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The Elites at the TCS World 10k

Come Sunday, May 27, around 25,000 runners in Bengaluru will put on their running gear and line up at the Kanteerava Stadium in the heart of the city to participate in the TCS World 10k, Capt Seshadri profiles the elites at the big race.

Champions with disabilities, senior citizens and fun loving majja runners will run a shorter distance, while the 10k will see an Open category, with qualifying standards for participation and, of course, the stars of the event, the elite runners in the World 10k.

Leading this last category in the men’s section will be 27 year old Kenyan, Alex Oliotiptip Korio, defending champion, with a last year’s time of 28:12. He has a personal best of 58:51 in the half marathon, set in Copenhagen in September last year, a city that seems to be his favourite, where in September 2016, he blazed the roads with a timing of 27:37 in the 10k.

Korio will have to put up a good fight to ward off fellow countryman Geoffrey Kipsong Kamworor, younger by two years and with a string of impressive runs as well. A half marathon time of 58:54 in the UAE and a 10k time of 27:44 in Bengaluru in May 2014, are certain indications of a highly competitive event.

The women’s field will be led by Netsanet Gudeta, a 26 year old Ethiopian, with a best 10k timing of 31:35 set at Ottawa exactly a year ago. Gudeta arrives in Bengaluru on the back of a half marathon 1:06:11 at Valencia in March this year, breaking the world record for the ‘women only’ half marathon.

Among the Indian elite runners are the current course record holder Suresh Kumar, with 29:49 set in May 2015. Challenging him would be Srinu, local favourite AB Belliappa and Shankar Man Thapa, all podium finishers at the Tata Mumbai Marathon in January this year. Defending champion Saigeetha Naik with 36:01 leads the women’s field that is filled with other star studded names like Monica Athare, Sanjivani Yadav and India’s first Olympic finalist after 32 years, Lalita Babar.

Those hoping for cool weather in Bengaluru, may have their prayers answered, but one can surely expect some pyrotechnics on the track.

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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Ironman Times Ten

Laura Knoblach, took the Ironman and multiplied it by ten to become the Iron woman in a man’s world, writes Capt Seshadri.

The Ironman is one of the toughest endurance races in the world. While many such competitions are held across the globe, the Ironman World Championship, often acknowledged as the culmination of all of these, is held in the picturesque island of Hawaii, more associated with sand and surfing than endurance events. The course comprises a Waikiki Roughwater swim of 3.86 km, the Around Oahu bicycle race of 185.07 km and the Honolulu Marathon.

Since 1997, athletes with disabilities were allowed to compete in a separate category; however, the cut off times for them were no different from the so called, able bodied competitors. John Maclean of Australia, became the first physically challenged athlete to successfully complete the event.

The Deca Ironman

The Ironman, however, is not the final test of endurance. Introducing the ‘Deca Ironman’! This unbelievably tough and taxing event is meant for a very niche few of master athletes, with extraordinary physical fitness and mental stamina to even consider competing. Here, participants complete the length of ten back to back Ironmans. Obviously, it takes weeks, with each leg being ten times longer than the normal. That constitutes 38.4 km of swimming, 1,792 km of biking and 419.2 km of running.

Here then, is the story of a woman, who rewrote the history books of the Deca. Laura Knoblach, all of 22 years, had already gained lots of experience in marathons and even double and triple Ironmans. But these distance runs and tests of endurance still left her dissatisfied at being unable to realise her potential and her dreams. Urged on by a friend, and realising a ‘beast’ within herself, Laura signed up for that ultimate test of endurance, the Deca Ironman.

Knoblach’s Challenge

Swimming was the first event. It was not just the distance but the ennui of swimming 750 laps of a 50 metre pool. While the specified time was 25 hours, Laura completed it in 19. At the end of it, she didn’t even have the energy to dress or change, almost passing out in the shower. A few hours of rest and it was time to start the biking leg. This was another set of loops, 200 of them over an 8.8km course. It was a nightmarish ordeal of 270 km a day. Often, while cycling at night, Laura would see ghosts… of trees appearing like people out of the darkness.

Now, Laura the endurance athlete, had always been better at biking, so she attempted to finish her forte as quickly as possible before the ten marathons. That was to be another hallucinating effort, having to run 330 laps over a short 1.25 km loops. Boredom and tiredness at its worst! For the first two days, Laura just walked. From Day 3, she began to run. Finally, after 320 hours, 40 minutes and 30 seconds, a thoroughly exhausted by deliriously happy Laura, crossed the finish line of the Ironman Ten, making history as the youngest to complete this ultimate test of human endurance. And in the process, breaking the US women’s record by over 13 hours.

During the entire stretch, she hardly had six hours of sleep a day. Food and drink were almost a continuous process along the journey. But this unstoppable Iron Lady just couldn’t halt herself. Laura Knoblach spent the next six days biking along the far side of the Rhine, simply to satisfy her curiosity as a tourist!

If there is one thing she proved, it is this: there are no limits to your endurance. When the body says no, let the mind take over.

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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Man of iron, will of steel

Petty Officer Praveen Teotia, Shaurya Chakra, Naval Commando impresses Capt Seshadri with his sheer grit and determination to not let his disabilities interfere with this athleticism.

“I am a mean, keen, fighting machine’! The motto of the Commando. The words that motivate the man beyond anything else. “Commando”! The war cry that instils terror and sends shivers down the spine of the enemy.

That fateful day, the 26th of November 2008, when some of the most hardcore terrorists in the world took siege of the Taj Mumbai, Marine Commando Praveen Teotia was to enact those very words. Breaking into the stronghold of the insurgents, he took on the enemy in close quarter battle, and in the process took four bullets in the chest and ear, damaging his lungs and causing partial hearing impairment. For this act of extreme bravery against all odds in the face of the enemy, he was awarded the Shaurya Chakra, the third highest peacetime gallantry award.

As a permanently disabled sailor, having become unfit for normal battlefield duties, but being honourably decorated, he was promoted to the rank of Petty Officer and assigned desk duties. However, this commando, hailing from Bhatola village in Bulandshahr, remained a fighter at heart. Despite his dire medical condition, he applied for a mountaineering expedition, but was refused on medical grounds; but nothing could deter him from his fixed idea. He just had to prove his fitness. Through a few Taj Hotel staff who he had befriended during the action, he connected with marathon runner and trainer Pervin Batliwala. In 2014, under his guidance and encouragement, Teotia began training to run marathons.

Afraid of how the Navy would react to a possible failed bid to participate under their banner, he ran incognito in the 2015 Mumbai Half Marathon. The next year, he gutsily participated in the Indian Navy Half Marathon. His successes automatically led him to aspire for greater triumphs. He moved up to the Half Iron Man Triathlon in Jaipur, which entailed a 1.9 km swim, 90 km of cycling and a 21 km run. Despite these stupendous feats, Praveen was unsure and a bit nervous about how the Navy would react to the long leaves required for training and participation. So, with a point to prove that this was the same commando who had been severely injured while fighting extremists in the Taj, he opted for voluntary retirement from the Navy. Says Petty Officer Teotia: “After I was shot, doctors had given up on me. But I hung on for five months in the hospital and recovered, although my hearing was impaired.” He simply couldn’t give up at this stage.

Khardung La, in Ladakh, at over 18,000 feet, is the highest motorable pass in the world. Even the sturdiest and most powerful of motor vehicles struggle to battle the steep inclines. The rarified atmosphere tests even the fittest of persons with its low oxygen levels. However, this human machine seemed to have no such problems. On September 9, 2017, Praveen Teotia not only completed the 72 km Khardung La Marathon, but did so in 12.5 hours, well within the stipulated time of 15 hours. Coach Batliwala was amazed. “I have met very few with such willpower. Finishing Khardung La is no child’s play. I did it last year. The oxygen levels are low and it is doubly difficult for someone with a damaged lung. To do so well is a stupendous achievement.”

Praveen proved his coach wrong by actually making it child’s play, with yet another unbelievable achievement. It takes the most courageous and committed athlete from among the fittest of the fit to complete an Ironman, the gruelling event in South Africa, considered one of the most challenging courses in the world. This former commando set his sights and his heart on it. Kaustubh Radkar, one of the most successful Ironman finishers and a certified coach, took Praveen under his tutelage. Earlier this year, Praveen cycled 180.2 km, ran 42.2 km and swam 3.86 km to achieve that ultimate, endurance defying event, the Ironman Triathlon. A little past the three-quarter mark, the derailleur of his cycle gave way. The remaining portion of the sector was mostly uphill, but Teotia completed it despite an injured knee and ankle adding to his already damaged lung. With a bleeding leg, this incredible athlete ran the marathon and then swam his way to complete, in the process being the first disabled Indian Ironman.

Let’s face it. A true commando never fades away. He does or he dies.

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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Gold Rules

The Common Wealth Games 2018 saw Indian athletes demonstrate some stupendous performance, Capt Seshadri rounds up the glorious performance.

Much gold was struck Down Under, at the Gold Coast… not by prospectors, but by sportspersons. Australia’s major tourist destination, with its welcoming sub-tropical climate, pristine beaches, rainforests and its contrasting theme parks and nightlife, played host less than a fortnight ago, to the Commonwealth Games 2018, with the continent being the venue for the fifth time in the Games’ history.

The History

Just over a century ago, to commemorate the coronation of King George V, a ‘Festival of the Empire’ was held in London. As part of the celebrations, an inter-empire championship was held in athletics, swimming, boxing and wrestling, with teams from the host nation, Canada, South Africa and Australia participating. This then, was probably the first Commonwealth Games, although the term was yet to be coined as the Commonwealth was a non-existent commodity; hence, they were dubbed the British Empire Games. Somewhere along the line, it was decided to hold them once every four years, in tune with the Olympics.

In typical British tradition, there are set rituals for the Games. One such is the Queen’s Baton Relay, somewhat akin to the Olympic Torch. The Baton starts its journey from Buckingham Palace, bearing a message from the Head of the Royal family, now Queen Elizabeth II. At the opening ceremony, the final bearer hands it back to the Queen, or her representative, who reads the message aloud to officially declare the Games open. Today, 71 teams participate in the Games, although there are only 53 registered members under the Commonwealth of Nations; as in the Olympics, the remaining take part under their own flags.

The 2018 Games

At the 2018 Games, over 4,400 sportspersons competed over 12 days in 19 events spread across venues in 14 centres in the city and 3 outside, for a total of 275 sets of medals. Unique to these Games are a few sports that are not part of the Olympic calendar, like net ball, lawn bowling and squash. With the introduction of athletes with disabilities for the first time in the 1994 Games in Victoria, British Columbia, and the signing of a formal agreement in 2007 in Colombo, between the Commonwealth Games Federation and the International Paralympic Committee, the Commonwealth Games made history as the first international competitive event to become fully inclusive. And the results of the para-athletic events are part of the overall medal tally. The 2018 Games also achieved a new distinction by becoming the first major international multi-sporting event to achieve gender equality, with an equal number of events for both men and women.

The Games had their share of ignominy too. Athletes from a few African countries like Sierra Leone, Uganda, Cameroon and Rwanda, disappeared from the Games village, apparently abandoning their world class sporting talent and fame, seeking a future and fortune in Australia. Ironic that this ‘seeking after fortune’ should be in the ‘Gold’ Coast. And as did their wards, so did a few coaches and officials disappear too!

India had a fairly satisfactory outing at the Games. Placed third overall behind host Australia and the United Kingdom, our country finished with a tally of 66 medals, comprising 26 gold, 20 silver and 20 bronze. Many of the medallists are household names in India – Mary Kom at age 35, beating rivals a decade and a half younger to win gold, shuttler Srikanth Kidambi rising to the rank of world number one and our women and men achieving sporting glory in individual and team events.

So, it seems, in the week of Akshaya Tritiya, when gold brought home is said to bring more fortune, our Indian team has done remarkably well. If this belief translates into reality, one could surely expect a much larger tally of medals in 2022!

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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Too Much Too Soon

Our Guest Columnist, Tarun Walecha, shares his thoughts on staying injury free.

Running is the new golf as they say, and it certainly is as it has reached the corridors of corporate power today. But not before having made its impact on society, in general. The reason to this is simple, running isn’t all about power, or networking. It is far more than that, it touches you in many ways, be that your lifestyle, your ability to analyse and understand day to day situation, self-discipline, strong will and much more…so much more. One of the prime benefits which we start it all with, our fitness, that later becomes just a collateral. I’m carefully using the word collateral which by no measure means insignificant. There’s still more that running brings into ones life, new friends for one (and hoard of them, actually), lot’s running gear(mostly free 😊), a bit of travel for the events, not to miss the adulation (PBs et al) and the least preferred of them all….Injuries.

Is it all too much too soon?

Well, there can be a write up on each one of the issues, but we shall focus on injuries this time. Most of us who start running do not have a great history of sports. Well I said most, cause most often those with some sports background also fall in this category as they restart this regime after a fair amount of downtime. Those who restart this journey after a gap in the sporting activities, and for someone to start altogether fresh, running does expose us to certain amount of risk of injuries. Having said that, I can very confidently say that it’s not running that is the cause of the injuries though it does become the medium. It is like blaming a car for an accident and absolving or ignoring the role of the one who drives it. Let us understand what’s the reason for the injuries….and let’s understand when is it too much, too soon.

Roadblocks we encounter

One starts running with an aim of staying fit, and the limited available knowledge is a natural course of things to unfold. As we chart this journey, we encounter various roadblocks, inability to improve the speed, or cover longer distance, lack of disciplined routine and of course, a schedule to follow. While we seek these answers through various friends, runners, running coaches, online portals etc what we also start learning about is PBs, Podium finishes, and everything else that comes with it.  This is exactly where the “Too much Too soon” syndrome sets in. What started as a hobby, breaks through the realm of passion and before we realise it becomes an obsession. Suddenly learning takes a back seat, improving becomes the main criteria! Running for fitness seems basic, and getting a podium finish becomes the main driver. It’s this shift of focus that makes us ignore our limitations and push beyond the boundaries. Having said that what is life within the confines of limitations, and who would get better if one does not push the boundaries. But there’s a thin line there, a very thin line which only we can define for ourselves.

Misjudging your boundaries

There will always be a friend egging you to run faster, or a coach pushing you for a stiff target, and at times even a runner who silently is clocking better time than you but becomes the cynosure of your eyes and all you wanna do is get ahead of him/her. In a situation like this, more often than not, we misjudge ourselves, our training, our strength and our weakness. And even when we maintain our sanity, running as a regime does have its own wear and tear on our body. Our muscles are going to tire, our mind and body is going to get fatigued. But let’s not forget, no two individuals can be alike and this is a scientific fact. What we deal with is something similar, but beyond the biological or physical sphere. With a given physical and biological background, an individual still have too many variables to deal with, such as, a day job, daily routine, personal stress, amount of rest, one’s own willingness, mental strength and the list goes on. What we need to understand is that each one of these variables has a role to play for the way we perform. So, before we begin to compete with someone, we need to look within and know what’s good for us. It is this ignorance which leads to pushing the boundaries beyond the realm of reality and becomes the main reason for injuries.

Lessons Learnt

I started running about 8 years back with hardly any friends in running and bare minimum social media exposure. I consider this a blessing in disguise, cause the learning came in slow, but that slow did good to me. I won’t say I didn’t have my tryst with injuries, it’s a given as all the pounding is bound to show up some way or the other. Fortunately for me it has just been stress accumulation, incorrect or over training which lead to what one may define as pre-injury state. Each time it left a lesson behind, a sign to know if it was too much for me.

What we all need to understand is how to deal with it, but before that we must know, when to push further and when to back out. Only when you dive into a deep sea you will get pearls but where to dive and how to dive is the key. Of course, there’s a recourse through medical intervention, physiotherapy, proper guidance, etc. if one does fall into the trap or gets injured, but those we can deal in another article at another time. For now if I was to sum up my intent for this blog, I would say the following.

  1. Know your limits, make incremental changes and remember how Rome was built…😊.
  2. Understand your strength, and seek guidance when needed.
  3. Push your boundaries, but don’t be over ambitious.
  4. It’s important to understand your muscular anatomy and what it takes to run.
  5. Learn it the right way, correct form is the key to injury free and efficient running.
  6. Last but not the least, You are your own competitor, no one else.

Don’t let someone else becomes your bench mark… an inspiration, yes… a competitor, no. Learn to do this for yourself and not for others, let’s not fall in the trap and succumb to “Too Much Too Soon”.

GUEST COLUMNIST 

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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Run run run… you better run!

One of the most popular and coveted marathon in the world is happening this weekend. Capt Seshadri talks about the Boston Marathon. 

There is only one marathon in the world that has ‘bandits’ participating. And no, not the Robin Hood or even the Gabbar Singh kind, but runner bandits. These were unregistered runners who were eager to participate but did not have a bib number. It was customary for them to be held back till the last of the starters had left the blocks and then unleashed unofficially. After a while, these bandits, like some of their folklore counterparts, became heroes among the spectators and the media. Such is the stuff of tales surrounding one of the oldest marathons in the world.

The Boston Marathon, to be held on April 16, has had a virtually unbroken run since its inception in 1897, even during the years of the great world wars. It probably took its origin following the tremendous success of the first marathon event in an Olympics, in the summer of 1986. In the early years, it was run on April 19, but was soon changed to the third Monday of April, celebrated as Patriots’ Day and now commonly referred to as ‘Marathon Monday’.

Humble Beginnings

What began as a local event, with just 15 participants on debut, has grown over time to receive recognition as one of the most prestigious marathons in the world. Every year, over 30,000 registered runners from across the globe, are cheered every bit of the way by around half a million spectators, that includes the ‘scream tunnel’, a more than a three quarter mile long unbroken chain of young ladies whose cheering can be heard for over a mile!

Can one possibly imagine thousands of athletes, some traveling halfway across the globe to run a gruelling 26 miles, only for the winner to be rewarded with an olive wreath? But, for over a century, the Boston Marathon was a purse-free event, until in 1986, professional athletes threatened to boycott the event unless a cash prize was instituted. Fortunately, corporates stepped in, and cash awards made their entry into the race.

It is one of the most difficult courses in marathon running, with the Newton Hills challenging even trained runners, and their apex culminating in Heartbreak Hill, reducing the most seasoned runners to near walking speed. With this being a physical and psychological breaking point, it presents a phenomenon that marathoners refer to as ‘hitting the wall’!

Women in Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon remained a male chauvinistic bastion until 1972, when women were officially permitted to participate. However, Roberta ‘Bobbi’ Gibb is acknowledged by race organisers as the first woman to have run the entire stretch of the marathon as early as in 1966. A year later, Kathy Switzer obtained a bib number and participated. Her run was marred by an ugly incident where a race official tried to tear off her race bib and prevent her from finishing. The gender equation rapidly changed since then; in 2015, around 46% of the participants were women. There is only one woman however, who owns the unique distinction of having run the Boston Marathon in two elements: earth and space. Astronaut supreme and record breaker for much of what happens in space – Sunita Williams. This amazing and tenacious lady ran the marathon, strapped by a harness to a treadmill aboard the International Space Station while the event was being run on earth!

Toughest Qualifying Standards

The event has stringent qualifying standards. Participants must be above 18 years of age and must have completed a marathon certified by a recognised body with international affiliations. There is also a pre-set qualifying time limit, depending on age. For many aspiring marathoners, to ‘BQ’, or qualify for Boston, is in itself a treasured achievement. However, to popularise the event and to honour charitable causes, around 20% of the participation has been thrown open to entrants from charities, sponsors, local running clubs, vendors and marketers, whose philanthropic endeavours garner close to $ 35 million in charity collections.

The Boston Marathon has thrown up many heroes. Foremost among them is Bob Hall whose request, in 1975, to participate in a wheelchair, was accepted, with the proviso that he would be recognised as a ‘finisher’ only if he completed in under 3 hours and 30 minutes, the time limit set for normal runners. The indefatigable Bob finished in 2 hours and 58 minutes. Thus was born the wheelchair division of the race; the event was soon to accommodate visually impaired runners as well.

In 2013, the event was marred by two explosions, around 180 metres yards apart, within the final 200 metres of the finish. Although many of the faster runners had completed the course, the fatality of three spectators and the injury caused to 264, forced the event to be called off, with many runners close to the midway mark. This deterred neither the organisers nor the participants, and the event continues to be a major draw among the fastest endurance runners of the world.

And, going back to the subject of bandits, Boston Marathon Director Dave McGillvray was himself once a teenage bandit!

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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Run long, live short?

Do long distance runners have a shorter life? Capt Seshadri attempts to explore this theory, based on research and experiments and from dialogues with doctors with experience in accompanying marathon runners in major events.

In the fall season of the year 490 BC, Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, ran a distance of 26 miles non-stop from Marathon to Athens, to announce the defeat of the Persians at the battle of Marathon, in which he himself had just fought. Having shouted out “nenikēkamen”, (we have won), he collapsed and died on the spot.

Centuries later, the death of Jim Fixx, author of “The complete book of running”, probably triggered the debate on the issue of health versus harm. Reports from across the world state that till date, 36 marathon runners have suffered a fate similar to that of the ancient Greek. The age range was between 18 and 70, thus averaging close to 44. Almost half of these deaths occurred either during the run or within 24 hours of the event. So, is there a connection between long distance running and heart attacks? The arguments for and against, both purportedly with solid data to back them, are conflicting but hardly convincing.

Heart + Running

It is a universally established fact that the cause of coronary failure is a build up of plaque in the arteries. So, does distance running help build up plaque, or prevent it? Argument # 1 suggests that extreme distance running can harm rather than protect the heart. This is based on a study of 8 runners over a period of 140 days, running a daily cross country stretch of 42 km, with a one day break each week. After the first 24 hours, the runners were subjected to tests to determine plaque build up. At the end of the race, it was found that their systolic blood pressure, (the number on the top) had decreased and the ‘good cholesterol’ was higher. However, having checked their previous medical records, for those with a history of heart issues, the plaque build up was higher. These findings seem to suggest that distance running is not necessarily protective but could even be harmful in the long run. Conflicting, or confusing?

Marathon runners of all ages around the globe, participate enthusiastically, quite often either ignoring or not being aware of previous cardiovascular deterioration. On the flip side, it would be silly to assume that all marathon runners are physically fit and are therefore immune to cardiac disease.

Understanding the heart

Argument # 2 takes a somewhat different pitch. It says: If we sampled 50 men running 3,510 marathons over the course of three decades, will their heart health suffer or improve? These were experienced runners, most of them with over a quarter of a century of training, with some even having run for half a century. The mix was eclectic, with some having commenced running from school days and others trying to work out the effects of sedentary lifestyles, smoking and indulging in junk food. On an average, they ran around 50 km a week. When these 50 were scanned, 30% had no sign of plaque, 40% had mild amounts and the remaining 20% were the worrisome lot.

The findings were quite chaotic to say the least. More marathons did not mean more plaque, as did less running not indicating any difference. This led to the conclusion that extreme running had little or no impact on heart disease, but reinforced the fact that a history of smoking and cholesterol led to greater plaque deposits even after years of running.

Added to this is a third dimension. According to recent studies, different versions of atherosclerosis, the technical name for plaque build up, could be benign or harmful, and could affect active and sedentary people, thus debunking both negative and positive schools of thought on distance running and heart disease. This ‘halfway home’ theory seems to suggest that long years of distance running neither improves nor deteriorates heart health. There is no clinching evidence to prove that running causes any direct changes in the heart. The conclusion would probably be that all kinds of running would help keep arteries clear of harmful matter. However, running does not provide immunity to those with a history of bad lifestyle, especially smoking and junk food. In the words of Dr Roberts, an experienced researcher, “You can’t just outrun your past”!

So, run to your heart’s content. Run for your lives.

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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Do more…. Start Running

Race Director V P Senthil speaks to Radhika Meganathan about the origin, progress and of the pioneering running club of its kind, Chennai Runners

The Chennai Runners, or “CR” as they call themselves, can be called as pioneers in starting and maintaining the only volunteer-led running organisation in the country, along with an annual marathon that raises money for charities and sees thousands of runners participating. Some of the chapters even go beyond running, by incorporate varied disciplines such as strength training, cycling, swimming and even yoga in their schedules. Over to VP Senthil as he gives us the inside scoop on what makes Chennai Runners a great club to be a part of:

The genesis… Chennai Runners started when Harishankar, Ram Vishwanathan and Vidyut, three friends passionate about running, decided to wake up early and run together! This was during the time when there was no social media or fancy apps, so they literally called each other, met up at a place and just ran together. From that beginning, now Chennai Runners has thousands of members and is the only club of its kind, run entirely by volunteers, for runners and by runners.

Where do you run?…. We first started running in the roads of Alwarpet and then Besant Nagar, a small group of people making use of early mornings to run. On Sundays, we ran in Anna university campus and pretty soon we branched out to all other parts of the city. Right now we are 18 national chapters, with 9 more in waiting list, and we are expanding so quickly that we have to put a cap on people taking part in our annual marathon! I think it is due to our core values and personal commitment that Chennai Runners has so far achieved all its goals without compromising anything.

How does Chennai Runners function?…. If you want to join us, you can just go to the nearest chapter of CRA, give their contact details and join the next scheduled run. Each chapter has its own calendar. Each chapter also has its own moderators and Whatsapp groups, through which members can keep in touch. Local heads and moderators are nominated and organically selected based on their dependability and participation level in running events. They make sure that newbies get oriented properly, and all safety precautions are being communicated and followed thoroughly.

Is it all free?… Yes! Chennai Runners is completely free to join and participate. Browse our website and select your neighbourhood, and it’s as easy as showing up at the venue. Of course you are welcome to contribute during fund raising sprints and marathons, but by and large, CRA exists because of its members – who range from all walks of life – selflessly donate and volunteer their time. My role as Race Director, which to plan, check and arrange for routes for all runs, is also voluntary. My IT business may be my bread and butter, but my passion is Chennai Runners.

Wipro Chennai Marathon…  We have successfully organised the mammoth Chennai Marathon every year since 2012. Wipro has been our title sponsor from the first year of establishing (2012), with Kotak lending strong support. Last year MRF joined our family. In general our sponsors have all been value-based rather than commercial based. Every year we raise funds for various charities, and this year we are targeting 2 crores. Though everyone volunteers their time, Chennai Runners is a registered organisation with many national chapters. We fraternise with the other chapters, such as Mumbai runners and Bangalore runners, and meet up annually to discuss scope of improvement.

Roadblocks/challenges… Of course we face many, in fact we have come to be prepared to anticipate them in any given year. Just on the day of a run, some unfortunate incident may happen, in which case it is my responsibility to make sure the right decision is taken.

One time, we came to know that public service exam centers for that year were all located in our designated route! Yet another year we had to postpone our runs due to our former CM’s death and the floods. Apart from these unexpected incidents, a general concern is that every year runners are increasing but the roads remain the same! Legal permissions need to be sorted out during every run, giving top priority not to disrupt public life and sentiment. But to be fair, these kinds of logistical issues will happen in a huge scale event like ours so we make allowances for them. Our motto is there are no problems, only solutions.

Most interesting incident… I have to say it happened a couple of years back, at TVK Bridge near Malar hospital. The run is scheduled at 5am, and I am doing a check at 3am when we find that the bridge route is barricaded with buffaloes! They were huge and menacing, and there was no way we could shoo them with a stick. There was an old man lying in a cot nearby and we sought his advice, and he replied weakly: “I am lying here because I am unable to move after being attacked by the buffaloes. My family went to get help and are not back yet!”

Amazed, we arranged for medical help for him and then somehow we found a box of crackers, and scared away the buffaloes. That was one weird night!”

Upcoming events…

  • The Annual running festival is happening in Nehru stadium in Chennai, with sprints, 12 hour runs, live bands and many other features. It’s usually held during the first week of July every year, but this year, it’s happening in June.
  • MMM or May Midday Madness is a run that’s schedule during noon on the last Sunday of May. Since it happens in midday heat, it is only open to experienced runners by invite.
  • There is also a plan of having a midnight run this September in Chennai. For more details, please visit http://www.chennairunners.com/calender

To become a member of Chennai Runners, register at http://www.chennairunners.com/membership/registration.php

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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Miles, mountains and memories

A look at Ultra runners who attempted the 870 mile Himalaya run, by Capt Seshadri.

This is one of the ultimate trials of endurance and an outstanding example of mind over muscle. It is also a journey through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. And breathtaking, not just to the eye, but to the lungs as well.

The Great Himalaya Trail or the GHT, is an extremely physically taxing and psychologically draining, but rewarding ultra run, with a ‘high’ that transcends all altitudes. 870 miles or 1400 km of grueling track, at times reaching an altitude of 20,000 feet in extreme and often fluctuating weather conditions, icy cold wind, driving snow and a harsh sun that glows with an unearthly light over the mountains. Moreover, rather than a well traversed, official route, the GHT is a set of interconnected smaller, unofficial trails.

A record for this, popularly known as the Fastest Known Time, or FKT, was set by South African Andrew Porter in an astounding time of 28 days, 13 hours and 56 minutes. In an attempt to surpass this zenith of human endurance, 36 year old Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel, 38, set forth on February 28, 2018 from Hilsa in Nepal, with the object of reaching Pashupatinagar on the Indo-Nepal border, in the fastest possible time. The duo followed the same path as Porter, with the same checkpoints, naturally keeping the record in mind.

This 870 mile route includes 230,000 feet of climbing both up and down in the mountains, combining upper and middle level routes often referred to as the Great Himalayan Trail, its high and its cultural routes. The world’s tallest mountains were on view as they toiled on, while passing the base camp of Kanchenjunga, the third tallest mountain in the world. Along the route were several designated checkpoints, starting with Simikot at an early 77 km, through Chharka Bhot at roughly 380 km and the closer to the finish point Tumlingtar, at roughly 1,075 km, with 300 plus km still to go.

The runners had to navigate their paths on their own. No porters, no mules, but with 20 litre Salomon backpacks filled with energy bars, dietary supplements and equipment critical to each of the segments they had to traverse. Six pre-determined resupply points en route would provide short eats and nutritious snacks to keep their energy levels at their peak. For regular relief, basic food and water, they would depend on villages along the route and rest and recuperate in the tea huts that dot the paths. Villagers’ homes and monasteries were their lodgings and Sandes and Griesel heaped praise on the hospitality and warmth of their temporary hosts. Says Ryan: “One of the villages, a spot where we had hoped to get accommodation, was completely deserted. I honestly believe that if we hadn’t come across a monk and monastery that night, we would have frozen to death.”

If it wasn’t the altitude and the shortage of oxygen, it was the chilling danger of frostbite. In spite of adequate clothing and accessories, Ryan and Ryno were exposed to painful chillblains, especially on their fingers, as they had to constantly remove their gloves to read the maps. Finally, after almost a month of body and mind sapping endurance and pressure, a new speed record was set. On March 26, 2018, Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel completed the 870 mile GHT in an unbelievable time of 25 days, 3 hours, and 24 minutes, a good three days ahead of the old time set by Andrew Porter.

Every year, several women and men rise above odds and conquer mountains. This conquest however, was of a different nature. It was a conquest by the mind, of its superiority over the body, dictating its terms and winning.

Some more fabulous feats by these wonder athletes

Andrew Porter holds the solo male record for the Drakensberg Grand Traverse (DGT). He did a North-to-South run in December 2009 and set the record at 61 hours 24 minutes 11 seconds. Not satisfied with this effort, he returned to the venue in end May 2015 and did a solo South-to-North DGT in 45 hours 8 minutes.

Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel hold the men’s group record for the DGT, of 41 hours, 49 minutes, set in March 2014. Ryno held the previous men’s group record of 60 hours 29 minutes set in April 2010, along with teammate Cobus van Zyl.

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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