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The Man who made the Devil’s Circuit

Protima Tiwary meets Adnan Adeeb, the Devil Slayer, the man behind the toughest obstacle course, the Devil’s Circuit.

As India’s toughest obstacle race makes its way across the country, we caught up with the man spearheading the entire movement as he motivates every participant across India. Finisher Magazine in conversation with Adnan Adeeb, founder of Devils Circuit, India.

What do you prefer- life before or after Devils Circuit?

I spent 19 years in the corporate world, travelling the world as the sales manager for a global IT firm. I enjoyed the security.  Today, life is different. I, along with my team, am responsible to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for runners. Our emotional investment in what we do today is helping us grow our tribe. Regular folks from across fitness spectrums walk over to us after the event to simply express their appreciation and to say ‘thank you’ for giving them the best Sunday of their lives, and it feels amazing to be able to create that kind of impact, and is worth all the effort we put into building each season. Yes, life is definitely more exciting now.

What inspired you to conceptualise Devils Circuit?

In 2011, we saw a huge potential in the space of amateur sports. We also noticed the audience shift from “I will just watch this” to “Let’s try this, let’s be a part of this!”

At Volano Entertainment, we wanted to be at the forefront of this revolution and felt that it was the right time, in 2011, to create India’s coolest, toughest, and largest participative disruptive sports property. With that thought, we introduced Obstacle Running to India in the Devils Circuit. Our first mover’s advantage, combined with constant ongoing innovation, has helped us reach out to millions of people across 8 cities and we continue to harbour thoughts of expanding to more.

What do you aim to achieve with Devil’s Circuit?

I simply want to inspire people. I think there is a huge disservice we do to ourselves and our loved ones when we take our health and fitness lightly. With Devils Circuit, I want participants and spectators alike, to think about life choices, their fitness quotient and give them a benchmark that helps measure their ongoing progress. We want people to understand that formats such as the Devils Circuit give you an idea of how much fun you can have through sports, by being active and being outdoors- it also allows for individuals to set their own goals on how to get stronger, fitter or simply more active through a unique running format.

What keeps you motivated to continue building this community around Devil’s Circuit every year? 

Each member of the tribe of DevilSlayers motivates me to keep making the property bigger and better. The individuals who combat their own issues and come to Devils Circuit are incredible. We have had participation from specially abled people, aged people, grandparents, people from the armed forces, people who have painstakingly fought their weight-related issues to transform themselves, and a lot many more who all have their own stories. All of these motivate me to continue serving this community and looking for ways to make the experience of every single participant exceptional.

What are your thoughts about the fitness industry in India?  

The fitness industry in India is on a huge growth trajectory. I feel the potential of expansion is massive, there is a definite drive both at an individual as well as a corporate level towards a healthier lifestyle that is unprecedented. This is a very exciting time to be a part of this industry and in the coming years, we will see a lot of innovation. If I look at the western world, the kind of gyms, studios, fitness centres that exist is incredible. It is up to us to constantly bring these avenues to our shores. With this in mind, we are in the process of launching our own studios in the coming months.

Do you try all the obstacles? What’s your favourite one? Least favourite? 

Yes, absolutely! I am on my own fitness journey too and I am the fittest I have ever been in my life.  My favourite obstacle is the Brain Freeze. This is the last obstacle on the course where we have participants come down a wet slide into 15 tonnes of ice cubes. It’s a fantastic way to end the race, gives your muscles a great cooling and gives you an organic high which we have also translated into our war cry #Booyah!

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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Marathon Recovery

Head Coach of RunGenie, Ranjini Gupta talks about the importance of recovery after the big race.

To run a marathon, and run it well, you need to train for it. A well-rounded training plan will cover key aspects like speed workouts, long runs, strength and conditioning, diet and hydration. You name it you’ve worked on all these aspects. After all the hard work has been done, when you toe the line, it’s your time to put all that you did in training to practice. And you did great! 26.2 miles clocked to perfection. You are elated to wear that finisher medal and flaunt it with pride.

So what next……..

The recovery phrase which is another crucial aspect of training for a marathon.

Many a time, so much impetus is given to training that recovery is overlooked. For some, recovery would mean doing nothing and simply relaxing on the couch while some others would probably get back to their runs even before their bodies have fully recovered. While this may work for a few weeks, with intensity and mileage, niggles appear and before you know it, it grows into a fully blown injury. The key is to understand your body. Each individual is different and responds differently to training as well as recovery. Some recover faster, while some people may take a tad bit longer. Be patient, after all this body has undergone so much to get you to your goal. Now it’s time for you to reciprocate.

In the words of exercise physiologist Dr. Carwyn Sharp, “Recovery following a marathon is critical aspect of any training plan, but despite its importance is often neglected. This need for appropriate recovery for running 26.2miles is obvious with aching muscles and stiff joints after sitting, but athletes also have damage and stresses in many other systems and tissues of the body they may not feel, such as: micro trauma to the bone, ligaments and tendons, depressed immune system, damage to the heart, red blood cells and gastrointestinal system. In order to recover your health, avoid sickness and injury and maintain the gains from months of training, you should employ nutritional, training and passive recovery method in the 2-4weeks following a marathon”.

Recovery tips:

  1. It would be a good idea to do an easy 30 to 40 min run-walk on a day (or max two days) following the race day. The whole idea of this exercise is for you to do a body scan and listen closely to the whispers indicated by the body. There should no pressure of distance or pace in this session.
  2. In the same week, ensure you invest a bit on yourself and go to that physical therapist or chiropractor to get some releases done. You would have given it your all in those last few miles before the finish and there is a good possibility that your biomechanics could have been compromised. A good practitioner would be able to help you take care of little niggles which you might have incurred during the race or felt it during the body scan in your recovery run.
  3. Catch up on the sleep, that you would have lost during the training period. Studies have shown that sleep helps improve an athlete’s performance because growth hormones that stimulate growth and repair of muscles and bones are released during this period. The quality of sleep becomes an important aspect of recovery. Try to hit the bed early as it is believed that hours slept between 10pm to 5am is most beneficial to the body and mind.
  4. Hydration becomes another key factor. Most runners during their training period will take care of the hydration very closely however the same importance needs to be given during the recovery period as well. Your urine is a good indicator of whether you are hydrated or not. A clear to pale yellow indicates you are hydrated while a darker color indicates you are less hydrated.
  5. While it is still alright to indulge a bit post the training season, the more nutritious food you give your body, the faster it will heal and recover for the next season. Clean eating habits and having a balanced meal should be a way of life and not just when you train for races. The key is being consistent at it.
  6. Work on general strength and mobility along with cross training (either cycling and/or swimming) before signing up for the next race or getting into the next season. The off season is a great time to work on these aspects. This will help you stay injury free and give you time to work on those imbalances before the next season. Any improvement in your basal strength level, hip mobility, ankle mobility will directly translate into better timings the coming season.

As mentioned earlier, one size fits all does not work either with training or recovery. You need to be aware and sensitive to the needs of your body. The more prudent you are in taking care of your recovery, the easier it would be for you to get into the new season refreshed and rejuvenated.

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Ranjini Gupta is a mother of two and a marathoner who is trying to exploit her potential. She is the head coach at Rungenie Fitness, a fitness consultancy firm.

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Passionate Barefoot Running

Thomas Bobby Philip approaches his running with passion and challenges himself at every turn to stay inspired, find outs Deepthi Velkur.

Thomas Bobby Philip (aka Bobby) believes that focusing on something that excites you lets you challenge yourself and achieve great things. A wonderful line from Oprah Winfrey comes to mind,

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you”.

Bobby took to running in early 2009 and soon discovered that this was his calling. He hasn’t stopped since, never missing an opportunity to learn, challenge and improve himself in the sport. He believes in sharing this knowledge and he takes great pains to inspire and influence amateur runners in the sport and help them as much as he can.

He is a strong advocate of Barefoot running ever since he took to it in 2012. A certified ChiRunning trainer, Bobby has been organizing regular workshops all over Bangalore and helps runners run efficiently and injury-free.

On a professional front, Bobby has been with Nokia for nearly 10 years and is responsible for Capability Planning and Development.

I had a chance to talk with Bobby on his running story.

FM: How did you catch the running ‘bug’?thomas bobby

Bobby: It was early 2009 and my daughter had her school sports event that she was participating in. To help her prepare for the event, we started running together around my layout.

I’ll be honest – I have never been into sports before this, so I had to take it slow.

Initially, we started off with 200M on day 1, 300M on day 2, 300M twice on day 3 and so on. We gradually progressed and in about 7 days I could see a vast improvement in myself. I didn’t have a proper running shoe at that point and just ran in whatever shambles I was in. That’s the start to my running journey and I have never looked back since.

FM: You graduated from running your first 10k to HM and finally FM in 2 years’ time. How did you go ahead with your training and increase your distance with each event?

Bobby: I realized running was my passion because it gave me immense happiness. I decided to do something about it. The first step – get a good pair of shoes.

At the Nike store, the people introduced me to this club called the Nike Run Club. When I started training there, I was under the guidance of a professional certified coach who introduced me to the concept of warming up, how to run, how to strengthen myself, how to cool down and other basic techniques.

With their proper guidance, I ran my first Sunfeast 10K in 2009. I gradually progressed from a 10K to do my 1st half marathon in Chennai the same year. With 1.5 years of continuous training, I progressed to my first full marathon in 2011 at the SCMM (Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon). I was in no hurry to rush things and took more than a year to gradually build my base miles and physical strength by doing 2 HM’s and many 10k’s. My FM was a success and personally a great achievement too as I finished it in 3hrs 49mins.

FM: How has being part of a running group shaped you as a runner and achieve what you have today?

Bobby: I think what is most important is to train under a coach whether your part of a running group or training alone. This gives you an opportunity to learn the correct method of training, a person you could consult with, learn and get an expert opinion on various training techniques.

I used to train at the Nike Run Club under a certified coach – Mr.Beedu who helped me in a lot of ways and used to train us well. I then joined the PaceMakers where I was and still am under the guidance of a very matured and experienced coach, Kothandapani. He introduced me to the scientific method of training where we are given a training plan and we need to ensure that we followed it to the T. The training plan included a mix of workouts – interval, tempo, hill runs, fartleks. A combination of all of this makes you stronger and a better runner.

Being a part of a running group is great as we train together, support and compete against each other while we continue to learn and benefit from each other’s strengths. That’s the great camaraderie shared when you’re a part of a running group.

FM: Do you think having the right coach/mentor/guide makes all the difference to your training and performance?

Bobby: Yes, Absolutely! In fact, I strongly recommend that everybody trains under a coach/guide/mentor whatever you’d like to call it. It gives a whole new dimension to your running and moulds you as a runner.

FM: You are the first Indian to complete the Boston Marathon barefoot. Why did you choose to run barefoot?

Bobby: In 2012, I transitioned to running barefoot. I personally found that it worked well for me. I did my first 10k barefoot in 2012 followed by my first HM and later a 50K. It was a success to a point where I felt that running with shoes became a discomfort and uneasy.

In 2015, when I decided to run the Boston Marathon, I had to run barefoot as I had no choice as this was the only method I could follow. It made the run difficult due to the harsh weather conditions. I also wanted to show the world that running barefoot is normal as in the western world running barefoot is perceived as something abnormal and new to them. It was a bit of a shock for them to imagine someone walking barefoot and to top it all running barefoot too. I had people come and ask me if I have never worn a shoe before. (chuckles)

Since then whenever I travel internationally, I am barefoot especially when I’m travelling alone.

Its human to be barefoot, in fact, the entire universe is barefoot. It’s just that someone invented a shoe and we are literally bombed with shoes on our feet.

FM: What changes did you make to your training plan to be able to run barefoot?

Bobby: Honestly, there is no specific training plan as such to be followed. But I would say there is a transition process involved to be able to run barefoot. It does take time and you need to be patient as this time period could vary from person to person which could be a few weeks to over a year in some cases.

Every individual is diverse based on their past experience, background, levels of fitness and one needs to identify what works best for them. For e.g. Milind Soman took almost 1.5 years to transition to barefoot running before he did his first HM as he wanted to ensure nothing went wrong in the process, while I know a couple of runners who ran over 20kms barefoot in their very first attempt.

I could have never imagined running barefoot at the first instance. I know for sure I would have got blisters which I was close to getting. I made sure I was gradual in my transitioning process and wanted to slowly add up my barefoot mileage.

A common injury that one might face is the top of the foot pain (TOFP) which causes a slight swelling on the feet and pain in the calves. These are some of the pain areas that the body has to get used to and basic strengthening of the body is also key here.

FM: What variation elements do you add to your training routine to make it wholesome?

Bobby: Firstly, there are a lot of variations in training and secondly, I introduce physical fitness workouts into my training. Apart from these, there are other factors such as nutrition, having a positive attitude and mental strength.  All of these put together is one complete package. I also get regular deep tissue massages and give good recovery time for the body.

FM: You achieved your first podium at the Bangalore Ultra (37.5K) 2010 and have been on the podium ever since? What does it take to be so successful?

Bobby: It’s all about disciplined training and the guidance of a good coach. That’s the differentiating factor.

First, I think it’s very important to train right which helps to minimize the injuries. Second, I had an immense passion for the sport and spent enough time on the sport to train myself regularly and be disciplined than many other runners. I was considered the most disciplined runner at the Nike Run Club too. Hence with proper guidance and a disciplined attitude, I managed to achieve a podium in the veteran category.

FM: Consistency is the key to achieving anything in life. How have you built your pace and strength over the years?

Bobby: I totally agree with the statement. I have been training for over 9 years now and I’ve been extremely disciplined and consistent with my training. I have people ask me how do I manage to be so good – all I have to say is that I started early and we have very few runners who have this sort of experience. But the most important aspect for any runner is to continue with the same level of consistency, discipline and following a correct method of training and you will see yourself becoming better each day.

FM: Who inspires you to keep achieving pushing yourself more and more?

Bobby: Everyone who challenges themselves and competes with themselves to be better than what they were yesterday is where I draw all my inspiration from. My coach has and is still my biggest inspiration/role model. Within our running group, we have a lot of runners who are not as good as me, but I see them working very hard to improve themselves and be better. It’s wonderful to watch and learn from such people.

FM: What are your running goals for 2019?

Bobby: In general, I would like to be consistent in my performance throughout the year. My performances have already hit the peak for e.g. I do an FM under sub-3 hours and I’d like to maintain myself at those levels which is a challenging task in itself. I don’t really set crazy goals for myself. Many people like to do a higher mileage like the ultra-distances. To be frank, I don’t have such aspiration as I prefer more intensity workouts/runs such as the faster 5k, 10k and HM’s and try and do at least one FM in a year.

With respect to the events for 2019, I would like to take part in a lot of Procam events like the TSK, the ADHM which I haven’t done in two years now and maybe one or two cities more.

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 Khardung-La Challenge – Only for the fittest runners |

Khardung-La Challenge – Only for the fittest runners

Runner Upendra Tripathi talks about his experience running the Khardung-La Challenge.

The year was 2017 and I was thrilled at having completed my first Ladakh full marathon, but my mind had something else running through it – the famous Khardung-La challenge.

It was the eve of the full marathon event and the Ladakh central market was bustling with runners from all over the world. It wasn’t just the anticipation of the Ladakh FM the next day but also the runners who had just completed the Khardung-La ultra-race were milling about adding to the sense of magic in the air. You could see emotions writ all over their face – some really excited, others with a look of satisfaction and others tired and a bit disappointed.

I got talking to a few of them and their stories of the ultra-race had me intrigued but apprehensive. My first thoughts were to never ever run the Khardung-La race, but the challenge beckoned – I was curious, I wondered if I could push myself and test my limits.

Despite my apprehensions, I knew in my head that I had accepted this gruelling challenge.

So, what is the ‘The Khardung-La Challenge’

The Ladakh Marathon, an AIMS certified event is considered to be the highest and is amongst the toughest marathons in the world. Out of the 4 races in this event, the Khardung-La Challenge (5370m) is the World’s highest Ultra Marathon covering a distance of 72KM with oxygen levels at 30% lesser than the plains.

It starts at over 4000M at Khardung village and has a steep incline for 32+KM until a steep descent starts at 40KM hitting the lowest altitude of 3500 meters to reach Leh. The cut-off time for the full course is 14 hours with 4 intermediate cut-off points – Khardung-La pass (8hrs), South Pulu (10hr 30mins), Mendhak Mod (12hrs) and Leh (14hrs).

Without a shadow of doubt, this is one of the most challenging, toughest races out there that really tests the limits of human endurance.

With a dream in my heart, I take flight.

A year has gone by now and it is September 2018. My dream of completing the Khardung-La challenge has taken shape – I have trained hard, followed a balanced, nutritious diet all the while focusing on my goal in mind.

Hoping to bring it all to a fruitful conclusion, I take my flight to Leh a week ahead to acclimatize myself and get used to the conditions. I spend the week training and preparing myself – physically and mentally. A day before the event, all the runners are picked up and brought to Khardung village where we undergo blood pressure and oxygen level checkups. With everything in check and normal, I finished the hot meal offered and after carefully laying out my running gear and other essentials, I hit the sack.

It’s the final countdown.

The sound of the alarm cut through the silent, cold night and I woke up with a start. I looked for the clock and it read 1230AM. I thought to myself, “who sets an alarm for this godforsaken hour?”. I assumed it was a mistake so imagine my surprise when I noticed the other 3 guys in the room waking up and putting on their thermal jackets. I jumped up in bed and made my way through the dimly-lit room to my running gear so that I could get ready. With the cold breeze howling outside, the hot drinking water and tea provided by the landlady was an absolute luxury.

The hot beverage woke me up and it finally sunk in that I was at Khardung village about to take on the famous Khardung-La race. I had to be at breakfast by 2 AM so I rushed about, finished breakfast and headed to the start line for a roll call by 230AM. The route recce director then briefed us on the route, the expected weather conditions, the availability of water and aid stations etc.

The anticipation was building up inside of me and I couldn’t wait for flag-off.

A dream come true

0259AM – All the training, all my sacrifices over the past year, all my dedication came down to this. In 1 minute, I was about to embark on one of my biggest challenges in life. I was ready!

0300AM – and we’re off! As soon as the whistle blows, all the runners clad in their multi-layered gear start off but within a kilometre, a large section of them have started walking barring the local Ladakhi and elite runners who seem to have adjusted to the altitude very well.

I soldiered on braving the elements and the fatigue but as I was nearing the 5KM mark, it got a whole lot worse – it started raining and then very quickly began to snow as well. The road being tar got very slippery with this deadly mix of rain and snow and as if that wasn’t enough, it was accompanied by a bone-chilling wind that lasted for hours. With the temperature dropping, my mind wandered off a bit and I started wondering ‘what on earth was I doing up here’?

Banishing those thoughts, I set myself a goal – get to Khardung-La pass (the first intermediate stop) because something good awaited the runners – hot garlic and coriander soup! In this weather and these conditions, a bowl of soup is a godsend and after a continuous incline of 32KM, nothing works better. The good thing was once we got up there, the weather improved, and we could see the sun coming out too.

All recharged, I then turned my attention to the next stage of the race – the 40KM decline. It sounded easy enough, but the reality was different. After a 32KM constant incline, my legs were like jelly and I considered several times of quitting the race and taking the mobile van back to Leh, but I didn’t.

Every time the thought of quitting came to mind, I looked back at the past year, my family, the sacrifices – NO, I decided – I cannot quit!

Summoning all the grit and will power I had, I pushed myself even more and was proud to have reached the finish line in 12 hours 30mins.

That indescribable feeling.

The sense of relief and achievement is something that I cannot describe. As I received my finisher’s medal, a sense of pride filled me and I was over-the-moon at making my dream come true.

The race itself is organized brilliantly and Motup (Chewang), the race director deserves a lot of appreciation for planning it so well. The crowd support in Leh was amazing and each one of the runners received an ecstatic ovation.

Looking back, I realized that everyone who finished that race is a winner.

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

A senior management Leader with a leading Semi-Conductor company, Upendra Tripathi((aka Upen) has achieved running accolades in 3 years what most of us will probably not achieve in our lifetime.

 

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Featured Comments Off on Understanding why runners collapse and how to avoid it |

Understanding why runners collapse and how to avoid it

Understanding why runners collapse at marathons, Brijesh Gajera writes about how you can avoid it.

My marathon dreams really took flight after my first Mumbai Marathon in 2011. That year, there were 964 finishers and when I completed my 5th consecutive Mumbai run in 2015, that number had grown exponentially to 3107. Four years on and the numbers have doubled again with 2019 seeing a record of 6722 runners earning the coveted finisher’s medal.

The number of aspiring marathoners keeps increasing year on year, not just with the Mumbai Marathon, but also across other marathons in the country. This is a very promising sign and bodes well for the health of current and future generations.

On the flip side, there is a rather disturbing statistic that is also creeping up. In the 2019 Mumbai Marathon, 3226 runners needed medical assistance mostly to do with dehydration and muscle cramps. Furthermore, 15 of them had to be hospitalized. This is alarming and to avoid extreme cases in the future, we must try and understand how so many lives end up at risk for a seemingly recreational purpose.

It goes without saying that there lies an innate risk in pursuing an endurance activity but the more I think of it, the following reasons come to mind:

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): In this age of social media and digital lives, everyone seems to be doing crazy stuff. Take a look at any Instagram feed or Facebook posts and you will see endless adventures all perfectly choreographed and you wonder, what can I do? The image of you on social media biting down on the finisher’s medal is incentive enough for you to sign up, no matter what your physical and mental conditions are at that moment.

“Carpe Diem – seize the day” is what we tell ourselves but what we don’t realize is that to be able to do that well, you need to invest hours of hard work, dedication and strong will.

Overconfidence: Have you ever noticed that when you are sitting next to a driver in the car, you hold on to the edge of the seat if you notice rash driving but when you are in the driver’s seat, the same speed or rashness no longer feels risky. That’s the problem with our being – we become supremely confident when it comes to measuring our own abilities. The same applies to marathon training where you consider 3 months of training to be sufficient compared to others who take about 6 months to train because you feel I’m gifted or I used to run during my childhood days or I’m a natural athlete or well, it’s me…I can do it.

Ecstasy: Really? You ask. The race day euphoria and excitement can be a great booster but it can also fool one into going astray. You end up doing silly things like chasing a very aggressive target or ignoring your own race plan.

So how do you avoid being part of that disturbing statistic if you have already signed up for a race?

Start Slow: The proverbial hare in the ‘Hare and the Tortoise’ story started off fast and then rested under a tree feeling overconfident that the tortoise is never going to catch up. The modern-day marathon hares end up in the medical tents. Rookies and sometimes even the experienced runners – start out too fast. Feeling fresh is no sign to go fast, especially when you have to cover a daunting distance of 42.195 km. Instead start slow, ease yourself into running, get into a nice rhythm and save your energies for the second half of the race.

Keep Multiple Targets: Many things can go wrong on race day and factors which are not in your control: weather, overcrowded streets, tummy ache, hydration and what not. What is in your control is to be flexible and prepare yourself to brace the conditions. Having multiple targets help. You can start with your slowest target (remember the first commandment – start slow). As the race progresses, you can take the call whether to go for one of your faster targets or settle for the slower one.

Let Your Training Guide You: Given you have trained for the race, how your race goes is mostly decided by how well you have trained yourself. A wise friend of mine never fails to repeat the golden words – you run your race in training. Your training should give you a reasonable estimate of what you can target and more importantly, what you cannot.

At the end of a marathon, you sure want to collect the medal on your own and want to hug your friends and family members and celebrate your success. Be wise and meet them on your two legs, not on the stretcher.

 

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Brijesh Gajera is an avid marathoner, aspiring ultra-marathoner and coach at Ashva Running Club.

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Mary Kom – World Champion Boxer

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan touches base with the legendary Mary Kom. Six-time World Champion boxer and lady extraordinaire and the brand ambassador for the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019.

In a crowded press room, Mary Kom saunters in, punching the air and smiling the smile of an unbeatable world champion. No swagger required for this champion of champions; her very presence is awe-inspiring. As questions fly thick and fast, Mary defends them with a deft left hook. Her answers, though, are extremely emotional and thought-provoking.

In her opinion, she has achieved whatever any person would want to; medals too many in number to count, which she modestly and jokingly attributes to her fuzzy brain, laid low from years of being punched in the head. So, what then is her final medal destination? The Olympic gold, obviously, which has eluded her over the past decade. So, what makes her tick?

It is evidently her relentless pursuit of personal satisfaction of giving her all-out effort to achieve the best she possibly can, without the accompanying disappointments of defeat. “I have achieved more than any ordinary person”, she says. “Many people, including my close family, ask me why I want to go further. But there is still a fire in my belly to achieve more and more while I still can”.

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan: What were your reactions when you saw your own biopic?

Mary Kom: Oh, at first, it was so emotional. Most of the picture, except a few scenes about violence in Manipur, was a true depiction of my life. It took me quite a while to move away from it and tell myself that it is a movie after all. But on the whole, I liked it very much.

Capt: You must have made a lot of sacrifices, especially with your family. How did you handle it?

MK: It was truly terrible. I had, at one time, to leave my one-year-old son to get back to boxing.

Mary reiterates that hailing from a small town, and being a woman, it was extremely tough to follow the standards set by her idol, Muhammed Ali. But, despite opposition and discrimination, she managed to climb to the heights that have established her as a living legend in the field of boxing.

A surprise visitor to the meet was a Commonwealth Games gold medallist from her own state of Manipur, way back between 1998 in Kuala Lumpur and 2002 in Manchester, Dingko Singh. After a quick dialogue with him, Mary lapsed into an exhortation to junior boxers to shed their fears and move forward to challenge people like her so that they could move up the ladder to international recognition.

Mary Kom. Living legend. Looking for more!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

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

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Featured Comments Off on Serod Batochir – The Mongolian Steed |

Serod Batochir – The Mongolian Steed

An athlete par excellence, Capt Seshadri catches up with Serod Batochir, the Mongolian elite runner at the TMM.

From the land of Genghis Khan, where horsemen are probably more likely to be seen than runners, an athlete comes all the way to India to participate in the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019. In an exclusive chat with this potential champion, Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan finds out what drives him to do what he does best – run!

FM: Serod, firstly, let me welcome you warmly to our country. Is this your first marathon in Mumbai?

SB: Thank you. Actually, this is my first visit to India and I am looking forward keenly to compete on Sunday.

FM: Tell us about your best runs. Do you do only the marathons?

SB: My best timing was in 2018 when I ran 4 marathons. I managed 2:08:50 in Fukuoka. I also run the half marathon sometimes and my best finish has been 1:02:10 in 2016 in Maragume, also in Japan.

FM: When did you start running long distance and what motivated you to start?

SB: I was always fond of running and took it up for joy and also to stay fit. I started serious marathon running in 2002, but my chances for competing were very less.

FM: You mean you do not get sponsors in Mongolia?

SB: (shakes his head sadly) Unfortunately, no. Marathon running is not a popular sport in Mongolia. Still, sometimes I get support from some organizations, but much of the time, I spend from my own pocket. It can be costly and one cannot hope to win good prize money in every race, to cover expenses. I am lucky that Tata is looking after my hospitality and local travel.

FM: How did you come to know about the TMM and what induced you to participate?

SB: I have a manager who selects the races I have to run. He saw the news about this TMM and contacted the organisers. With the records of my previous timings, I was able to get an entry into the elite group and so here I am. (Smiles disarmingly).

FM: How many races have you run in your career so far?

SB: 57 marathons.

FM: That’s an unbelievable number.

SB: (modestly) Yes, especially with the poor support that I get. But I keep pushing myself to do better and now I am very close to the world class timings.

FM: What kind of diet do you take? Is there something special about Mongolian food?

SB: I eat a lot of meat, rice and flour. A lot of the meat there is beef, but horsemeat is also very popular. And delicious, apart from being very nutritious.

FM: So that is where your strength and stamina come from?

SB: (Nods and laughs) Possibly.

FM: How do you find the weather in Mumbai compared to your country?

SB: You simply cannot compare the two. Here in Mumbai it is 24 degrees and they say, maybe 21 degrees early in the morning when we are running. In Mongolia, it goes down to minus 30 degrees. But I have run in other countries and climates and have learnt to adapt.

FM: Thank you very much for your time Serod. And looking at your past performances, you must be a serious contender for the championship here. Looking forward to seeing you on the podium on Sunday.

SB: Thank you for your wishes. I hope so too.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

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

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Featured Comments Off on 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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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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