Motivation Comments Off on Running Nonstop with Ravi Goenka |

Running Nonstop with Ravi Goenka

A running career that spans over 2 decades, Ravi Goenka, the co-founder of the Jaipur Runners club reminisces his running career with Deepthi Velkur.

“And suddenly you know…it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings”.

For the past 21 years, Ravi Goenka has certainly had several new beginnings. Starting his running career in 1997, he has clocked many a mile and has now moved on to helping others achieve their fitness goals. Ravi lives by the motto, “take it all one day at a time and enjoy the journey”.

When he’s not running, he spends his time managing his several interests in garments, textiles, retail and dairy. He also spends his time being actively involved with a couple of NGOs who focus on providing education for underprivileged kids. Ravi has been a co-founder with the Jaipur Runners Club (JRC) since 2011 and in this conversation, he tells us how he hopes to help runners achieve their goals.

When did you first pick up running and what inspired you to do so?

Sports has always been a part of my life. I have been running for a long time now and I’m addicted. Today, I just can’t live without my run – it really has intertwined itself into my life and I build my day around it. My first run was the Terry Fox run (Dubai) in 1997 and 7 years later I did my first half-marathon in 2004 and a full marathon in 2005.

Running brings about immense benefits to the health and overall development of a person? In what way has it benefited you?

Discipline. Perseverance. Camaraderie. These are 3 key elements that come to mind when someone asks how does running add value to your life.

Discipline in the way you live – running influences everything from the way you eat to the way you plan your day. Running helps build perseverance and makes you believe that no matter how tough the situation is, just stick with it and you will come through a winner. Every runner’s journey is peppered with stories of how a friend helped them during training or a stranger egged them on a tough uphill course or rubbed down a sore muscle on a tough trail. That’s what running brings out in people – a spirit of community and camaraderie.

When did you decide to start Jaipur runners club? What was the main idea behind starting this club?

Prior to 2010, Jaipur didn’t really have a lot of exposure to marathons and there were only a handful of marathoners. Mr.Mukesh Mishra, CEO – Jaipur Marathon (now the AU Bank Jaipur Marathon) and I were in touch and discussed several ideas on how we can improve the runner’s experience at the event.

We realized that runners did not have a platform to practice together and both of us felt the need to create a space where runners could interact, motivate and inspire each other. That’s how the idea of starting a running club – JRC came about. When it started out, it had a very loose structure for a couple of years, but it has gradually evolved over time and today we have a more formalized structure in place.

Do you think joining a running club enriches a runner’s experience? If yes, why?

A running group/club definitely enhances and enriches a runners experience. When you are part of a group they become close buddies and it’s a huge benefit to run along with them. Right from waking each other up in the morning to sharing training tips to motivating and pushing each other during runs plays a major role in motivating and inspiring you to achieve more.

We also try doing a whole lot of things such as organize monthly runs, bringing in motivational speakers and sports nutrition experts to speak to our runners. We also have a few renowned sports doctors on our panel to help fellow runners. Our objective is to give the runners at the club a wholesome enriching running experience.

Your best and worst race so far? Why?

My best race probably was the 100K race in (took me a tad over 12 hours to complete) Dec 2015. I participated in this run to promote Ultrarunning in Jaipur as the concept was fairly insignificant at the time.

I call it my best not because I ran a 100K but because of the atmosphere, it created. There were hundreds of local runners who ran distances between 4 – 42K alongside me and for a lot of them it was their longest distance they had run until that day. We had many more citizens who lined up at Central Park where the run was happening and created such a festive mood.

The SCMM 2015 (my last officially timed run)run wasn’t my worst but rather a most enlightening race.  I was hoping to break the 3hr45min barrier and things were going great until 32 KM mark where I suddenly cramped up. The situation nearly brought me to tears as I had put in hours of hard work, several months of practice and I was maintaining a decent time in training (3hr50min – 4hr). That brought me a moment of realization that chasing personal bests was making me lose the joy of running. I then made the decision to focus on staying fit and enjoying my runs.

Take us through your training regimen and how do you to stay injury-free?

There are 2 key activities I go through the year that are very important to me – yoga and working out at the gym. In addition, I do a fair bit of cross training between sports like cycling, TT, tennis, cricket and swimming. Since I enjoy sports, I try and put in 15-20 a week on that. Before and after any run session, I do a quick warm-up and cooling-down stretches.

I have had running-related injuries and lay-offs a couple of times over the past 2 decades and this has been mainly due to overtraining. However, I ensured proper rest during the injury and I have been able to get back on my feet quicker.

How do you keep your runners at JRC motivated?

Our job is to get them into a regular habit and once done we have seen runners take off and make considerable progress. We are also constantly evolving are plans and programs to keep the runners on their feet through the year. With the advent of social media, there is no dearth for motivation as there are runners scaling new heights every day. In a city like Jaipur, we are seeing a surge in the number of runners who want to do their FM in 2 years’ time from when they started running or wishing to attempt an Ironman challenge.

At JRC, we organize boot camps focusing on overall fitness, building running techniques, challenges like 10KM over 10 days, 100-day challenge and hill training. We also see a very high newcomer participation in our events and that’s encouraging. We also have a lot of mentoring happening with guidance from experienced runners on plans being made for new comers and helping them with customized plans for speed and endurance training.

 

You ran the 72K Jaipur midnight marathon on Independence Day this year as a dedication to the Indian Soldiers. What were your thoughts at the finish line?

I was happy that I managed to finish the 72K run with ease in spite of having certain challenging factors that can take a toll on your body and mind – visibility at night, humid weather conditions and a full working day at office/factory. It was good to see a few young fellow runners from JRC giving me company and through the run kept pushing each other to finish the race.

12 hours of barefoot running saw two members from JRC participate. Briefly talk about the run and how did you cheer them on to the finish line?

We currently have some very strong runners from Jaipur attempting to run long distances and also being successful at it. Although I was not physically present during the run and could not cheer them on,  we were given regular updates on their progress and were being cheered through a virtual medium.

As a director of JRC, what are your future plans for the club?

We gradually and steadily hope to increase the number of runners in Jaipur and at the same time instilling in them a love for fitness. The goal is also to ensure we are able to have each member run long and strong and stay injury-free. The co-founder of JRC Mr Mukesh Mishra is also very dedicated to the cause and we have a very supportive team in place who are always out there to support all events and runners. To top it all, having a team of dedicated volunteers is a big boon in itself.

Do you think you might reconsider your decision to stop running at official events?

 The SCMM 2015 was my the last official event that I ran. My friends call me the “enlightened Baba” who has attained Nirvana after years of this journey. I enjoy running on my own most of the time as this is my “ME” time and also enjoy runs with friends sometimes. I also try and be part of the runs of JRC which gives me an opportunity to interact with fellow runners. I have been running for so long now that I don’t feel the urge to travel anymore for runs. My businesses take a lot out of me and focus is on my work  for now. Hopefully in a few years, if the goal posts change, I would love to travel again to run in different parts of the world.

 

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 Comments Off on Fit Girl India |

Fit Girl India

Meet Ayesha Billimoria, athlete, the new age fitness icon and one of the leading fitness and nutrition influencers, who speaks to Nandini Reddy about her fitness philosophy.

Ayesha Billimoria is a track athlete, captain of the Adidas Runners in Mumbai and is leading a project, Fitgirl to empower women in athletic sports. Billimoria coaches runners for marathons and this three-time 400m national champion has been keeping her dream alive of running for India in the Olympics for over 15 years.

Ayesha Billimoria’s relationship with sports and fitness started at the age of 11 and from age 14 she has been a professional athlete. Her influence can be seen on the popular social image sharing site, Instagram, where Ayesha commands a formidable following. Here are a few excerpts from the interview.

How young were you when you fell in love with fitness?

I don’t believe in falling in love. Because those who fall in, fall out very quickly. I have enjoyed growing in love with athletics since the age of 11.

You are a powerful fitness influencer, what are the pros and cons of this responsibility

The pros of being a fitness influencer are that we get to touch thousands of hearts in a positive way. Cons – everyone likes to pounce on us for the slightest of tiniest of mistakes.

How have you overcome struggles like injuries? I ask because these are the points were people get most demotivated?

Yes, tons of injuries in my entire 22 years of running professionally and as an amateur. It depends from person to person and what their motivation is. For me it is mega, and that makes me want to wake up every single day with the same passion and energy.

What are your hoping to achieve with Fit Girl India?

A stronger and fitter society. mentally, emotionally and physically.

Do you feel running is empowering as a sport?

100% I think the best gift one can give a child is the gift of running. It not only gives you the confidence but the courage to think for yourself.

Nutrition is the most important factor in fitness. Do you believe that and what is your nutrition mantra?

New age comes with new drama. but no doubts there that good healthy food is essential for good performance and injury recovery. Nonetheless, we still won national medals with basic home food 🙂

How important is it to work with a coach? Is it only for the elites or do amateurs also need them?

MOST IMPORTANT! Just how we need a doctor when we are ill. The same goes for running. Those who try to do it on their own, often fail. I am the best example of that.

You had participated in the 100 days of running challenge – is such a task advisable or is it an extreme form of fitness?

I did not participate in the 100 days of running, I only represent the company that partners with this initiative. It is misguided information on the internet. And no I do not recommend this to anyone. Absurdity in the name of running, is driving this country crazy.

What is your ultimate dream as an athlete

It always and will be to represent India at the Olympic games.

Your words of advice to anyone getting into fitness

Relax and Enjoy it. Life is not a race. Breathe every moment and enjoy the process of physical and mental evolution.

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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Featured, Motivation Comments Off on Meet the 22-time Ironman from Pune |

Meet the 22-time Ironman from Pune

Protima Tiwary catches up with the man who finished his first Ironman in under 12 hours, Kaustubh Radkar.

India’s first Ironman, Fastest Indian of the Year, 22 Ironman Finisher title holder, swimming champion and an inspiration to many, Kaustubh Radkar says he lives for the Ironman World Championships. We caught up with him for a quick chat about what keeps him going for those 17 hours.

What made you opt for the Ironman?

I grew up as a swimmer, with 1995-2000 being my best years where I was the Indian National Champion in various events. In 2001 I won a swimming scholarship and made my way to the United States of America. I kept at it for a couple of years before ending my swimming career. Now see, I was used to extremely high levels of fitness. I had to replace my swimming training with something else, and I realised running was the easiest way to do it. Since I was a long distance swimmer, I also opted for long distance running. I ran my first NYC Marathon in 2016 and have never looked back since then.

But being an Ironman finisher at 22 championships, people forget that I am a runner too, and only treat me as an Ironman athlete. I am not complaining though! Ironman has been my passion for over ten years now. It’s been the reason I wake up with a purpose.

So what you’re saying is…you’re not just a marathoner, you’re an Ironman! What has been the highlight of your ironman career?

With 22 Ironman championships under my belt, I have a bunch of high moments that define my career. I could go on and on, but the top ones would be the time when I finished my FIRST Ironman in 11 hours 41 minutes in Arizona. 29th March 2015, Port Elizabeth, South Africa is also special since it was the day I completed Ironman in all 6 continents. Another one would be qualifying for and finishing the Ironman World Championships at Kona.

Marathons don’t always go perfectly. Any moment you’d like to share with us where you thought things were going downhill? How did you overcome that?

I had just finished Ironman Wisconsin on September 9th, 2017 and was at the start line of the coveted Berlin Marathon in just 2 weeks!  The first 23-25kms went right on pace, and then things started to fall apart.

Having enough racing experience, I was able to cool off and managed to finish the Berlin Marathon in 3 hrs 26 mins.  When things go wrong, it always comes down to what happens in your mind.  Having a mantra for this time helps a lot; it has certainly helped me and my trainees.  “Mind Over Matter” is what we chant when things are not looking too good.

What did you learn from your worst and best races?

Ironman is all about discipline and consistency, and you have to put in a lot of hard work. You might have enjoyed the best race and might be supremely talented and strong, but each Ironman is a different experience and you cannot let go of hard work. From my best races, I have learnt humility and discipline. One race does not define you- a fact that I keep sharing with my trainees.

From my worst races, I have learnt how staying positive is the difference between giving up and finding a way to solve a problem and finish a race.  It’s very easy to be down on yourself after a bad race, and how you react is what separates the great from the average.

As a runner, what is the one quality that defines you?

Willpower! If you were to ask my family, my willpower has defined me throughout my life.

They say consistency is key – but how do you build this consistent pace that they talk about?

We all have goals when it comes to running. We want to run faster or run at consistent paces throughout workouts and races.  As runners, we dedicate time every week to target speed, tempo, long runs etc. But it’s crucial for longevity to invest time in other aspects such as strength training, core work and of course, diet.

Strength training, flexibility, core work is essential to gain time and endurance, but more importantly to stay injury free. A lot of times people complain they are either stuck at a certain pace or not able to achieve consistency. It’s because the focus has been on running only, and not the diet and strength training.

Could you share your training routine with us?  

As a full-time coach, a lot of my training now happens with trainees all over the country. I run thrice a week (typically Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday) and I also do some indoor bike training every Wednesday. I also hit the gym on Wednesdays and Fridays. Saturdays are for outdoor bike training.
Swimming is my strength, and I do 2 short sessions of 30 mins in the pool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Fridays are for the long distance swimming sessions.  I also add in a couple of sessions of yoga in my training schedule.

An ultra-marathon is a combination of mental and physical strength- any tips you’d like to share with us on how to stay strong during the race? 

My last Ultramarathon was the Comrades 89.2kms in May 2016.   I ran an 8 hrs 47 mins race that year and ended up as the fastest Indian that year.  If you have trained well, during the training itself you have moments where you face your fears, start questioning yourself and find ways to overcome those.

Ultramarathon training involves setting a strong strategy and then being patient.  Far too often athletes steer away from their plan due to the excitement of the event.  Even at Comrades, I had told myself that the race doesn’t even start till 60kms, that I must be patient.

The Ironman Triathlon organized by the World Triathlon Corporation entails a 3.86-km swim, 180.25-km bicycle ride and a 42.2-km marathon that must be completed within 17 hours. For most of us, simply reading the distances is a daunting task. But for supermen like Kaustubh Radkar, it’s a way of life. Thank you for being such an inspiration to the running and marathon community in India!

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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Featured Comments Off on Ironman Times Ten |

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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Featured Comments Off on Nine days a week – Part 2 |

Nine days a week – Part 2

In this concluding piece, Capt Seshadri talks about Meb’s fitness and training mantras. 

Meb Keflezighi is an unusual athlete. Born in Eritea, one of the poorest countries in the African continent, migrated to Italy as a young boy and pursued his education in the United States. And, apart from being a world beating marathoner, is a complete family man, autobiographer, motivational speaker, businessman and above all, a wonderful human being.

Meb the athlete, breaks from tradition, and the shattering of pre-conceived notions of what a runner should be or ought to do, begin with his training. He trains over nine day cycles, vis a vis the usual weekly routine followed by most athletes around the world. He insists that this permits him maximum concentration, interspersed with the right periods of rest and recuperation. Quick, high intensity runs, intervals of rest, distance running and cross training help him build speed, stamina and strength. Core strength, running in rarified atmospheres and a high protein diet topped with large servings of fruit are the secret of his continued success over such a long period of time.

Meb the motivational speaker has, under his belt, over a hundred clinics on running and even on retail programs. He is a voracious orator, holding his audience spellbound with topics as far ranging as diet and nutrition, injury prevention and recovery, while bringing to the fore, his world class experience and diverse and colourful early life as examples.

For older runners, he has certain mantras which are both unique and effective. He believes it is never too late to begin or to continue running. While most coaches talk about age being only a number, Meb advises older runners to recognise their age and the limits it brings along, advocating adjustments, both in training and nutrition and to listen to their body talk. Not about numbers and miles run, but about consistency within boundaries.

Cross training must be an essential part of the daily exercise cycle, combining easy runs with short, harsh sessions on the elliptical. When it comes to nutrition, this running guru recommends a diet that offers a nice balance between weight and energy, while putting in enough calories to recover immediately after a training session. Warming up and warming down, stretching before and after running are a must for those flaccid or tired muscles. And never, ever overdo the schedule. Waiting for a day or two, he believes, is so much better than spending weeks on recovery from injury due to over exertion. So, right training cycles and methods, proper nutrition and listening to one’s body are the final mantras for longevity in running, especially long distance events. With these, age does remain a number.

Meb Keflezighi will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most talked about and chronicled athletes in distance running history. While training to qualify for the Rio Olympics at age 40, he quipped: “I used to get anxious before races, but at this stage I have nothing more to prove. I was thinking if I make the Olympic team at 40, wonderful; and if not, I’ve been blessed to have the career I’ve had.”

Post retirement, if such a thing is possible for this age-defying athlete, Meb looks forward to an almost full time career in public speaking, to meeting runners from different and diverse backgrounds and to render yeoman service to his foundation that works with kids to promote fitness and well-being.

A truly fitting legacy from a living legend!

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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Featured Comments Off on The runner with the strong wrist – Part 1 |

The runner with the strong wrist – Part 1

Meb Keflezighi, a distance runner who has gained fame for his extraordinary spirit on the course. In this two part series Capt Seshadri profiles this prolific runner

In his long career as a distance runner, this athlete has run 28 international marathons and is believed to have signed more than 30,000 autographs!

In a tiny war-torn country in East Africa, once called Eritrea, which fought a cruel war for over 30 years for liberation from Ethiopia, Mebrahtom ‘Meb’ Keflezighi, was one of 10 children whose early childhood memories were more associated with fatal encounters and dismemberment of his friends and neighbours from warring factions. His first brush with distance running probably occurred at age 10 when he saw his first car and took rapidly to his heels, thinking it was a ‘death machine’. He was later to grin and tell the New York Times: “that was one of the races I lost”. In 1989, at age 14, with his parents having migrated to Italy, Meb watched television for the first time and was left wondering how such big people could get into such a small box.

This was the kid who would ultimately transit from such ignorant beginnings in his home country to becoming a much sought after motivational speaker and brand ambassador to some of the world’s best-known corporates. This is the story that should go down in the annals of sporting history as the marathon of life!

Meb’s family moved to San Diego in 1987 where he began running in earnest. From 5 km and 10 km runs in San Diego High School and UCLA, he graduated both in academics and athletics, winning several medals in championships at the State and then the National levels. With the 2004 marathon silver medal under his belt, he ran on to win the 2009 New York Marathon and then the Boston Marathon in 2014, in the process, bringing gold medal glory to America for the first time after 1982. With this Herculean effort, at an age when most runners are reading about marathons than running them, Meb became the sole marathoner in history to win the New York and Boston Marathons as well as an Olympic medal. He was to continue competitive running at the highest level even at age 41, qualifying for the Rio Olympics 2016.

Setbacks never bothered him as, during the 2008 US Olympic marathon trials, he broke his hip and could not qualify despite finishing eighth, with the debilitating injury.  During the same race, his misery was compounded by the death of his close friend and running mate, Ryan Shay, who died of coronary failure. He rebounded the very next year, winning the 2009 New York Marathon in a personal best time of 2:09:15. In 2010, his achievements were etched in UCLA memory, with his induction into its Hall of Fame.

Runner, writer, trainer, motivational speaker and more. His autobiography titled “Run to overcome” deals with issues of his early life, his milestones and his achievements. MEB Foundation, an acronym of his name that reads ‘Maintaining Excellent Balance’ promotes the values of healthy living and provides a motivational and inspirational platform for school-going youth. In 2014, Meb Keflezighi’s achievements were aptly recognized with the Jesse Owens Award as the USATF Athlete of the Year.

Forty years and running, when even vehicles made of steel are considered vintage.

Read Nine Days a week for the conclusion of this story

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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Featured Comments Off on Meet Anjali Saraogi |

Meet Anjali Saraogi

Capt Seshadri speaks to Anjali Saraogi, the youngest Indian woman to complete the oldest marathon in the world

“Women usually undermine themselves. In my opinion, our fears are our greatest limitations. And we should spend more time living with our dreams than our fears.”

A teenaged girl, on the corner of adulthood at age 18, persuaded her mother to participate in a local marathon. The reluctant mother, who felt that she was too old for any kind of strenuous physical activity, let alone run 42 km, finally conceded and, to the surprise of all, finished first. And so began a career in long distance running for Anjali Saraogi, now aged 43 who, with just two years’ running behind her, has set records for herself and become a model for aspiring young runners to follow. At an age when most runners would be hanging their boots on a peg, this wonder woman was firmly tying up her laces.

As a kid, the plump young Anjali did not appear to be running material. While her initiation into running dispelled all her inhibitions and insecurities, the result was a shattering of records. A win at Delhi and a podium finish at the Mumbai Marathons were but baby steps to her astonishing achievements on the world scene. A temporary setback occurred when she was injured while preparing for the Chicago Marathon. Her doctors said: “you will never run again”. A dear friend gifted her a book by Amit Seth titled ‘Dare to Run’. This was to change Anjali’s running mindset forever. Amit, incidentally, was the first Indian to complete the Comrades Marathon, possibly the world’s most gruelling run, in 2009. Quite naturally, there was serious concern about her wellbeing from her husband and her father, but her determination and consistency won their admiration and support.

42.2 km was but a small start for this amazing athlete. All of 43 years, Anjali put everyone’s apprehensions behind as she toiled to complete the 89 km Comrades Marathon, the world’s oldest annual ultra-marathon that is run between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa; the ultimate dream of every marathoner. For her stupendous effort, as the first Indian woman to have achieved this feat, she won the Bill Rowden medal. Her next goal is to improve on her timing and finish the downhill race in the next Comrades Marathon and even to get her daughter to run with her.

The run of Comrades

It was race day 2017 at the Comrades. Anjali had set herself a target of 8:30. On that morning, even as early as 5.30, it was a warm day, with most of the runners being South Africans. By 11 am, with no shade and little breeze and with water points located only every 2.5 km, dehydration began setting in. 70 km done and still 12 to 13 minutes to go before the next water point, Anjali was on the verge of collapse, knowing that only a miracle could come to her aid.

And then it happened. A South African runner, probably as exhausted as she, was running alongside, with a water sachet in hand. He saw her eyes locked on the sachet, and despite his own dire need, passed it on to her to share the life reviving water. A little sporting gesture which, at that moment, transcended every border of nationality, race or gender. Comrades indeed! At 2:08 in the sweltering afternoon, Anjali crossed the finish line in a time of 8:38:23. In an interview, she states: “Mentally embracing that pain before the start is the toughest moment for me. Running the race is easy. The physicality of it has been taken care of in my gruelling training sessions — it’s the psychological aspect of it that really needs to be addressed.”

Anjali draws from her experience to advise other runners. She exhorts them to have belief in their abilities and faith in training. Pushing one’s body to the limits, she says, is paramount, but it must be supplemented with a respect for recovery and sensible nutrition and hydration. Age is never a limiting factor; confidence and faith are what matters. The need for an athletic body to run  successfully, she says, is a myth. In her words, patience, training and focus towards achieving one’s goals are all that are needed.

At Comrades, Anjali Saraogi holds the second best timing among all Indians till date.

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 4 minute magician

Remembering the legendary 4 minute mile runner, Sir Roger Bannister, Capt Seshadri writes a small tribute to the magical athlete.

RIP Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister, CH, CBE

(23 March 1929 – 3 March 2018)

In today’s extremely competitive sporting world, where records are shattered by the hour, where equipment, gear, facilities, training and diet are dictated by precise science and technology, one record, set nearly six and a half decades ago, still holds relevance and reverence. The four minute mile.

This story, of a doctor and academician with remarkable athletic prowess, begins in 1946 when, at the age of 17, Roger Bannister ran a mile in 4:24:6. An athlete who had started without spikes, had never run on a track and had trained only thrice a week and that too in half hour sessions. Moving forward to 1950, he improved his mile timing to 4:13 and also competed in the 880 yard and 800 metre races, but finishing behind the winner. The young Roger soon realised that if he were to win, he would have to take his training more seriously.

Under the tutelage of coach Franz Stampfl, he combined interval training with block periodisation, fell running and anaerobics. However, being a medical student, his busy schedule at class left him little time for training, very often restricted to 30 to 40 minutes a day, using his lunch break to run. Still, this focus paid rich dividends with a win in a mile race on July 14, 1951 at the AAA Championships in White City, where he raced away towards the tape, watched and cheered by a crowd of 47,000, finishing in 4:07:8.

The 1952 Olympics were a disappointment; in fact, Roger actually contemplated giving up. A new thought then occurred; that of completing the mile in under 4 minutes. While many were dreaming about this and several runners were making unsuccessful attempts, some even reaching as close as 4:02, Bannister intensified his training schedule by including hard intervals.

It was a cloudy day on the 6th of May, 1954, with a forecast of rain and a wind driving across at 40 kmph. This practising doctor, who had been working at the hospital all morning, was seriously considering dropping out of the race that was to happen between the British AAA and Oxford University at the Iffey Road track in Oxford. A track that was soon destined to be recorded in the annals of running history. While the wind finally dropped to a mere breeze, the 3,000 spectators lined the track with bated breath. Roger, having completed his assigned duties at the hospital, picked up his spikes and rubbed graphite on the soles to prevent accumulation of ash from the cinder track. Taking the train from Paddington, he arrived at Oxford, nervous and full of trepidation.

The race finally boiled down to six competitors. BBC Radio provided a live broadcast, anchored by ‘Chariots of Fire’ famed Harold Abrahams. The starting whistle blew sharp at 6:00 pm and the race was on. The first lap was taken in 58 seconds and the lead runner went past the half mile mark in 1:58. With 275 yards to go Roger, realising that his dream was within reach, put in a tremendous kick that saw him running the final lap in under 59 seconds. The roar of the crowd drowned out the announcer’s voice after the words: ladies and gentlemen, first, number 41, RG Bannister with a new meet and track record. A new English native, British National, All-comers, European, British Empire and World record of 3 minutes… the rest was lost in the cheering. The mile had been run in 3:59:4.

On the 50th anniversary of that glorious achievement, the now knighted Sir Roger, in an interview, conceded that the sub 4 minute run was not the most important achievement of his life. Bannister, the neurologist, saw his life’s work with patients in the world of medicine as having given him far greater satisfaction. As the first Chairman of the Sports Council, he used his influence to usher in funding for sports centres and facilities, and as a doctor he was responsible to initiate testing for the use of anabolic steroids and performance enhancing drugs. Roger Bannister was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011. And on March 3, 2018, the world bid goodbye to this extraordinary athlete and compassionate healer.

Six feet below, but forever under four minutes.

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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Tri crash and burn!

Radhika Meganathan interviews IRONMAN Raghul Trekker, who recently completed the IronMan Challenge in Sri Lanka

A triathlon is an endurance competition that consists of three continuous disciplines. Its most popular form involves swimming, cycling, and running, to be completed in succession within a set time frame. We  talk to RAGHUL TREKKER who recently conquered the Colombo Ironman and is the force behind the scientific training for triathlon aspirants at his fitness studio, TRI CRASH ‘n’ BURN.

THE BUG

How did you get into fitness? I was born and brought up in Chennai, but studied marine engineering in Pune (Incidentally, the idea for the original Ironman Triathlon was suggested by US Navy Commander John Collins!). In my college, it was mandatory to run every morning except on Sundays. It was only for the first three semesters, but that set the pace for my attachment with fitness and exercise. I already was a swimmer and cyclist, so the stage was already set for me.

From the IT industry to triathlons…how did that happen? When I returned to Chennai from Pune after graduation, I joined Polaris. As you probably know, IT jobs are mostly sedentary. I started to actively look for exercising opportunities when I came across Chennai Trekkers Club. CTC introduced me to triathlons and that was it, it all clicked. They conduct triathlons twice a year in and around Chennai, and I trained and participated in all of them. I eventually learned about Ironman and other global races and started travelling and participating in them. Malaysia in 2014 and 2015, Australia and Netherlands in 2017, Columbo in Feb 2018 and I am going to China and South Africa shortly.

Was any triathlon a breeze? There are no easy triathlons! It all involves consistent training and dedication, but I get what you mean. I have to say so far Malaysia was the toughest, because of its hilly and unpredictable terrain. Colombo, relatively, was easier – I finished the 90 km cycling in 2 hrs 32 min, the swimming in 36 minutes 55 sec and the running in 1 hr 48 min 40 sec.

TRIATHLONS FULL TIME

So what triggered you to become a full time triathlete? In 2015, it came to a point where I clearly preferred to race and train than work inside an office. So I took the plunge to follow my passion. It was not an easy decision, but then I have never been the kind of person who will agonize or waver indefinitely. At some point, if you have a passion and vision, you have to make a choice. Once you make it, then you have to do everything necessary – from monetary investment to setting self-paced goals and networking hard – in order to meet your goals.

So how do you train? In general, when it comes to training for a triathlon, consistency is key. You don’t have to train every single day, but you do have to train consistently, say, three or four days a week, and you need to have your own customized schedule to follow. Emergencies happen, you can miss one or two workouts, but you need to be disciplined enough to get back on track in no time.

Do you have a trainer? Everyone needs a trainer! I met my trainer Lucie Zelenkova in Malaysia in 2015. She is a prolific triathlete based in South Africa and she has designed my workout schedule which I follow every day. Yes, it’s possible to have a long-distance coach! We have weekly skype sessions and she sends me workouts and diet charts and is there for me whenever I need her advice.

The question everyone wants an answer to – what do you eat? I eat normal Indian food. But where I differ is in my plating, I don’t fill it with a mountain of white rice! I make sure I eat a well-balanced meal of equal amounts of veggies, protein and carbs in the form of millets. In my opinion, you don’t need to be on any special diet to train for a triathlon. You just need to make healthy food choices and eat good food in the right quantity. Don’t eat junk food, don’t eat too much or too little, and you will do perfectly fine.

Global races are expensive, do you have sponsors? I still fondly remember the time when my past employer Polaris sponsored me to participate my first Ironman triathlon in Malaysia. This year, Running Lab is my sponsor for all my sporting equipment and attire needs. Otherwise, I have to sponsor myself for all other expenses, like travel and accommodation. But that’s how it is. You need to invest in yourself when you are competing in a global scale sport. The more you do, the more chances you have in networking and meeting potential sponsors, runners, trainers. And the experience and exposure is fantastic, so it’s all worth it.

Tri.Crash.Burn is Born

In 2015, 25 Dream Runners asked to train under me and I did it in the mornings and weekends while still working a full time job. I loved the experience and it inspired me to start Try Crash Burn, offering customized and scientific coaching for runners and triathletes. I concentrate only on training for triathlons.

So if I wanted to train for a triathlon can I join?  Yes, but you have to be ready to be trained. For example, I cannot teach you to swim or cycle. You already have to be a swimmer and a cyclist when you sign up for my training. If you are differently-abled, I’d be happy to train you if you have already found your guide runner.

What is the time line for training for a triathlon? If you already know cycling and swimming, then 6 months of intense training is the bare minimum. But one year is a more sustainable and comfortable pace, which you should take if you are not on some unreasonable deadline to participate in a triathlon. In Chennai, the running scene is vibrant, but not many are cyclists and about 98% are non-swimmers. So that’s an unequal balance, and it’s largely a standard status for an Indian triathlete aspirant. First step is to identify which discipline is your weakest and then start training in it.

What advice do you have to those aspiring to be triathletes? Don’t over train, and don’t under train. I don’t recommend any one to train on their own for a triathlon, as risk of injury is higher and you cannot self-correct any errors. If you are serious about being a triathlete, find a qualified trainer who is in sync with your fitness level and goals, and you will be able to achieve your targets in no time.

Raghul Trekker can be contacted at http://www.tricrashnburn.com. His FB page is https://www.facebook.com/tricrashnburn

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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