Training Comments (0) |

How to Choose a Running Coach

So what do you have to look for while shopping for a running coach? Radhika Meganathan demystifies the process.

You are excited because you’ve finally decided to up your game and hire a running coach. You have made inquiries at your gym, trawled through reviews online and on social media, and have also listed to recommendations from your friends /running buddies. And now, you have a name. Only, you are not sure how to know if they are the right one for you.

Fear not, we at the Finisher have compiled a template of questions just for you, that you can ask to your shortlisted choices before choosing one of them as your running coach.

BACKGROUND CHECK: What makes them great? What are their qualifications, credentials, accreditation? Are they still running? A non-running profile is not really an issue, a lot of retired athletes and runners offer terrific coaching, but you should be aware of where your coach currently stands in the sport, and whether they have relevance experience training for any specific marathon you are training for.

MODE / NATURE OF COACHING: Is it live, or virtual? If it is an online coaching option, would that work for you? What is your preference, and are you willing to go out of your comfort zone and experiment, or would that be too distracting? Are they willing to connect with you organically, and customise a plan just for you, or will they be selling a pre-packaged regimen to you?

FREQUENCY OF COACHING: Daily, weekly, fortnightly? What about breaks? What if you have to travel or forced to take days off from the coaching? Will they adjust to the changes in your schedule and redraft your training plan accordingly?

VENUE AND ACCESSIBILITY: Does the trainer come to your neighbourhood track, or do you have to go to him? If it’s the latter, do you have to spend on a long commute each time you meet with your coach? It can get surprisingly difficult to make use of a coach when their hours or location is not ideal for you, and if you have a busy lifestyle and cannot find the bandwidth to make it work.

COMMUNICATION STYLE: Did you have a chance to talk with them, either on phone or face to face? This step is important because first impressions are important. How does the person come across to you? Are they encouraging, positive, inspirational?

COACHING PHILOSHOPY: Ask them about their coaching MO, philosophy and ethics. How does it strike you? What do they think of their own coaching, and how do they articulate their ideas and plans for you, and for the sport in general. Do you see yourself being led by them for the next few months, years?

COST OF COACHING: How does the coaching cost? Is it an amount that you can comfortably afford for at least the coming two years? Is the coach clear on what training will be included with the rates? Is it all done with a proper binding contract?

After all the questions given above, comes the most important step: ask for references. A reference who is not your friend (or theirs!) can give you far more objective information. Do the references highlight and demonstrate the magic that you need, from the coach? Is your coach completely aligned to what your specific goals and talents are, and can they be focused enough to get from amateur to amazing?

No matter how highly the coach comes recommended to you, make an effort to talk to their past and current clients, mentees and trainees, and drop in for a trial session before committing to a contract. This will help you in taking a real time decision without blindly relying on your guts or a glowing reference.

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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It’s never too late to start running!

Deepthi Velkur catches up with senior runner, Rajendra Kumar from Bengaluru on how he fell in love with running. 

Running is not a sport reserved only for the young and elite but rather an all-inclusive lifetime sport that challenges you from the moment you start  and all you have to do to get started is have the will to put one foot in front of the other for miles.

The growing phenomenon of senior citizens taking to running is evidence enough that it’s never too late to start running and talking to them you will see that they have all good things to say about how they’ve improved their physical and mental health.

One such gentleman I spoke to is Y.S. Rajendra Kumar, a retired Assistant General Manager who was with State Bank of India for nearly four decades.  An inspiring individual to youngsters and old people alike, he took to running at the age of 74 years in the year 2014. I was curious to know from him, how running became a passion at the age of 74. These are the excerpts of our conversation.

What motivated you to take up running at an age where most people put their legs up and relax?

Prior to me taking up running, I have always kept myself physically active over the years by doing yoga as well as taking long daily walks with my wife to the temple. In one of my discussions at home, my son suggested that I take up running and join his club “Jayanagar Jaguars”. The thought appealed to me; I started in 2014 and here I am 4 years later still enjoying every run.

Can you tell us from your experience what kind of changes running has brought into your life?

Before I took to running, the winter season was quite challenging for me. I used to suffer from a cold and chest congestion but that has now completely vanished since I started running. The bigger impact that running has brought to me is a more pleasant psychological change and cheerful attitude that I can attribute to my experience in running alongside the youngsters in the group.

To encourage more senior citizens to run, how should they start their process?

I would think that there are 2 primary steps that need to be in place:

  • Following a structured training program and
  • The able guidance of a coach providing them with the required direction to follow the training program.

There is a growing number of senior people who are running marathons around the world. What is your take on this growing phenomenon?

With the amount of information available online and the increased awareness among seniors on the benefits of running, this phenomenon does not surprise me. I welcome it and think that we as a society should be more open and encouraging to senior people taking to running.

In terms of your runs so far, how many 10k’s and half marathons have you completed?

Since my first competitive run in December 2014, I have completed ten 10K runs and six half-marathons until now. I am also proud of the fact that I have been able to achieve a podium finish in 2 of the runs –Ajmera Thump 10K (3rd place) with a timing of 1:13:47 in December, 2014 and TCS World10K (3rd place) with a timing of 1:05:58 in May, 2017. Some of other running courses I have completed are: Scotia Bank Calgary Run (Canada)10K, Spirit Of Wipro 10K, SCMM Half Marathon, Bengaluru 10K Challenge, Bengaluru Half Marathon, Chamundi Hill Challenge Mysuru 10K, Celebration Mysore Half Marathon and the Tata Mumbai Marathon.

That’s quite an impressive list and hopefully this will encourage other senior citizens to take up running as well. In your group of runners, is there a large percentage of people over the age of 60?

Not quite – in a group of over 600 signed runners, training across ten locations in Bengaluru, we are four runners above the age of 60 years.We are hopeful that other senior citizens will soon take to running as the benefits definitely outweigh the initial challenges that they will face.

In terms of your training sessions, can you give us some insight into your weekly running schedule?

We are currently in the middle of getting ready for our next half-marathon and our training schedule includes running 3 times a week with a mileage of 25K – 30K per week. Also, there are specific drills and exercises that we go through under the guidance of our very experienced coach, Pramod Deshpande and this helps us get stronger and stay injury-free.

To complement your training schedule have you made any dietary changes since you took to running?

Yes; I have made some dietary changes to boost strength and stay healthy. I have increased my intake of fresh fruits and vegetables while avoiding fried, oily foods and minimizing my intake of sweets. Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet is paramount to supplement my training and overall running activity.

I have also learnt that your entire family is into running. That is quite an achievement, how did that happen?

Yes, it is true that as a family we all love running. It all started out with my daughter-in-law, Padmashree; she has long been into running and over time introduced my son Darshan to the sport. With the growing enthusiasm of seeing my daughter-in-law and son involved, my grandson Tanmai soon joined the running group.

During mid-September 2014 at the age of 74, my son suggested that I join him as well. While it did appeal to me, I was hesitant at first but decided to give it a shot. In the beginning, I found it a little difficult to run. However, I persisted and my continued efforts with proper guidance and encouragement enabled me to develop a passion for running.

Today, as a family we collectively participate in certain important running events through the year.

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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Gear Comments (0) |

The Simple, Smart and Effective Polar M430

A look at the smart yet simple GPS watch, Polar M430, a favourite for runners, writes Deepthi Velkur. 

GPS watches and running have become quite synonymous in the energy-sapping world of endurance sports. From professional to weekend runners, nearly everyone seems to have one of these watches to track their every move and using this data to train harder and more efficiently.

Rewind a few years and owning a GPS watch seemed like a piece of luxury but the scenario has drastically changed today. Aside from the original Garmin Forerunners, there were hardly any companies dabbling in the world of GPS watches but with more companies launching wearable GPS watches and the abundant choices in the market to suit every budget, it has become rather commonplace to see one of these devices perched on the wrists of runners.

When it comes to GPS running watches, one of the leading contenders in the market is the Polar M430.

At first glance, the M430 does appear a bit intimidating but as you use it, you realize that the M430 is an effective watch for your looking for the best performance tracking and recording device in the market.

When Polar launched the M400 in September 2014, it took the running world by storm and become Europe’s top-selling running watch in 2015-16. Fast forward 3 years hence and you find that Polar has taken the winning formula of the M400, topped it up with additional hardware and feature thus translating into one hell of a quality product.

The main difference between the M400 and M430 is the addition of an optical Heart Rate Monitor (HRM). The heart rate monitor measures your heart rate round the clock every few minutes or continuously during an activity.

Apart from the HRM, let us take a look at some of the features the M430 has to offer.  

The Polar fitness test – The fitness test uses your heart rate and other data to differentiate the optimum rate at which your heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during an activity. Using this, you can set up and monitor a fitness plan.

Run anywhere – Indoors or outdoors, the integrated GPS tracks your pace, distance, and altitude.

Running program – using the Polar Flow app, you can design a personalized and adaptive training plan.

Running Index – helps you measure how your runs are improving.

Polar Sleep plus – this function provides you with important insights on your sleep patterns and you can use this to develop good sleeping habits and as a result better performance.

GPS – The M430 comes with two GPS tracking options: 1) high accuracy recording mode that pings every second, and 2) low-power mode that pings every 30 seconds.

Final recommendation

The M430 is a brilliant multi-sport watch that performs very well in nearly every category. At INR 30,000, the M430 is a running watch in its purest form at a fairly decent price compared to the competition.

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 Runner who talks to God

The name Fauja Singh is an inspiration to senior runners the world over, Capt Seshadri takes a look at this remarkable runner.

An 89 year old Punjabi man in London, wishing to train for a marathon, landed up at Redbridge, Essex, probably in deference to the formal attire of the country of his residence, dressed in a three piece suit, much to the bemusement of his coach. To further add to the trainer’s surprise, the bearded and turbaned old man confessed that he thought the marathon was run over 26 km and not miles. Not that it mattered at all. His training began in complete earnestness and dedication. The outcome? In 2003, at age 92, he completed the London Marathon in 6:02 and the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 5:40.

This is the saga of Fauja Singh, a name that must now be familiar to every marathon runner across every continent. This was the same person who, born on April 1, 1911, in the village of Beas near Jalandhar, the sports goods capital of India, struggled to walk on his weak and scrawny legs until the age of five. One hundred years later, the very same ‘old’ lad set eight world age group records in a single day at the Ontario Masters Association Invitational Meet: 100 m in 23:14; 200 m in 52:23; 400 m in 2:13:48; 800m in 5:32:18; 1500 m in 11:27: 18; the metric mile in 11:53:45, the 3000 m in 24:52:47 and the 5000 m in 49:57:39. A series of events that no professional athlete would dream of attempting even at the peak of his career!

Where most master athletes would take weeks to recover from such a strenuous ordeal, just three days later, on October 16, 2011, Fauja Singh scripted history as the first centenarian to complete a full 26.2 miler, running the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 8:11:06. Sadly, this amazing feat never made it to the Guinness Book of Records, since he had no birth certificate to prove his age, despite a passport confirmation of his date of birth.

Even though he was undeterred by age and never laid low through injury, this living legend decided to call it quits from competitive running after the Hong Kong Marathon on February 24, 2013, where he completed the 10K in 1:32:28, a timing which is just outside the qualifying limit of 1:30 set for the Tata World 10k, and meant for runners who would qualify as his great grandchildren! The proud moment of his running career was when he carried the Olympic torch in July 2012. The retired Fauja now runs for pleasure, health and charitable causes. Fauja Singh was honoured with the British Empire Medal in 2015, for his outstanding contribution to sports and charity.

The 52 kg, vegetarian Sikh attributes his longevity, stamina and outstanding fitness to his non-meat diet comprising roti, dal, vegetables and curd. Good hydration with plenty of water and ginger tea, early sleep, an abhorrence towards smoking and alcohol, and a professed diet of love and respect from the world around him, keep him going strong. His take on running successful marathons at such an advanced age: “The first 20 miles are not difficult. As for the last 6 miles, I run while talking to God”.

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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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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How to fix Heel Pain?

If you have stepped out of bed and experienced a sharp pain in your heels, then you need to learn these remedies, writes Nandini Reddy.

Painful soles and a feeling like a million needles are pricking your heels is the hallmark symptom of heel pain. This is also the first symptom that tells you that the connective tissue in your sole is strained and inflammed and you could be seeing an onset of plantar fasciitis.

Once you experience this heel pain, the recovery period is long and slow. If you are in pain already or if you wish to avoid the injury then there are few cautionary tips for you to follow:

Re-think you training program

If you are experiencing heel pain then you need to inform your running coach or work with a physiotherapist who can alter your program. You will need to make changes in your speed, distance, gear and running terrains. Hilly and uneven terrain should be completely avoided as long as you have the heel pain. Work on getting different footwear that will support your foot.

Balance Rest and Stress

Opt for a running shoe that is a better fit. You will need to find a shoe with better arch support and cushioning on the heel. This will be less stressful on your foot. Get used to the new shoes by walking in them first. Strengthen and repair your damaged tissue and the surrounding muscles that offer support to the foot. Calf strengthening exercises are extremely important and your core stability is also paramount.

Relieve your Symptoms

Use a foot roller or a tennis ball and move your foot over it to relieve the muscle pain. You can also use a frozen water bottle to relieve the pain. These are for temporary relief of symptoms only. There are massage therapies available to manage the pain as well. These may not resolve the problem but are useful for temporary relief.

Don’t stop moving

Resting and not moving will not improve your problem. Aerobic exercise is the best way to take care of an inflammation. If you find it difficult to run then opt for an elliptical machine or running in a swimming pool. Essentially opt for a low-impact exercise that doesn’t put pressure on your foot.

Suggested Exercises

Calf raises are the best exercise to do to repair your heels. This exercise improves tissue quality and stretches out the stressed tissue bringing relief. This also works on the surrounding muscles and strengthens them as well. This can be done several times through the day.

The most important thing to remember is that recovering from heel pain needs patience.

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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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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Liquid Diet for Marathon Recovery

Recovery food for marathon should be easy to digest, so a liquid diet might be the best thing for you, writes Nandini Reddy.

After finishing a tiring race it is important to reach for the right nutrition to aid your recovery. A liquid diet might be gentler on the stomach instead of an all-you-eat meal. The bright neon coloured electrolytes are great but there is also an array of choices that are available from natural sources.

How to choose your recovery drink?

A recovery drink should ideally be consumed 20-30 minutes post the run. If you wait longer then that means that your body won’t repair itself fast enough. The choice of drink should allow for the most efficient recovery of your muscles. It should give you the right nutrients to restore your energy levels. Milk is a natural protein that you can consider having post your race. If you want carbs then you can get them from fruit or vegetable sugars. Sports drinks are also heavy on your wallet so these natural options are more economical to consider. If you don’t like artificial sports drinks then there rare plenty of options that you can consider that are naturally available.

Coconut Water – Coconut water is rich in potassium and is perfect to maintain water balance in the body and also assist the muscles in relaxing optimally. The natural sugars in the water give your body enough carbs before and after a race. It is best had either 60 mins before the run or after.

Chocolate Milk – This drink isn’t just a kid favourite but is also a great meal option for post-run recovery for marathon runners. It speeds up recovery and is better than any sports drinks you might consider. The mix is rich in calcium and Vitamin D that assist in muscle recovery.

Vegetable Juice – A 100% vegetable juice that leaves in the fibre is a great recovery drink. The fibre is light enough on your stomach and the nutrients and anti-oxidants that you will get will help relieve the stress. These juices have more potassium and sodium that sports drinks, making them the better choice.

Banana Shake – For the vegans you can try a shake made from coconut milk and bananas. Its a great alternative if you are lactose intolerant also. It gives you enough carbs and proteins that are essential for a post-run recovery.

Tea/Coffee – Caffeine will provide you with a jolt that you need to boost your running performance. Tea is rich in anti-oxidants and drinking a cup of tea or coffee 45 mins before or after a run will energize you.

These drinks are refreshing and can also recharge your body. So give the shot after your next race!

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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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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