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Making time for the things that make you happy!

Time is often the most precious commodity in our lives. In this article, Hetal Sonpal talks to Deepthi Velkur on how he manages to find time for his passion, ‘running’.

A dynamic and accomplished business leader with over 20+ years in the IT industry, Hetal Sonpal moves effortlessly from being an angel investor to an advisor for start-ups to an accomplished runner in his own right.

He is also a “Mentor of Change” for Niti Ayog and mentors school children on Innovation programs. He is a motivational speaker and has given speeches at numerous B-schools across the country.

His running journey has seen him complete 14 half-marathons, 4 full-marathons, a 50K Malnad Ultra Trail run and he is a certified Half IRONMAN.

In this conversation, he talks about what motivated him to start running leading up to his Half IRONMAN journey.

With a portfolio of more than 20 start-up companies, I’m sure you’re a very busy man. Yet, you find the time to run – how do you manage that?

“Always find time for the things that make you feel happy to be alive”. I heard this line several years ago and it stuck with me. I think regardless of how busy your life gets when you are passionate about something you automatically make time for it.

For me running is a passion and I rearrange other things I do like another sport, yoga, walking or social commitments to make time for a run.

When I started running 5 years ago, it was the ‘something new’ in my life, an activity to meet and engage with more people. In a matter of 6-8 months, that quickly turned into a serious activity with 3-4 runs a week. Over the past 2 years, I have made some changes to the way I run and train so that I focus on my targeted events for the year.

As you said, you set yearly targets for yourself? What’s the strategy you put in place to plan and achieve these targets?

In general, I target 5-6 events a year. ADHM and TMM are 2 regulars in my yearly race calendar. For the others, I generally try and look for that something new, something unique in an event and if it appeals to me, I add it.

This year, for instance, I did the 50K Malnad Ultra Trail run because going beyond the 42K appealed to me and the fact that it is such a challenging trail run made it a must do for me. I also competed in the Surat night marathon because I had never done a night marathon before.

My plans revolve around the targets I have set for myself that year. For easy runs, I set a time target and for the more challenging ones (e.g.: the Malnad Ultra), I set a target of finishing strong and within the cut-off time. 

Can you please take us through the training plan that helps you week on week prepare for these runs?

I like keeping things simple.

Monday through Saturday, I spend 1-1.5 hours in the gym. This includes a combination of 20-25 mins of cardio, 40-50 mins of core, weights and strength training.  Sunday is dedicated for long runs and the distance varies depending on the event I am preparing for.

I typically follow a 1-month preparation cycle for a Full Marathon and a minimum of 2 weeks for a half marathon.

Your job demands you to travel quite often, how do you fit running into your busy schedule?

A perennial problem with most runners. It is true that my travel schedules do affect my practice but at the same time, it offers me an opportunity to run in a different city under different conditions. It also gives me a chance to meet with other running groups and that helps my networking as well.

I would say that a day trip is more disruptive but if I am staying over, then I can include a run.

Speaking of running groups, you were part of the Gurgaon Road Runners (GRR). How did that help you?

I got to know of the Gurgaon Road Runners(GRR) through their FB page. I was preparing for my first ADHM (Airtel Delhi Half Marathon) in 2013 and they had planned a recce run the weekend before the run. I joined the recce run and GRR helped me a lot in training for my first event- the ADHM. The group was new, so it was easy to fit in and make friends. Siddharth (founder of GRR) is an avid runner and also one of the most disciplined coaches in Gurgaon and his simple approach to running appealed to me.

I was with GRR for about a year to develop my rhythm and technique and after that joined them occasionally for a practice run or a party.

Your first HM run was the ADHM? How did you fare?

The memory of that run is so vivid in my head. I wasn’t nervous but unsure of how I was going to do it. I remember thinking “Don’t stop,  just keep running” – I ran the race non-stop. I did not even have a sip of water which lead to dehydration and that affected my overall pace.

I did a 2hr22min run in my first HM which was quite impressive and got me thinking that I could do better. That thinking was vindicated when I ran my 2ndHM (Corbett run, 2014) in 2hr 05min.    

You have come a long way – from the 2013 ADHM to the Half IRONMAN in 2018. How did you train for something like the Half IRONMAN?

Well, truth be told I only signed up for the event because my friends cajoled me into it. With 3 activities that have their own training needs and demands, an event such as this really puts to test your mental readiness, physical strength as well as endurance. I set myself a training period of 1-month for this event.

In the first part of my training, I focused on cycling. I rented a bike and did a 100K ride with a cycling group from Gurgaon. The total time of 5hr45min was within my expected range and I was ecstatic.

My next objective was swimming. Considering the cold Delhi winters, finding an indoor heated pool was a challenge. Luckily, I managed to find a place, Fitso at the Sun City School in Gurgaon. Despite the water not being as warm as I would have liked, I dived in and finished my target of 55 – 60 laps. I made a huge mistake though – I rode back home with wet socks in chilly weather, resulted in me catching a cold that lasted for more than 2.5 months.

That mistake ruined my plan of doing a swim + cycle the subsequent weekend. As a consolation, I managed a 60 km ride to India Gate and back with two of my cycling buddies. I further accentuated the cold and was down with fever the next day.

The night before the event, I had a tough decision to make. Go ahead despite not being in great shape or withdraw from the event.

With mild fever and severe cold, having to do 38 laps at the Talkatora stadium pool in New Delhi on a cold winter morning was a detterent but I decided to go ahead and give it my best.

Take us through your experience of the event itself?

The Half IRONMAN and IRONMAN are often considered one of the toughest cross-training events in the world with a strict cut-off time of 9 hours. The Half IRONMAN event includes 1.5K swimming, 90K cycling, and 21K running.

On the day of the event, Feb 17th2018, I woke up at 3:30 AM. I got my swimming, running and cycling gear in place and headed to the venue where the event was to begin at 6 AM.

Despite being unwell, the swimming leg of the event went really well for me. I bested my estimated time by 5 mins.

Next was the bike ride which I was quite positive about. We had 9 rounds of 10k each to  be cycled. I was into my 7thround when I suddenly heard a loud noise and realised that my rear tyre was flat. Unlike pro cyclists who have support gear on them, I had none. I had to drag my bike to the start/end point. The event support crew were super-efficient and had me back on the road in a few minutes.

I thought my troubles were over but I was mistaken. 10 metres into the 8thround, my rear tyre gave way again. I went back and the support crew (surprised as they were!) quickly changed the tube again.

I was mid-way into the final round and while I was rueing the hour plus the time lost due to the flat tyre is when I felt that the rear tyre was short of air. I stopped to take a look and ‘lo and behold’ – I had a flat again! (This was quite baffling to the organizers as they acknowledged that amongst 430 participants, I was the only one who had a flat tyre that day- and imagine, having three of them !!)

It left me crestfallen and was on the verge of giving up.  Despite the persistent health issue and the risk of further complicating my cold, I had decided to participate, so having to quit due to a tyre issue, left me flabbergasted.

While dragging my bike for the last 5K, I was just thinking of three words – “Just have faith in yourself ”. I completed the cycling leg and quickly changed for the running leg. As a half-marathoner, my best timing was 1hr50min so having to complete it in 3 hours would be easy. However, with all the energy spent over the past 6 hours, I knew this was going to be challenging. Gathering all my courage and remaining scraps of energy, I ran like a man on a mission and crossed the finish line in a total time of 8hr45mins (within the cut-off time). I did it. I finally became a certified “Half IRONMAN”.

In the End, I would only say this – In a world of opportunities, it is the one who seeks the hardest, gets the best!

What is the next big race your focusing on in 2019?

TMM in Jan 2019, Mumbai. have not planned beyond that, as of now!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Managing a Flying Career with Triathlon Training

Triathlete Akshay Samel speaks to Protima Tiwary about his love for triathlons and his passion for flying and finding time for both.

From learning the most from bad races to running marathons as a hobby while learning to balance a hectic professional life as a pilot, Akshay Samel’s life is full of moments that inspire all those who know him. We caught up with him in between his flying schedule for a quick chat. Excerpts from the interview:

What made you take up running?

I had always been an active child and enjoyed my childhood playing games in the neighbourhood. I was not the boy you’d find busy with videogames; weekends and summer vacations were spent in fields playing a sport. I am not a professional sportsman, in fact professionally I am a pilot. I only run as a hobby and took it up as a means of getting fit.

It was 2005 when I went to watch the Mumbai Marathon, and it is the spirit of this beautiful event that inspired me to take part in the 7km Dream Run in 2006 in the same marathon. It was during this run that I decided to try for a half marathon someday, once I got the time to train for it.

It took me 3 years to make the dream of a half marathon come true (there was a delay as I waited for my Indian Pilots Licence to arrive first) In 2010 I ran my first half marathon. It’s easy to get addicted to the high you feel after running with a community so supportive and enthusiastic about fitness. There was no looking back for me, I signed up for a full marathon soon after and that’s how it all started.

How do you manage to balance your flying schedule with your running schedule?

That truly is a difficult part. When you have a job with an erratic schedule, it does become difficult to plan ahead. Your sleep patterns are also affected by the flying times, and it requires a truckload of willpower to keep going. Thankfully, over the years I have aced self-motivation to stay on track. My biggest motivation to keep going is to challenge myself to see an improvement in each race.

I face a huge challenge when it comes to recovery. Flying means I am working at 7000ft, with dry air and less oxygen, and different pressure cycles. I use compression calves sleeves when flying, and most importantly I have learnt not to be too hard on myself. I don’t chase missed workouts.  I listen to my body and give it enough rest till I feel I am ready to bounce back.

What is your training schedule like?

I don’t really have a schedule unless there is a race that I need to train for. When I train, I believe in quality over quantity. I try to fit in 3 high-intensity workouts of each discipline, but it all depends on the availability of the bike/pool, another reason it gets difficult to follow a training schedule. I swim, I run and I do some high-intensity indoor bike rides to stay on track.

I have trained with a coach once, and I went from a 4hr marathon to 3:31 in 2 years and from a 1:45 half marathon to 1:33.

Was Ironman always the plan? 

Ironman 70.3 in 2013 (Taiwan) happened purely because of  “peer pressure” for lack of a better term, as a couple of us signed up for this race together. The next couple of years were the same as we signed up to enjoy the thrill of the race. There was no structured training plan. In 2016 5 of us decided to register for the Ironman Kalmar (2016) I was a little nervous about this one, especially about cycling for 180km, and thus concentrated on training on the bike.

Ironman happened because of the thrill and joy that our group shared; we enjoyed training together, sharing and executing workouts and encouraging each other to give it our best. We even shared our fears and low points. We all ended up inspiring each other, and that is the best part about the fitness family. It is such an inspirational squad!

What’s been your best race till date?

It has got to be the Ironman Copenhagen. I hadn’t trained for it the way I would have loved to, but I felt strong throughout and enjoyed it even through the pain. The time I took to complete it was 11:03!

What do you feel about bad races?

I think you learn more from your bad races than you do from the good ones. Good races show you that your training was good, but it is the bad races that show you how much more is needed in terms of training as well as your diet. 2 of my biggest learnings from bad races would be –

  1. Rest is important! Your body will tell you when it needs a pause, do not overdo it.
  2. Quality of training is always better than the quantity of training.

How do you keep yourself going during the long races?

I have learnt to motivate myself, and I realised I am quite strong headed that way. Over the years I have learnt to break my marathon into parts, like smaller goals that all help you reach the bigger goal (in this case, the finish line)

How do you maintain a pace?

For me, training a couple of times a week at a faster pace than my set goal pace helps build endurance. Consistent training will help in setting your goal pace and then maintaining it.

Also, you can’t randomly choose a pace, you need a coach to show you how to do it. Because running on an arbitrary pace that you thought was right will only have you undershoot or overshoot your capability.

What do you like most about triathlons?

Triathlon is all about moving ahead, doing better. Triathlon is a lifestyle, and there is no going back when you start planning and managing your time. There’s one thing that I follow, no matter what, something that Jack Reacher once said: Eat when you can and sleep when you can. Wise words to live by.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An Army kid who wishes to travel the world one wellness vacation at a time, Protima Tiwary is a freelance content writer by day and Dumbbells and Drama, a fitness blogger by night. High on love and life, she is mildly obsessed about travelling and to-do lists and loves her long gym sessions like a fat kid loves cake.

 

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Taking it one step at a time!

Anirudh Inani took to running, cycling and trekking to stay fit, a journey that eventually became a passion. In this conversation with Deepthi Velkur, he tells his story.

Passion. Determination. Dream big. You live only once. These are not just some fancy adjectives or phrases thrown around in Anirudh Inani’s world. These are the mottos he has chosen to live by every day.

An entrepreneur by profession, Anirudh Inani’s passion lies in running, trekking and cycling.

Anirudh’s pursuit is to be able to finish at least 40 events across running, cycling and triathlons before he turns 40. He has it all in his sights – taking part in the Olympic triathlon, competing in Ultra events, scaling the highest mountains and conquering every trek.

Ambitious and daunting it certainly is, but he is taking it one step at a time and is currently working on improving his timing for a full marathon and move on from that.

I caught up with Anirudh on what drives this passion and this is what he had to say.

When did you discover your love for fitness and how did your weight-loss program with Truweight impact your outlook to life?

I discovered my love for fitness after I started running and cycling simultaneously many years ago. The Truweight program has phenomenally changed me and my outlook towards life – I have never been fitter, more confident and more energetic after I lost my weight.

Did running happen by chance or was it a conscious decision and a means to stay fit?

At one point in time, I was so heavy that it was very difficult for me to even jog for 100 metres. I had no stamina and was running out of breath while running. I started running to lose weight but eventually discovered that I really enjoyed the high I used to get post my runs. Over time, I worked on increasing the distance of my runs and the rest followed.

Being a businessman, managing your time well is of utmost importance. How do you bring in fitness into your busy schedule?

It’s definitely not an easy task managing a business, running a family and trying to stay fit at the same time. However, I feel that if you’re passionate about something, you will find a way to manage it all and prioritize. Fitness rejuvenates my soul. It’s food for my soul.

What keeps you motivated to stay fit and push forward?

I’m fortunate to have a great set of friends who are into fitness and health conscious too. When you are surrounded by such people, you automatically feel motivated. We always discuss events happening around the country/ world and what needs to be our next goal to achieve and this drive keeps me going to keep myself fit. 

What is it about trekking that appealed to you? How often do you trek and where?

Mountains have always fascinated me and I’m a mountain lover. When I was doing my management studies in Mumbai, I went for a 2- day trek to the Western Ghats with a friend of mine who was already a passionate trekker. Trekking was not so popular and most of the people were scared thinking it’s not safe. I was mesmerized by that trek so much that after completion of my management studies, the first thing I did was to enroll for my first Himalayan trekking expedition in 2003. My parents were very apprehensive as well but eventually convinced them. There was no looking back since then. I made sure I do at least one Himalayan trek every year. Also, in the same way, I have encouraged a lot of my friends into trekking so they get to experience the thrill and joy of going on treks and this, in turn, has made them passionate trekkers too.

How many events across running and cycling have you been a part of till date?

Well, I used to run small distances every day as a part of my fitness routine and commute on a cycle to the park and back where I used to run.

I wasn’t confident of completing marathons. The maximum I could think of running was 10k but a friend of mine encouraged me to take the plunge and I registered for my first half marathon in Hyderabad, just a day before the event. The terrain was tough and quite challenging too. I did take the plunge not knowing if I would complete my run but after I started the race and seeing the energy of the people around, that pushed me to complete the race successfully in a decent time which gave me a real high and boosted my confidence. Since then I’ve done about 5 half marathons, a dozen 10K’s and one triathlon.

On the cycling front, I have done a couple of 100 km rides, Ladakh cycling expedition of around 350 Km in the mountains of Ladakh. A cycling expedition from Hyderabad to Rajahmundry which is a distance of about 700 Km, passing through a very scenic route of forests and mountains. After my Ladakh cycling expedition, I decided to upgrade my cycle to an advanced geared bike which I still have as my prized possession.

Cycling or running? Which of the two gives you the real high after an event?

Though I love cycling more, it’s difficult to compare between both. I feel elated post my runs and when I achieve the goal I had set for myself. Whereas with respect to cycling, I simply enjoy the entire journey of cycling and I just grasp every moment. It is a different experience altogether to discover a new place on a cycle.

What is the kind of training regimen you follow with respect to cycling and running?

Running thrice a week in the morning with alternate day strength training and circuit training for 3-4 days a week in the evening.

I still have to work on my flexibility as it’s a crucial part of any fitness regime.

Sundays are for long rides if there’s no running event planned.

What measures do you take to better yourself as a runner/cyclist? 

I read a lot about techniques of running, attending workshops and keeping in touch with different running groups which help me in gaining further knowledge.

Any particular race(s) in mind that you wish to complete, be it running or cycling in 2019?

I intend to do quite a few trails runs and countryside cycling events. I also intend to do Tour of Nilgiris cycling event in 2019.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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A world of Marathons

Ever met someone who wants to run and see the world? Deepthi Velkur had an opportunity to speak the man himself, Upendra Tripathi.

A senior management Leader with a leading Semi-Conductor company, Upendra Tripathi((aka Upen) has achieved running accolades in 3 years what most of us will probably not achieve in our lifetime.

With the right mix of will, passion and hard work, he has run in various events across the country and across 3 continents in a very short span.

Besides running, he is a keen wildlife photographer and enjoys trekking and cycling as well.

“Mirror Mirror on the wall, I’ll always get up after I fall. And whether I run, walk or have to crawl, I’ll set my goals and achieve them all” – Chris Butler.

With that inspiring quote in mind, let’s talk to Upen and have him share his driving force so that we may be inspired as well.

FM: Fitness has always been your top priority. So, when did running really happen? Why?

Upen:I have always enjoyed sport and fitness from childhood. Growing up, I played football, volleyball, badminton, cricket and swam a fair bit too. Obviously, with the responsibilities of being an adult, sports took a backstage though I gave fitness a fair shot by being a regular gym goer.

3 years ago on my way home from a late night movie, I saw a bunch of runners competing in the Midnight Marathon and that really inspired me. At the gym, I was used to running 3-5K but running outside is a completely different experience. I remember that Saturday morning in Oct 2015 – the chill Bangalore air, a bit of fog and an outside view (not the best in Whitefield). My breathing was heavy as I made my way through the meandering streets but I was ecstatic. I remember vividly thinking, “maybe I can see Bangalore just running around!”.

I covered close to 8K that day and thought this was ok, I can do the same thing tomorrow. I was mistaken and how!I woke up the next morning to excruciating pain all over my body, but the child-like enthusiasm got the better of the pain and I ran 4K that day. Best decision ever!

FM: You completed all the 6 World Major Marathons, The Comrades Ultra and innumerable half, full and Ultra marathons in less than 3? What was the motivation behind achieving this?

Upen: The one thing that I’m proud of  is my resilience. If I choose to do something, I stick with it and try to do everything I can to succeed.

I remember my first 10K run at KTM  in 2015– I met so many runners who finished the race in half the time I took. That got me thinking – was my current training inadequate? While at that point I gave myself the benefit of doubt considering it was only 3 weeks since I started running, I decided that I need formal training with a coach.

The first person I turned to was our neighbourhood coach Dharmendra Kumar (aka “Dharma”) and training with him gave me an opportunity to meet some amazing runners.

I participated in several 10K and 21K runs and with my confidence in place, I ran my first full marathon in July 2016 (Cherrapunji, Meghalaya).

At this time, I was reading a book by Hal Higdon that spoke about doubling your mar
athon runs and boosting endurance. It fascinated me and I was enthralled by the idea of mileage, long distances, and repetition.

Pace alone wasn’t my poison – “a combination of right race pace and appropriate long distance”was!

After having run the Berlin, Tokyo and Chicago World Majors, I decided I needed a change of training strategy and decided to work with the brilliant coach Brijesh Gajera (aka BG) who is the coach for the “Ashva Running Club”. It was another good decision and his focused training has not just helped me run faster and farther than before but also gave my confidence a real boost.

With my new found zeal and help from my friend Gauri Jayaram, I registered for the remaining 3 majors.

Having completed my last major (the Boston marathon) this year, I wanted more. I decided to run 90K at the Comrades Ultra (South Africa) in June 2018 after a recommendation from my friend Divya Vasishta who did it in 2017.

For me, the love of running and racking up the miles has been the biggest motivation. On top of that, when you get your finisher medal it really gives you such a sense of personal achievement.

FM: When did your association with Ashva Running club start? How has joining this club assisted you in achieving your running targets?

Upen: It was in Feb 2017 (during the Tokyo World major), that I had a chat with coach Pani sir on how can I step up my training. He recommended Brijesh Gajera (BG) who trained under Pani sir for 8+ years.

On my return from Tokyo, I spoke with Gurmeet Bhalla (my running partner ) who has inspired me in so many ways and together we met with BG and that’s how we started running with Ashva Running Club (ARC).

BG apart from being an accomplished runner himself is an extremely intelligent coach. He first does a holistic assessment of each runner’s needs, capabilities and then prepares an individual training plan.

For me, he devised a plan basis my statistics, my targets and also to ensure I run injury-free. He added specific warm-up drills, individual schedules for each day, recovery plans and cool-down drills. Furthermore, he recommended weight and functional training at the gym as well as proper nutrition to aid my training plan.

With the right plan, the right focus from a coach and your determination, achieving your goals is no longer impossible.

FM: You ran the Boston Marathon and Comrades Ultra Marathon this year with less than two months to spare? How did you plan your training and did it differ for both?

Upen: Training for both the races was a constant challenge for me.

For Boston Marathon, I wanted to target a better race pace which required me to focus on intense speed workouts like intervals and long tempos, whereas for the Comrades Ultra (90K) my training needed long distance runs, high mileage and slow pace.

My coach devised a plan – he made the Boston marathon one of my long training runs for the Comrades Ultra and made me focus on mileage with a 10s slower pace than my FM race pace (5:20)for my ultra-run. This worked really well as I ran the Boston Major at a slower pace, which worked well for me at the Comrades Ultra.

FM: The right physical and mental strength is required to run a marathon? Any tips you’d like to share on how to stay strong during a race?

Upen: Running a marathon is a mind game. A healthy person has enough physical strength to run 42.195 KM as long as their mind is ready to handle the stress.

I have run all types of distances from 100mts to 90 KM at varied pace and different terrains. Nothing is easy. After finishing around 80% distance of the race no matter the distance, you are exhausted and the remaining 20% of the distance is all in the mind.

Running is an experience. What works for one may not work for another. You have got to practice and try a few techniques to know what works best for you. I do however have a few guidelines for sure to stay strong during a race.

  • Train hard for your run for at least several weeks or months as needed.
  • Pace your training so that you don’t burn-out before race day or week.
  • Eat, hydrate and sleep well. Make this your routine and it works wonders.
  • Enjoy the race! Do a proper warm-up, start slow and slowly pick up the pace.
  • Hydrate regularly through the course. Ensure you eat some solid food too.
  • Remind yourself – you trained well, you’re rested and you are enjoying your race.

Follow this and trust me, you will finish the race strong and you will be extremely happy with your performance.

FM: Having had the experience of running in high altitudes, technical terrains, trail running, and Ultra
running? Which course do you find the most challenging and why?

Upen: Every terrain brings its own challenges. I have run at Ladakh, Khardung-La, Comrades, World Majors, Malnad and almost all big city marathons in India – they all have challenges that you need to train for.

I would suggest reading the race catalogue, going through the website and talking with runners who have done the course before – all of these help in preparing a mental course map for yourself.

There are some conditions like steep uphill, downhill, trail course that you can train for but there are some extreme conditions like low oxygen, extreme cold, unplanned snowfall or rain, extreme heat on race day that can catch you off guard. This is where the mental map and preparedness helps.

I think among all the races I have run, the Khardunga-la Ultra was the most challenging. 32K continuous uphill, 40K continuous downhill, freezing temperatures, running at an altitude of 5370M, low oxygen levels – just a few bumps along with an otherwise gorgeous course. Obstacles aside, this run is an experience that stays with you forever.

FM: Can you please give us a glimpse into your regular training week?

Upen: My regular training week is 4 running days and 3 weight / functional training days. I usually split it down like:

  • Monday – Lower body exercises at the gym (1hr)
  • Tuesday – Fast Tempo of 10-15K run
  • Wednesday – Upper body exercises at the gym (1hr)
  • Thursday – Intervals / Fartlek or slow Tempo of 10-15K run
  • Friday – Functional training / Yoga / Circuit training at the gym (1hr) or rest
  • Saturday – Long run of 20-30K
  • Sunday – Recovery slow run of 8-10K

Depending on which race I target, the training plan is tweaked for that period.

FM: 25 marathons in 28 months? Phew! That’s quite an accomplishment? Tell us all about it?  

Upen: As part of my training, I maintained on an average a weekly mileage of 70K. After my first full marathon, I had this thought of converting one long distance training run into a full marathon event which in turn would take care of my hydration as well. This essentially meant I ran one full marathon a month, except between March and July as there are very few FM events in India and I possibly could not travel out of India every month either due to my personal commitments. I handle the runs in a way that I’m not pushing myself at all the events except a couple of events a year to where I plan to finish strong and the rest are treated as training runs. This approach gives me enough time to recover from my previous runs and not overstrain myself. I’d like to enjoy my runs and have fun along the way and stay stress-free.


FM: What are the three most vital things to keep in mind while training for a major running event?

Upen:

  • There is no substitute for training. One needs to train hard to race easy
  • Proper taper plan, eating, hydrating and resting well
  • Building a mental map of the course and mentally preparing for its challenges

FM: The Ultimate running goal you have set for yourself in the coming years?

Upen: I want to run for the next 30 years.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Catching the Marathon Bug

The late bloomer in running, Guest Columnist Sonali Mahant talks about how she caught the marathon bug. 
I started running at the age of 35. It was like a dream to run a Half Marathon once in my life, it had been on my bucket list for quite sometime. The idea of running non stop for 21.0975 kms seemed challenging and I wanted to win the distance with my ability to endure. During my training process, I was extremely motivated by getting to run on a synthetic running track (400mtrs). With each workout into training, I was thrilled to know what a human body could achieve if trained appropriately under a coach. Finding myself breathless at the end of my workout, used to always push me to do more. I felt much more alive than ever before. And for once there was nothing to hold me back, I felt free and light.
The Half Marathon
I ran my first Half Marathon at IDBI New Delhi Marathon and I stood second in my age category (35-45)with timing of 1:39:47. Someone who wasn’t even running 2kms a day to running a Half Marathon in 2 months was quite a shocker for everyone including myself. Important thing to note, I was regularly strength training and had been dedicated in working out in a Gym for 3 plus years before Running happened to me. But finding out that I’d be able to run this strong was like discovering my love for Outdoors and particularly RUNNING. Oh yes, running long distance is certainly more of a mental challenge than physical. It’s good to experience a mixed bag of emotions all at once and how during those minutes of running everything else seems to freeze. Anyone who runs long distance is mentally stronger not that who don’t aren’t but yes I have always encountered that mind gives up much before the body does.
Always Disciplined
I get to hear from fitness enthusiasts and runners all over the country and especially women who seek inspiration towards a healthier lifestyle. I never break my discipline and extremely dedicated to my workouts and this, in turn, is very inspirational for many. Even when it’s a national holiday or an off for a festival, I start my day with running. I hold a lot of responsibility as everyone around me expects me to be on Podium in every race and break my own records with each run. I post and share as much as possible, only to make everyone aware of how “Health is Wealth” and how making healthy choices can transform their lives. Also, I’m a part of Adidas Runners Delhi where I meet runners from all over and help them with their real-life problems related to running. Interactive sessions always prove helpful as they get to know about the real hustle and glory related to RUNNING.
So far so Good
I have run 6 half marathon’s, 3 in 2017 and 3 in 2018 besides running several 10kms races.
IDBI New Delhi Marathon 2017
Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2017
BSF Run for Martyrs 2017
Tata Mumbai Marathon 2018
IDBI New Delhi Marathon 2018
Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2018
TCS 10k Bengaluru 2017
Adidas Uprising 2017 10k
but a lot more to do. Now I’m preparing for Tata Mumbai Marathon where I’ll be running a Half Marathon and it’s going to take place on 20th Jan 2019.
Running has changed my life in ways I can’t put into words besides not only making me but feel much younger. I feel like I’ve been detoxed inside out and it’s been a blessing to become a RUNNER.

ABOUT GUEST COLUMNIST

Sonali Mahant is a high energy individual driven with an immense passion for life, relationships, health and self-care who believes that age is just a number and one can start working on their goals the day you get clarity.

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Running, Mountains, and a Hell Race

Deepthi Velkur discovers that high in the mountains is where, The Hell Race co-founder, Nupur Singh, found her calling.

Nupur Singh, co-founder and creative director of the endurance race series – “The Hell Race” certainly found her calling high up in the Himalayas. Hailing from Madanpur (on the border between UP and MP), Nupur has quite a story to tell. She may have earned a name for herself at the national air rifle championships and state-level basketball but in her heart, she believes she was always destined to do something in the outdoors.

She found her inspiration in 2013 when on an adventure trip to the Himalayas, she realized that being one with nature and making a career out if it was something that she wanted to do. In 2016, leaving behind her career as an architect in Delhi, Nupur together with Vishwas Sindhu and Rohit Kalyana started “The Hell Race” endurance series.

I had the chance to talk with Nupur on her fascinating story. Read on and be enthralled.

FM: From being an architect by profession to being the co-founder of the endurance series -The Hell Race? How and when did the switch happen?

Nupur: Being outdoors has always been close to my heart and after a decade of a regular city life, I somehow found the way back to my roots. My most favorite pastime during my childhood was hiking alongside my grandfather in the fields, listening to his stories about the dacoits of Chambal and how he escaped the attacks by the goons or hunting for leopards and wild boars. The bullock cart rides, swimming in natural water bodies, jungle hikes to hunt for monkeys and pigeons, being chased by the bulls are just a few adventures I got to experience as a kid. Being out in the wild came naturally to me. Maybe that was the reason I was a good sportsperson during my school days. I represented at National and state level in various sports including Rifle shooting, tennis ball cricket, basketball and swimming a few times.

Unfortunately, after school, I lost touch with sports and the outdoors completely and went on to do my graduation in Architecture (Pune) and worked for 3 years in Delhi as an Architect with almost no physical activity. Almost a decade later, in 2013 I happened to see a google ad about a Himalayan Trek and ended up doing my first trek. It was that trip that made me realize how much I loved the outdoors. Over the next 3 years, the passion was reborn, and my sole focus was to work and save to be able to travel – be it a trek up the mountains, a Rajasthan cycling tour or a beach trip. Eventually, the decision to make it a lifestyle became clear.

Vishwas Sindhu, the Devil behind the concept -The Hell Race, was my partner in crime for around 2 years before we decided to setup this series. The idea and concept of The Hell Race was born during one of our cycling trips together from Manali to Leh back in 2014.

Finally, in February 2016 he convinced me to quit and we started this unforgettable journey of The Hell Race along with Rohit Kalyana, who deserves the devil’s crown himself. It hasn’t been easy riding at all. We have gone through a myriad of emotions – frustration, exhilaration, fights but the sheer will of the team has pulled us through so far. And the journey has only begun…

FM: What was really the idea behind establishing this series “The Hell race”? Why the name “The Hell race”?

Nupur: The idea was to build races that would challenge the current race scenario in India. Trail running and mountain biking is an evolved sport worldwide. In India however, we still have mountain biking events happening on roads and trail running events on jeep tracks or roads. Apart from setting a negative impression of the sport it also puts Indian runners at a disadvantage. To represent India at a global level we had to have events and trails of international standards, where athletes get a chance to test their skills and train for them accordingly.

A few good races exist currently but to grow as a mature community we need many more. Obviously, the whole idea didn’t come up in a day. Every race we organized brought new challenges and exposed us to harsh realities. All of that made us experienced and mature as race organizers. With nearly 3 years gone, it’s now a series of endurance races in mountain biking, trail running, ultra-running and marathons.

This concept is our attempt to bring adventure enthusiasts and athletes from across the globe together. We are determined to build world-class endurance races in India. The name ‘The Hell Race’ comes from the expression ‘What the Hell’. The race standards and the trails that we have set truly live up to the name. But to train for it every day, to be able to come out of your comfort zone, to achieve something beyond your limit (both physically and mentally) is where the true nature of Hell comes. It’s still a work-in-progress as we continue to add various factors and trails to make your life ‘Hell’.

FM: What are the various events held by the Hell Race team? How do you attract runners?

Nupur: So far, we have organized 17 races. Our yearly calendar comprises of 10 races:

  1. The Border (Jaisalmer to Longewala): 22nd – 24th December 2018
  1. Bir Billing Half Marathon (Bir): 21st April 2019
  2. Hell Ultra (Manali to Leh): 15th – 23rd June 2019
  3. The High 5’s (Manali to Leh): 15th – 23rd June 2019
  4. Hell Race Trail Series (HRTS):
  1. SRT Ultra Marathon (Pune): 9th Dec 2018
  2. The Deccan Ultra (Sahyadri hills): Feb 2019
  • The Coffee Trails (Coorg): Mar 2019
  1. The Buddha Trails (Darjeeling): May 2019
  2. Aravalli’s Endurance Trail Run (Gurgaon): Aug 2019
  1. Solang SkyUltra (HRTS Finale): 6th October 2019

In terms of strategy, we keep it simple – we build challenging trails that have killer climbs and unforgiving conditions but as a runner, you are rewarded with breathtaking scenery all around. We are a small team and depend on our runners to be our promoters.

FM: Of all the events you organize, which do you feel is the most challenging?

Nupur: Each event that we have is challenging in its own right. Considering all races, the Hell Ultra is the toughest race – a 480KM ultra run from Manali to Leh (the world’s highest road). Running at an average altitude of higher than 4000m with temperatures dipping to -10 and oxygen levels dropping 50%, completing this beautiful but tricky course in 120 hours is a super-human effort.

FM: Organizing 17 races is no simple task? What challenges did you face?

Nupur: The biggest challenge is nature itself and the Himalayas can be brutal on you. Managing everything from finding trails to cleaning up post-race, managing feed stations to rescue in emergencies is not a major task but the unpredictability of weather is simply beyond our control. In almost every race, the weather conditions made sure to give us the taste of Hell we claim to give to our runners.

One such experience was the recently concluded Solang SkyUltra – a week before the race, the entire Manali valley was drowning. We had collapsed bridges, roads washed away including segments of our course, sparse connectivity, and food supply blocked. It became a nightmare for us to manage through it all. But in the end, overcoming these challenges, working along a motivated team and the inspiring runners who refused to give up no matter what is what makes it worthwhile and amazing.

FM: The High 5 which is a back to back 5-day half marathon event from Manali to Leh saw you participate in the race last year. What was it like to organize and at the same time run such a tough race?

Nupur: I have been on the Manali-Leh highway many times, the challenges and the beauty of the course never cease to amaze me. Organizing 2 races (The High 5 and the Hell Ultra) in parallel is a challenging task and requires a lot of coordination. Luckily, my amazing team supported by the volunteers and their collective teamwork gave me the opportunity to run as well. This is where my theory of ‘Living by Example’ came back to bite me like hell.

No matter how much you train or how good you are, the highway will be a blow to your ego. When I finished the 5 back to back half marathons in 2017 during my 2nd attempt, I realized that I’m not eligible to call myself a runner but a walker. It’s no joke as each day you run a half marathon and crosses one of the high altitude passes and the average altitude is above 4000m. The weather keeps changing by the minute, the oxygen levels make sure you drop every 50m, and at the end of the day, you know you have to do it all over again the next day. And with a small team, I can’t get away with not being involved in managing things too. In short, it had Hell written all over it but I would love to do it again and again.

FM: What are the most important factors to bear in mind when running in such high altitudes?

Nupur: Any high-altitude race should never be taken lightly. It is advisable to follow a training schedule to develop your core strength, breathing, long hours of workout, nutrition that suits your body and most importantly – recovery. Acclimatization just before the event is another key factor, spend a few days at an altitude of 3000 – 4000m and get yourself acclimatized. Be prepared for the extreme conditions as I have seen the humblest of souls burn out with anger and frustration. To cope with the pressure and tiredness each day is not something one can train for but only be prepared for. It goes without saying that you must avoid alcohol and smoking.

FM: Not being an experienced endurance sports-person, what inspires you to run such challenging races?

Nupur: As I said earlier, I’m barely a runner or a mountain biker or even a trekker for that matter. I only try to do things differently, things that challenge me and try to set up my own standards to live by. While setting up The Hell Race series and working along Rohit Kalyana, a certified mountaineer, I got the opportunity to develop my skills and experience the Himalayas in a whole new way. My love for these endurance sports has grown exponentially, and I will continue to explore my strengths. My toughest race so far was the 1st edition of the high 5’s race. It was my 1st encounter running at high altitudes and organizing at the same time. For an amateur like myself, the overall conditions were just brutal.

FM: How do you see the company growing in the near future?

Nupur: We have come a long way since the inception of The Hell Race series. Each year we introduce new concepts and races to keep the challenge growing. From the mighty Himalayas to the endless beaches, the brutal Thar Desert to the dense jungles, India is a land of diverse terrain. We try to expose our athletes to these extreme and challenging conditions through our races. The Hell Race Trail Series is our latest attempt to move forward. It right now comprises of 5 races in various parts of the country with Solang SkyUltra being the finale. We are also trying to standardize trail running in India in the coming years.

FM: Do you see yourself participating in more races or the focus will only be on organizing events?

Nupur: Yes, I do wish to participate in races in the future as well as organize them. Both will go hand in hand. But to be able to do it, I need to get out and train every day. That is still to happen, but at least I have the mountains as my backyard.

Follow her story on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wanderer_nupur/  and for more information about “The Hell Race”, visit their website: www.thehellrace.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Featured, Motivation Comments Off on How to consistently click miles every week |

How to consistently click miles every week

With an insatiable appetite for running, Divya Vasishta has quite a story to tell. In this conversation with Deepthi Velkur, she explains what drives her passion.

“The mountains are calling and I must go” – John Muir (Naturalist and Preservationist).

Probably one of the most compelling quotes that says it all for many outdoor lovers and definitely apt for our guest today – Divya Vasishta.

Divya hails from Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, a scenic mountain town, so it’s no wonder that her runs always seem to take her to the hills.

She is by no means a career runner – running happened by accident 5 years ago and she juggles a busy corporate life (quality head with a US-based organization) with her undying passion for running and the mountains.

Her running timeline might be short but she has covered the spectrum – countless 10Ks, Half-Marathons, Full-Marathons, Trail Running and also Ultra runs.

We had ourselves a tête-à-tête and I was fascinated by her story. Read on and chances are you will be too.

FM: It’s been 5 years since you started running, what inspired you to pick up such a tough endurance sport?

Divya: I never liked running on a treadmill but I had to for a long time as I spent quite a few years in Canada and the severe winters made it hard to run outdoors. A few years later though, I moved to California famed for its gorgeous weather and scenery, I started to head out for my runs every day for about 30 mins.

After having spent 10 years out of the country, we decided to move back to Bangalore. It was definitely a huge change for me. The weekends seemed empty with nowhere to go camping, no hills to climb, no trails to walk on and I ended up running longer durations inside my housing layout.

Initially, it started out as an aimless activity until a friend suggested that I participate in a 10k run back in 2013 to begin with, which I did and the experience of the race was enthralling. That paved the way forward and I have never looked back since. For the first two years, the focus was to improve my timings and then later on, I focused on building and testing my endurance and this became a vicious cycle with no end.

No distance ever seemed enough for me initially. I was curious to see how much further I could go and fast forward 3 years, I have run a maximum distance of 100K in 14 hours 20 minutes in the Bangalore Ultra. I also completed the Khardung La Challenge in Leh (the world’s highest Ultra marathon at 17582 feet) a distance of 72K.

Since 2013, I have completed 13 Ultra events and countless half and full marathons. I always enjoyed runs that are challenging with a sole purpose of finishing them comfortably and maintaining a constant pace. I personally prefer the quieter and smaller events and always look forward to trying new routes with new organisers.

The first 2 years of my running life took me to different locales but it was always the hills that kept calling and brought me a kind of peace that I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Having discovered running in the hills, I have completed events in Ooty, Munnar, Manipur, Leh, Manali (Solang Sky running – being the toughest so far) as well as Shimla.  This year, I became the 3rdfemale runner from India to run the Everest marathon.

I haven’t limited myself just to running in the hills obviously – I enjoy running in California and completed the Big Sur marathon which is considered a beautiful run but very challenging owing to the weather conditions. I have also completed a 143.9K run during the 24-hour Bangalore stadium run last year.

FM: Fascinating and amazing to see what you have achieved in 5 years. Prior to 2013, what kind of sports where you in to?

Divya: I have always been an active and outdoorsy person. Back in school, I loved running on the tracks and tried my hand at different sports like field and track events, basketball, hockey and mini marathons. With college and the initial few years of working, these activities took a backseat. Post marriage, my partner and myself started going on short treks in our free time. Hitting the gym became a part of my daily routine. In 2006, step aerobics fascinated me and quickly became one of my favourite activity. We (my partner and myself) had done a few treks of which the Machu Picchu, few in Alaska and the Everest Base Camp clearly were my favourites. Between 2010-13, I appointed a personal trainer and he used to set up various routines for me and then it was only in 2013, that I started running.

FM: That explains the ease with which you have acclimatized yourself to ultra-running.  This is me being curious – how was your lifestyle prior and how has that changed since you started running?

Divya: In terms of routine, not much has changed in my life. I have always been disciplined in everything I do. Early rising, timely intake of food and hitting the bed early has been my routine for the longest time. Food habits have changed for the better. For instance, I used to eat a lot of processed food and that has completely stopped now. I prefer eating fresh home-cooked meals and drinking natural juices. 

FM: Managing your professional, personal as well passion for running takes a lot out of a person. How do you manage this and what do you do to unwind?

Divya: I really didn’t have to make a lot of compromises. I started running when I was well-settled at work. There was no need to commute to work daily and work related travel was manageable too and was a part of my routine life. Both my husband and myself are morning people. I just had to wake up a little earlier so I could clear up any work-related emails and then head out for my morning run. While travelling, it becomes a bit hard to manage my runs so I make sure to manage expectations during those days and plan my work and running accordingly. And I never forget to pack my running shoes wherever I go.

Running is relaxing for me, but a spa appointment for a deep tissue massage and foot reflexology is a reward for myself (smiles).

FM: To be able to clock 9455Km in such a short time is astounding. Did you imagine you would have achieved this in less than 5 years? Do you set at a yearly target for yourself?

Divya: I was never interested in numbers, like setting up a monthly or yearly target. What I do is set myself a mileage target of 60K every week and try to achieve it on most days. My tally seems very less in comparison to other Ultra runners. But I feel, if I run a lot (especially training runs), I’ll probably start disliking running so I run the tracks I enjoy. Sometimes a training run of 35K stresses me but at the same time I enjoy running a 100K event.

FM: Another mind-boggling statistic is the fact that you have a podium finish in greater than 50% of the events you have participated? What are the 3 key factors that help you achieve this?

Divya: You are right. Out of 55 events, I’ve had about 27 podiums wins. I would say – It just happened. Though I’ve had podiums in the open category too but most of them have been in 45+ age category, so being a veteran probably led to this and I see it as an advantage. I really don’t run with a competitive mind.

FM: Congratulations on finishing the Comrades marathon last year – such a fascinating run especially given its origins. What interested you in taking part in this event?

Divya: Curiosity, I think. I wanted to see why runners are so crazy about this run and I guess I did find my answer. It’s a run with an amazing aura. I finished the race which is approximately a 89KM run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. It is considered the World’s Largest and one of the oldest Ultra-marathons, which was first held in 1921. The race has very strict cut-off time of 12hours and I managed to finish it in 11 hrs and 42 minutes. 

FM: Obviously, your training program for this run would have been different from your normal training. Can you please share a few snippets into the differences?

Divya: One needs to be diligent and disciplined in preparing for any targeted run, especially a run as challenging as this with strict cut-off points. It only tends to increase the pressure which may lead to unnecessary stress.

My goal was just to finish the run within the cut-off time and with that in mind, I prepared my own training plan and stayed within my normal weekly mileage, with an exception of 2 or 3 weeks where I exceeded it. I also added hill runs to my routine, almost every weekend and most of the events I went to were in the hilly terrains which got me stepping out of my regular running route. Being the only female from Bangalore to participate in this event that year, I had to look for a group running this event. The drive to the location for the training runs was quite far from my place and that led me to start driving in India, which I dislike doing, especially during the dark, early morning hours. I don’t remember missing a single run as per my calendar.

FM: So, where is your next big run and what plans do you have for the next few months?

Divya: A 100 miler in a decent time for sure.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Events, Featured Comments Off on Running in the beautiful Chamundi Hills |

Running in the beautiful Chamundi Hills

Deepthi Velkur talks to Ajit Thandur on his experience of organising the Chamundi Hill Challenge and why is it an exciting course for runners.

MYSOORUNNERS were the proud hosts of the Chamundi Hill Challenge 2018, an exciting race that gives you a good experience of up and downhill asphalted roads, winding forest trails, uneven cobbled tracks and steps.

The Chamundi Hill Challenge organized by Enduro events, saw its 4thedition this year and the man behind this is Ajit Thandur. This run includes varying distances of 5k, 10k and 21k.

We got talking to Ajit on his experience of organizing this event and why he thinks this is an event that you must take part in.

The Chamundi Hill Challenge appears to be quite a favorite course? What in your opinion draws runners to it?

The course is not just a regular hill run – it offers a ton of variety during the run. It includes nearly 300 metres of centuries old uneven granite steps and cobbled stones, a 3.5km jungle trail and asphalted road.

One of the points we stress on when someone registers is to enjoy the course. This is a beautiful course and by no stretch of imagination, is it a personal best course.

2018 saw the 4thedition of this exciting run – what kind of enrollment increases have you seen year-on-year?

When we started off, we saw nearly 250 runners in the 1st edition. This year (our 4thedition), we saw over 450 runners. Numbers can be better but the fact remains, it’s a tough course!

What lessons have Enduro Events learnt over the past years that will help you make this event even more popular?

Experience has taught us that we need better management of various aspects involved in organising such a race:

+) Frequency of aid stations depending on the kind of race and course.

+) Ideal needs for each aid station depending on its location.

+) Logistics such as having volunteers on wheels to keep vigil on participants,   accidents, injury to inform the medical team.

+) Efficient waste management to make sure we don’t leave any inorganic waste anywhere on the course.

There are some more aspects but hard to list out the more minute ones.

In terms of promoting the event – apart from social media, do you run any other promotional activities?

Not as far as Chamundi Hill Challenge goes. We only rely on social media.

Only for Tri Thonnur, another event organized by us, we do have weekend swim sessions in the Thonnur Lake. That’s because there are many first timers for open water swims each year.


Organizing an event of such scale requires a lot of a planning, coordination and
governance. Can you please provide your view on how Enduro events goes about setting this up?

There are mainly two factors in organising any sporting event, especially when we utilise public properties such as roads, parks, stadiums, lakes etc.

The first is to seek permissions from various government bodies such as the City Corporation, Police (both Law and Order, Traffic), Public Works Department etc.

This invariably takes time since there are so many offices to coordinate with. So we start work on these aspects a few months prior to the event.
The second is our own internal planning:

  • Routes (choosing the best depending on road conditions, advice from Traffic Police etc)
  • Number of volunteers required (This includes volunteers driven by passion and paid Volunteers…. strange terminology but it exists.)
  • Number of aid stations required, specific needs there. Quantities of water, hydration drinks, fruits, jaggery, salt, lime, etc.
  • Ideal location for ambulance with Medical support team.
  • Medals, Trophies, T shirts ( all to be designed ordered at least a month ahead).
  • Post-race breakfast/brunch.
  • Appointing MC, public address systems, music, etc.

Who are the key team members involved in making this event happen?

We are a team of 5 – Anil, Vijay, Abhilash, Prajwal, Naveen and myself.

Funding and sponsorship are a challenge for most events – how does Enduro events manage to secure this? Who are your key sponsors?

Sponsorship surely is a key to see such events through. This year we had National Public School as our title sponsors. Sparsh Hospitals, Bangalore have been our medical support team and sponsors for 5 years now. That apart, we have a list of local businesses who support us.

For the 3 runs – Tough 21K, Challenge 10K and Majja 5K, do you have a cap in terms of
enrollment?
 

We don’t have a cap so far. But the need might arise if we see more than 1000 runners. 

You obviously know the course very well – what advice would you like the runners to heed so that they enjoy the course while staying safe?

This is a course to enjoy and not one to achieve a personal best. Challenge 21 is two loops of Tough 10 (actually 10.5k in terms of distance). Each loop is about 6.5k of road, 500 m of steps and cobble stones and 3.5k of jungle trail. So we ask runners to be extremely careful while negotiating the steps and the jungle course.

Video Link of the event: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1itgVXJfpSaESnbmEn3RLeIRjAf8nwvn2/view?usp=drivesdk

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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Featured, Motivation Comments Off on Seeing the world one trail at a time |

Seeing the world one trail at a time

Deepthi Velkur talks to the first Indian Woman, Aakriti Verma to have taken part in the World Trail Championship.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”

Aakriti Verma certainly wants to live up to this inspiring quote. With a little over four years of running experience, she has already achieved the adulating distinction of being the only Indian woman to take part at the World Trail Championships.

A HR professional with a leading IT firm for the past 6 years, Aakriti uses her national-level swimming experience to cross-train along with the runs. Her focus is not on clocking a heap of miles on a daily basis, instead she sets targets for each run and pushes herself to achieve it.

Apart from competing at the world championships, Aakriti has been a podium finisher in major running events such as Urban Stampede, Malnad Ultra, Jawadhu Hill Ultra, Yercaud Hills Ultra, Bull hill 50k run across the country in distances ranging from 5KM to 100 KM. She is also an Ironman distance triathlon finisher. Phew!

As if that wasn’t energy-sapping enough, she finds time to conduct daily fitness sessions for more than 500 colleagues as well as organizing running events at her organization.

Excerpts from our conversation

HR professional to long-distance enthusiast to being the 1stIndian woman at the IAU Trail World championship, you sure where a lot of hats. How do you manage to keep it all together?

It has never been easy as there is a lot of hard work, sacrifice and discipline behind it. Time management is also the key and you need to manage your time well to excel at work and also make time for your training. So, I prioritize much of my time for work during the weekdays and for training and races on the weekends.

You were a national-level swimmer at school and still use it as part of your fitness regime. How has that helped your transition into long-distance running? 

Swimming is the best sport which involves movement of all the muscles in your body and surely helps to build a lot of stamina. This is definitely the best cross training workout for runners and also helps in my recovery process. I resumed swimming after college to train for my triathlons, though my focus for the last year has been towards running ultra-marathons.

You have been into long-distance running for nearly 4 years now and since the past year, you have focused more on trail running. What piqued your interest into that specific area?

I started off with running 5K and 10K’s and took up long distance running only in last couple of years. Trail running has definitely interested me more as I feel it is more challenging and you spend your time close to nature mostly in the mountains which attracts me to this sport.

Being the first woman to be a part of a 6-member team representing the country at the 2018 IAU Trail World Championship in Spain is a ground-breaking achievement. How did you feel when you heard the news and was there any sort of pressure on you?

It was indeed a proud moment for me to be part of the Indian team. This being my first appearance in an international race, it was a mix of excitement and pressure as I was the only female to represent India in this sport. Hopefully I would be paving the way for lot of other females to build themselves in this sport.

You needed to accumulate 500 ITRA (International Trail running association) points to qualify and be a part of the Indian team at the Trail World Championship. How did you go about achieving that?

To be honest, I wasn’t focusing much on my cotation points. All I did was to participate in most of the trail ultras across India and give my best at every race. The cutoff points for female runners last year was 500 and I was lucky enough to get 530 odd points through my Malnad Ultra.

The world championship course I’m sure was very technical. Can you tell us something more about the course?

The terrain was very technical and it was my first time being on these trails and they are quite different from the trails in India which are rather smooth runnable trails. Most of the sections of the race were uphill and downhill which made it even more challenging. Apart from the technicality, the stiff intermediate cutoffs made the race that much more tough.

In Spain, you had to come off after more than half the race was done. What was the challenge and where do you see as areas you need to work on?

I would have been able to complete the race irrespective of the difficulty and technicality but the stiff intermediate cutoffs were a huge challenge due to which I had to pull off from the race. By spending more time training in such technical trails found mostly in the Himalayan range will definitely help me tackle such courses better.

How many races have you ran in India and overseas? Which has been the most treasured race till date? Why?

I have run more than 29 races across India and one international race. The most treasured race is definitely the Solang Sky Ultra organized by The Hell Race team. This is the only race in India that comes close to the technical trails found in Europe. This race has given me immense learning, helped me overcome my fear of running technical sections along the trail and has enhanced me to train myself better. I was extremely delighted as I was the only female runner to have finished the race within the cutoff time till date.

For trail running in specific, is there a specific training you need to follow as opposed to running a regular marathon?

Yes, there is a vast difference as the training required for trail ultra-running is completely different versus road marathon training. To run trails, you need to spend lot of time running in the mountains, plan your nutrition, hydration, training in high altitudes, running with backpacks etc.

What races do you plan on taking part in for the remaining part of the year?

With the running season almost coming to an end, I am glad that I participated in some new races this year like Solang Sky Ultra, Mawkyrwat Ultra. Next, I plan to run the SRT (Sinhagad-Rajgad-Torna)Ultra and Vagamon Ultrail next year.

Follow Aakriti’s running journey on Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/aakritiverma06/  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

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