.  We had to go up that one more hill before we took a u-turn at a point.  So up I went and took a u turn and came gliding down the trail.  I passed some morning walkers with their dogs and was half afraid that my costume would agitate their pets. It didn’t thankfully and instead I was met with wide grins and compliments. The sun was up and about and I was more than halfway through the run.

The trail reminded me of the one that Alice runs through in the story while searching for the rabbit. She stumbles upon this tea party hosted by the march hare and the mad hatter which was me in this case. I looked around and chuckled at the thought of having a tea party in the middle of a trail and dismissed this thought away, focusing on reaching the finish line.  The muddy pathway soon gave way to the tufts of green grass towards the big arch where our medals were waiting for us. Crossing the finish line in 60 minutes, I was surprised both at the timing and for having finished 5th in my age category.

Considering that I wasn’t even in a proper running attire, I was quite pleased with the outcome. With my hubby and daughter, who had a ball watching the ducks, I sat down and took in the breakfast spread of bananas, bagels and cookies. We were told that the best costume prize would be announced and soon the race director asked us all to line up in one row. I was thrilled to be one of the prize winners and got to choose a gift which was a purple color water bottle-something that is always handy for runners during their long mileages.

Thanking the race director for the prize and a well-organized run, I went home happy, elated and a little mad -traits that personified the mad hatter.

 

I was a little wistful about having to miss the Halloween run of the Mumbai road runners this year, being in the USA. However this run more than made up for it as I proudly dedicate it to my family of runners back at home in India-the ever’green’ Mumbai Road runners! (pun intended)

Devendra Mane

As a youngster, Devendra was not really into any kind of sports in School or College. His sporting ability was pretty much restricted to Gulli Cricket. Going on to work in Sales and Training lead to frequent traveling. In 2008 his work-related Traveling increased drastically taking a toll on his weight and health. He pretty much ballooned up from a sprightly 68kg to an overweight 85kg 😯. During this phase, he experimented with Crash Diets like the GM Diet when he lost about 5kg in a week and ended up regaining the same and more when going off it. He soon realized that these short cuts were not going to work. 😑

Devendra’s father, Gajanan Mane, an ex-Navy man was an ardent walker even walking distances from Mumbai to Pune. A very well-known social activist in the field Leprosy Eradication, he has won many accolades from the Local and State government. 🤗

In 2011, Gajanan Mane decided to set off for a Multi-day walk to Ratnagiri covering a distance of 365kilometers in 8 days with the intention of spreading awareness about Leprosy Eradication.

That morning, Devendra decided to accompany his father for a distance of 3k till the Highway and bid him adieu for his journey. Returning home he realized he enjoyed the 6k walk tremendously and decided to do it regularly.

During the same period, Devendra’s Boss from AEGON Religare, Delhi who was a Marathoner came up with a Sales Strategy based on “Ultramarathon Man- Dean Karnazes”. Books of Ultramarathon Man were distributed to the Sales team. Basically they were to achieve a target of 150 crores over 3 months. Essentially it was taking inspiration from Dean who ran 50k daily for a period of 50 days. Similarly, they were to achieve their set targets just as Dean accomplished his mission. A contest called “The Biggest Loser” was also introduced wherein the person who lost the maximum weight would be awarded.

Inspired by the book, in November 2011, Devendra decided to take up his 6k walk diligently in order to achieve this goal. Plugging in his earphones, listening to music the Evening 6k walk became a daily fixture. He started enjoying this special time when he went into Switch off Mode. He ended up coming down from 83kg to 76kg over the next 3 months winning the Contest in the process. 🤗
He went on to lose another 6kg over the next 6 months getting fitter with proper exercise and nutrition.

At the time, Devendra stopped eating Sweets completely besides skipping Rice during Dinner. Running 4 times a week covering about 30k per week along with a day of Core and Strength training further helped in weight-loss. Having skipped Strength training lot of times due to boredom and suffering from an ITBS, he learnt it’s importance the hard way 😑 and now ensures he does it diligently.

In 2013 Devendra mentioned to a friend that he was contemplating doing 7k at the SCMM Dream Run in January. Since he was already doing 6k walk daily his friend said that he should do the HM instead. Obviously Devendra shrugged him off in disbelief but when he spoke to his Marathoner friend, Dhananjay Shettigar, he encouraged him to do so. Training over a period of 6 months Devendra went on to do his very first HM on August 15, 2012 at BNP finishing in 2:40 😃. However, this was more like a friendly run organized by Ram Venkatraman and Group and not a timed event. Thereafter he did several such other untimed events.

Reality hit hard when he was unable to register for the HM at SCMM in 2013 due to lack of timing certificate 😥. That’s when Devendra did his very first timed event, 10k at the Powai Run finishing in 60 minutes in 2013. He went on to do his first SCMM HM in January 2014.


Till then he was not active on social media and for over a year after that he had been a Solo Runner just like so many of us. It was only in March 2015 that he joined the Mumbai Road Runners (MRR) group on Facebook.

Connecting with Bijay Nair, he volunteered for the May 2015 MRR and went on to meet many other fellow Runners. On his way back home to Dombivli with Shashin Rao, he got to know about Gaurav Bharadwaj and the Kalyan-Dombivli Runners (KDR) group 😊. Devendra volunteered for the next KDR Run getting to know other local runners in the process. Thereafter he went on to do several HM’s, FM’s and Ultra Marathons. He also introduced many office, college and school friends to running. 😎

KDR, a motley group of about 10 runners who met and ran together fortnightly (2nd and 4th Sunday) has grown to more than 75 now. They have 7k Promo Runs on Dussehra and Diwali to encourage and inspire others to join this wonderful Free Runner Group. The enthusiasm has grown from about 75 runners at the first Promo Run to more than 1300 now.

Devendra gives all credit to MRR and in turn KDR for playing a huge role in improving his Running Form as well as Knowledge. They served as an excellent platform to interact with Senior Runners who shared their thoughts and clarified several doubts. 😀

In 2016, Devendra took a sabbatical in order to pursue his PhD. Meanwhile, he also did the ACSM Marathon Training course and became a Certified Marathon Coach. 😊

Along with friends Dhananjay Shettigar and Vishwanathan Iyer he founded RunBurn, a fitness events company. RunBurn is into arranging running events as well as providing coaching at Kalyan, Dombivli, and BKC. They have had low cost, well managed niche events including Tiger Hill Lonavala, Dombivli Pride Run and the Alpha Trail Run. RunBurn Academy is training more than 85 Runners including 30-35 newbies who will doing their very first Mumbai Marathon in 2018 having successfully qualified for it. 🤗

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In 2016 Devendra moved on from racing to pacing. He has paced for 10K Runs successfully in more than 10-12 events. Now he wants to restrict to racing in 1 or 2 events while pacing and helping others achieve their goals in the rest. 😎

Currently he follows a training schedule of 4 days Running- Including Speed Intervals, Tempo Runs, Slow Runs and LSD (Long slow Distance), 1 day Legs Strength, 1 day Core/Stretching along with 1 non-negotiable Rest Day.

Devendra advocates setting small Goals. He does not believe in putting too much pressure on oneself as regards Running in different Events as long as one continues achieving the primary goal of Running to stay fit. He also advises going slow as too much too fast is a sure shot Recipe for Disaster while ending on a note stating, “It’s Fun to Run.” 😊

MRR Race Ranking as on 1st October, 2017

MRR commenced the race rankings from February 2017 and initially we are doing only all the races in Mumbai/ Thane/ Navi Mumbai area (including 10K ones) and all half marathons and upwards in other cities. Currently there are 32 races ranked in the list. The rankings as on 1st October, 2017.  This is first of its kind race billboard anywhere in the world.

DRHM Chennai grabbed the top spot a couple of months ago and is still holding on to it. Last month Airtel Hyderabad Marathon climbed to the 2nd spot. For September races, PNB Metlife Satara Hill Half Marathon jumped to a joint 3rd position whereas AFMC Half Marathon in Pune went upto a joint 6th spot.

Other new entrants in the list in September are MRR Aarey Race in 8th, Ladakh Marathon at 12th, Chennai Trail Marathon at 13th and Inner Strength Half Marathon, Chennai at 26th place.

Among the pure 10K ers, following are the top 5

  1. Bengaluru 10K challenge
  2. MRR Aarey Forest Race
  3. TCS World 10K
  4. Tridhaatu Monsoon 10K
  5. ICT Green 10K

Among the trail races, following are the top 4

  1. Jawadhu Hill Ultra
  2. Chennai Trail Marathon
  3. Alfa Trail Challenge
  4. Ruggedian Shivaji Raje Monsoon Trail Race

Aarey Forest Run 2017- Race Day information.

The race is nearing and excitement increasing…. This is a hilly route with steep inclines and is tough and challenging at the same time, so be prepared, plan well and enjoy the race….

 

Let’s have a look at the route and some race info you should know!

Assembly Time: 5:30-6:15am

How to reach:

From Powai: Stop at the entrance to the Guest House gate, volunteers will guide you. It is approx. 1 km to start point.

https://www.google.co.in/maps/dir//19.1448052,72.8773752/@19.1450149,72.8768468,20z

From WE highway: Stop at the Old Toll Naka, our volunteers will guide you. It is a 2 km walk to New Zealand Hostel.

https://www.google.co.in/maps/dir/19.1651442,72.8616298/19.1650327,72.8616244/@19.1648722,72.860633,18z

Alternately proceed to the Guest House gate and park there.

Car Parking: We encourage you to Car pool. There is ample Car Parking around the area, Car parking at your risk. Please do not carry any valuables. We also request you not to block traffic and ensure that you park without blocking the road or other cars.

 

Baggage Counter: There are 2 Baggage counters available at the venue, Sudhir Prabhu & Team can be reached for assistance. You will be given a token, please retain this token with you and collect your baggage after the race.

 

Warm Up & Cool Down:

Warm Up Sessions& Post Run Stretches will be taken by Dr Anuja Dalvi – Pandit and her team from Live Active. There is also a One on One Session which will be conducted

Water Stations:

There are 2 water stations along the route for 5K &10K and 1 for 3K which will cater to your Hydration & Energy drinks requirements. Dylan DePenha & his team can be reached for assistance.

 

First Aid Station: Every water station has a First Aid Box and there is an Ambulance from Fortis Hospital, our medical Partner in case of any emergencies.

 

Medals: When the race is done, collect your Medals from Deepa Raut & team

Snacks Counter: Post race Snacks will be served in the New Zealand Hostel cafeteria against a tick on your BIB. Shashin Rao & Team can be reached for any assistance.

 

About the route:

It is set in the hilly Aarey Forests amidst Nature at its best with beautiful trees, rare species of birds, insects, etc and the challenging inclines. There are Motivators along the way to ensure that you keep putting the next leg forward and enjoy the run while challenging yourself.

The roads at Aarey while paved is uneven and has severe potholes in certain sections. We advise caution and urge you to be careful. This is route is not one where you can achieve your personal best PB!

First Aid is available at the Hydration counter and volunteers are there along the route.

 

Race Timings

 

10K Timed Race

Start Point: New Zealand Hostel

Start Time: 6:30 am

Route: Move towards Gamdevi Mandir turn and run back to New Zealand Hostel (Volunteers will be along the route to guide you) Take a second loop and come back to New Zealand Hostel Finish Line

The 10k race starts with a quick right and then left onto an incline. This is followed by a downhill section. You will run straight across the first junction and proceed past the hydration station and take a right. You will approach your turn around point and go back to the start. You will do two loops.

Route Map: 2 Loops

5K Timed Race

Start Point: New Zealand Hostel

Start Time: 6:40  am

Route: Move towards Gamdevi Mandir turn and run back to New Zealand Hostel for the Finish Line(Volunteers will be along the route to guide you)

The 5k race starts with a quick right and then left onto an incline. This is followed by a downhill section. You will run straight across the first junction and proceed past the hydration station and take a right. You will approach your turn around point and go back to the start.

Route Map:

 

3K Fun Run

Start Point: New Zealand Hostel

Start Time: 7:00 am

Route: Move towards Unit 16, turn around at the Tree and come back to New Zealand Hostel Finish Line (Volunteers will be along the route to guide you)

The Fun run starts and heads left downhill, at the end of the hill you will take a right and once you go ahead another right. You will follow the road until you come to a tree in the middle of the road (Unit 16) and turn around from there back to the start.

Route Map:

 

Please refer to the maps for the Fun Run, 5K & 10K route:

Do smile while you run and wave out to our volunteers, cameras would be flashing at you at different points. Fast and Up & water will be available at each water station,

Though it is the rainy season and the weather maybe cool, Request everyone to hydrate adequately before the race. Please ensure you stop if you are not able to run and have any difficulty. Do not throw away the water bottles provided at water stations, dispose them at garbage bins provided at each water stations and along the route.

Our volunteers are waiting to support you. Please holler out to them during your run.

Post run please do wait for cool down stretches and a Mega Click – Show me the love moment (group photo) and finally enjoy the Breakfast organized at the New Zealand Hostel cafeteria.

Running in the Forest of Aarey

It’s a forest out there, deep dense and wild, with many  unique trails and a main road cutting through it and plenty of  inner roads to enable anyone to explore the corners of Aarey,  a running hotspot for the running fraternity of Mumbai. Especially for runners who stay in Andheri– Borivli belt, for them it’s their backyard where they just take in the fresh air, the crispy coolness, pollution free atmosphere, scenic views and enjoy the lush forest with views of egrets flying by and the rustic charm. The terrain is hilly covered by thick forests with dense undergrowth, grasslands, emerald green fields of paddy, smoking ponds, cattle sheds, “tabelas” and the Aarey milk factory tucked in between.

Aarey Forest, the green lungs of Mumbai, home to some of the oldest trees in the city is a lush green patch covering 3000 acres in the suburbs of Goregaon. With a wealth of more than 20000 trees, it supports a rich diversity of flora and fauna- 76 species of birds, 86 species of butterflies, 13 species of amphibians, 38 different types of reptiles, 19 spider species and 34 different types of wild flowers.

It’s a place where adivasis, the original inhabitants have been staying for centuries, connected to the urban lifestyle but still keeping their traditions alive, co-existing with nature and co-habiting with leopards that roam these parts. Leopards are not a danger for runners, but these adivasis  have to be alert as leopards are active in the night, but they know very well know the ways of the jungle. I have heard runners spotting leopards here who say that leopards never attack standing humans, leopard being a shy elusive creature, but it’s my dream and fantasy to come face to face with this creature or at least spot it a distance. Running with the leopards or maybe beat them !!!

Technically it may be called Aarey, but the fact is that its directly connected to the Borivali National Park. So it’s actually a part of this 100 square km urban jungle in the world, and we Mumbaikars are blessed to have this piece of heaven to experience and enjoy. For runners, it’s especially a big blessing to run in this only urban jungle in the world, experiencing the wild on the run. A trail that starts from Aarey, in 30 minutes leads directly into Borivali national park and touches the massive Vihar lake, a kind of back door entry. Cyclists and trekkers enjoy this jungle trek along the periphery of Vihar lake deep inside Borivali national park.

Before the advent of the running culture in Mumbai, Aarey was known for its Aarey milk factory with sophisticated machinery to produce milk and cheese. Also it has Chhota Kashmir, a boat club with a nice lake to do boating and a massive garden nearby.

But after the running boom started somewhere around 2005 onwards, running inside the Aarey Forest has become a totally soothing experience. Whilst running through this beautiful patch of nature, you pass along winding roads flanked by 150 to 200 year old tress and see the gentle sunlight filtering through as the first rays of the sun pierce the white mist. It’s a veritable feast for the eyes and balm for the soul. Yes, misty mornings at their best and wonderful to see the darkness slowly fade away into light. This early morning thick mist and the freshness of dew invigorates and refreshes. The best moments are when it’s just starting to be bright, the gentle mellow morning light, the mist and the jungle and the amazing greenery all round put a joy in your heart and a spring in your stride as your feet burn the tracks.

The typical scent of the wild woods, the rich flora and fauna forming a rich tapestry, trees covered with creepers and wild red flowers blooming create ideal settings to make anyone feel like just running forever. Actually it’s better to say that anyone would feel like gliding and floating here, not very fast but at a pace where you could really get one with this lovely jungle and feel its beauty and sounds and aromas.

Over the years, I have seen hundreds of runners in a trance here, totally enamoured by this perfect natural setting to enjoy ones runs, a blissful expression on their face. It’s a place where you just feel connected and relaxed and de-stressed and fall into a beautiful, graceful rhythm as you run, something like floating, gliding or rolling, deep inside your own thoughts, in your own zone, your legs having a mind of their own turning over in a rhythmic fashion to the tune of nature. Very soon you might find a deep sense of deep calm taking over you, a “Zen” kind of feeling, as you find yourself wafting through at a pace that is meditative and gentle. Aarey is a kind of place where you might not want to set a pace to run, but allow your legs to just roll over as fast or slow as they feel like.

It’s during rainy season that Aarey turns even more enchanting, turning a deep dark shade of green with ponds and streams dotting the landscape and the smell of mud and earth filling you with delight, to make your run more worthwhile. The landscape totally transforms during rains and the forest becomes much denser where you cannot even see the forest floor. When it rains heavy and you run here, it will be an unforgettable experience and you will feel totally refreshed, the times when you feel you can and would love to run on and on and on and never stop as fatigue won’t even touch you. Feeling the rains lashing against your face, drenching you totally, putting a new energy and the fabulous thick jungle all around are the perfect ingredients for a sweet memorable run.

The best part of running over here is that there are many quaint trails to explore, with plenty of inner roads, some narrow winding clearings in woods leading to some hidden mesmerizing spots. As a runner, it provides a great opportunity to explore these many corners of Aarey, tucked away from civilization, deeply enticing remote and virgin tracts. Running can be more fun when you set out to discover new trails here. Even people running here for years totally look forward to uncover a new trail and experience a new running experience. There are sweet spots here where you can get a perfect sunrise and the sun slowly comes up over the hills in the near distance and the deep valley below is carpeted with greenery.

The more popular of such trails is the NZ hostel route with a tough incline leading through Gaodevi mandir and Chhota Kashmir. It touches the main road connecting the highway on one side and Marol and Powai on other. One end it touches Chhota Kashmir and at other, it leads up the slope to Forest rest house. This Forest rest house slope has a charm of its own, with its own distinctive flora. From the top you can look down on the jungle and the road cutting through it.

For people who race and prepare for ultra-marathons such as Comrades, marathons such as Mumbai and half marathons such as Satara,  Aarey is a perfect place to train as the terrain is undulating with elevations ranging from gentle to steep, a perfect place to do hill training. Hill training is what builds power, strength and speed and lung capacity, so while some routes are rolling, there are some pretty steep inclines where you can test your mettle and challenge yourself to become a better runner. You can hardly find 250 metres of straight, flat path in Aarey Forest, It is undulating territory throughout.

Many running groups train here regularly and other groups make it a point to come at least once in a month or two to train here, as the inclines and slopes offer the perfect opportunity to do so.

All said and done, if you want to run free, with glee, in abundant nature, and truly experience the joy of running where it’s meditation in motion and the runners high takes over, Aarey is the place that offers this slice of running heaven. It’s in the heart of the concrete jungle, but you will feel you are running far away in a different place where your heart is on song and your spirit is free and running becomes your connection with peace and tranquility.