Motivation Comments Off on Don’t stop running |

Don’t stop running

Protima Tiwary speaks to Lokesh Meena who has clocked over 250 marathons since he started running in 2015. 

A government employee with a tight schedule and an interest in running, Lokesh Meena has run over 260 marathons in the USA since 2015! We caught up with him to understand how he continues to sign up for races every weekend even as a hectic career and family call for his attention.

What motivated you to take up running?

I am an employee with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India since 2009. Before I started working, I was a regular guy who didn’t keep fitness as the main priority, but at the same time, I was considered fit enough to play cricket once in a while. From 2010-2014 I was stationed at a high altitude post at Lusaka, Zambia. The altitude made it difficult to do too many exercises. I became lazy and physically inactive, a fact that my colleagues pointed out too. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I decided to join a few colleagues who’d go for morning walks. I then got transferred to Washington D.C. where I saw how people were physically active and knew how to take care of their bodies. Fitness was a priority for everyone, and it drove me to make it mine.

Inspired by the fitness levels around me, I started running too. My first jog was out in the snow, and I covered a total distance of 0.5miles. I started jogging 2-3 times a week and made it my habit.

So…is this how you took up running? Could you please share the results that you saw.

I weighed myself after a couple of months after I started jogging and saw that I had GAINED WEIGHT. Yes, even with all the running I had managed to put on weight. That is because of my diet- I’d run, come back & eat desserts because I thought I had earned them. Seeing that weight gain demotivated me. I slowly made some diet changes and got back to running, this time longer distances. I also cut out sugar, fried and fast food from my diet.

The difference was visible within a few months. I was losing 2kgs every week! I was also running 25 miles every week, with strict diet control.

I came across an 8km race in my neighbourhood and signed up for it. This was in September 2015. I finished this race in 37minutes 57 seconds. The runners high hit me and I was ecstatic. I then started running a race every week!

So far I have run about 260+ races in the USA which includes 25 ultra- marathons, Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon (twice), Philadelphia Marathon, Rock n Roll Washington D.C, The North Face Endurance Challenge Washington D.C. being some of those.

Could you share some of your major achievements in your running career till date?

March 2, 2018, was undoubtedly the best moment in my running career when I was selected to represent India at the World Trail Championship 2018 in Spain by the Athletics Federation of India.

In June 2018, I won my first ever full Marathon, Grant-Pierce Indoor Marathon in Arlington, Virginia, the United States on June 24, 2018.  My timing was the Asian & Indian Best (confirmed by The Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS)) I had set an Indian National Record and Asian Record!

I also qualified for the Boston Marathon in April 2017. It is considered to be the Olympics of amateur runners and I was stoked to find out that I had qualified.

You must have a hectic schedule. How do you find time for running?

Allow me to share one of my favourite quotes by Henry Ford -“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Running has improved my productivity. Plus I understand the importance of discipline and deadlines, and being fit helps me stay focused on the task at hand. I also have the support of a lovely wife Nirma who helps raise our three beautiful daughters. My family has been an immense source of strength and support and always encouraged me to go after my dreams.

How do you train?

I usually run with a lot of people because I feel immense joy in doing this together. For trail runs, I exercise at the gym and also go hiking and outdoor cycling. For bigger races, I usually train with a coach. I hired a coach for 10 months while I was preparing for the Boston Marathon where I ran 100 miles a week.

For training, one has got to be consistent. Strength and core training play a big role. Hills training also plays a big part as hill running builds muscle strength. I do gym strength training 3-4 times in a week.   A positive outlook about life also a key factor in running. “More importantly you cannot fake in running.”

What have been some of your greatest learnings through running?

  1. Never give up, no matter what the results say. Failure cannot dictate the rest of your days.
  2. Marathons are great teachers. Marathons make you humbler.
  3. Show up. Showing up is always the secret to success.

Any tips you’d like to share with us on how to stay strong during the race? 

Stay positive! You don’t need negative thoughts clouding your judgement Also, don’t compare yourself to anyone, you’re all running your own race. And of course, train well.

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 Devil’s Circuit Tests Your Mind Like Never Before |

Devil’s Circuit Tests Your Mind Like Never Before

Protima Tiwary just completed the toughest obstacle course, the Devil’s circuit and she shares her journey here.

As of 2019, I have been going to the gym for over a year now. Before that, I used to be a runner for almost 2 years, easily clocking in 7 km 4 times a week. I had run a handful of marathons to test my stamina and focus, but I really tested my strength? In hindsight, I feel the answer to this is no because what I did on 20th January 2019 beat all other tests that I had ever taken. This was the day I successfully completed 13 out of 15 obstacles in India’s toughest obstacle race, the Devil’s Circuit.

When I had seen the race registration details in 2018, I gave myself some time to think about it before signing up. Basically what I did was give myself enough time to lose focus and let fear take over my mind, because I did not sign up for the race last year, giving myself the reason that I could never do this. This time around things were different because I signed up without really thinking about what was going to happen. All that I knew was that I had to train and train hard. I had to see if all that gym, diet, discipline and routine was of any good. I signed up knowing this would be the ultimate test of all that I had worked from over the last few years.

After having suffered an injury in October 2017, getting back to the gym in April 2018 had been an intimidating task. I was back to lifting 5 kgs and struggling to maintain form. But over the months I slowly built strength and felt stronger than I ever had before. Signing up for the Devils Circuit required just a few rearrangements in the training plan, with a shift in focus to upper body workouts. I started 2018 with the ability to do zero pull-ups, ended it with the ability to 4 (even 5) at a stretch.

I will be honest, I didn’t let myself think about the fact that I was taking part in India’s toughest obstacle race, because I am aware of what fear does to me. I have lived a large part of my life being anxious and scared of things. This time I wanted to do things differently. The only time I actually gave a thought to the obstacles was when I was a few metres away from them. This in itself is such great progress! Working out trained my mind too, something I realised as I stayed focused on performance.

I balanced myself 15 feet high on a bar

The first obstacle required us to climb 15 feet high and then climb back down. It looked easy from the spectator stand, but I understood the intensity of this obstacle when I was halfway up the actual obstacle!  Going up on top and throwing one leg over the pole to shift your side, and then climbing back down requires a change in your centre of gravity. When this happens 15 feet high up in the air with nothing but your core to keep you stable, and that you happen to be scared of heights… Well, you know how it goes. Panic almost got the better of me. Before I threw my leg over to the other side, I wanted to shut my eyes and cry. I looked down at the mattress 15 feet below me. I said to myself- look, if you fall, you fall 15 feet on to that. You won’t get hurt but it’s better to be in control than give up. By reflex, I tightened my core and threw my leg over the pole at the top. I climbed down, happy at my performance, and jumped the last 6 feet. I ran a couple of meters before turning back to look at the obstacle and cursed loudly in celebration.

After this initial shock and adrenaline rush, I crossed the next couple of hurdles only because I had to. I mean there was no other way about it.

I froze in fear

I would have said no to the fourth one had it not been for people asking me to give it one try. This required you to jump up, hold onto a bar, pull yourself up and roll over to land on top of the obstacle. All of this was happening 12 feet in the air. Not like I had some great core strength or balance or even upper body strength to balance, but I jumped up, had a little support given to me on the back, and before I knew it I was putting my leg on the bar and rolling over to land on top. I celebrated this moment by standing there and just enjoying the view, but I also think I went wrong in doing this because I ended up looking down, got scared of the height, and literally froze on top of the obstacle for a couple of minutes. The height was intimidating.  This time there was no soft mattress to cushion my fall. If I fell, I fell 12 feet on to the ground. It took me 5 minutes to climb down because I was frozen stiff with fear. Once down I ran without looking back.

I crossed monkey bars and hanging tires, only thinking about three things: core conditioning, the centre of gravity and the fact that I had to do the obstacles because there really was no other way out of it.

My favourite obstacles were the ones in water, mostly because I love water and hate heights, which basically meant it was love versus fear for me. I crawled through trenches and did muscle ups in water without much of a problem, plus my body felt more at ease doing these movements.

I conquered a childhood fear  

I am super proud of one particular obstacle- this required us to climb a height of 10 feet and jump into the water which was 4ft deep. As a child, I have been trained to be a swimmer, but one thing they couldn’t get me to do was jump into the pool (even if it meant from the deck of the pool.) While I was climbing onto the top of this particular obstacle, I told myself “ Nope, you’re not waiting here to see what the height is like. You jump because there’s no other way to go back.” I cleared this within seconds. I landed in water prepared for all of it to come rushing up at me. I smiled while doing a muscle up to get out of this pool, proud of myself for having let love win.

I plunged into a pool filled with ice

The last obstacle deserves an elaborate mention only because I feel this is the star of all the obstacles at the race. Sliding into a pool filled with ice does not require anything other than strong grit and determination. Once again I told myself I wouldn’t stop at the top of this obstacle. I climbed up the inclined slope (slipping and getting back up twice) and immediately sat on top of the slide. I was three seconds away from the toughest, coldest slide of my life. When my body hit that ice cold water, the world stopped. My body was in shock. I remember the first emotion being panic. But once again I am extremely proud of the fact that the voice in my head asked me to keep moving, to swim through, do a muscle up even when I couldn’t feel my body and get out. This too took me a few seconds to clear. Once out, I started jogging on the spot to get some life back into my cold, numb body. I know it sounds like a simple slide into ice, but the three seconds before you hit the ice are the toughest- you either regret what you are doing, or are proud of what you have done. I wanted to celebrate all that I had achieved. Yes, I had successfully completed India’s toughest obstacle race.

Here’s what  I learnt

Honestly, this wasn’t only about physical fitness. I knew rope climbing & muscle ups required an immense amount of upper body strength, and I had prepared myself for it. There is still a long way to go, but it felt good to know that I could manage, and if life calls for some really extreme situations, I know I am physically fit enough to get out of them.

More importantly, this was about testing your mental strength. It is so easy to let panic overwhelm you, it is so easy to freeze, it is so easy to give up. I ended this race knowing that giving up or saying “I can’t do this didn’t occur to me even once” The amount of self-awareness and confidence this gives you is not something that I can put into words. All that I really know is that if your mind says you can achieve something, your body makes sure you will do it. This goes for fitness and in life. I woke up the next morning a little sore, a little bruised, but a lot happy.

If you asked me whether I would do this again, I won’t even think twice before saying YES.

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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Motivation Comments Off on An Entrepreneur. Ultra-marathoner. Dreamer. |

An Entrepreneur. Ultra-marathoner. Dreamer.

Taher Merchant talks to Deepthi Velkur about how his quest to leading a healthier life led him towards running.

As parents and working professionals, we often neglect ourselves or things we love – don’t we?

“Carve out and claim the time to care for yourself and kindle your own fire” – Amy Ippoliti.

In talking with Taher, this quote came to mind and it fit his story perfectly – how he decided to make time for himself and things he loves, like spending time with his wife for instance or staying healthy.

In his quest for a healthier life, Taher decided to take up running on a whim and that progressively turned into an obsession. His incredible running journey has seen him achieve some amazing personal milestones like becoming the first Indian male to successfully complete the Tenzing Hillary Everest Extreme Ultra-marathon (in 2018).

Running milestones aside, he currently is an athlete for Fast & Up Nutrition, Puma and has been an ambassador for “Life is calling” in 2018.

FM: What kindled your interest to take up running?

Taher: Running was born of out a need to spend quality time with my wife, Soraya.  We are both busy individuals and like most couples needed our “me” time. So, we decided to make that time while working towards a healthier lifestyle. Running was the first thing that came to mind and we started running in Rani Kittur Chennama stadium in Jayanagar. Once we began, I saw a marked improvement in my fitness, energy levels and realized that I truly enjoyed running. That’s when I figured that I wanted to be a serious runner and push myself to achieve something.

FM: Running a business takes a lot out of you. How do you find time for training and participate in various events?

Taher: It’s funny because most of my friends don’t believe that I work as I am always either running or training. Being a part of a family-owned business is a blessing – my dad is my backbone and has always supported my training and always steps in when I have to take a step back from work. I run a tight ship at work and have a fantastic team that runs the show when I am training and running around the globe. It’s important to make time for the things you love, and running is one of my great loves.

FM: When did your association with JJ’s (Jayanagar Jaguars) running club begin? How has joining this club helped you?

Taher: I ran a few marathons in 2014 and 2015 as an amateur and I realized that to further develop my running technique and endurance, I would need professional coaching – that led me to join Jayanagar Jaguars in 2016.  Under Coach Pramod’s tutelage, I have been able to dramatically improve my running technique and endurance over several marathons.

FM: You were one of the first Indians to complete the gruelling Everest marathon – care to share your experience?

Taher: I realized that high-altitude running excited me – it was challenging and exhilarating. I felt connected with nature and everything around me – this was more than a runner’s high, it was my calling. I wanted to participate in one of the most difficult races in the world and wanted to be the first Indian man to finish it.

As I researched the Mt. Everest ultra-marathon, the reality of it hit me – it was going to be challenging, it required disciplined preparation and it would keep me away from my family.  Truth be told, I was scared but I made it my mission, my ultimate goal, to run the Everest ultra-marathon in 2018.

I started training and my coach put me on a new training regimen – finishing 1111KM in 12 weeks. He was determined to push me – physically and mentally.  This was an invaluable gift- it helped deeply condition my mind and body. I ran several marathons as part of my training, focusing on improving my endurance, pacing, strength and timing.

Initially, as I trained, I kept my mission a secret, from my friends and family.  My concern stemmed from the feeling that everyone would try to dissuade me given the difficulty and risks of running such a challenging race. I finally broke the news to my coach, family and friends and on hearing the news were stunned but at the same time very supportive of my decision.

It was an 11-day trek to the Everest Base Camp which is the starting point of the race. The primary advice to the entire group by our trek guide was to take each day at a time, acclimatize, eat well, drink lots of liquids and sleep well. Our trek route was mapped out thoroughly to ensure that we’d be able to acclimatize to the weather, the incline, and stay safe and healthy.

Each day on the trek was memorable – I met friendly and curious locals while witnessing the ever-changing terrain and weather.  As we ascended, the air became thinner and breathing also became quite challenging but we were sustained by healthy meals, balancing proteins and carbohydrates so that we replenish our bodies and energy levels.

On the morning of May 29th, we all gathered at the start line.  With the temperature at sub-zero, the ultra-marathon had begun. I had one goal – run the race sans injuries. After Gorakshep, the terrain improved slightly and I felt much more confident and started running to get to the 23 km checkpoint.  It was at this point that the race got really exciting and challenging for me as we’d now be running over several hills. We were given a Nepali support runner to help us navigate through the hills. 11 hours into the race, the skies got progressively darker and snow started falling.  It was magical but the terrain started getting treacherous and I needed to make a big decision – do I risk running in the dark through the snow or should I find a safe refuge for the night, take a 4-hour penalty and resume my journey the next morning? I decided to take a break!

The next morning, I started running at 6 and pushed myself over the next 3 hrs. As I got closer to the finish line, I became quite emotional.  I thought of my family who’d stood by me like a rock, my friends who kept motivating me and last but not least, the man who’d helped me push my body and mind this far, my coach Pramod Deshpande. I finally crossed the finish at 9.05am becoming the first Indian male to ever finish the Everest Extreme Ultra. My dream had become my reality.

Elated, joyful, relieved, my immediate priority was getting back home to my wife, kids and family.  I just wanted to celebrate this moment with them.

FM: Nutrition plays a big role in every athlete’s life. How do you plan your nutrition?

Taher: Nutrition is the cornerstone for any athlete. I use Fast & Up products prior, during and post my workout. BCAA is something I swear by for recovery of my muscles. I have Ryan Fernando from Qua Nutrition on my team who plans my nutritional needs. My typical day consists of eating small meals throughout the day. A lot of greens, nuts and of course butter chicken and biryani once a week. My current intake is of about 2400 calories a day. Ryan is working to bringing it down to 2000 calories a day as it is a race requirement for a multi-day race I am taking part in soon.

FM: Marathons/Ultra-marathons do not always go as per plan. How do you strategize and finish strong in a race?

Taher: Ultra-marathon is a solo running sport. It is a fine balance between the mind and body. I make sure that I am mentally prepared because after a point the legs don’t do the job, the heart and head do it. I make sure that as I approach the mid-way mark I visualize the finish line. This motivates me and strengthens my resolve to finish the race.

FM: Your most recent event was the Ultra Tuffman Desert Championship, Jaisalmer. What was it like to be a part of this race?

Taher: The Tuffman Ultra was an event I was really looking forward to. I was excited to run in the desert on the dunes. The course was flat and easy with hot days and really cold nights. The race started at 5 pm at the Mirwana resort, Jaisalmer. We were instructed for safety reasons to run loops of 1km till 7 am the next morning. The initial 10kms were a breeze and I was just getting warmed up when I twisted my ankle, but I continued.  Around the 25th Km, I picked up the pace and closed in on the man in the first position. I was thrilled and kept going at a constant pace when the unexpected happened.  At the 38th Km, I twisted my ankle for the second time and the pain was immense. I slowed down and continued to walk knowing that I could complete this race even if I walked for the next 20 hrs. As I was walking on course, limping actually, I thought of the long term consequences of walking on a swollen ankle. It could gravely derail my race plans for the future. I had to take a call, a very difficult one.  For the first time in seven years, I have had to pull out of a race. It took a while for it to sink it but I did what I believed was best for me on that day. We all have good days and bad days. I know I will bounce back stronger than ever. Overall it was a race in a beautiful destination with good support staff. I will try to go back in 2019 and conquer it.

FM: Which has been your best and worst race so far? Why?

Taher: The best race has undoubtedly been the Everest Ultra. I have taught me a lot as a runner. I don’t think I could ever have a bad or “worst” race because each race has had a purpose in teaching me more about myself, my limits and what I can achieve.

FM: You are constantly raising the bar for yourself with every run. What drives you?

Taher: It comes from within. Growing up, I was always taught that I was my toughest competition. I was fortunate enough to be in a home where there was no pressure to compete with anyone, but yourself. Being the best version of me was always a top priority. Whether it was business, or a hobby, at the end of the day, I always pushed myself to be the best I could be. With running, I achieved what most people around me thought was impossible with the support of my family. I was unhealthy and overweight when I began my running journey. Now, when I have reached what most people think is my pinnacle, I ask myself my favourite question – What next? and that keeps me going.

FM: If there was one quality which running imbibed in you, what would it be?

Taher: Discipline. No matter what you do, without discipline, nothing works. Overcoming so many obstacles showed me the power of faith.  But most of all running has taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to.

FM: What running goals do you have for the next few years?

Taher: I would like to take part in the UTMB (The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) someday. in April 2019, I will participate in one of the most difficult trail races in the world – The Marathon Des Sables, Morocco which is a self-supported 250km race across the Sahara Desert. In July 2019, I will participate in The DFBG Ultra Marathon in Poland and later this year, I will be participating in a mountain race called the Solang Sky Ultra.

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 Off on Trail Running Shoes to Consider |

Trail Running Shoes to Consider

If you are looking for the perfect shoes for trail running then we have two suggestions for you here, writes Deepthi Velkur.

Tired of running on polluted, crowded streets? The sea of people a bit unnerving? If the answer to the two questions is yes, then trail running is a good idea for you.

Deena Kastor, an eight-time American cross-country champion once quoted, “To me, heaven on earth is exploring on a trail”. As you run through lush green forests, rolling hills and gorgeous plains, heaven certainly is a thought that comes to mind.

Imagine avoiding trees, rocks, branches and boulders instead of people on the street – sounds like fun doesn’t it? Trail running is more engaging, more fun and definitely more scenic. You don’t need heaps of specialized gear to run a trail but there is one thing that will make your run a whole lot easier and safer too – the right kind of footwear.

Difference between a trail running shoe and a road running shoe

The main difference between the two is the traction on the sole. In a trail running shoe, the sole has deeper lugs for a bigger surface area. The upper part is usually knit meshed to avoid debris from entering the shoe. Also, trail shoes generally have a lower offset where the heel height is lower than that of the toe height making it relatively flatter thus providing a stable platform to run on.

Choosing a trail running shoe can be daunting so we’ve taken a shot at providing information on two excellent shoes that could be part of your trail running gear.

Salomon Speedcross 4 CS

This is a trail running shoe that is built for the toughest trails out there. It is designed keeping in mind comfort and protection on the long, challenging runs.

The first thing you notice when you wear them is the reinforced outsole. The outsole is patented Contagrip Wet Traction, the best shoes you can buy for traction which come with deep lugs and soft rubber ensuring durability and providing maximum grip.  It offers more traction against slippery conditions, steep up and downhill terrains. The uppers are water-resistant, reinforced, abrasion-resistant and have an anti-debris mesh that protects debris from entering the shoe. The CS variant (ClimaShield) allows the foot to breathe bringing a quick drying in the forefoot area.

The toggle lacing system and sockliner offer a secure, supportive fit and there is a good level of cushioning around the ankle. On the trails, you will appreciate the cushioning in the footbed and sole.

Underneath, the design and placement of the studs ensure that mud doesn’t clog up thus ensuring a consistent grip. The drop is 10 mm which provides for great cushioning. It also has an enhanced Lightweight Muscle midsole and a molded EVA band which ensures stability in addition to the cushioning.

Features

Weight :297g
Heel Height :33mm
Forefoot Height :22mm
Drop :10mm

Overall, this is a shoe designed for soft, wet and rugged terrains and while expensive (retailing at INR 13,000 on www.amazon.in), they certainly pack a punch in terms of durability and safety. One drawback though – they can’t be used for road running.

Hoka One One Torrent (pronounced “Hoka O-nay O-nay”)

The rather interesting name means “now it is time to fly” in Maori. The torrent is a trail running shoe that is super lightweight, agile, and technical allowing runners to tackle any terrain.

Hoka One One shoes are known for their premium cushioning and the torrent doesn’t disappoint. The midsole provides for a lot of cushioning without comprising on the responsiveness of the shoe. The multidirectional lugs underneath the shoe offer good traction both up and down hill. They offer a lot in terms of breathability ensuring your feet don’t get too hot and sweaty on those long runs.

The Hoka One One Torrent achieves a fine balance between agility and traction at 254g offer one sweet running experience.

Features

  • Weight: 254g (size EU 42)
  • Forefoot height: 18mm
  • Heel height: 23mm
  • Drop: 5mm

Priced at INR 8,100 on www.runnerinn.com, the Hoka One One Torrent is a good investment considering that this can be used for trail runs, road running and other ultra-runs.

In conclusion, both of these shoes are a good investment with the Hoka One One holding a slight advantage as it can be used across trails as well as road runs.

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 Bruce Fordyce – The Ultra Runner |

Bruce Fordyce – The Ultra Runner

As the countdown to the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019 begins, Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan catches up with the legendary ultra-marathoner Bruce Fordyce, an astounding 9 time champion of the Comrades.

Over a cosy chat, Bruce reveals the facets of one of the most gruelling races in the world and what made him do it.

Capt: What exactly is the Comrades all about?

Bruce: It is a run that was conceived in 1921 by Vic Clapham, a WW I veteran, to commemorate his South African colleagues killed during the war. Vic, the survivor of both the war and a 2,700 km march through the then German occupied East Africa, dedicated the event to their memory as a frontier of endurance.

Capt: Wow! That is almost a hundred years old. So how does the ‘comradeship’ work with the participants?

Bruce: That is the sad part. Many of the athletes I have run with and, in fact, most of the competitors, are sadly unaware of the legend behind the event. In fact, its constitution states its main objective as ‘celebrating mankind’s spirit over adversity’. At the end of each year’s race, the buglers play the ‘Last Post’. Unfortunately, very few seem to even recognize the tune, leave alone understand its significance as a tribute to the fallen.

Capt: That is quite sad. Still, do tell us about your experiences with the Comrades over the years.

Bruce: Well, I started as a kind of social runner in the first couple of years, but from the third year on, finding my timings improving, I got a bit more serious about it. And with my first win, there was no looking back. It can get pretty lonely; many a time there is no one near you, unlike the flatter marathons where runners bunch up together and then someone breaks out of the crowd. Here, there is no crowd, and me, especially as defending champion over the years, I had to keep looking for a contender to compete with.

Capt: This is an up and down race as I recall reading. What exactly is this?

Bruce: This has to do with running up and down from Durban to Pietermaritzburg and back. The route alternates every other year.

Capt: So which, in your opinion, is tougher? The up, or the down?

Bruce: Well, it’s obviously the same thing, but different runners look at them differently. You just don’t think about it and take it in your stride. Speaking for myself, I have fared better in the ‘up’ run, having won it 6 times against 3 of the ‘downs’.

Capt: What special preparation does the Comrades require, as opposed to normal marathons?

Bruce: It’s not much different actually. If you look at it, the Comrades is probably the oldest and the toughest ultramarathon in the world. I took each year as a project, planned the run and timings and, importantly, made sure I didn’t take too much stress in the first half.

Capt: I see that your wife Jill is accompanying you. Jill, do you normally do this? And do you run too?

Jill: Oh no. It’s not often that I accompany him. And I do run, but not to compete. Bruce does the serious running; I enjoy the 10Ks. We have travelled the world together though, and I try and make the best of my interests along the way.

Capt: And your experiences in India? With marathons and other interests?

Bruce: I see that India is becoming a big name in marathons and similar running events. I have come here several times. In fact, I brought a team down from South Africa way back in 2007; unfortunately, we did not give a great account of ourselves. But it’s great to be back and see the participation increase year after year.

Capt: Alright. Enough about running. What else do you look forward to in India? Jill, your turn now.

Jill: Oh I love this country. I would love to see a lot of wildlife, nature…

Capt: Wildlife? Hailing from Africa, the world’s safari destination?

Jill: Each country is diverse and that is what attracts me. I am also a history lover and India has so many exotic locations on offer.

Bruce: I have a deep interest in archaeology and history and India is so diverse in both. Any visit would be a bit vacant without these.

Capt: Bruce. Back to running and a final question for you. What would your message be for aspiring long distance runners?

Bruce: Long distance running is like making fine wine. It takes time, patience, and a lot of effort. You have to learn and get accustomed to the process. Yes, get used to running; running well and running controlled.

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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Events Comments Off on 10 reasons to run the Jaipur Marathon |

10 reasons to run the Jaipur Marathon

In its 10th year, the AU Bank Jaipur Marathon has grown to become a must run on every serious marathoner’s calendar, Nandini Reddy writes about the marathon that got Jaipur running.

Way back in 2010 the Jaipur Marathon had its first event in a city that was unfamiliar with running long distances. A crowd that was accustomed to running 3-5 kms was suddenly waking up to the challenge of a half marathon distance completely unprepared. While the event had enthusiastic participation, it also gave rise to the Jaipur Runners, running club and many other running groups in the city. Over the years the marathon has grown in distance and numbers and today in its 10th edition it offers a full range of options for all runner categories. You can choose now to register for a full, half and 10k marathon. There is also a fun category where the family can also participate.

The Au Jaipur Marathon has been growing leaps and bounds since its inception and has garnered an overwhelming backing from eminent personalities, audacious army men and policemen, resourceful corporate houses, painstaking sportspersons, devoted NGO’s, schools and colleges. The Maharaja of Jaipur H H Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh is the Youth Ambassador of AU Jaipur Marathon.

 

One of the biggest attractions for many runners has been the scenic route of the Jaipur marathon. The race takes you past some of the most famous landmarks such as Ram Niwas Garden Jaipur, Albert Hall Museum,Kesargarh,Dolls Museum,Tri Murti Circle,Ravindra Manch, Birla Mandir, University of Rajasthan,Kulish Smriti Van, and the World Trade Park, Jaipur and one of the biggest circular park in Asia Jawahar Circle.

Here are the 10 reasons why you should run the Jaipur Marathon

  1. All woman pacer ground in all running categories
  2. A full offering for all runners – FM, HM, 10k and 5k
  3. A scenic route that gives you a great view of all the major monuments of Jaipur
  4. The course is fast with less elevation and no sharp turns
  5. Entertainment and motivation points along the course with music and cheering teams
  6. Professionally managed event with ample aid and water stations
  7. Pleasant weather with no humidity making it the ideal running weather
  8. It is a great marathon to run with the family, as it is safe with plenty of volunteers for assistance
  9. It supports a wide variety of charities so you are not just running for your health but also to support others
  10. After and before race activities in the heritage city is a major attraction.

The AU Jaipur Marathon brings people together to celebrate fitness, health and life along the course. If you are an enthusiastic runner then this is the place you need to be.

Register today to be part of the running festival on Feb 3, 2019. Click here to register. 

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 Comments Off on Installing the Running App |

Installing the Running App

Marathon Runners Riku and Rohini, are a couple who just can’t stop thinking about running.

“If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it.”

I read this quote on some blog once and the more I think about it, the more relevant it becomes to me. We (Riku and Rohini) are a couple that just can’t stop thinking about running. Running has taken over many aspects of our lives – our weekends, travel, vacations, shopping lists, going out, food – everything has “running” written all over it. When we started out, neither of us imagined that running will play such a big part in our daily lives. When a family runs together that is how much running takes over your daily life. We become “runners” first.

I could never have imagined an “amateur runner” with no professional aspirations defining themselves as a “runner”. We never hear about anyone defining themselves as “I am a footballer” – if you do, you might think they play professionally, at least at club level. But you’ll be surprised to know that “I am a runner” is a common self-description among runners as they think of running as a big part of their identity.

Wonder why?

Simple – the effect and changes that running brings about are immense. To be able to run well, run injury-free and enjoy the sport you will need to make big, big lifestyle changes.

There’s not a day that will go by where you won’t think about running and yourself as a runner – that’s the effect it has. Give running enough time, and you will see that it will slowly change your diet, your sleeping habits, your attitude towards work and life, and of course, it changes your body.

Come to think of it, “Running is like a very well-designed life-coach app – it takes over your life gradually and makes it better”.

In fact, we often joke that taking up running was exactly like installing an app. This app, once installed in our lives, starts asking for a lot of permissions. It wants to change the very basic aspects of who we are – such as when we sleep, what we eat, what we are supposed to find rewarding, what takes up maximum space in our living room, what we should do on weekends, there is just no end it.

Fighting with the Running “App”.

Of course, just like we might with any nosy app, we can deny some of the permissions. For example:

“Hey, Running App, no I am not going to modify my diet for you. I am not going to have a protein shake or start having almonds and bananas every day…”

We can insist:

“No, ice cream is one thing I am not going to give up on.”

Or:

“Beetroot is my sworn enemy in life, no never!”

Or:
“I can never sleep before 11 PM, I am a night owl!”

And so on…

But then the app starts acting cranky. It refuses to perform well. It nags you with popup messages until you give it the permission to modify the setting. You might repeatedly tell the app that I have installed you to make me fit without having to make all these extra changes, but the “app” eventually wins – you will end up giving all the permissions!

“I have lost this battle, but I will win the war” – Anna Kournikova

That’s exactly how I felt when I gave in to everything the running app wanted from me but, I’m not complaining. We love running and everything that it has brought for us as a couple.

Looking back now, it wasn’t easy to get started or even persevere once started. I lead an active life growing up – martial arts, cricket, basketball, running, a lot of fun. Going out to play was not something I had to plan, it just happened, it was an indulgence. In Rohini’s case, it was much the same, she was more the studious one, with a bit of yoga and cricket till her college years.

But, as it happens with most working professionals, you lose touch with that part of your life. You start making compromises by giving up on your “workouts” (now called “workouts” and not “playtime”!), and instead indulge in a lot of “fun” (read, eating!). All that “fun” coupled with a lifetime’s worth of sitting down – at your desk, on the couch, in the car – is a perfect recipe for an unhealthy body and mind.

As a result of all this neglect, your body starts to change slowly. Many accept this and let it be a part of their new self-image – a chubby happy person, postponing all thoughts of health to a later date. But for some of us, who remain at least partly health-conscious, these changes bug us – we feel guilty, we try diets, we occasionally take a break from our sitting to walk around a park or two.

We did the same too. I tried squeezing in runs every week or so but then I indulged in food even more for the extra work done. When play becomes work, then work needs more rewards – it is a bad cycle to be in. I tried gyms, sports, sports apps, forcing myself to do cardio, but there seemed to be no way out – the more you try to get results, the more frustrating it is to not have any, and the easier it is to stop. The real issue, as we realized later, is that most of our activities have a short-term focus – we want results, and fast. As long as we have that myopic view of why we are being active, it is just not sustainable.

These sporadic attempts went on… until one February, a cousin of ours convinced us to sign up for a TCS 10k event. I was not very sold on the idea of paying money to run, but eventually, we all signed up and started “training” for the event, if we can call it that. Suddenly things were different – there was something to target, there was progress to be measured, it was as if the meaning of the workouts had changed – instead of a short-term thing of working out and expecting daily or weekly results – now all the focus on results had been pushed 3-4 months down the line. It is a lot easier to work out regularly when you are not expecting results every week, and facing the disappointments of not seeing those results.

Weekly runs were a part of life now, but it was not yet enjoyable – but, it was doable and that was good enough. After TCS, came longer runs and longer races – running was tough, but the weighing balance was cooperating, fitness levels were increasing. Good enough. Right?
No! The app had been installed. It was starting to ask for permissions!

Jayanagar Jaguars calling.

In one of the longer races, as I struggled through the latter part of it, I noticed a girl visibly less fit than me, running with a lot more ease and comfort. She was running with a group of other runners; all clad in the trademark white tees of the Jayanagar Jaguars. I knew of the JJs, but I had just recently convinced myself that it is ok to pay money to run races! I had no intention of spending money on training runs as well, but something clicked seeing them run. They seemed to be enjoying it, running was not a workout for them – it seemed like the “playtime” of old. Maybe running in a group is the key… I managed to convince Rohini and we decided to give it a try for a season and see. Little did we know that we had just given the Running App a lot more control over our lives! Now, it had another avenue to convince us to do things – on top of guilt and motivation, now there was peer pressure added, for the app to work its magic on us!

Next season we were both enrolled, soon built up a new set of friends, or rather “Run Buddies”, and every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday we had our scheduled “playtime” when we get to go out enjoy, run a bit, of course, and come back feeling really good about ourselves. The JJs are a very eclectic group of runners and we get runners of all levels of fitness coming together, from elites to people just realizing the importance of getting active. It is very rare to find this kind of a group with varying experiences and goals, coming together and supporting each other. Constant fitness and diet chit-chat was a weekly ritual now and as we imbibed the wisdom of veteran runners and people who have achieved major transformations, we all become fitter, faster, better. With no extra effort, or at least, it felt that way! The running app soon had all the permissions it needed, we had stopped fighting with it, and it is functioning smoothly now. Occasionally, there are slip-ups, but we have the support system of fellow runners to get us back on track. It is a great new cycle to be in, where you are always pushed to give your best, and when you don’t, you are gently coaxed back into it.

What we have learned over the last few years is that yes, fitness is a choice, but if you can get out of the “workout” mentality of having to force yourself to do it, that is the first crucial step. You have to figure out a way to enjoy workouts. Running is a social activity which feels like a part of human nature, and there is something about running together that changes you if you let it. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, install the running app, give it the permissions it needs, and go out to play more!

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNISTS

 

Riku and Rohini, a couple who trains with Jayanagar Jaguars in Bengaluru. Riku works at an EdTech firm and Rohini is a PhD researcher working on Cancer.

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Featured Comments Off on Raja Partha – The Deca Super Randonneur |

Raja Partha – The Deca Super Randonneur

In a candid tete-a-tete, Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan catches up with India’s first and only bike enthusiast to have completed ten Super Randonneurs in one year.

A young engineer from Chennai discovered a passion for cycling after probably not having ridden after his early school days. An air conditioning engineer, who has worked with multinationals in a highly technical sphere in the field, is now an entrepreneur in his own right and has made sacrifices in business and family life in pursuit of his dreams.

FM: So what exactly constitutes a Super Randonneur (SR)?

RP: An SR is a cycling event in which you cover distances of 200, 300, 400 & 600 km in one year. The qualifying timings are 13.5, 20, 27 & 40 hours for each of the distances. The event is conducted by AUDAX, a UK based entity, that franchises it across the world. The annual calendar is from November to October of the following year.

FM: And you did 10 SRs in one year?

RP: (slow smile)… Yes.

FM: Wow! That is a whopping 16,000 km of cycling in one year. More than what a well-used car does in the same period! So what makes your engine run?

RP: (Laughs). Just a need for self-recognition, a sense of personal achievement, nothing based on medals or awards.

FM: So how did it all start?

RP: It started in June 2017, when I decided to accompany a lady friend on a 5 km cycling trip. By the end of the 4th km, I was exhausted and couldn’t go any further, I just gave up. This preyed on my mind so strongly that I wanted to push myself to bigger things. In August, I started out with two friends to do a 100 km trip to Mahabalipuram (56 km from Chennai) and back. The return part was pure hell. I had to keep stopping every now and then. At the end of it, my motivation became stronger and on September 3, I ventured out on ‘Dhatri’, a 100 km ride for a charitable cause. I was doomed to fail again, and quit at Kovalam, after about 65 km or so. This was the final straw and I promised myself that I would stretch my endurance to the limit to complete the distance.

FM: And when did you taste your first success?

RP: I came to know of the Super Randonneur through an organisation called BRM. In November 2017, I finished my first 100 km and the next month I managed 200 km. I also heard of this ace cyclist from Pune who had done a record 8 SRs in a single year, and I decided then and there that I had to break his feat. I even put out messages on social media that I planned to cross 8 SRs in 2018.

FM: That you achieved this stupendous feat is now part of the record books. But how did you actually do it?

RP: In January 2018, I joined the Noida Club team and completed one Super Randonneur in 6 days. This was some kind of world record. I did the event in reverse order, working down from 600 km to 200 km. Between January and October 2018, spread over 45 weeks, I traversed the length and breadth of India, covering 17 cities, in pursuit of my objective. Finally, on October 28, my dream came true. I completed my 10th SR within one year.

FM: What were the highlights of all this cycling across the country? The good and the bad?

RP: The best part was the people, their spontaneous hospitality, help and support. I made several good friends across the country. The organisers were very helpful with travel, accommodation and logistics. A fellow biking enthusiast, Saju Thangappan, was a pillar of strength and support. The elements could be both kind and extremely harsh. I encountered all seasons… rode through heat, dust, cold, wind and rain.

A major setback was on March 17, 2018, when I met with an accident in Bengaluru. I was laid low for one month and at times I felt that I would not be able to recover in time or to regain fitness to complete what I had set out to achieve. By mid-April, the scar on my thigh began to spread all over my leg and sometimes would even ooze liquid. There was a permanent wound for almost seven months. But I decided that this injury would not make me stop. Two doctors, one an injury specialist and the other a dermatologist, helped me immensely in my recovery, with the least amount of medication. To make matters worse, the planning went awry. Even a single missed weekend necessitated careful re-planning of the entire schedule.

(Smiles wryly). But in the end, it all panned out successfully.

FM: What kind of bike and accessories did you use?

RP: I started out with a Firefox MTB but later switched to a Ridley Road bike. I quite liked both, but found the Ridley more suited to my style and my event. As for gear, I never had any specific or special kit. I monitored my schedule on my smartphone and used very basic accessories, more from the safety and comfort point of view than anything else. In fact, I wore sandals most of the time. Many people harbour the misconception that cycling is a costly sport; I beg to disagree. What it needs is just a lot of confidence and self-belief. While accessories are useful, I do not consider them essential for achievement.

FM: What kind of diet and training schedules did you maintain?

RP: Actually, I did not have any specific training calendar, nor did I stick to any kind of special diet. Yes, biking needs a strong core, and I concentrated on core exercises during the week and long- distance cycling on weekends. As for diet, I followed the simple, staple food habits of a typical South Indian. That’s all!

FM: How did you manage family and business commitments?

RP: My working wife and our 8-year-old daughter were not just understanding, but provided unstinted support and encouragement. Nothing could have been possible without this. My business partners were also extremely supportive and looked after all my duties while I was away.

FM: And what next? The Tour de France perhaps?

RP: (Laughs loud). No, certainly not the Tour de France; far from my list of favourites. I also love running and swimming, so a triathlon could very much be in the offing.

FM: One final question. What would your message be for today’s youth?

RP: It’s actually very simple. Do not run behind myths or chase rainbows. Give considerable thought about what you want to achieve and never forget basics. Try out your choices and when you have narrowed down on something, give it your best effort. Understand the difference between being ‘fit’ and being ‘healthy’. This also includes not being carried away by ‘diets’. Each individual has different body constitutions and one must try and understand that in training and in diet, just as in life, there is no ‘one size fits all’!

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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Motivation Comments Off on Stay Motivated and Run |

Stay Motivated and Run

Hyderabad Runner,Arun Kumar Kaliappan, talks to Deepthi Velkur about his running aspirations and what motivates him to keep running.

Continue running injury-free.

Keep improving.

Run in an exotic, historic, off-beat location.

Simple aspirations define Arun and his love for running. Hailing from a small town called Kadayanallur in Southern Tamil Nadu, Arun a mechanical engineer by profession has been fascinated by running ever since he took to it in 2012. Living in Hyderabad, he is associated with the Hyderabad runners’ group and has an impressive running record.

He has completed the Javadhu Hills Ultra 2 years in a row (2016 – 50K and 2017 – 75K) and the towering Khardungla Challenge – 72K in 2018.  Overseas, he has completed the Niagara Falls FM that starts off in Buffalo (US) and ends at the Horseshoe Falls (Canada) apart from 4 HMs in California. With a PB of 4 hours and 14 mins in the FM and 1 hour and 47 mins in the HM, Arun is constantly looking at improving and bettering his own targets.

At home, he has a fantastic support system with his wife Gomathi Priya also into HMs and a 12-year son (Akhil) who is an active badminton player.

In this conversation, Arun takes us through his running career and what motivates him every day.

FM: How did your journey as a runner begin?

Arun: Like with most working professionals, my job keeps me desk-bound and I yearned to be a lot more active and keep myself fit. With that in mind, I started walking and jogging over the weekends at the KBR Park (Hyderabad). From there, running became a passion and bit by bit, I stuck with it and slowly moved on from being a recreational runner to a marathoner and even an ultra-marathoner.

FM: Which year did you run your first FM and take us through the experience of your first race?

Arun: Prior to my first marathon, I had been running half-marathons for nearly 2 years. It was in 2014 when I had my chance at doing my first full marathon – the Hyderabad Marathon!

I must credit the superb training ecosystem offered by the Hyderabad Runners group that was largely instrumental in me achieving my FM target. I went through a 16-week training program that included – Strength workouts, Interval, Tempo, Hill running workouts and long runs on Sundays. The training was hard and strenuous but along with a group of buddies, we formed a tight-knit training group that all had the same goal in mind – progression to the FM league. This training group really helped motivate one another and we enjoyed it.

The race itself was one of most difficult that I have run, in terms of the weather. The marathon day was hot and humid from the word go, so I was a bit cautious during the first half of the race and kept it consistent during the second half. I completed the race in 4hours and 44 mins – a rather satisfying effort given the conditions and the feeling of accomplishing my first FM was very special.

FM: Hyderabad is a challenging terrain to train on. How do you go about training on such a tough terrain?

Arun: To be completely honest, we don’t really do anything specific to the terrain. We have built our training plan in such a way that it includes the local terrain and the rolling hills as part of our routine whenever we step out for a long run. In fact, we enjoy exploring the tougher routes within Hyderabad like Movie Towers / Jubilee Hills or Banjara Hills on a regular basis.

FM: When did your association with Hyderabad runners society happen? How has it shaped you to be a better runner today?

Arun: My association with Hyderabad Runners started in the year 2012 soon after I took to running. I was initially sceptical as I thought they were a mad bunch of people who go out for a run at unearthly hours. Look at me now – I am also part of the same group!

It is one of the most vibrant and accessible groups out there with a great culture of camaraderie and focus. The group dynamics is what pushed me to experience various events in terms of location and distance. The group has also helped me connect with several other runners– many of them who inspire you and some of them get inspired by you. It is a good feeling both ways.

FM: You were the mentor of “couch to 5K” training program with the Hyderabad runners. What was the main idea behind this program and where you successful with the training at the end?

Arun: It is an amazing program transforming people in hordes every year. The aim and structure of the program are so meticulous that it introduces running and healthy lifestyle to people in the most optimal way – ‘Getting started gradually and Listening to your body as you progress.’

The program was very successful as most of the runners from the group graduated as regular runners and keep at it still. Of course, in any program, there will be some dropouts, as some people are unable to continue due to time constraints or latent health issues.

FM: What qualities does one need to possess to be a good mentor?

Arun: In my view, there are 3 key qualities a good mentor needs to have:

  • Be disciplined
  • Lead from the front and
  • Possess the ability to take everyone with you.

FM: Khardung La challenge(72K) is considered as one of the toughest Ultra-marathons in the world? How and why did you register for this event? Give us a glimpse of your experience at the race?

Arun: Khardungla Challenge 2018 is one of the highlights of my running journey for the sheer amount of dedication and planning it demanded. I had a great bunch of friends (Santosh, Srini, Vish, Harshad and Subham) who took on this challenge along with me. We had valuable inputs from Shailendra Bisht, our co-Hyderabad runner who had done the event the previous year which motivated us to register for the event.

We all trained together for about 3 months and travelled along with our families for the event.

The race was quite eventful. It was a surreal experience to go through the brutal terrain and low oxygen conditions up to the Khardungla Top. The climate and high-altitude conditions did not allow us to get into our usual rhythm anytime during the race. But we kept on pushing each other to finish successfully well within cut-off time – the main thing was that we were all safe and sound at the finish line! Khardungla Challenge will be an everlasting memory for sure!

FM: To take on such tough races, you need to be mentally and physically strong. How do you manage that in a race?

Arun: Training is the mantra. There is no shortcut for race performance other than getting trained properly. Very few people are gifted naturally to pull off remarkable things at a race. But training sincerely for a chosen race always helps…almost always. Even training fails us sometimes…in that case, train harder and smarter!

FM: What is the one characteristic that defines you as a runner?

Arun: In one word – “Tenacity”.

FM: What big races have you planned for the year 2019?

Arun: I have 3 ideas at the moment –

  • The New Delhi Marathon in Feb is the one that I have planned so far
  • Hopefully sign up for an Ultra Run soon and
  • Wishing to do a few World Majors sometime in the near future.

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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