Hills have always intimidated me and it’s been an arduous battle trying to conquer them.  Despite doing the famous Satara Hill Marathon last year, I still could not get over my inhibition for inclines which prompted me to train harder under the guidance of my coach in the last couple of months.  When Vivek Soni- the organiser of Yeour Hill run challenge asked me if I would be interested in participating in the same, I immediately agreed. It was either a 15 k hill run or a 10 k run with obstacles. Unsure about the latter I opted for the former one which was scheduled on September 4th, 2016.

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Yeour Hills is situated in Thane district in Maharashtra and is highly recommended as a beautiful terrain albeit a tough one, by many runner friends’ who would often train there.  Now considering that the month of August had been a gruelling one, starting with the Durshet forest marathon, the IDBI federal Mumbai half marathon and the IIT Bombay monsoon run, I decided to take a back seat and bask in the beauty of the surroundings instead of pushing my heart rate beyond its limits. After all, I have always believed in the philosophy of not racing in all my runs and stopping to smell the roses once in a while.

A few days before the event, I was delighted to find that several of my runner buddies were participating in this run and one of them was pacing the 2 hour bus. Excited chats were exchanged about how we will all eventually get our sub 2 (every half marathoner’s dream) at least in this one. The D day arrived, commencing with a long drive to Thane along with another runner friend –Abhijit. We passed a gigantic Ganesha statue being carried in a truck for the much awaited Ganpati festival which commenced from the next day (Sep 5).  Considering this as a positive sign, I knew that I would survive the unrelenting hills. We soon reached the venue and eagerly caught up with some of our friends.

After a round of the warm up session, we headed towards the start line. The Sub 2 topic emerged again sending us into peals of laughter. Giggling like school children going on a picnic, we even talked about strolling up the inclines if we found it too tough to surpass them with our strides.

The start of the run proved to be a little shaky as I had accidently set my Vivoactive garmin on the swim mode and had to pause to set it right. Besides my ipod began to play some 90s Bollywood number instead of the electronic beats that I normally listen to during a run which had to be adjusted as well. Losing a couple of minutes, I sprinted to catch the 2 hour bus. I ran just a little ahead, thinking that even I lost steam; I would end up being with the rest of the gang. I slowly found myself going ahead and soon came across my first slope which I surpassed. ‘Not bad’, I thought as I continued my strides and soon spotted the majestic Upavan Lake to my left at the break of dawn.  This vast body of water was spread like a colourless sheet of tranquillity carrying the reflection of the sky above.  Just at that juncture I bumped into one our renowned photographers-Michael whom I greeted with a cheerful good morning. ‘You are fourth’, he said excitedly and I acknowledged with a thumbs up.

The course offered more rolling hills just as I had anticipated. ‘I can get through this’, I told myself. All those hill training sessions might as well come in handy now. At the 4th km, came the dangerous curve that men would usually rave about. Unfortunately I was no man and certainly didn’t appreciate curves especially since this one reminded me of that deadly 4-7 km stretch at the Satara Hill run. I decided to run up this one as long as I could before I adopted the walk-run method. After a while, I chose to walk a few steps and look around. The surroundings were an enchanting green as we were embedded between jungles on both sides reminding me of those hill station trips to Ooty and Kodaikanal I took as a little girl.

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As I came across more slopes, I gasped and stopped in my tracks. “What goes up will always come down”, my hubby cum running partner Amit told me. That was enough to set that fierce runner in me on fire as my feet cruised up those inclines and turned at the 7.5 km mark. There were aid-stations offering water and fast & up to replenish our depleted energy levels. On the way down, I caught sight and waved at several runners, smiling and cheering them. The downhill run is always a joyful ride, making you feel like a child coming down a giant slide.  From thereon it was no looking back till we reached the finish line which we crossed with our customary sprint in 1 hour 30 minutes, with me ranking 4th.

We headed towards the holding area to collect our medals and breakfast of idli, wada and chutney, an energy drink which was followed by a cup of tea.  Considering how all of us loved south Indian cuisine, these breakfast boxes were devoured like hot cakes. As our friends gathered, we ended up discussing the incredibly beautiful route and also the euphoric feeling that we felt on completing such a challenging one. Our mobiles greeted us with a message from the organisers about our race timing which was sent to us as soon as we crossed the finish line. The results and our ranking were mailed to us once the winners were announced. The promptness in this service impressed us as we thanked the organisers for giving us an opportunity to run amidst nature within city limits.

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No doubt, it was a daunting task having to conquer the hills as intimidating as that of Yeours’ truly (pun intended). But as I left the grounds, it was those memories of the mesmerising lake, jungles, laughter, photographs and elated discussions that continued to linger on my mind which left a grin on my face throughout the ride back home.

Nevertheless the battle with the hills continues…

Thank you Vivek Soni, Joints n Motion, Fast & Up, volunteers and photographers!