The eldest of four siblings, Neha was born and brought up in a traditional Marwari family in Raipur, Chattisgarh. When her grandmother was detected with cancer, this young girl took on the household responsibilities so that her mother could take care of her ailing grandmother. Though always very active in her creative pursuits, Neha started focusing excessively on her studies at the cost of everything else. Therefore, after her 12th Board exam, when Neha wished to pursue Engineering her father recommended that she take up Commerce instead so that she could continue her creative endeavors. Heeding her father’s advice, she completed her B.Com along with a Higher Diploma in Computers.
Married at age 21 to Sameer Lodha in November 2000, she moved to Mumbai into an orthodox Marwari joint family set up much to the delight of her parents. It was a major cultural shock for Neha moving into a tiny 1 BHK flat from her spacious home in Raipur. After an unfortunate miscarriage, Neha was soon pregnant again. During her Pregnancy due to water retention & other complications her weight shot up from 54Kg to 84Kg leading to difficulties in even performing normal activities. In August 2003, Neha gave birth to her son Namit 😊.
Determined to lose weight Neha started going for swimming with a neighbor; Babita Didi, who took her kid for lessons at the Probodhan Thakare Swimming Pool at Vile Parle in 2004. However she discontinued the same after about 2 months considering the travel time.
Neha then switched to doing different activities like Yoga, Gymming, Swimming etc at the Holy Family Campus nearby.
Fed up off the constant change from Sari to Tracks, Neha ingeniously got a readymade sari with Velcro stitched from a local tailor in order to save her time in the Gym ☺.
In 2007 due to Sameer’s transfer Neha and Namit moved to Hyderabad and later to Belgium with him where she took up walking regularly. Neha started doing Yoga along with some fad Idli diet in Hyderabad and managed to get her weight down to 64Kg ☺.
Once back in Mumbai in 2008, Neha would indulge in High intensity Yoga and Aerobics for about an hour daily at the Step N Dance studio for about 3 years. This was also when encouraged by her supportive Hubby, she started a Toy Library having experienced a dearth of the same in the market ☺. For the first year, the entrepreneur couple shared the same office space with Sameer running his business during the weekdays while Neha ran her toy library on weekends ☺. Later, Sameer moved out to a new office space while Neha successfully ran her library till 2016 when she had to shut it down due to Building repairs 😔.
Every now and then whenever he gained weight, Sameer would run on a 2.5K loop close to home giving up intermittently getting into lazy mode ☺. In January, 2015 Neha decided to join him for the same. She managed to do the 2.5K loop in 25 minutes. Both of them registered for their very first 10K at the HTHM (Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon) in February. Practising on the same loop upto 7.5K Neha completed her first 10K in about 65 minutes while Sameer did his in about 59 minutes ☺. They followed that with running 12.5K at the BNP Endurathon in July finishing in about 1:30.
Connecting with other Runners, Neha did her first 15K with Niyati Sawant, Ann D’silva, Ritu and Varada Gokhale from Lokhandwala to Bandra where she met MRR Stalwart Coach Giles Drego. She started running with the Parle Panthers and with Jayraman Rankawat & Praveen Sah in JB Nagar.
An FB query led to Neha connecting with Manohar Rodrigues and Vijay Kamath who told her about MRR. In fact Neha did her first 21K at the monthly MRR Bandra-NCPA Run in 2015 along with Niyati Sawant and Rohan Joshi as they ran together egging each other on ☺. Interacting with other runners she made new friends and even ended up participating in a group dance performance at the MRR Awards night in February 2016.
Neha did her first HM (Half Marathon) at the SCMM in 2016 and first FM (First Marathon) in 2017 despite an ankle injury in November finishing in 5:15. However the Runs seemed to have started affecting her negatively and she wanted to quit. She tried consulting a nutritionist at the HEAL institute but later consulted Nutritionist Roopali Mehta referred to her by Anand from Parle Panthers. Roopali’s diet plan was a big help and Neha was back on track finishing Satara Hill Run in September 2017 in 2:07 improving drastically from her earlier timing of 2:28 in 2016 ☺. She also went on to participate in two editions of the Mumbai Ultra consecutively 😁.
So far, Neha had resorted to running mostly solo due to time constraints & family commitments. During the Satara trip, MRR Runners Ritu Singh and Babloo Tarwale convinced her to join the Road Burners group at BNP to train under Coach Daniel Vaz. Reluctant initially, her second visit had Neha signing up for 6 months training with Dan. She went on to do her practice run at VVMM (Vasai Virar Mayor’s Marathon) in December 2017 finishing her FM (Full Marathon) in 4:35. That’s when Tushar Pednekar convinced her to consider participating in the Comrades Marathon in June 2018.
After discussing with Sameer, she decided to take a call after her FM at the TMM (Tata Mumbai Marathon) in January 2018. Neha ran brilliantly throughout enjoying her run finishing in 4:14; unbelievably overtaking the 4:15 pacer Amit Kumar at the end, though her goal had been to finish in 4:30 ☺.
Now the next goal was well and truly set as Dan gave her an online training plan for Comrades. Unfortunately, she started experiencing middle toe swelling of her left foot. An MRI had her Physiotherapist advising her to skip the Tata Ultramarathon 50K at Lonavala. She went on to do the same through sheer grit later taking a break from running for a month indulging in Gym and Swimming instead.
Fortunately she was back on track and managed to finish her FM at Surat in 4:50 without any pain. Despite the backlash at home from her in-laws and extended family due to her long training hours as well as running attire Neha stuck to her guns. She went on to finish the Comrades Marathon in June 2018 in 10:44:54 thoroughly enjoying this fantastic carnival run to the very hilt ☺.
Neha has a few podiums to her credit like the AGF Swasth, Aarey Forest Run, Songs of Sunrise, Raipur Let’s Run Marathon etc, besides being nominated for the most improved female runner category at the MRR Awards in February 2018. She was also a Brand Ambassador and Pacer for a few events.
Currently she is training with Coach Daniel Vaz focusing on speed till TMM and later more on endurance for the Comrades Marathon in June 2019. She does strength training at the Gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday is Running Drills and Interval training with Melwyn Crasto at BNP. Thursday is Tempo Runs with Dan. Saturday is Rest Day while she does her Long Runs on Sunday. She will also inculcate 3-4 weekly yoga sessions 3 months before Comrades.
Neha advises Newbies not to go too fast. Instead of the “What Next” mode one must learn to enjoy the “Just Fun Run” mode. She states that one can go overboard with social media sometimes and it can get highly time consuming. She encourages new runners to take advice from Veterans. Last but not the least, Neha emphasizes on the importance of Yoga, Gym, Run and Nutrition. She signs off saying that correct Nutrition has helped her a lot especially in Recovery after her Long Runs.