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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.

A dream come true

It was buzzing with energy at Azad maidan. Small puddles were present on the roads due to the rains the previous night. The weather was as pleasant as the camaraderie that was exchanged between the runners at the start line. As the race flagged off, I glanced at my favorite sportsperson standing on the stage before I took off on my run.

Cruising through Flora fountain, I found myself in front of 2 iconic landmarks. The majestic Gateway of India and the glorious Taj Mahal palace and tower stood facing one another, holding their own in terms of their splendor. Sail boats bobbed up and down the restless Arabian Sea as the sky and sea portrayed different shades of grey.

Monsoons tend to bring out a bewitching charm about the city and entices me under its spell. Like Dorothy from ‘The wizard of Oz’, I whizzed away into the lanes of colaba causeway- my regular haunt to shop for those exquisite pieces of accessories.

The presence of cafe mondegar didn’t hurt either as I smiled thinking about the beer post the run. Cruising past vivanta Taj, I took a U turn towards the road which led to marine drive. As I reached NCPA, I gazed at the coastline of Mumbai with the buildings in an arch. “It could probably give San Francisco bay line some stiff competition”, I thought. Queens necklace as it’s popularly called, always manages to make me gape in awe. I looked at the waves crashing against the wave breakers almost as though they were recognizing me from the past. “Yes you know me “, I told them. ” I have run past you several times. ”

I recognized familiar faces, smiled and waved. Passing by the Intercontinental Hotel, the mighty Mantralaya, I soon spotted the finish line which was just 100 m away. It was a perfect 21.1 km just how a half marathon race distance should be.

I was waiting to embrace the finish line and friends post the run. However something strange was happening. I couldn’t get past the line as an unseen force appeared to be holding me back! I was trying to push my feet forward but could not move an inch- making me feel as though I was fighting a current while swimming in the ocean. I looked around to see others breeze past the finish line with ease. “Strange”, I thought. “My feet appeared to be stuck on the ground. I couldn’t have hit the wall just a few cms from the finish line.. I looked around and called to fellow runners in a desperate manner!

Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder shaking me hard… “swe.. what happened? You were shouting. ”

I sat up and found myself looking into my husbands face. I looked out of the window to see the Stanford courtyard staring at me.

“It all seemed so real- running in my favorite city in a route that I knew so well. My own backyard.” I thought wistfully.

I mentioned this to my hubby who grinned and said “Swe you were dreaming about running the IDBI Federal Life insurance Mumbai half marathon!”

I looked at the calendar this morning which said August 10th. Just ten more days to go….

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Global MRR – Running in Dubai

If you ask any runner which part of the world would you like to run, if he is a passionate runner he would mention any part of the world as one will get an experience in a different region with a different climate and a different surface. Some love to run on Sandy surfaces, some on Roads, some on Trails. With an opportunity write on MRR Global theme I am more than happy to write on the running culture in UAE. UAE in a way I would say is a boon for runners. Because in a shorter area it can provide all kinds of running experience that you want get involved into, it has sandy surfaces, roads, trails, etc. All these you will get in a very short vicinity you don’t need to travel too much to get a different kind of surface to run on.
I started my running around 4 years from now in Dubai. My first run was a predictors run held by Dubai Road Runners which used to be at Safa Park in which you had two options either run 3.5k or a double loop of 7 km. I thought 3.5 km would look short so went for a double loop and then after completing the first loop the whole second loop I was wishing and at the same time cursing myself for not taking the 3.5 k run but yes I did complete somehow with stitches in stomach, walk, run, craving for water and reached the 7 k mark.
There are multiple running clubs around here to name a few known ones like “Desert Road Runners”, “Dubai Creek Striders”, “ABRaS Runing Club”, “Dubai Trail Runners”,“Abu Dhabi Striders” then come the sporting brand clubs like “Skechers”, “Nike” etc. The best part about all clubs is that you are not forced to be a member of a single club ie a person can be a member of multiple clubs during the same calendar year and no one objects to it.
Each club has its own way of training and specialty, these opinions is only from my point of view. I have run with every club. There is paid membership in few clubs and few are still free to join. But the fees charged is very negligible because along with the membership lot of freebies are given which makes the fees paid equivalent to zero.

Dubai Creek Striders Running Club
Track & Field Team for Desert Road Runners

I would say that other than the branded clubs all the other clubs are being run by at least one passionate person who is too passionate about “running” and a lot of sacrifices of hard effort, time and money is being put in to run these clubs at par. Each club has its own specialty of training and each one has a well designed schedules for their preparation for the upcoming races be it a marathon or a 10 k etc. The training schedules are designed in such a way that it suits all level of runners from a Novice to the Elites all follow the same schedule at a time.Friday and Saturday being weekends the clubs meet up in the morning and mostly long runs are arranged on these two days. For a long runs as well as the weekly short and long distances there are groups formed into different pace groups so that each and every runner is accommodated and accordingly they set off for a run. In case of Desert road runners everyone gathers for at coffee shop to sip some coffee after completing their long runs.

Skechers Club with Our Spoils after an Event

Major Spots For running
There are multiple different beautiful spots for running in Dubai as I mentioned earlier and the count is innumerable. Some of the prominent ones I would like to mention and share my experience:
Al Barsha Pond Park – It’s a small family park with a pond in between and a 1.4 Km track soft Track around it. This is a favourite training spot for both Desert Road Runners and Dubai Creek Striders for Short Interval and Long interval Trainings
Jumeirah Beach Running Track – A properly marked soft rubber track laid right beside the beach extends upto around 7 km, going to and fro makes 14 k for the day. I mostly love to run on this track and some days I just go on the sandy part besides the water making it a straight patch of sand for 7 to 8 km and coming back to make 15 to 16 km or doubles to make it 30k.

Jumeirah Beach Track
Jumeirah Beach Track

District One Cycling and Running Track – It’s a 8 km Rubber jogging track laid right beside the cycling track. So incase you have some cycling enthusiast in your family you can take them along and while they enjoy their cycling one can complete their training runs and to add over it there is a small tunnel to pass through in between the run.

District One Cycling And Running Track

Other than these there are lot of running paths many with different views around it like Dubai Marina Walk – it’s a bit busy walk way but you can run around the whole path as long as you want around the Marina waters on one side and hustling bustling shops and restaurants on other side, there is so much happening around that in case you are having an easy run you wont even realize when the 10 k has passed on your watch. Springs & Meadows – a Gated community with beautiful greenery and ponds around – best place to run on the weekend mornings and go for long runs straight or in loops. Zabeel Area – Place where the Dubai Creek striders have their long runs – flooded with peacocks in the morning. Now with new development of the Creek we might see more than a 70 k running path all along the creek.

New Creek Route

If one is a fan of Trail runs UAE has plenty of options. I normally go with Dubai Trail Runners for trail running. The best spot for Trail runs is in Hajar Mountains and different wadi’s of Ras Al Khaima. Wadi Shawka – a Trail runners delight, you will be greeted sometimes by the camels, sometimes by goats or sometimes even by donkeys enroute your 21 or 35 km patch of trails. Lots of village life to see with small farms and different style of path to run on from rocky to sandy patches. And incase you come across a pond at the end of your turn then you can do some water diving practice too, it just removes all the exhaustive feeling of your body and you are fresh to return back. Fossil Rock – Challenge yourself with Sand Dunes over the mountains, it’s a tough run mostly done on Saturday mornings by Dubai Trail runners, running through the sand mountains (what I can call it) sometimes digging through knee deep sand and specially the last point where you run to the top of the mountain with bulk of sand in your shoes tests the best endurance you have in your body.

Fossil Rocks
Fossil Rocks

If one fancies running up the mountain then there is Jebel Hafeeth in Al Ain. A group of Abudhabi Striders leaves around 2.30 am inorder to be able to reach the base of the mountain to start running at around 4 am so as to avoid the vehicle traffic. But running this mountain on a well built road upto the top is a unique experience. We also have Hatta Area in Dubai which is again a weekend place to go for a run on mountains as its on the border of Dubai and Oman and requires a travelling time of around 2 hours. Again a picturesque place to be in with good mountains to test the strength of your knees. There are few short hills in Residential area in Jebel Ali near Ibne Batuta Mall where one can practice few short hill reps. Else other easier options for hill reps for some is the multi-story mall parkings or the bridges.
The trainings go almost all through the year. Most of us expats living here get 1 month off in a year, many people tend to take that during the Summer time when the kids also get their off from school. So during summer the number of runners in the group become low. But the running continues all through the year. The summers are very hot sometimes temperature reaching upto 48 to 49 digree Celcius with 70 to 80% humidity. But it’s a different experience to run in such heat also. During summer we also get an option to run Indoors with an Air conditioned Indoor Running Track – A 650 meter running track laid in one of the Exhibition centres for around three or four months. This is a special initiative taken by the Government authorities to promote sports during summer giving multiple options of football ground, cricket play area, basket ball courts, gyms etc at some charges but the running track which is laid around these grounds is free of cost. Sometimes we do train indoors on this track taking the loop of 650 km. You will find most of the runners making full use of this indoor track during the summers.

Dubai Sports World Indoor AC Track

During winters one would feel there is no other better place to run than UAE. A perfect temperature to run in neither to hot nor too cold. Rains we don’t get here much but some days when the rains show up its beautiful day to run too because the winds just make you flow with them.
Running events – multiple running events are conducted all through the year. Every event has some speciality in itself. One will never be unhappy to spend the charges charged for the event entry because with most of the events especially the ones organized by the running clubs carry some or the other non monetary benefits for the runners, eg Abudhabi Striders Yas Half Marathon offers a full day water park access within the registration fees, while Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon goodie bag is full of surprises year on year and they try to keep the registration fee as low as they can afford to and at the same time the quality is not compromised at all, the venues, routes, arrangements etc is of best quality.

Abu Dhabi Yas Water Park Half Marathon & 10 k
Abudhabi Yas Half Marathon

Dubai Marathon route is one of the fastest routes available for any runner to get his PB added with best temperature as a natural support. Also Dubai has the one of the fastest Half Marathon Route which you will get in the RAK Half Marathon. Along with the price money of 1million AED another 1 million is for grabs for the one who can beat the World Record, so you can understand the quality of competition that can be expected in these events.

Dubai Marathon Moments

Plenty of events to choose from ranging from flat routes to trail routes. Also almost all events are competitive as there is a multi-nationality presence in each event. There are more than 190 nationality people living within UAE so you will find people from different Nationalities in each event so it makes it more competitive at the same time it helps people learn from different training programmes people follow across the world as you meet them in different events and discuss on training porgrames etc. You even get a chance to compete head to head with some of the best known names in running in some events as they might be visiting Dubai and have entered into the event happening during that time. Even in summers one will find events happening mostly night runs, or evening events while the temperatures are still soaring at 40 to 45 digree celcius. Solomon Wadi Bih 72 & 50 km – A Trail run in the Wadi Bih Oman being organized from last 25 years, which attracts almost all runners to participate It’s an individual as well as a Team Event. . There are prices for best team name and best dressed teams also. Due to the increase in nos of participants year after year it is now held in two days. First day all individuals and second day all teams compete running upto an high altitude and coming back the same route. Urban Ultra Hajar 100 and 50 km – The organizers try and make their best efforts to make the hardest route possible. Cut off times at approximately 20k, 40, 50 and 70 or 75 k are just the beginning and to add on to it you need to cross two trechorous mountains in order to complete the first 50k.

Start Of An Urban Ultra Event
One of The Best Dressed Team at Wadi Bih Event
Wadi Bih Oman Route Up Up and Away

My best experience in running during this short time of 4 years has been the 7 Emirates Run. It covers all the 7 Emirates of UAE (Abudhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah). Initially it was 537 km in 11 Days, now been reduced to 497 km in 7 days. I have run this event for two consecutive years and finished it at the the top. The race itself is like a dream fulfilling for a Runner as you need to run 70 to 90 km for the day and rest and then run the next day again and additionaly it supports a great cause to support a charity that makes limbs for Children who cannot afford it. Other than this one gets to explore the whole of UAE on foot, meet different people, be able to see heritage places, experience the kind hospitability of the Locals around, going through villages, farms which one misses out while travelling through the cars and other transporation mediums.

7 Emirates Run Greet And Meet The Camel Enroute
7ER Sometimes Sandstorms Greeting You and No one else around
The Kid in the Centre Who was supported by the Charity of First 7 Emirates Run Comes to Meet Us.
The Farms Enroute
7 ER Support Vehicles and a Glimpse on the Route

Though I have run with almost all clubs in UAE my trainings mostly happen with Desert Road runners. Weekly event that happens with DRR is Predictors run which happens on Saturday evening (venue is now changed to Jumeirah Beach track) whereby you need to predict your time for 5k or 2.5 km and try to reach that predicted time. You compete with yourself every week. If you hit your predicted time you are awarded with some prices on spot. DRR also conducts an “Iftaar run” normally happening in Ramdaan after breaking the fast. Other couple of events conducted by DRR are of 5 k and 10 k are held at the Dubai Autodrome. Similar type of events is followed by Abu Dhabi Striders. They too have predictors runs in Abu Dhabi. One more interesting running event that I would like to mention here is of Dubai Creek Striders “10 k Peacock Run” – 3 to 5 Runners are grouped together to run as a team. Each group is mixed with Slowest and Fastest runners and all runners need to arrive at the finish line together. The winners receive a trophy while the last group receives Wooden Spoons.

 

‘Insta’ celeb on the run

There is a certain thrill that one feels on seeing their photo on social media. The numerous likes and cheeky comments tend to bring out a child like glee irrespective of the age factor-something that entices them away from the rigamarole of daily routine and chores.
That instant ‘ping’ of a like or a comment on the smartphones manages to elicit a smile which probably only a bar of chocolate  could do during our childhood days.
After Facebook,  instagram seems to have become the new rage. One is able to post several pictures right from their travel escapades to random clicks with friends or celebrities. With the fitness bug having caught on, one sees yoga poses, hiking trails, bicycling trips and running shots doing the rounds.
MRR ( Mumbai road runners)-a vibrant community of 9000 odd members, believes that every runner on the road is a celebrity and has devised a novel way to ensure that their runner gets the status of one by flaunting their images on social media.
They introduced a concept of insta girl and insta boy of the day where clues would be posted on a daily basis about their runners. This ‘taaza khabar’ would leave others in the community brimming with curiosity on who these celebs  of the day were. The ‘guess who?‘ phenomenon would begin with their morning cup of cutting chai as a flurry of names would leave a trail of comments on this post.
By tea time, the stars would be revealed and this was something everyone looked forward to. It sort of broke the lull from their monotonous affairs of the cubicle life or corporate boardroom.  Each day was awaited with great fervour as the “who is it going to be today” frenzy gradually caught on.
The star couple of the day would be elated on seeing their images being posted on a page of a 9000 odd member community which boasts of runners from not only India but all over the world.
Other runners got to know their counterparts much better with the creative clues that were posted by the enthusiastic admin team.  Irrespective of being caught in traffic snarls or long haul meetings ,the ‘insta’ fever perked the excitement levels by keeping everyone on their toes.
This was probably  good enough to give stiff competition to ‘Bombay times’ which would usually only  report on celebs getting a nose/ lip job done or an attire they wore to a certain superstar’s party.
The MRR insta fun certainly made waves with its tongue in cheek humor clues as an introduction to their runners in their previous season.
Going by the popularity of their previous insta edition ,MRR is all set to bring on their season 2 of the insta girl -insta boy series. More clues, more humor and more celebs -the time has come to get to know your runner pals a lot better.
Quirky and effervescent, season 2 promises be a cup of hot piping coffee with an extra aroma and a dash of some special flavor!

7th Anniversary Run

We have many running groups across the country but what is so unique about MRR?

– is it that MRR has around 9000 members?

– or is it that this group is ” by the runners and for the runners?”

Very few running groups can boast of having a monthly group run, every 1st Sunday of the month, continuously for the past 7 years!! Whether it’s peak summer months or the wet monsoons of Mumbai, come what may, these monthly runs will always happen.

Last Sunday 2nd July was MRR’s 7th anniversary and the entire running community of Mumbai was looking forward to it. We had +400 runners who braved the heavy downpour and still made it for the event. The entire route from Carter road to NCPA was as if a race was happening in the city.

Like for all monthly runs, there were enough water stations on the route and enthusiastic volunteers cheering the runners.

As a memento, every runner earned a medal which they proudly displayed and many even posted on the social media. Also breakfast was served to everyone, which everyone relished. And in this weather hot tea was also served.

Now all these costs money but the admins decided to charge only Rs 100 per person!! I am sure the costs were much higher than that. The best part about these runs are the camaraderie amongst the runners seen after the run. Every one wants to be clicked and take selfies with their friends and people who they feel inspire them.

I have personally seen this group grow by leaps in the last 5 yrs. Whether it is the admins or the volunteers or the photographers, everyone puts in their 100% and work selflessly sacrificing their own interests.

What more do I expect from MRR?

Possibly getting into organising a race

 

The MRR 7th Anniversary Run 2017

It was somewhere in the year 2009 when I met  the gang that started as MMR and later rechristened as MRR.  It  began with long runs on Saturdays at the lush green lungs of  Mumbai  suburbs that we know as Aarey. It was quite a challenging route  with one loop of around 8kms with a fair share of uphills that we had nicknamed “Heart Break Hill”. There was no FB group and  we had a platform known as Runners For Life  which had groups like the one we have on FB today.

Later in the year 2010, the Bandra NCPA long run was conceived  by Giles, Milton, Ram  amongst others and  myself including Bijay, Mani Iyer, Bhasker Desai, Mumtaz Qureshi and few others  became part of the same.  This was basically to have  training runs  mostly on the SCMM route   so that  runners  are familiar  with the  route and its difficulties.  The response was good considering the number of people running at that point of time and slowly the popularity of this monthly run grew and people from  different parts of  Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane joined  the fun.  The MRR community itself grew from a mere 20  odd people  to  over 8500  now and it is a matter of pride  and joy that today we have  members from across India connecting with us and also coming to participate in the iconic run whenever any of them are in Mumbai. Some die hards  schedule their visits so as to participate in these runs, and  we have had members  coming in specially to participate in the Anniversary celebrations.

The anniversary runs are a lot of fun, as runners come in huge numbers and runners across various groups  participate in the run as well as celebrations. It also gives an opportunity  for the runners who are connected on FB to actually meet and put a face to the name that they know and interact with.  The charges for participating in the monthly runs have remained constant at Rs. 50/- (inflation and GST can take a walk!) and on an average  any monthly run has upwards of 200  participants, equivalent to a small event. The Anniversary runs  have larger numbers and hence a  bit more effort goes into organizing the same. The 7 Anniversary  run on 2 July 2017 had over 400 participants, by any standards a  decent number even for a time event.

I have participated in most of the  monthly runs and  all of the Anniversary runs.  This year  since had scheduled  a 16 k  run for myself, I had decided to start from NCPA and do a 8k loop. I had to ferry  another MRR  member, Vishaka who also stays in Powai and who was attending the run  for the first time.  As we were  proceeding towards NCPA, the rains were  heavy and  we were a bit worried as to what the  scene would be if the  rains did not abate.  A moment after we landed at NCPA, the heavens opened up in full glory.  Since Vishaka was to do a 10k, I asked her to wait for MRR volunteers to arrive, and I pushed off  for  my scheduled 16k run.  The first 4 kms was run in blistering downpour and head winds, but  later on the  rains abated a bit and though the shoes swished with residual water, it was a comfortable run.  I completed my run in good time  again battling strong winds and rains on the return leg.  A  bit later runners started to converge on the promenade opposite NCPA.

The sight was that of a festival. Runners of all kinds  with colourful attire, swarmed the promenade like proverbial bees.  The chatter was endless.  There would have been a world record of the maximum amount of selfies taken, hugs exchanged, hi fi’s given and the  happiness quotient. The glow on the face of the runners told the story and it is this glow which makes us  arrange these  runs  month after month. It is such a satisfying experience  to see the sense of achievement on the face of the runners. Many  ran the distance for the first time, many ran in the rains for the first time, and  some volunteered for the first time. One thing was common among all of them – the joy!

The  hydration points were well stocked  with water, energy drinks and some eats, and also  volunteers  with unlimited smiles, and last but not the least, photographers to capture the run and the smiles so that  the FB pages are  flooded the next day with new profile pics and group pics!  The  finish point had participation medals  for all and yummy breakfast for that customary ‘carbo loading’.  Runners do enjoy running, but the most thing that the runners enjoy is the camaraderie and fun times that  they spend with like minded people.  This explains  why even after the run, the runners are still at the venue a good one and a half hours after completing their runs.  The customary  Anniversary cake prepared thoughtfully by Ritu, was cut by  our iconic  runner Khushroo,  and  Sameer Gaikwad, who had travelled all the way from Baroda to participate in this event.

From a motley group of 20 runners this run today had over 400  runners, which  is an indication of the running culture  that has  grown and MRR has had a good share in making the same popular with its own brand of  openness, and all inclusive  philosophy.  A word here  for the  tireless efforts put in by the  Admins of MRR, all of them who are professionals, and who put in  that extra mile to make the runners comfortable, be it the monthly runs, or managing the  FB group,  and more importantly  conceiving and implementing the various programs to help  underprivileged runners.  A huge thanks to the  Volunteers  who  work hard to  provide an enjoyable run to the  runners, sacrificing their runs and tirelessly manning everything from purchase of  materials to serving  till the last runner  has crossed the station, and doing this with smiles and all the time encouraging the runners.

Its  been a wonderful  8 years journey, and it is heartening to note that most of the initial group members are still a part of this wonderful initiative and  the group has grown in manifold terms.  Here’s wishing MRR  a fantastic future and many many more celebrations!

Some pictures of the First Anniversary  Run – 3 July 2011.