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Running and Giving

Guest Columnist Tarun Walecha talks about how running introduced him to sharing his passion with others and supporting them. 

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”…Winston Churchill

Our lives are a constant evolution driven by our experiences and our passion. Our circumstances drive us, and our intent keeps firing up the desire to evolve into the individual we see ourselves as. Running happened to me in the similar course of life, though I must admit I had no clue of where it would take me eventually. An extension of fitness regime would go on to become a pivoted gear of my thought process and being, was something I could not even fathom even in my most lateral imagination.

RUNXTREME: The beginning

When I started running in 2011, often I was left for the want of company. Therefore, either I had to run solo or drive up long distance for a tiny run that I could manage. Facebook groups weren’t as prevalent, and those available weren’t as active. Four years of hopping around, running with various groups and partners I wasn’t able to find a steady, bankable and invigorating company. That is when, along with some like minded running buddies I thought of forming a running group of our own, we called it RUNXTREME and we wanted it to be the first source of any running related information a new runner may need. We wanted it to be easily reachable source for every aspiring runner… for all the hand holding they may need,  abate their anxieties, run along when they need and share all one can, so they could move up the ladder fast and not meander in the path.

RUNXTREME is in its fourth year already, needless to say I’m more that happy about the way it has evolved as a group. Not just for others, but it has also been instrumental in giving me a direction of where I want my life to be, and how running can be a driving force for the same. In 2016, while I was going through a turbulent phase, embroiled in the labyrinth of my thoughts, trying to find a purposeful headway with running.

Share & Care

I discovered Share & Care. As a part of that initiative, I decided to run 7 Half Marathons distance runs, on 7 consecutive days, in different parts of Delhi NCR. The aim was not to prove my physical prowess, but to create awareness for fitness and raise support for budding athletes from marginalised section of society. The support I got from the entire running community was overwhelming and only compelled me to repeat the same in 2017 in a bigger way. While that journey continues to be evolved as does my search for the way forward, a chance encounter with kids cycling on a Sunday morning, incited the thought of pushing the envelope. Instead of waiting for an annual extravaganza I wanted to do this year long.

A little bit of prodding my own thoughts and looking around took me to NAZ FOUNDATION (INDIA) TRUST, where I got to spend some time with the children they train, not only to become sports person but better, confident and self-assured individual through the medium of sports. What matters is that it doesn’t just end at a park game for the kids, over period of time NAZ FOUNDATION has actually formed a national level league for these kids. A Net Ball tournament which happens at district level, then state and eventually culminates into a national level competition. This entire journey from playing in their backyards to the expanse of a sports arena can itself widen their perspective to life, let alone the confidence and trust in themselves that they gain. Whether they turn up to be national sports champions or not becomes secondary against the new life that this entire process opens up to them. This seemed to be a logical progression where our group could foresee an integration and join them to be a part of this inspiring journey.

Running Charity

With the support of my fellow team mates, and the entire RUNXTRME community, we have decided to make their dream ours, and support NAZ FAOUNDATION in this endeavour. As we head into the running season, with the biggest run of the country ADHM approaching us, we would be raising funds for them so that could move ahead on this path unencumbered. With the help of friends and acquaintances, whom we shall urge to contribute towards this, it’s not the money that we will be offering…it’s a belief that we will reinstate, it’s courage to dream that we will instill.

I wish, hope and believe, this step towards supporting NAZ FOUNDATION at ADHM would only be a beginning of many more dreams to be realized.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An architect by profession, Tarun Walecha enjoys amateur photography, travelling and is a sports enthusiast. He has been a sportsperson all his life and discovered running at the age of 40 and has since become his fitness mantra. In his 7 year running career he has completed 30 Half Marathons, 4 Full Marathon, and 5 Trail/Ultra Runs. He is also a Pinkathon ambassador and has founded the running group, RunXtreme.

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Going the distance with Sagar Baheti

A visual impairment hasn’t slowed down Sagar Baheti’s ambitions to complete the toughest marathon course, writes Deepthi Velkur.

The things we are able to accomplish with a little mind-over-matter is astonishing. Case in point: Sagar Baheti. A 31-year old Bengalurean who runs a successful import and export stone business and in 2017 was the first ever visually impaired runner from India to successfully complete the Boston marathon. In a chat with Sagar recently, I was fascinated by his tale of perseverance, hard work and fortitude. This is what he had to say:

You’ve always been a sporting enthusiast, especially cricket – what brought about the switch to running?

Truth be told, I took to running in 2013 purely because my options were fairly limited given my condition. Cricket has always fascinated me in my early days all the way through to zonal and university levels. After issues with my vision which surfaced 5 years ago, I took up running and as they say, the rest is history.

With the company of a few good friends, I did the midnight run in Bengaluru and that fueled my interest. My first serious run was the Coorg Escapade in 2013 for which I trained a fair bit and the sheer joy of participating in such a run was immense.

What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about running, especially long-distance running?

The feeling of accomplishment is what is most rewarding. When I signed up for the Coorg run (which is a beautiful trail run), it was meant to be a fun weekend activity because I had no idea if I was even capable of finishing it, but at the end of the 12K run, I felt amazing. In many ways the Coorg run was the catalyst for me getting into serious running – I have never looked back since.

You successfully completed the Boston marathon in 2017 – a watershed moment in Indian sport. Can you please describe your feeling at the finish line?

Relief and sense of achievement! There was a lot of build up to the run given that this is one of the most iconic races on the running calendar so as I got to the finish line, I felt a sense of pride in myself for completing the race. Little did I know that I was the first ever visually impaired runner from India to have completed the historic race covering the distance of 42 kms in a little over four hours – it made me glad that I was able to make a mark for myself

Out of curiosity – why the Boston marathon and not someplace else?

Well, after I started running seriously, I covered pretty much every run in India from Bangalore to Mumbai to Delhi and even Ladakh. During this time, I was chatting with a friend in Boston and she suggested I take part in the Boston marathon. Being such a popular race, I was definitely interested so I signed up, managed to qualify for the race and in 2017 successfully completed the run.

One of your goals post the Boston marathon was to raise $10,000 for MABVI – were you successful in raising that funding?

My friend and I have always been involved in fund-raising and she gave me this idea of raising funds for MABVI (Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired) an association based in Boston that she works with closely and I was more than happy to be part of the initiative.

The objective was to serve two purposes – raise funds and create awareness for MABVI. We started off a crowd-funding page highlighting the visually impairment condition and we successfully raised $7,600.

How did you prepare yourself physically and mentally for the Boston marathon? Is it a similar training program to your other runs?

The Boston marathon was bigger than anything I have done before so I really wanted to be well prepared. Overall, I stuck with my training routine that I followed for my runs in India but put more focus on mental strength as the pressure on this run was higher. The circuit itself is considered to be of medium-toughness given the gradient levels and course challenges, so my training program was slightly modified to suit this.

It must have been extremely tough for you and your parents when you were diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease – what drove you on to achieve what you have today? 

Yes it was a tough time – being diagnosed with such a condition really sets you back in your ways because it forces you to make lifestyle changes and increase your dependency on others. I consider myself very fortunate to have family and friends who were very supportive and have helped me along the way. This support is what has driven me to where I am today and helped me in setting goals that put me in the right path to achieve them.

Running a business is not a small task – how do you find the time to train and stay in shape?

The first year post my diagnosis was slow as I had to figure new ways of doing simple things such as reading and writing. With the love and support from family and friends plus using aids such as voice and magnifiers, I got through the tough phase and focused on getting physically active. This support has given me the time I need to train and stay in shape.

For your next run – where and when. Is that all planned out?

As is life, there is always a bit of drama! During a business trip in Spain last year, I went skydiving and ended up having a crash. I suffered a serious cervical spine injury that required emergency surgery and follow-up corrective surgery as well. What followed was a 4-month rehab program that slowly got me to my feet and back into running.

I did run the Mumbai marathon  in Jan 2018 to get my confidence back but my body wasn’t ready yet. During this time, I met a friend who trains with Bengaluru-based running club- Jayanagar Jaguars who encouraged me to join the group. At that point, I thought running as a group will give me more motivation than training alone. There, I met some good runners who understood my needs and now we run as a group. I am back into full-fledged training as I prepare for my next run – the 50k Malnad Ultra run on October 13th and 14th, 2018.
Apart from running, what other sporting activity has kept you busy?

I have always being a cycling enthusiast and though I cannot cycle long distances yet, I am hopeful  to do so once my shoulders and neck feel strong enough. One of my best cycling memories is the 2015 Tour of Nilgiris which is a 850km circuit spready across 7 days. I did the same tour the following year as well.

As with anything these days, I can’t help but think of what Sagar’s experience can teach us all. Very briefly, we will achieve only through practice and hard work.

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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Online vs live coaching – which is better?

A lot of accomplished runners have opted for online coaching. But would that work for everyone? Radhika Meganathan speaks to trainer and marathoner RAGHUL TREKKER about its pros and cons.

If you had thought that ‘live’ is always better than ‘long distance’, think again! Raghul Trekker is in a unique position to speak about the advantages of online coaching, since not only he has a long distance coach who trains him from her home in South Africa, he himself is a long distance coach for over 70 runners spread across the world.

“I met my trainer Lucie Zelenkova, a prolific athlete, in Malaysia in 2015. Since then, she has designed my workout schedule which I follow every day,” says Raghul. They have weekly skype sessions, in which they exchange discussions about his goals and progress reports. His coach sends him regularly customised workouts and diet charts and is available for a call or a skype session I whenever he needs her advice.

After winning Ironman Sri Lanka and other races, Raghul started training aspiring runners. “The website I use is Training Peaks (https://www.trainingpeaks.com) which acts as a platform between users and trainers. The process is very simple. Each runner first has to talk to me by phone so that I understand their goals and expectations, and can make a decision whether I am the right trainer for them. Once I decide to take them on, they will have to create a profile and the training begins.”

Usually runners should have a goal to train for, say, Ironman or an upcoming marathon, because otherwise Raghul cannot draft a fitness schedule to help them become better than their current level. “You can be a newbie or a seasoned athlete, and you can come to me just for a season like 3 months or 6 months training (and many do, which is great, there is no hard and fast rule that you have to train forever!), but you cannot come to me blank. Have a vision and help me help you,” he says.

What are his tips for runners who want to look for the right online coach? “Look up for one who specialises in the event that you’d like to conquer,” says Raghul. “If you are aiming for a triathlon, go for coaches who have experience in that. Make sure your coach is going to design your training schedule specifically for you every week, based on your lifestyle and stats, rather than expecting you to fit yourself in some readymade and generic template. A good coach should be able to know you as a person, not just a runner, and design your workout accordingly.”

Raghul’s customised plans for his runners always include diets, mental preparation tips and terrain tips, among the usual workouts aimed at physical mastery. Some of the things he takes into consideration while designing workouts, are: Current fitness level, past fitness level, past achievements, time they have to commit to workouts every day, every week and their willingness to strive for tougher workouts on an escalating basis. “I log these data regularly, religiously, in every runner’s profile and keep track of their progress. This way, even if the runner has a break and comes back for more training after a few months, or even years, I don’t have any hiccups.”

So, for the million dollar question, what is his opinion about Live vs Long Distance?

“Live coaching can be exciting if you have found a good trainer in your locality, but it is restricted by geographical boundaries,” says Raghul. In live coaching, your trainer cannot be with you all the time, week after week, or oversee your stats and progress every day. Not all trainers are tech savvy and may have to rely on you to feed information and progress reports to them in a tricky verbal or handwritten format, which may or may not be always accurate. And not every town in the world is going to have a great trainer. But almost every town these days does have an internet connection.

“That way, I’d say online coaching is great because one, you get to train under some truly exceptional athletes in the world even if they don’t live in your neck of the woods, and that can be a tremendous confidence booster, not mention a rare and fantastic opportunity. Two, all the stats are recorded, updated and stored online in each runner’s profile and I will have that information in my finger tips to help my students without having to rely on memory or having to start from scratch,” Raghul delivers the verdict.

If you’d like to be trained by Raghul, you can contact him through the website of his fitness studio, TRI CRASH ‘n’ BURN, at http://www.tricrashnburn.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Radhika Meganathan is a published author who is an advocate for healthy living, she practices sugar-free intermittent fasting, all-terrain rambling and weight training.

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Running: An enduring act of empowerment

Our guest columnist, Anjana Mohan talks about how running is a tool of empowerment for women.

Empowerment means the ability to make decisions for yourself; to own your choices regarding how you act, dress, conduct yourself, hold your body or define your role in society. Running is a sport that offers empowerment at multiple levels, addressing every one of these choices.

Although societal limitations affect both genders (men are emasculated when they show emotion, for example) women face significantly robust, damaging, internalized and intersectional limitations on a massive scale that manifests in some form in every run.

Women are celebrated as caregivers who create and sustain domestic spaces for their families. A runner takes time for herself regularly and justifies the time away from these demands by actively practicing the belief that she is worth it. Women’s bodies are sexualized and critiqued. Even when allowed fitness, Indian women are expected to keep their moving muscles indoors or safely hidden behind flowing fabric. The outdoor runner takes conscious charge of her own body. With her every appearance in dry-fit leggings, sports bra, or salwar kameez, she creates subtle changes in her own mind and those in her network.

Competition is considered un-ladylike, and femininity associated with grace, poise, and self-control. The runner must engage with her body beyond these expectations. Her determination must manifest in her muscles. The athlete’s sense of internal competition must be cultivated rather than surrendered to graciousness. In her sport, she can be human first: free from femininity, free to sweat, free to grimace, free to cry from the dopamine delight of her own fatigue.

Every run is a rebellion, every step an act of micro-activism, setting new norms for herself and everyone she encounters. Her training is far beyond the miles on her feet. She nurtures and develops her own dignity when she learns to ignore the oglers. She owns her choice on keeping or removing her mangal sutra to avoid a sweat rash. She determines her destiny in deciding to wear shorts despite unwaxed legs. She elevates her own worth in being willing to ask for help packing lunch boxes after her workout.

Men who run alongside women unconsciously offer their own freedoms. Is she running for a personal best or the Ladhak half, they inquire. She was running just to be fit or escape her chores, but new realms of possibilities open. “Improvement in time”, she owns her answer. Neither her smaller lungs, smaller heart, lower hemoglobin count or VO2Max, less efficient hip width, muscle density or muscle building capacity nor shorter stride length matter. She and her male running buddies are on equal footing with respect to the mental capacity they must manifest to conquer endurance.

The woman runner is re-shaping what it means to be a woman. In every decision associated with the sport, she changes herself and society along with her.  Somewhere between the start and the finish line we stop celebrating a woman’s superior ability to conform to society’s stereotypes and celebrate instead her ability to break them.

GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Anjana started running in the U.S. in 2007 and has helped mentor many from couch to half marathon. She is passionate about empowering women through running and now runs in Bangalore with Jayanagar Jaguars

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Scripting History – Hima Das

Capt. Seshadri writes about how Hima Das went from rice bowl to race track glory setting a new world record for India

It has been a long journey, but in a very short time, from the rice fields of Dhing village of Nagaon district in Assam, to Tampere, the city of power, in Finland. Nagaon, dating back to 1833 was once described as a district of three Cs: chicken, children and cases. A hemisphere apart, Tampere, often referred to as the ‘Manchester’ of Finland, is an important industrial city and a major source of electricity for the Finnish industry.

It was in this city that Hima Das, an 18 year old Indian girl, raised among the rice fields, powered her way to India’s first women’s gold at a world event, sprinting to victory in the 400m at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics. Running a well thought out race in lane number 4, Hima breasted the tape in 51:47, kicking in a burst in the last 80 m and overtaking her main rival Andrea Miklos of Romania. Although a wee bit under her personal best of 51:13 in June 2018 at the National Inter-State Championships at Guwahati, it sufficed to create women’s track history for India.

Born on January 9, 2000, this millennial athlete started her sports career playing football with the boys in the fields of her native village. Nipon Das, a local coach was quick to spot her athletic ability and, despite reluctance and resistance from her family, moved her out to Guwahati. Although there was no separate athletics department, she trained at the State Academy. Starting out as a

200 m sprinter and acquitting herself remarkably well, her coaches spotted in her, a special talent for the quarter mile. Now, barely a year and a half since her first competitive run in an inter-district meet, Hima is reaching the pinnacles of athletics, creating history in the process.

Milkha Singh, the legendary Flying Sikh, has often been quoted as saying that his biggest dream was to witness an Indian win a gold in track and field. His dream has come true. Could it be termed mere coincidence that this achievement falls precisely on the 5th anniversary of the release of the biopic ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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The Conqueror of the Everest -Part 2

In the concluding part, Deepa Bhat talks to Deepthi Velkur about how she prepared for the big day. 

Continuing the conversation with Deepa Bhat, the first Indian woman to complete the Everest Ultra Marathon.

Acclimatization to such high altitudes is key – how did you prepare yourself for this?

The trek was  well planned out, with enough rest days for us to acclimatize to the harsh weather conditions and have some short training runs too to get a feel of how the actual run would be like. In the mountains, the rule is ‘Climb High and Sleep Low’. Hydrate well, sleep better, believe in yourself and altitudes will embrace you.

What type of running gear would you suggest is appropriate to run in such high altitudes?

Layering helps in altitudes. I use a hydration vest and carry my water (3 liters and energy bars, salt tablets). I train the same way too, to minimize the surprises on race day.

Personal safety must be a top priority while running any high altitude terrain. What steps did you take to ensure your safety?

As for this race, until the 23k mark was a familiar route which is the one that we trekked up. Post that we had a Nepali guide who runs along with us to ensure we are on track. I carried along medical supplies, like band-aid and spray, a rain cover, a survival blanket and a night lamp. Taking the soft shell (jacket) was a completely last minute decision and did me good as it kept me safe through the night. In Ultra-running, one cannot calculate everything as there are new learning always.

Not only does physical fitness matter but one needs to be mentally geared up to take on this grueling challenge. How did you prepare yourself?

No matter how hard you train you body, mental training is just as important. If your mind isn’t prepared for what lies ahead, your body won’t be either. During one of my early Ultra running days, my body began experiencing wave after wave of fatigue, my mind quickly followed. Once I fell into this hole, it was tough for me to get back. A minute feels like an hour, a kilometer felt like a ten. I am thankful that I learned how to tackle that early on.

Someone once said I am not ‘Focused and doing too many things.’ Maybe, but I am determined. Confidence and determination have taken me far in life, especially when I am out on the trails. When my body is on the verge of shutting down during a challenging race, my mind is the only thing that keeps me going. ‘Get better than what you were yesterday’ is my only motivation, be it work, home or on trails.

Completing this race at 1:00 am in the darkness of the night has taught me a lot, which I am going to carry with me till the end.

What was the role of your guide and how did he motivate you to stay on track during the entire course?

My guide through this trek was a 17-year-old Nepali guide, reminded me so much of my son Dhruv as both are of the same age. He could speak only Nepali and I couldn’t speak a word of the language. It was going to be one hell of an experience I thought, once he joined me at the 23k mark.

I stuck close to him, watching where he was placing his feet and did exactly that. Sometimes it is best to follow your guide when you are 11hrs into the race and way too tired to even think. Since these guides traverse these paths so often and familiar with the course as well. A couple of coffees and noodle soup at night is all we had but that was the energy booster that got us across the finish line.

My guide was a very quiet and simple lad untouched by technology having a cheerful face and a constant smile who kept motivating me that I could and I must reach the finish line.

Did having a running buddy help you get through this challenging race? What were the most crucial plans Taher and you put in place?

Each one runs their own race. Each of us looks at the race, strategize very differently but all with the same goal – reaching the Finish Line!

The day before the race must have been one of the toughest moments of your life – please tell us what went through your mind?

Sleeping at the base camp is a privilege, that a regular trekker cannot enjoy. They just visit the EBC, take pictures, soak in and return to Gorakshep. Running the Extreme Ultramarathon gives you the opportunity of staying two nights right at the end of the notorious Kumbhu glacier at the end of the icefall.

The morning of 28th May, a day before the race is something that gives me shivers even today. Woke up early to feel the chill air, brushed my teeth with warm water (I always keep a bottle of hot water in my sleeping bag every night) and suddenly started feeling super cold. Rushed into the tent to pull out a warmy to put into my gloves. Minutes later, outside my tent, all I could see was darkness, everything around me had turned black. Before I knew, I was unconscious. Although I could hear everyone around me calling for help, trying to talk to me but was in no state to respond. My oxygen levels dropped to 37 and pressure was low as well. ‘Will I be airlifted, does my marathon end here?’ the only thoughts that ran through my mind. I had suffered from hypothermia.

Thanks to my teammates, emergency care doctors I was back on my feet and by 9:30 am geared up for the mock race in a saree. 30 countries 150 runners, the atmosphere was surreal. One needs to be there to experience the celebration.

What would you take away post this achievement and would you encourage other runners to take on this challenge?

There is a lot that this race has taught me, some good life lessons, that no book, blog or just about anything could have. That’s a secret, I want to keep… shhhh!

To another runner, ‘Run a trail to discover yourself’.

What tips do you have for other extreme marathon runners?

Read my blog and come with me for a run 😉

  • Put your finger on a race – tell yourself, why do you want to do it and how determined are you to take on the challenge.
  • Work religiously on the training plan – there are no shortcuts. What you put in is what you get.
  • Keep your family involved as running an ultra is a family event. You will be spending so much time outside of your home that without them it is not possible.
  • Stay positive – If not for you, no one can run the race for you.

What did you look forward to the most at the finish line?

We don’t conquer the mountains, no one can. Yes, it does humble you as a person of how small and insignificant you are as the finish line is just the beginning…

“You must go on adventures to know where you truly belong!” , says Deepa.

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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The Conqueror of the Everest – Part 1

In a two-part series, Deepthi Velkur connects with the Indian Woman who completed the Everest Marathon, Deepa Bhat.

Not so long ago, the start line for an ultra-marathon was only headed by the elite runners. When we speak of it today, there are hundreds of regular runners flocking to take part in a variety of endurance race challenges much beyond the 42k distance. They want to push their boundaries and achieve a dream that was reserved for the elite athletes in the yesteryear’s. Today, Bengaluru’s Deepa Bhat is one such aspiring Indian woman.

Deepa Bhat, is a 41 year old Ultrarunner, Triathlete, Scuba Diver, High altitude trekker, Creative chef, and a mother of two teenage boys. Building a career in the e-learning space, Deepa is also a running coach at the Cult Fitness centre, Bengaluru.

Running gives her the much cherished ‘Me time’, a feeling of bliss and helps keep her focused to achieve her goals year after year. Meticulously planning to balance all aspects of her life-family, career, and fitness have helped her strive and become one of the top runners in the country. This year she became the first Indian woman to have completed the world’s highest running event-The Everest Ultra marathon along with Taher Merchant. Having completed the 72k Kardungla challenge together last year, they decided to take on the challenge of participating in next high altitude race- The Everest Marathon.

We speak to her to find out more about how she conquered her dream of running The Everest Ultra -Marathon.

To conquer Mt. Everest is a dream for most people, to conquer it running is beyond our wildest dreams. What pushed you to take on this challenge(The Everest Ultra Marathon) and what was it like to be on top of the world?

I feel I have a strong connection with the mountains. Something about working hard towards accomplishing a goal and being in the wilderness, surrounded by breathtaking nature just appeals to me. I felt it for the first time when I was just 20 years old, my first High altitude climb to Sar Pass Trek in Himachal Pradesh. The force only got stronger from there on. Having completed the 72k Kardungla Challenge in Ladakh last year and being a podium finisher there, achieving the next high altitude run -The Everest Ultra Marathon became my goal. With sub-zero temperatures and snow in the evening, made it hard but went through the night without a break to finish the circuit in 19hours 50mins and 40sec.

What other Ultra races have you run in the past where you have made it to the podium?

A few of the ultra races that I have run and achieved a podium finish include:

  • 2nd runner-up at Khardungla challenge-72k
  • Winner at stadium run, Bangalore-86km
  • Winner at Jawadhu hills ultra-marathon-75km
  • 1st runner-up at the Half Iron Man-1.9k swim, 90k cycle and 21k run
  • 2nd runner-up at the Spirit of Wipro challenge-10k
  • 1st runner-up at the IDBI spice coast-42.2k

What were your goals before the start of the race and how thrilled were you on achieving them?

Unlike other ultras, where one drives to the start line with fresh legs, I had to trek for 11 days from Lukla (2860m) to the Everest Base camp(5364m). That meant 4-6 hours of walking on any given day over various terrains, including steep hills, high suspension bridges, and rocky paths. The trail is as tough and challenging as they come. Despite the trek being so tiring and difficult, my mission was bigger than just reaching the EBC. My mantra was to take one day at a time because overthinking can dilute the joy. The Everest Extreme Ultra Marathon wasn’t just another adventure race. Honestly, the magnitude of the achievement has sunk in only after all the love I received once I was back home.

What inhibitions or roadblocks did you face within yourself and from people back home before starting out on this adventure?

There were no roadblocks that i faced from anyone. Though I must agree, it involved a lot of planning, working from home and of course, I had to figure out the finances too. At times, people around me had more confidence in me than I had in myself and I’m truly blessed for that. Whenever I prepare for a race, be it a 10k or an Ultra, I do not have an iota of a doubt if I should or shouldn’t take part in the race. I do my research, train well, and prepare both mind and body for the big day. On the race day, I never forget to thank God for bringing me to the start line. During the race, I listen to my body (never push beyond what I can), because races will come and go, but I am precious.

Please tell us more about the Ultra Marathon?

Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa summited the Everest on May 29, 1953. A competition is held every year on the same day and this started from the year 2013 to commemorate the event. The Extreme Ultra-Everest marathon is considered the world’s highest running event, which also includes half and full marathons. The Extreme Ultra starts at EBC and goes through five Himalayan passes.

There were around 200 runners and high altitude trekkers from 30 different countries across the world. I chose to run the 60k of ultra-running bliss. The undulating terrain, the rarefied air, cold winds, the moraines, steep inclines just make this race all the more challenging. The day temperatures were -1degrees while the night seemed like -30degrees. A mock race is organized a day before the actual race to check if the entire path is clear for runners.

In the next part we will learn about how Deepa equipped herself to run this challenging course. 

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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The Accidental Cyclist

Our Guest Columnist, Super Randonneur Satheesh Tawker talks about his motivation to keep bettering the quality of every ride.

My entry into cycling was accidental. I had gone to my cousin’s home and saw my nephew’s cycle gathering dust and casually asked him if I could borrow it. He immediately obliged and there started my cycling journey. Cycling is something that I feel gives me my space and “me” time during the solo rides that I do. The other motivation is that I like to test myself on my endurance levels with each event and see how far I can go. This has pushed me to better myself as a cyclist with each challenge I take up. Recently I completed my second 200 km and 300 km events, having done similar events in 2017. Each ride is different when it comes to experience and to put it simply I would call each ride nothing short of awesome.

Training for a ride

Having started in such a casual manner, I have never formally trained or followed a specific schedule to get better at my passion. I have always worked out to stay fit, first at The Unit and now with the Quad. Being fit and strong overall has helped with cycling as well. Nutrition is something that I have started focusing on in the last two months with a specific focus on the quantity of food I eat and the balance between proteins and carbs in every meal. My nutritionist gets a daily food log of everything I eat – down to the last morsel and suggests changes to the same. Being conscious has helped me drop about 6 kgs in the last two months with little effort. Before that I was a believer in the statement that I have worked out today so I am entitled to eat what I want. I don’t think I will propagate that philosophy anymore.

On becoming a Super Randonneur

Recently, I have earned the title of Super Randonneur. This title is bestowed to a rider who completes a series of brevets ( 200, 300, 400, and 600 KM) in the same year. Each ride has a specific time frame for completion and the rider has to complete the ride within this stipulated time. There are various control points during each ride and rider has to reach all control points within the stipulated time frames.

I became aware of such a challenge only after a year of cycling. When I learnt the details I was excited and wanted to get that title. I rode regularly and covered at least 40 to 50 km on alternate days and a minimum 100km on weekends. Fitness levels were taken care of as I used to workout in a boot camp three days a week. I also took training at ProBikers for basic repairs such as changing tyres and tubes of my cycle and addressing minor issues that could happen during the ride. The clincher was me being able to find a riding partner who matched my wavelength and my pace and we have partnered for all the rides. We used to do a recce of the route a week before to figure out places to eat, rest, etc and planned the ride well in advance, taking into account the chances of unforeseen incidents that could occur. It would suffice to say it was a lot of planning, a perfect riding partner, sleep management, mind over body, hydration, nutrition and enjoying the ride, that mattered more than the outcome of the race. This attitude helped me become a Super Randonneur today.

My next Big Challenge
My target for this year is to complete a 1000km ride.  The mind over body and sleep management part will definitely play a big role . In all probability its unlikely I will not find a partner for the ride and that would mean riding alone for the entire stretch which will be tough. So currently I am doing a lot of solo riding to get used to that possibility. Hopefully, should be able to make it .

What keeps me going?

I believe that nothing is impossible. When I did my first ride never did I imagine I would come so far in my cycling journey! Ability to manage challenges on your own , learning that beyond a point it’s mind over body, learning to trust yourself, being aware of your limits, trusting your ride partner, taking it one km at a time and to keep pushing no matter what are some of the lessons I have learnt which is applicable even in my day to day life. The family, especially the wife reacted really bad to my cycling. She was convinced that endurance was not my game and I should stick to 100km max. I had to get a full physical done ,multiple cardiologist opinions to certify that I am fit, in order to get her approval for my 600km last year. Despite that she was present at the halfway point to see for herself whether I was fine . She still disapproves of my long rides but with less force than what it was before.

I had tried my hand at running and did a 10km run but running does not give me a high as cycling does . But then have my eyes set on a full marathon in the next one year. I enjoy scuba diving if you would call that an endurance sport and have dived in many locations across the world with my son.

A word for Newbie Riders

For a Newbie I would advise them to take it in stages starting with small rides and gradually increasing the distance and getting to understand how their body responds to various ride conditions and speeds. A good night’s sleep is a must. They would also need to focus on their fitness levels if they plan to do consistent long rides. I have always tried to be helpful to other riders in the group and have always helped and guided anyone who asks for it. There are professional coaches for riders who want to up their game.

Being consistent is the most important thing for riding and if you are consistent then nothing can stop you from achieving the impossible.

GUEST COLUMNIST

 

A banker by profession who recently quit the corporate world to appreciate life a bit more.Scuba diving and the outdoors are where he feels at home if he isn’t cycling.

 

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Testing Endurance Limits

In conversation with Jobi Vijay who is pushing her limits of endurance in cycling, with Nandini Reddy

Cycling is a fun activity for all of us as kids but today it is one of the most sort after endurance sports that many people are pursuing. The challenges have grown and distances like 100k are becoming the new normal. Jobi Vijay, a fitness enthusiast is on a new leg of fitness by challenging herself for 200k cycling challenges and she shares her story here.

When did the cycling bug bite?

I used to cycle to school during my school days. After birth of 2 kids realized wanted to get back to shape and be fit. During 2014 joined a running chapter called Tower Twisters a CR chapter in Anna Nagar. They had cycling for cross fit in their schedule every Friday. That is where I fell in love with cycling again. Got cycle as my birthday gift and I haven’t stopped cycling since.

How do you train for your cycling?

I don’t do any specific training schedule for cycling. I try to cycle whenever possible and don’t follow any strict schedule. My strength and endurance improved automatically after I started to train with ‘The Quad’. I have to thank all my coaches at Quad it’s because of them I am stronger and could perform better now during my long distance cycling challenges.

You just completed two 200 km night cycling challenges, can you describe the experience?

Riding 100 km was an initial challenge to me. I have ridden only a maximum 60 km per day. I always wanted to try BRM since 2016. When I completed my 100 km as a test for my muscle endurance I gained confidence that I could attempt the 200 km ride.

My first 200 km was WCCG 200km night ride. The first challenge was riding in the traffic of GST road along with other buses, lorry and two wheeler who were speeding. It was really very scary when big buses sped past you narrowly. While most of them gave way for the cyclist there were people who show their attitude by not giving way or not slowing down for the cyclist. The next challenge is that we had to plan our pit stop to refresh ourselves and fill our water bottles with water. There were places where we didn’t have any shops for nearly 50 km.  The advantage of the night ride is riding in the good climate since the day time is too hot to ride during the summer months.

My 2nd 200 km ride was my first BRM ride. It was a village ride. Initial 45 km on the OMR was a killer with head winds. I could only average 12-15km her hour. I lost my energy and got severe cramps. I wanted to quit but managed to push myself and completed my ride. Riding inside village near Thirukazhukundram was an awesome experience with less traffic. Though it’s painful, challenging, tiring to ride long distance after the completion of our ride what we have is wonderful experience joy and satisfaction.

What is your take on safety of cyclists?

Safety is an important issue in the Indian Scenario. I always made sure that I ride with in groups so that we could support and help each other. I was shattered knowing the death of a fellow rider due to hit and run accident. Though it pulled down my confidence, the quote that kept me going is ‘Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start being excited about what could go right’. The funniest part is the people who question us asking why we are riding. At pitstops we get asked a barrage of questions about why we cycle such long distances.

What motivates you to keep challenging yourself as a cyclist?

Riding cycling is a low impact endurance workout. It’s really awesome to ride early morning in fresh air along the beach looking at the sun rise, admiring the nature.  Long distances are challenging which helps us to push more and more and help us to perform better. It takes care of my health too.

What sort of nutrition schedule do you follow pre and post a big event?

I usually follow a balanced meal plan with complex starch, veggies and proteins for every meal. Pre event I make sure that I hydrate well with tender coconut water, electoral and more water. I eat more carbs for energy before and after my ride like curd rice and idli. I eat chocolates for instant energy during my ride.

How does you family react to your cycling endeavours?

Initially my family was bit hesitant in me cycling long distances. After my 200 km ride they are bit confident and also encourages me to ride and practice regularly before I ride any BRM events.

Is there are target you are trying to achieve this year?

I have planned to complete my 300km, 400km and 600km during this year and become a Super Randonneur.

What other endurance events have you participated in?

I have not participated in any endurance event other than cycling. But I intend to do more challenging cycling rides. I also wanted to train for Frisbee. I have run more than twenty 10 km marathons and a couple of half marathons.

What life lessons have you learnt from cycling?

Never Quit. You can do it. Overcome little challenges to achieve success. Set up small goals and achieve big things. These are the quotes which I encounter during cycling

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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