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Back on track

They say life comes around a full circle. This was experienced at the IDBI Federal Life insurance Mumbai half marathon stadium run last year in June. It was a first of its kind in the city of Mumbai where participants had to run around the 400 m track continuously-either for 2 hours if they were a part of the 6 member relay team or for 12 hours in the case of an individual participant.

When I received a call in the month of March asking if I was keen to be a part of the MRR team, I gladly agreed. I recollect those training days in the scorching month of May when I would train at the PDP (Priyadarshini park) track to get the feel of what it was to run around in circles for 2 hours in.

It was a six member team with 4 men and 2 women headed by Captain Viv. When the D day arrived, I remember reaching the venue at the Mumbai university grounds at Marine lines with butterflies in my stomach. My slot was from 8-10 am. The monsoons were playing hooky and the day turned out to be quite humid.

There was a lot of enthusiasm in the air especially with several people who turned up early to cheer the runners. After every hour, runners had to change their direction and run anti clockwise. My turn came and soon I found myself running on those fiery red Tracks.

My team mate Mihir had set the track to a blazing start in his slot from 6- 8 am. He ran along with me initially to pep me up and help me get rid of those nervous knots that were entangled in my head. “Go slow and then pick up pace when you feel strong”, he said. I nodded. For a while I was caught up in the frenzy of claps and cheers after which I got into my own zone as I just went round and round.

It was a different feeling from the one when you run on a straight road. For one thing, you don’t know who is behind whom and who is overtaking one another.  It gives you that Olympic feeling and after every lap you feel like a Usain Bolt, charged up and read to run another round.

Road running often treats one to different visuals like the trees, roads, buildings and sometimes nature if you are running on a trail.  This is often a distraction if one feels the twinge of fatigue and wanting to give up. Track running is devoid of these scenic treats but the effervescent calls and spirited claps more than make up for this sort of merry go around run. Besides you always tend to derive that inspiration from your fellow runner running on the adjacent track.

After an hour, it was time to turn the other direction and run. It was 9 am and the heat began to seep in slowly. I plugged my music on firmly as I listened to a mix of some good Indi pop, retro and Electronic dance numbers which made it appear as though I was in some discotheque. The stadium atmosphere was nothing less than one with the radiant electrifying smiles and the gaily shouts of laughter.

As my time slot came to an end, I realised that running 2 hours in a circle was more a mind game than anything else. My admiration to those running for 12 hours increased double fold. It required great tenacity and will power to keep going in circles, I thought.

As I sat down on the sidelines, I gave a thumbs up sign to my team mate cum captain who was running in the 10-12 slot. Running, no doubt, was always considered a solo sport. However this relay run, which saw a lot of encouragement and motivation from by standers and fellow runners, gave one the feeling of playing a team sport.

When a runner enters the track, they are cheered and supported with great gusto. When they exit, it becomes their turn to give back equally and cheer with all their might. As mentioned earlier, the stadium run teaches an important lesson of life coming around a full circle.

With just a couple of weeks to go for the much awaited IDBI Federal Life Insurance Mumbai Half Marathon Stadium run on June10th- 11th 2017, I decided to walk down memory lane to relive this exciting run organised by NEB Sports.

A run that millions yearn to be a part of, getting clicked by photographers, obtaining your team t shirt, medals, timed chips with volunteers in plenty and a sumptuous food spread throughout the day to cater to the famished appetites. Not to mention, the feeling of being part of a team and one of the biggest event of the year.

2017 edition sees a bigger and grander scale as this time there is a 24 hour run included as well, commencing from June 10th 5 pm onwards till June 11th 5 pm. It will see a lot of runners running on the track all night long.

While there will be a section of the population burning the dance floor in some remote night club that Saturday night, runners will be burning the tracks as  University Ground is bound the be the most happening place that Saturday night and entire sunday!

The power of a kind gesture

My hubby Amit Sridharan and I had attended the comrades run at EEH yesterday which was organised by the spirited Gangs of Sonapur. It was a felicitation run for all the comrades’ runners running the mind numbing 89 km race amidst the rolling hills in South Africa-a race that stretches beyond human physical endurance.

This event at EEH was a 10 k run on the flat surface and a couple of km included the scenic trail of the salt-pans. It was a humid day and doing a 10 k seemed like an arduous task considering the not so conducive weather conditions.
However the cheerful stance of the volunteers offering water and spraying chill water on our faces saw us through the distance. The event was brimming with enthusiasm and toothy smiles. The unique medals in the form of bottle openers were being given to all the finishers. Added to which there was a breakfast spread of idli, chutney, chaas and a cake to sweeten our taste buds.

It was along the side lanes of this stretch that I experienced an unexpected humbling and a gratifying moment. As I sat there chatting with runner friends, a kind faced lady came up to me asking if I was Swetha Amit. I smiled and nodded in affirmative. She had recollected having seen me at the KOR event back in June 2016 and said she would never forget the way I had cheered her while she was running.

I was deeply humbled and speechless for a minute. I faintly recollected a saying which stated that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget the way you made them feel. “

As a runner I had this habit of saying “come on, good going” to any fellow runner irrespective of whether I knew them or not, just to boost their spirits and create a feel good factor.

Little did I realize that a simple gesture of mine would actually be etched in the memory of someone whom I didn’t know? I looked at her, smiled and chatted with her a bit.

This 10 k run at EEH was one run which left me with a warm fuzzy feeling. For once it was not because of the endorphins or the usual runners high. It was because I learned that an unconditional gesture of mine sometime back, made a difference to someone else’s run.

I had read somewhere that it’s the simplest things in life that bring ultimate joy. How true! An individual goes through several troubles in their lives which we usually aren’t aware of. Sometimes a nice gesture on our part unknowingly tends to brighten their day and adds that sparkle of joy even if it’s for a short moment.

So never fail to smile or utter a word of appreciation especially during a run-you never know whose day or life you will end up brightening- sort of like a gentle soothing breeze on a scorching summer morning!

The half hearted conversation

I was out on my morning run with my hubby Amit Sridharan and was struggling to keep up the tempo pace as the humidity began to take a toll on my stamina levels. I had to slow down my pace a bit to conserve my energy reservoir.

Sometimes during our runs, we unexpectedly bump into an old acquaintance who would join us for a while and catch up on the latest updates. Today was one such day as an old colleague of my husband met us.

After the usual greetings and small talk, the conversation steered into the whooping business of Bahubali and the latest releases. I was almost drained trying to keep up the run and the conversation.Slowly I drifted into my own thoughts and decided to focus on the run.

All on a sudden, my ears perked up as he said something that caught my attention. He mentioned that he had couple of tickets to the movie ‘half girlfriend’ to which he was unable to make it due to some last minute work. He was wondering if we were interested in buying it from him.

I was mortified just imagining the prospect of watching a movie with a half baked title like the half girlfriend and which was inspired by a novel by Chetan Bhagat. Now I hadn’t read the novel nor did I intend to. His only books that made a decent read were ‘Five point someone’ and ‘2 states’.

This sudden jolt was enough to up the pace my strides and I politely excused myself, stating I was going ahead. Shaking my head in despair, it made me wonder what a queer term it was -‘The half girlfriend’.

Leaving my hubby to continue the conversation, I want ahead thinking ” I would anyday run a ‘half marathon’ in the scorching heat and humidity amidst daunting slopes than watch a movie like the ‘ half girlfriend!’

 

Emerging triumphant against Asthma

 

Ever runner on the road has fought some battle, be it obesity, thyroid, cancer or for that matter Asthma.

Asthma is a chronic disease involving the airways in the lungs. These airways are always inflamed in Asthma patients, making it difficult for air to move in and move out of the lungs. This in turn causes symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or chest tightness.

There are various types of asthma and the most common one is the one caused by dust and pollution. Some suffer from exercise induced asthma and others who have a family history of asthma are likely to be prone to developing this condition. For those who suffer from exercise induced asthma, physicians devise effective ways to keep the symptoms under control before and after the activity. Staying active ensures a healthy living and it is believed that this condition should not restrict one to the side lines or keep them from outdoor activities.

The running community prescribes to the above philosophy and refuses to be bogged down by this condition. They have managed to defy this chronic ailment and have gone as far as to add several miles to their credit and bagging medals at several events.

On World Asthma Day, which fell on May 2nd, several runners from varied backgrounds came forward to share their inspiring stories on how running has benefited them and some useful guidelines for other runners who were in the same boat. They hoped to shed the myth that asthma patients were nothing but slaves to medication.

 

Sopan Upadhyay –Chief Manager of Marketing at IDBI Federal Life Insurance, was 106 kg and diagnosed with Asthma a few years back. The doctor advised him to stay away from the humid and polluted weather of Mumbai city which apparently did not suit him. Says Sopan “I had loads of allergies with regards to dust, perfume fragrance, pollen grains etc.  At times it becomes too difficult to run in extreme conditions. However my regular running has helped me not only lose 15 kg+ weight but also helped me improve my timings of half marathon by 45 mins. Now I can run in most weather conditions and also do it flawlessly. “

 

Hari Iyer A positive who works with ICICI Bank narrates his experience as well. True to his name, Hari decided to develop a positive approach and has managed to battle his condition which was persisting him since his childhood. He would refrain from activities during his childhood days and proclaimed himself to be a geek. However during college, he decided to join NCC which he said was not a piece of cake by any realms.

Says Hari: “I was always last in the cross country runs. Every day was a struggle, and I use to ask myself whether I would be able to complete this or not. There were moments when I decided to QUIT, but my heart use to say QUTTING is not the option- stand and face the situation. During school days also, I never participated in any sports events due to Asthma. So everything was new to me. Asthma has taught me to be strong. I use to run with my pump in cross country runs. But one thing I have noticed in life, if u have a sheer determination, nothing is impossible. You can overcome everything. I was awarded the best cadet during my college days.”

In his opinion, Asthma is a common disease across the globe, mainly due to the pollution. He feels that an important aspect to control Asthma lies in one’s diet. According to him, runners should be able to identify the food that suits them depending on their body. Some types of food apparently aggravates asthma and advises runners to eliminate those items that act against them. He also advises that asthma patients should eat only 75-80% of the stomach as a fuller stomach tends to cause suffocation, making breathing more difficult.

He said that there was no permanent cure for this chronic condition. Allopathic medication gave only a temporary cure. He strongly recommends Pranayama/breathing exercises early in the morning on empty stomach. Other precautionary measures include covering one’s face while travelling by bike and avoiding heavily crowded areas.

Half of the disease is caused due to unnecessary tension.” He expresses with a smile. “Life is too short to take tensions. Be free, be alive. I had started running marathons from 2011 and have run 7 full marathons and 4 untimed ultras. Now it’s like, if I don’t run I feel suffocation. I still have asthma but I’m not suffering. As it is said, ‘Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional’. “

 

Anju Gupta Kaudanya, Chairperson & CEO of Novo Medisciences who is a part of Happy Feet Runners-a group at Navi Mumbai says “I have been diagnosed with asthma after years of sinusitis which is very painful. However I just started Running, rather walking and jogging with my Coach Amit Kumar. But I am very slow and really scared what I will do when the monsoons approach. However I have all confidence in my Coach under whom I seek guidance. I currently am off all pumps and steroids since the last one month.”

 

Renata Pavrey another enthusiastic runner, was diagnosed with asthma since infancy and spent most of her childhood in the gloomy ambience of hospital rooms. She could not participate in sports during her school days. Since dust, pollen and such particles triggered her breathlessness, her family doctor suggested that water sports would help and thereby recommended swimming. However that never happened due to the inability of finding a good instructor which made her eventually resort to Yoga instead. Her college days showcased a lot more activity in comparison to her school days as Renata got into Karate, dance, Muay Thai and Capoeira.

“Running happened a lot later. Since I was already living with asthma, I knew how to work around this.” she says. “With running, I need to avoid dusty routes. If I’m running in the morning I start early before the sweepers begin their day. In the evenings I stick to the park if I see a lot of traffic on the road.

I have pets at home, so the day before an important race/dance show/martial arts event I don’t hang out with them too much to avoid triggering any wheezing. Changes in season also bring on attacks of breathlessness. Here I stick to yoga, Pilates and mat exercises since I tend to get home bound till the episode subsides. Then I’m back to doing whatever I want to do.”

 

Shiv Iyer, Assistant Manager at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) was diagnosed with asthma due to prolonged sinusitis. Until last few years, he was using a pump to get relief from wheezing bouts. His doctor recommended strengthening his lungs by doing activity that would force the lungs to take control of his breathing.

Says Shiv “I started cycling and in order to put pressure on my lungs, I started doing uphill cycling. I never imagined I could run. Then I ran my first Half Marathon. I could feel my lungs becoming stronger. Even though my sinusitis is still not cured, my wheezing bouts have disappeared and I no longer use pumps. My energy levels have increased. I now cycle (minimum 20k) and run daily (minimum 5 k). My legs may want to give up but my Lungs don’t!!!”

 

Ameya Patil, 2 times Half Ironman and a runner from Kalyan Dombivali Runners (KDR) group, shares his inputs. “I was diagnosed with asthma from childhood but that never stopped me from being active during my school and college days. Actually the humidity aggravates my problem but I usually take a tablet before commencing my exercises. So far during my events I haven’t encountered any attack as such but I always carry my inhaler with me just in case of an emergency.

People who have asthma can most certainly get into running and other outdoor activities. All they need to do is consult a sports doctor, be under the guidance of proper medical care and after that-sky is their limit!!”

 

It is said that a doctors words of advice are golden as they offer a scientific and inspirational approach to the whole thing.

 

Dr Oak is a paediatrician and a comrades finisher. He was diagnosed with asthma since childhood and was allergic to perfume, dust and cold weather. Despite this he would run a lot during his childhood.

He took up long distance running from 2004. Initially he would carry a pump but said that it was of no use. Instead he would take a small dose of medicine before and after the run which would help in relieving his chest from the congestion. During his mileages he would carry a couple of his tablets with him which he takes the minute he encounters wheezing.

“There is no permanent cure”, he says. “One needs to anticipate and fight. Most of the elite runners are asthma patients. In fact there are many people who have scaled Mt Everest and high altitude places despite suffering from asthma. So this condition should not stop anyone from indulging in outdoor activities. “

The ultimate musings of a Frisbee

I weigh only 175 grams and that was apparently the reason why folks found it easy to throw me around. Sometimes they would fail to catch me and I would end up in a heap of sand, a pile of grass or a barren ground. Nevertheless it was only a short moment of euphoria when I would get to fly in the air.

I resigned and accepted this as a part of my life. A bane for being made out of plastic I suppose. A bunch of 14 individuals were constantly after me, waiting to grasp me in their tight grip so that they could score a point and jump with joy. And what did I get in return? Just a grand pose with me as the centre of attention after which I would be placed in the darkness of a grubby bag along with the pointed cones until someone decided they wanted another game. They called it Ultimate!

This morning I was at Juhu beach. I caught the glimpse of the waves and the rising sun which was just at the horizon. A group of runners were still learning the nuances of throwing and the game.  I soon found myself as a guinea pig among these newbies who were struggling to get a firm grip on me.

I was partly amused and partly bored. I wanted to soar high up in the air, be amidst the clouds and kiss the sun. On the contrary, here I was, being dropped constantly on the dirt laden sand scaring away the tiny crabs hidden beneath. After what seemed like ages, the game commenced. I soon heard the familiar stalling counts, people trying to grab me and tap me. Boy! I seemed to be the star attraction here but didn’t feel like it one bit.

I looked longingly at the birds who were stationed on the sand for a brief period before they took off on their flight. They darted partly curious partly sympathetic glances towards me-a circular looking white object oscillating between the sand and air.

Finally after what seemed like hours, I was put to rest and the photo session began. After being in the ‘spotlight’ for some time, I was tucked away with the stone-cold cones in a bag. I could hear the merry chatter and chirpy laughs outside.

A few words caught my attention as I listened intently. “I had a blast playing today. There was a lot of team spirit and enthusiasm.”  said a voice.  I  agree. It was super fun today. Made me forget everything”, said another voice. True”, remarked another voice. “Been having a bad time at home with a lot illnesses in the family. Today was a real breather from the stress induced atmosphere back home.”

The conversation turned animated after a while and it was apparent that these newbies had bonded well in just their first session.

Having overheard this talk, I was amazed to hear about such turnovers (pun intended) and felt that there was more to humans than what meets the eye. I also realised that there was probably more to my plastic self than I gave credit for.  Apparently I was some sort of an icebreaker, a tool to tap the inner child in adults and relive the fond memories of those carefree days. Maybe a stress buster for a short period to disengage grownups from the web of woes.

I often wondered what it was like to be human and longed to be one amongst the clan- possess the ability to talk, cry and laugh out loud like those voices. Just being regarded as a circular plastic object led to feelings of exasperation many a time until today when I realised I was more than that.

I may be thrown, passed around, hurled high in the air but that was probably what held people together-at least the ones playing the game. I may be tucked away in a bag, but at least I wasn’t trapped by the several demons, complexities and troubles that humans were always running away from.

I realised that being made of plastic had its own power-that of being a stress buster tool which instilled a sense of joy, team spirit and togetherness. And that’s what ultimately mattered. No wonder- that’s probably the reason why I am called the Ultimate Frisbee!!

 

The Grand opening- on inaugural promo run of the IDBI Federal life Insurance Mumbai Half Marathon

Thronging crowds and happy feet,

The mood was certainly upbeat.

All roads led to Bandra fort,

As a certain event held forth.

A Sunday much awaited by many,

Besides being Easter, the festive spirit was uncanny.

 

Zumba music filled the air,

As runners swayed without any care.

Being a year since it was born,

It was the inaugural promo run of the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Mumbai Half Marathon.

 

This was one such run,

Which was bordered on fun.

No stress, no fees

Only smiles and free tees.

 

Strides dominated the roads,

As the runner folks were in hoards.

Patter Patter they went in rhythm,

With a friendly shout or a song they would hymn.

 

Not being a race,

There was no pressure of pace.

One could pose in ease

An opportunity photographers could seize.

 

With adequate volunteers and water,

Humidity was ignored by bouts of laughter.

Reaching the venue as a happy thread,

They looked forward to breakfast which was a bountiful spread.

 

Wada Pav, poha and sheera,

A sweet considered by runners so dear.

Followed by cups of coffee and tea,

It was a morning filled with joy and glee.

 

What more could one ask for?

To make the spirits further soar?

This is just the start,

So runners needn’t lose heart.

 

Being just the beginning,

Folks can continue grinning.

As there will be many such promos which are a must

As a line up to the D day on 20th August!

 

Friday the thirteenth

After finishing 10 km on Worli sea face, I kept going strong and soon found myself near Haji Ali, just before the ascent at Peddar road. I almost tripped over something only to find that my shoe laces were out of place again. I sighed as I bent down to tie them. As I geared up to run on those slopes, I found my feet frozen to the ground refusing to move an inch further. It felt like some unseen godforsaken force had chained me to its grip refusing to let me progress ahead in the race. Hoping that a prayer to the almighty would help, I glanced towards Haji Ali only to find a shapeless looming black shadow in its place. I gasped in fright as I looked around. Everyone seemed to be running at their own pace oblivious to what was happening to me. ApparentIy none noticed anything absurd. I looked at the dark shadow which was edging closer. All on a sudden my throat was clasped by an invisible hand. I let out a blood curdling scream as I felt a hand patting me hard.

Mamma get up’ said a voice. I woke up in a fright. It was my daughter Samara nudging me with great fervour.

It was morning already. Sweating profusely, I went to splash my face with cold water. As I glanced into the mirror, a dishevelled face with dark circles under the eyes looked back at me. It was the perfect look if someone had to cast me as an evil spirit in a horror flick. Probably conjuring part 3 ..

As I walked into the hall, my hubby glanced at me in a sympathetic manner. “You look tired”, he exclaimed. I sighed and grabbed the newspaper, hoping to calm my jittery nerves.

As I glanced at the front page, it said January 13th, Friday.

It was Friday the thirteenth. I gave a faint smile and shook my head.

That explained the weird nightmare!

Head over heart- An unexpected learning

Are you crazy? Do you want to run in this condition? What’s wrong with you?” my head remarked in a scornful manner.

My heart hung its head down. “Yes I know.” it said feebly

It was the eve of the most awaited event of the year –the Standard chartered Mumbai marathon (SCMM). Several months of hard work, sweat and blood went into preparing for this one. I was no exception and had given it all in my training be it running, strength or cross training.

Unfortunately things took a different turn as a sudden bout of viral invaded my body on Friday the 13th, leading me to feel nauseous, feverish and giddy. A strong dose of medication made me feel better by Saturday evening. However my doctor’s voice echoed in my head, “I don’t want you doing a Dr. Rakesh Sinha on me.(a doctor marathoner who collapsed recently while training) Only if you feel absolutely fine you run but run slow and do NOT race.

On Saturday midnight, I threw up twice much to my aghast. I leaned back on my bed exhausted looking at my bib, pinned on my black puma T shirt. It was the right choice albeit a tough one. I had to summon my courage to let me stick to this one firmly while my head and my heart were engaged in a fierce tussle.

“You are defying 3 rules of running here.” my head continued pompously. “1. Hydration: Your droopy face looks like you need an entire ocean to restore life back into it. 2. Energy: At the moment you look so malnourished that you can barely walk a km leave alone running one. 3. Rest and sleep: You have been up since midnight and there is no way you can run with a sleep deprived body. Do you plan on sleep walking the entire 21 km and fainting later on?

My heart opened its mouth to protest but my head continued to speak,”

Trust me. It’s not advisable to run. You run for health and fitness. Your livelihood is not dependent on the same. Why stress? It’s ok to miss one event and it’s not the end of the world. You keep saying health is wealth. You will be defying your own philosophy putting your health in jeopardy. You may think you can run but who knows, what will happen out there. What if you faint or collapse? It will be an absolute nightmare. “

My heart nodded and looked down in silence.

My head said gently, “I know what you are thinking.” You have trained hard, taken extra precautions with your diet by eating only home cooked meals, avoided weight training, swimming, rested well and why should this viral attack you now, right? Your friends are running this one, you will miss meeting them, the mandatory clicks, post-race breakfast, etc etc.. Yes I completely understand and empathise. It’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself. You have been as sincere as ever but sometimes things are not in our control. Some things happen for a good reason but we don’t realize it at that time.

My heart listened intently as my head kept talking.

“Look, sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. It requires immense courage to take this decision probably more than what is required while you indulged in all those adventure sports in the past. But it’s all for the good. Yes it will hurt initially but it will benefit you in the long run (pun intended). You want to keep running strong, injury free and lifelong don’t you?

My heart nodded meekly.

“Then this is for the best. You will have plenty of opportunities to run, race and meet your friends. By letting go of this one event, you are blessing yourself with years of running. Think about it. You don’t want to land up in the hospital do you and have people reprimand you saying you should not have run. You know that was the wrong choice. You know your body well enough. You have always listened to it. If your body says no, then it means you are not ready to run forget racing.

My heart sighed and said, “You are right. I have to take this call and it’s for my own good.”

“You are doing the right thing. Trust me, by next week, you will be back to your form. Just keep listening to me. I will guide you in the right direction. You need to be strong. One day when those legs whine and sulk, it’s up to you to take us to the finish line in style. Remember the runners keep saying, if your legs fail you, run with your heart. So brace up my friend.” my head replied.

The choice was made and I decided to skip the event of the year. Sometimes it helps to step back and make a tough decision as it tends to bring a lot of things into perspective. It enabled me to see that every person is different with regards to body type, speed, strengths, and drawbacks and possess their own approach to running a race, including that of my running partner. It may not be advisable to emulate anybody but to dwell on your own strengths and work on your weaknesses. It also made me reflect and redefine my goals while speaking to my mentor/coach on the same as I gear up towards a good year ahead.

I have considered every run as a learning experience. For the first time, I learnt a lot by not running a race. However there are many more races in the offing and as a famous poet has said there is miles to go before you sleep!!

 

Run on Home turf- the IDBI Federal Life Insurance Mumbai half marathon experience

Being residents of Colaba/Cuffe parade for the last ten years, the iconic landmarks such as the Gateway of India, Taj Mahal Hotel, Oval Maidan and Marine drive always caught our fancy whenever we would go cycling or do our long runs. It made us wonder why a marathon could not be organised in this part of town. Of course the famous Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon did take us through the route of Marine Drive. However besides that there wasn’t any other race conducted around this area. Little did we realize that our wish would be granted soon.

In April 2016, we got to hear that a marathon was being held in South Mumbai by Nagaraj Adiga along with an accomplished and well known couple in the running circuit- Sunil Shetty and Sangeeta Shetty. The several promo runs organised in different parts of the city gave us a preview of what runners could expect from the main event which was to be held on August 21st. We signed up for it instantly.

The IDBI Federal Life insurance Mumbai half marathon as it is called, commenced at 5:45 am from Oval Maidan. For once we had the luxury of waking up at leisure, instead of the usual 3:00 am routine that we were normally accustomed to while doing other events. It was not more than a couple of km away from our residence and we were excited at the prospect of running in our own backyard.

It was the usual camaraderie of cheerful greetings and chirpy chatter with our fellow runners as we assembled near the start line. All on a sudden, shouts of “Sachin Sachin” filled the air, taking us back to the Wankhede stadium during the IPL and other matches. As we looked up, we were thrilled to see the renowned Indian Cricketer wave to us from the side stage. It sort of gave us that initial boost in our strides as we geared up to conquer the lanes of SOBO (South Bombay).   Now at the start of the race, my running partner cum husband-Amit had suggested that we follow the 2 hour bus to which I raised my eyebrows doubtfully but finally relented to keep pace as long as I could.

The route took us through the lanes of Colaba where we were sandwiched between the intimidating Gateway of India & the alluring Taj Mahal Palace hotel. A wave of nostalgia took over as our previous residence was very close to the Gateway of India. We soon ventured into Colaba causeway-a place where the famous Cafe Mondegar and Leopold were located.  We proceeded towards Cuffe Parade-my current neighbourhood where we crossed the Taj President Hotel generic celebrex.

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As the minutes ticked by, the humidity levels soared with the rains doing their disappearing act. It was clear that the weather Gods were in no mood to relent. The pacer was well within my sight till about 8 km after which the heat took a toll on my body which was just recovering from the gruelling Durshet Forest half marathon which I had run just 2 weeks ago. Fortunately the aid stations at every kilometre mark came to our rescue as the volunteers fervently handed over water and enerzals, boosting the runners’ energy levels along with the much needed morale. “Bless them” I thought to myself. “If we achieve our goals and target in a race, it’s all because of these selfless souls who aid us through the entire journey.”

As we turned at a particular juncture, I caught sight of a few fellow runners and greeted them with a smile and a wave. Somehow it gave me a sense of comfort that I wasn’t alone in this arduous journey to the finish line which made me stronger. I decided to focus on my strides, determined not to be bogged down by the warm weather and turned up the volume of my ipod speakers a notch higher.

We soon reached NCPA to run along Marine drive- reminding me of all my practice runs here, ever since I took up running. Surprisingly the usually cool sea breeze decided to elude us as well and the oppressive climate was showing no signs of mercy.  As far as I was concerned, it was war. My strides were strong and I wasn’t about to let Mr. Sun play spoilsport to my rhythmic strides. “Now look” I told myself.  “You have run this route before-be it peak summers, humid conditions and chill winters. You own this road and nothing can stop you unless you want it to.”

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I swung my arms furiously, ran along Marine drive and turned at Wilson College. This stretch reminded me of the last 4 km of the SCMM route. “Alright, I can do this”. I said to myself. Every time I crossed a kilometre mark, I would silently cheer. I soon reached the Intercontinental Hotel which was to my right and it was just a km to go from there on.

Something snapped inside me at that point as I suddenly recollected the words of my coach- Samir Singh. “When you see that finish line, give it all you have and finish strong.” I increased my pace and started sprinting, oblivious to everything else but the finish line. “The final leg of the war”, I thought. The timing mat was visible and with just a few strides, I finally embraced the finish line in a strong manner.

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I sat down, suddenly feeling drained of all my resources, managing to finish in a decent time of 2:11. I must have looked dazed and zonked as a few of my runner friends Manasi, Rupal and Rodman asked me if I was fine. I nodded my head. Spotting Ashok Sir with his camera, I smiled and posed weakly. I vaguely remember Sunil Shetty-the organiser tapping me on the shoulder as I turned to congratulate him on a well conducted event.

After regaining my energy levels, I collected my medal, met my runner friends, clicked the customary photographs and headed towards breakfast which was a lavish buffet spread of Poha, Upma, Sheera and wada Pav.

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As I left the ground, I realised that being on home turf, this race had ended up being a psychological battle more than anything, considering the tough conditions we were subjected to and despite being given a beautiful and most importantly a flat track.

Thank you Nagaraj Adiga, Sunil Shetty and Sangeeta Shetty for a well organised event, the breakfast which catered to our famished appetites, volunteers for their unconditional support and the photographers for making every race memorable.

 

 

The Green carpet welcome- the Durshet Forest marathon experience

    Beauty always comes at a price. Little did we realise that this exorbitant price would involve steep slopes and slushy mud paths where every step had to be watched with a hawk’s eye.

This was our second time at the Durshet Forest marathon. Situated at Khopoli, about 8.6 km from Adlabs imagica, it was just an hour and a half hour drive from Mumbai in the wee hours of the morning. Accompanied by our two runner buddies Rodman and Sunil Talwar, we headed towards the Durshet Forest lodge, indulging in animated chatter throughout the journey.

It was a carnival like atmosphere when we reached there. Meeting our runner buddies felt a tad more special, considering it was friendship day which was followed by warm hugs and cheerful hi fives. Some of our pals were doing a relaxed 10 km while my hubby and I, along a few others opted for the 21 km. The 32 km race had already commenced an hour back.  We assembled near the start line, waiting for the flag off.

At 7:00 am sharp we set off, the initial 200 metres being a downhill start, before setting foot on the tar roads for about 2km, after which the smooth roads paved way to an uneven terrain of rocky pathways and rolling hills.  The unmistakable cascade of greenery was a visual treat to our eyes and it literally felt like a green carpet welcome. The mystical woods looked even more beautiful in the monsoons with the streams gushing gently on either side.

As we continued our strides, we soon encountered muddy slushes-an after effect of the torrid rains the day before. Added to which, the humidity levels soared with not a speck of rain that particular day.

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Now running on the roads was one thing and running on pebbly pathways where a slip and a fall could result in a severely bruised knee, was a different thing altogether. It seemed to zap our energy levels to an extent that we were drained after 5 km.  Fortunately there were aid stations with volunteers at every kilometre mark, handing over water, enerzal and bananas. A sip of enerzal did wonders as we prepared ourselves for a long road ahead.

At the 7th km, we were greeted by a steep gigantic slope. I remember staggering up this incline like an old woman with a hunchback, last year. However this time, I fought my mental block and ran up fiercely, determined not to let the hill get the better of me. The village folk cheered us on as we turned at the 8 km mark and descended downhill, encouraging our fellow runners who were struggling with this monstrous incline.

I relaxed and decided to bask in the beauty of the surroundings. Running in the forest tends to remind me of stories that I have read during my childhood. The pebbles on the muddy route took me back to the story of Hansel and Gretel, where Hansel left a trail of the same to get back to his cottage from the woods.  I spotted a huge tree at a distance which traced me back to the magic faraway tree story with its queer folk of pixies, elves and gnomes residing in it. Just as I was smiling at these pleasant memories, we were asked to turn back and follow the loop up to that horrid slope again.

The 21 km route had apparently changed from the previous edition. I stared in disbelief and managed to conquer that incline once again and came gliding down smoothly, subsumed again in my thoughts about the peculiar creatures from Grimm Brother’s fairy tales and Enid Blyton. It certainly helped in taking my mind off the tough conditions that we were subjected to.

As we ran along further, I imagined the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland popping up and me posing a question to it- “How far do I have to go?” To which I get a reply, “It depends on where you want to go”. I persist saying “To the finish line please” to which pat comes the reply “Then you will just have to keep going.” My eyes blinked as my garmin buzzed at the 16 km mark. “Well just 5 km more to go”, I comforted myself.

We soon spotted the tar roads and bid goodbye to the woods. I picked up pace and continued my strides  when my garmin buzzed a 21 km at 2:18.   I stared at it in confusion as the finish line seemed a good stretch away. Nevertheless I put my best foot forward, ran like a person possessed and finally came to the 200 metres uphill stretch to the end zone. I glanced at my watch which showed 21.87 in 2:24 at 6.3 pace.

After collecting our medals and doing the customary poses, we headed towards the breakfast area which served poha, sheera and upma- sufficient to cater to our famished appetites. While discussing the run, it was apparent that the route was stretched a little further according to everybody’s garmin and the 21 km was certainly tougher than that of the previous edition.

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Durshet Forest Marathon was a well-organized event with its cheerful bunch of volunteers and photographers. It guaranteed me of being amidst natures surroundings with its resplendent beauty. Yet it also offers its intimidating stance about not being easy to conquer nature’s abode.

A fraction of a second led me to wonder if I was probably safer, signing up for city marathons where one needn’t tread on uneven surfaces or be appalled by the timing. However I realised that stepping out of your comfort zone and taking up such challenges moulds your mind into that of a stronger person.

I may not have bagged a podium or my personal best with regards to timing which certainly is not in my priority list when I run a race. But I have certainly emerged as a tougher person, managing to finish 6th overall.

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It is the journey which ultimately matters as I pen each moment down with immense fervour, as a record of one of life’s greater experiences.

Thank you Run buddies for a wonderful experience and a great event!