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A Regular Guy To Your Friendly Neighbourhood Ironman!

Protima Tiwary learns how Abhishek Avhad started as a regular guy and became an Ironman in just two years.

Abhishek Avhad gave himself a simple challenge in July 2016, a challenge that changed his entire life. Two years and an IronMan later, Abhishek talks all about it to the Finisher Magazine.

Your journey as a runner started only in 2016. What made you start?

I only started running in July 2016 because I was a football player in Junior College, and my smoking habit was ruining my fitness and game for me. I led a normal student life, complete with studies, sports and parties. I was also studying for my CA certification, which meant that my schedule demanded a lot out of me.

I still remember that time when I smoked an entire pack of cigarettes in an hour! I think that was the turning point for me. I woke up the next morning with my insides burning and decided to fix this by throwing away any remaining smokes that I might have lying around.

But of course, this was just the first step. I only took up running when I got my first job at one of the Big 4 accounting firms. A colleague who was a regular runner spoke about his love for running and suggested I give it a try too. Just out of curiosity, I agreed. He helped me chose a 10K race, set a target, and basically guided me towards my first race. I owe the start of my running journey to him.

How has life changed for you since then?

I have made more friends in the last 2 years of running, swimming and cycling than I did in my entire college life! I love the fitness fraternity because of the people that it attracts. It’s a positive space that inspires and empowers people to lead a fit lifestyle. So much has changed in my life in the last 2 years, but I guess the main change is in my spending habits. What I spent on parties is now being spent on nutrition and race entries.

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

I’d say my enthusiasm stands out. If I am in a race I will push people to go hard, I will high-five every kid who’s out there to cheer for us. I will hand over my own nutrition if someone needs it more. I guess this is also why I love pacing the most.

Can you tell us about your best and worst races?

My worst race has to be the Ladakh Marathon, my first full marathon and also the first time I travelled to that altitude. I had just quit my job and was serving my notice period, because of which I landed 3 days before the race. I didn’t get much time to acclimatize. Breath-taking now made complete and literal sense as my lungs screamed for oxygen as I ran the full marathon. There were only 140 of us, so there were times when I was running alone and mental strength was needed more than ever. After the 30km mark, I got mild AMS (mountain sickness) and had to walk the remaining distance. My timing was over 7 hours. It was my first and only DNF. I learnt so much though- I learnt patience, the importance of mental strength and never to underestimate a race. It’s better to be over prepared and over cautious than to take it lightly. This was a 7 hour punishment for me that left me with valuable lessons for life.

My best race was no doubt the Ironman triathlon in Sweden. I loved the positivity and support that everyone showed at the race.

What pushed you to do the Ironman? What was the experience like? 

Ironman was never on my mind. I couldn’t even swim, and I had barely every cycled more than 20km at a stretch. But things changed for me when I heard of Milind Soman finishing the race in July 2015. That was when I had heard of Ironman for the first time, to be honest. I read more about it, and it stayed on my mind when I started running. 2 months into running and I decided one day I wanted to own that title too, I wanted to cross that red carpet.

With this thought, I participated in triathlons (completed 8 so far) rather than opting for pure marathons. Till date, my personal best marathon timings is in an Ironman.

The actual race can be extremely intimidating, I won’t deny that. It’s a task to swim with 2000 participants, all raring to cross you in the water. But the support and cheering is really empowering, and you find yourself smiling through all of it. The crowd support made this my favorite race till date.

You might not like endurance sports in general, but you will love race day at the Ironman! It’s an experience filled with adventure that will evolve you into a disciplined person.

They say consistency is key – but how do you build this consistent pace that they talk about?
There are no shortcuts. Consistency is built by showing up. A session missed is a day gone, and in the grander scheme of things, it matters. As far as training is concerned, add free weight workouts to build strength. Work on your core post a run, do upper body workouts after a swimming session and do the lower body exercises after cycling. You need to maintain a balance between endurance and strength training to ace the race.

No race is perfect. Any moment you’d like to share with us where you thought things were going downhill? How did you overcome that?

There will always be circumstances out of your control. It’s your choice how you wish to respond.

I remember during the Ironman I got cramps within the first 25minutes of the race. I was stranded in the middle of the Baltic Sea, with the first cramp I had got in a year! I had cramps in the first half an hour of a 16hr race, of course, I was concerned. But then the mind kicked in. I knew that salt eases cramping, so I took huge gulps of the sea water and carried on! That decision saved my race, and guess what? I also got a very good swim timing.

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

Physical training will prepare you only to a point, beyond which you need your mind to control your body. Focus on building your mental strength too! Do focus building exercises in your free time, or even at your workstation!

I stopped training with music. It might distract you from the pain during runs, but it doesn’t work the mind. Even in the Ironman, there is a clear rule stating no use of headphones throughout the race.

I also started doing training runs of 15 km in 800 metres loops on the street instead of running from place A to B. My 200 km rides were on a 7 km patch of road going round and round. Even my training swims were done in a small 25-meter crowded pool, taking turns every 30 seconds. It’s devastating mentally, but it sharpens the mind and makes the race day seem like a piece of cake.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m racing the Deccan Cliffhanger which is a 640 km ultra-cycle race between Pune and Goa, with a 32-hour cut-off. I also aim to qualify for Boston in 2020.

Apart from running, I plan to write a book for absolute beginner triathletes from a strictly Indian perspective, where I will talk about basics like getting started, buying your first bike, choosing a race, balancing your demanding work-life with your triathlon journey, etc. A prelude has already been in circulation and has received very promising reviews.

I also have a small triathlon group who I coach and have frequent meetings to talk about the sport in general. I would love to help people get into the sport and continue to be a participant throughout!

Follow him on Instagram herehttps://www.instagram.com/calves.of.steel/

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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Endurance and the Indian runner

Seasoned runner Ajit Thandur, talks about endurance sports in India and how the love for them has evolved.

Endurance sport in India, especially in the realm of amateurs or recreational runners/bikers/swimmers started out really small in terms of numbers nearly about two decades ago. But this scenario has drastically changed in current times as we have witnessed a surge in the number of people that are taking to endurance sport.

I was amazed looking at the statistics of the first edition of the Mumbai Marathon in 2004 – there were only 17 women and 99 men finishers in the Full Marathon race. 13 years later, in 2017, that number has grown exponentially to 400 women and 4250 men finishers. While the percentage growth itself is quite mind-numbing, what is even more amazing is that the number of amateur or recreational runners has really shot up as well, as people put a lot more focus on good health and fitness.

Activities such as these have over the years continuously influenced more and more people to take on some form of physical activity to improve their overall well-being and good health.

For a beginner, it can get quite daunting at first – this is where a running club or a group helps. By joining one of these clubs, a beginner can get the right level of support, better training, encouraged to push themselves further and to develop their stamina and endurance more efficiently.

It’s only a matter of time before the beginner starts thinking of competing in races – peer pressure plays a large part here. Suddenly, you find yourself losing sight of the actual purpose you started the activity for but instead you now focus on comparing yourself with fellow runners and pushing yourself to improve distance, speed and with it your timing. Now, while improvement itself is good, the urge to be as good or better than someone else especially for an amateur sportsperson is not a healthy trend.

Most of us amateur endurance sports enthusiasts would in most cases have taken to endurance sports to shed a few extra kilos. As a consequence, we would have followed a very commonly touted advice of “eat less, burn more”. It is very essential at this stage for an amateur to understand that each individual is made differently and we all have different physical, metabolic and genetic capabilities.

First, the term “eat less, burn more” is very misleading. While burn more refers to exercise, eat less is a very ambiguous expression. The key here is to figure what to eat less of – I will cover this piece in my next article on nutrition.

Keeping in mind our end goal of “weight-loss” and looking for fast results, a lot of amateurs push themselves to the limit and inevitably fall into the “speed” trap. I have seen enthusiasts push themselves during their practice runs instead of doing so only on race days.

This begs the question – is pushing yourself to the limit wrong? Well, the truth is, for an amateur endurance sports person, it can be very wrong.

I would like to draw attention to Dr. Philip Maffetone’s, 180 Formula. https://philmaffetone.com/180-formula/.

I urge each one of you reading this article to visit the link above and understand the importance of doing all your endurance workouts at a heart rate of 180 – (your age). I shall briefly touch upon the principle and science behind it here.

There are aerobic muscles (called so because these muscles use oxygen and your own body fat for energy) and anaerobic muscles (called so because they don’t use oxygen but only glycogen (sugar) stored in your liver and muscle cells).

Logically thinking about it, we should be using more of our aerobic muscles, right? Because they use your own body fat for energy and that is what you desire.

It is important to understand that aerobic muscles work most efficiently at lower heart rates and is calculated as 180 – (your age). For example, if you are 40 years of age it will be 180 – 40 = 140 Beats per Minute (BPM).

At heart rates beyond this threshold, your aerobic muscles function less efficiently and the anaerobic muscles take over. Therefore, it is important to function at your optimum heart rate level so that you expend the fat in your body and not use the anaerobic muscles. The glycogen stores in the anaerobic muscles last no more than 2 and a half minutes at heart rates higher than the threshold aerobic heart rate.

Another advantage of aerobic training is that over a period of time (this may be anywhere from 3 months to a whole year depending on the individual) your pace, speed and performance efficiency improve at that same threshold aerobic heart rate. This helps your body become fat adapted and it starts to use and rely on your body fat and not sugars to generate energy for that activity. Excess sugars or carbohydrates is what made us fat in the first place and that is exactly what we need to avoid.

Let me reiterate that just one read of what I have written here isn’t enough for you understand the principle behind this thoroughly. I urge you all to read the link I have provided above on the 180 Formula and also listen to this wonderful interview on Heart Rate Training, Nutrition and Recovery (https://youtu.be/_TPrenWWK9U) between Dr. Philip Maffetone and marathoner (Floris Gierman) who completed the Boston Marathon in 2 hours and 44 mins.

Enjoy your sport, stay injury free and achieve your goals, but in the process be mindful of overtraining and burning out.

GUEST COLUMNIST

Ajit Thandur is an entrepreneur and amateur endurance runner/swimmer based in Mysuru taking a keen interest in injury-free training and nutrition. He also conducts Thonnur Swimathon, Tri Thonnur and a run race Chamundi Hill Challenge in Mysuru.

 

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The exciting times of Running

An IT professional who found his passion in running, Deepthi Velkur talks to ultra-marathoner, Sandeep CR. 

Sandeep CR, a software professional has had a lifelong fascination with sport and in specific running. He is associated with the running club “Mysoorunners” for the past 4 years and shares his experiences. From a very young age, he has been an active sports enthusiast and has represented both school and college across multiple sporting events. Over the past 10 years, Sandeep has trained his focus on long-distance running graduating from 10K runs to Half-Marathons to Full-Marathons and eventually covering Ultra-Marathons as well.

Just looking at Sandeep’s running achievements is motivation enough for someone like me to get going and notch a few marathons myself. A snapshot of his running credits are: the 80K Malnad Ultra, the 80K Vagamon Ultra, the 60K Ooty Ultra, the 50K Javadhu Hills Ultra, 8 Full-Marathons, 25+ Half-Marathons and not to mention the countless 10K runs – wow! What an impressive running resume.

For Sandeep though, running is just one of his areas of interest. In his pursuit of staying fit, he also dabbles in cycling, swimming and bouldering. A keen reader and an avid wildlife enthusiast, Sandeep volunteers his time with a few NGOs with the aim of conserving wildlife.

My conversation with Sandeep was extremely interesting and I just had to share some excerpts from that discussion.

How long have been into long-distance running and did it happen by chance or was it something you’ve always wanted to do?

As with most things in life, we all need some motivation to kickstart a new habit. For me, it was the realization that I was gaining weight pretty fast. Early in my professional career (about 8 years ago), my weight had jumped up from 68kgs to 78kgs in just about 24 months. This had me worried and pushed me to take up long-distance running. I’m used to doing shorter distances during my time at school and college, but never beyond a 10K.

Having taken the decision, I gathered the courage to run a Half-Marathon in 2010 and haven’t looked back since.

Which has been your best race for you personally in terms of timing and personal achievement?

I have done a few half-marathons under 1hr:40mins and a few full-marathons too in good time; but, the most gratifying experience in terms of running was the Malnad Ultra in 2017, which was my first 80K run.

Why was I pleased with it, you ask?Well, the entire process of training for it, training right and executing it on race day is something that gave me a lot of pleasure. Timing-wise, I finished my run in 11 hours which is pretty slow by any standards, but, the experience is what I cherish.

Do you set targets of how many races you would run at the start of the year and do you set out in accomplishing them?

I don’t race often enough. I do a maximum of three races a year. I have my races spaced out months apart so I get enough time to recover, train and then race again. My partner and myself run around 75 to 80km per week almost all through the year. The level of intensity differs as we get closer to the race day. 

How does your typical training day look like and where and how many days in a week do you train?

I train for about 5 days a week. I have been an ardent follower of the Maffetone method for the past 3 years. So all my runs are within the MAF heart rate which is 180- age. It has helped stay injury free and run longer. 

Could you give us some insight into the running group you are associated with -Mysoorunners? How did you become a part of this group and when? 

Mysoorunners is a fun-filled group. We have people from all walks of life associated with the group. The group was formed in 2014 by Ajit Thandur to get all runners from Mysore in one place and I have been a member since its inception. The best thing about this group is that it is non-competitive and it doesn’t matter what distance you run, you can be an absolute beginner or an experienced runner – we share the feeling of belongingness and treat everybody as one and enjoy great camaraderie.

Mysoorunners are the hospitality partners for the Tri Thonnur event. How has your association been with them?

I have been associated with Tri Thonnur as a volunteer/participant since its inception in 2013. It’s been great to see the event grow from being an outing for few like-minded folks to being one of the sought after races in the triathlon circuit across India. Typically we volunteer to ensure proper crowd management.

Which has been your latest run and the upcoming event your training for currently? Could you please share your experience\learnings from running the event and what changes would you like to incorporate in your upcoming run?

My last event was the Ooty Ultra, a road race of 60K which I managed to finish in 9 hours. There were occasions during the race where I sort of got into a negative mindset which resulted in spending a lot of time at aid stations and walking when I could have run. I realized I wasted close to half an hour with these distractions. I would like to be mindful of these things in my future races. 

How do you better yourself as a runner and motivate yourself and people around you?

It takes a lot of hours of running for someone to become an average runner as it is a continuous learning process. That in itself is a great motivating factor for me as you strive to get better each day.

What plans do you have for the future?

We are living in exciting times. The ultra-marathon scene in India is just starting out and I am sure there will be great races coming up in the future. Personally, I would like to run a 100 miler before I turn 35 which is 5 years from now. Also, I hope to complete the ‘Comrades Ultra’ something 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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Run Mumbai Run! – Running Clubs In Mumbai For A Fitter You

Running alone has its perks! But if you want to be a better version of you, a fun way to do it is to explore joining a club, writes Protima Tiwary.

Marathon season is upon us! This can only mean one thing- it’s time to get those sneakers out of their shoe closets, wipe off the dust, tie up those laces and hit the track! Getting ready to run a marathon might seem like a daunting task, especially now that it’s festival season and all that you see around you is excuses. Everyone needs a partner to help balance the chaos of city life, but sometimes even a running buddy doesn’t make the cut. It is precisely for this reason that city-based running clubs are now overfull with enthusiastic members, looking forward to getting fit for the season.

Are you looking to join a running club in the city of Mumbai? Whether it’s enjoying a scenic view of the city skyline on Marine Drive, or making your way through the lanes of Bandra, Mumbai has a running club for you.

Here are some options that can help you on your journey to the finish line.

MUMBAI RUNNERS

What started off as an Instagram community has not only turned into motivation for many, but also into a full fledged website that inspires so many Mumbaikars to join the crew on a weekly basis. This running group meets on Thursdays and Sundays, in different locations around the city. Join them on Instagram here.

https://www.instagram.com/mumbairunners/?hl=en

ADIDAS RUNNERS

Adidas hosts running clubs in Marine Drive and Bandra, and is largely targeted towards the youth of the city. Hosted by Ayesha Billimoria, these morning sessions take you through warm ups, a run and cooling down techniques. Adidas Runners also supports a lot of environmental causes through their runs, and this running club encourages participation from all Mumbaikars. To know more about their running schedule, check out their website here- https://www.adidas.co.in/adidasrunners/

STRIDERS

Striders believes in combating the ill effects of the sedentary corporate life through running. This running club aimed at the regular job-goer targets the corporate lifestyle, and aims at promoting the benefits of running and exercising, especially when a large part of the day is being spent sitting. Other than marathon training and running programs, they also have a fitness training routine which you can sign up for. You can find them all over Mumbai.

https://www.striders.in/

MUMBAI ROAD RUNNERS

A non profit venture, this running group is about having fun while aiming to stay fit. Not only do they organize runs, but also award nights, rock climbing, beach football and a whole bunch of other fun activities that promote emotional health. They organize a half marathon and 10K run on the 1stSunday of every month and a 10 miler on the last Sunday of every month. This group is open to all.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/mumbairunners/about/

RUN INDIA RUN

No matter how old you are, or how busy your schedule is, Run India Run is here to help all those who have found their true calling in running. They organize marathon training sessions all around Mumbai, and are the leading running community in India that also focuses on mental, emotional and spiritual health. This running club takes the help of experts to design training sessions.

http://runindiarun.org.in/

Ready to lace up and get social?

 

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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Making running a habit

Do you have a really hard time waking up, or finding that motivation to run consistently? In this article, Kavita Rajith Nair tells you how she overcame these hurdles and went on to become a morning person!

It only takes 21 continuous days to form a habit – says Stephen Covey in his book – 7 Habits of the Highly Effective People. But how do you get through those 21 days? Is motivation the only factor? How about the habits we have to break first? Not having case studies and with only my experience to go by, I’ll avoid generalities and stick to my tale.

‘SHOWING UP! Is the theme that worked for me’ – making every single session consistently for the next 21 days.

That’s all it takes to make anything a habit be it running, cycling, boxing, music, hitting the gym, sleeping early, waking up early. Literally anything!

Running is the newest habit I have cultivated, which I have sustained for over 2 years now and is no longer considered a habit, as it has become an inseparable part of my life.

Bangalore is a runner’s paradise with easy access to broad traffic-free roads early in the mornings and beautiful weather almost all around the year – it’s no wonder you see runners across the city roads quite frequently. That’s how running became a natural choice for me.

When I decided to give running a shot, it wasn’t because I was a couch potato – I had

Ballroom Dancing, Kickboxing and CrossFit training going on and this helped me shed 7 Kgs. However, despite all of this I just couldn’t get my weight to budge south of 75 kilos. In hindsight, I think just dabbling in each of them and not doing enough of them consistently didn’t help my cause.

Running requires you to be an early morning person. I was someone who would hit the bed late and wake up late as well. As old habits would have it, mornings found be tucked comfortably in bed, until Jayanagar Jaguars (running club) opened up their branch in HSR Layout, just about 500mts from my house.

One morning I mustered enough motivation to SHOW UP on the ground at 5:20 AM. The routine was simple – some warm-up exercises, a couple of kms brisk walk, few drills after returning to the ground, cool down stretches, few core strengthening exercises and wind up. It was done and dusted by 7:00 AM and I was home by 7:05 AM. I still had an hour to go before my alarm would ring on a usual day otherwise and I just earned 60mins additional time to do my stuff – ME TIME!!! I thought I had already started liking it, but yes not a habit yet, as it was just the first day. The strangest thing happened that night, I started yawning at around 8:00 PM and despite my hard attempts to stay awake, I eventually hit the bed at 9:00 PM. That was by far the earliest time ever I had gone off to sleep, probably did it last as a kid.

The next day was a rest day, but despite that, I woke up earlier than usual and slept early too. Then came the running day, I was eager to be on the grounds on time and I SHOWED UP again. After a week, I pulled in my spouse to join me for a trial session, he was sulking initially to wake up, but our welcoming Location Lead, gave us proper guidance for absolute amateur runners like my spouse and myself and also the camaraderie of the warm co-runners, some experienced and some new to the sport like us, drew us to the ground for the next few sessions regularly. And that way, without realising I SHOWED UP again and again until today. It’s been 2 years and 3 months and I SIMPLY SHOW UP, be it at the grounds if in Bangalore or if traveling, I AM UP AND ABOUT on the roads on the scheduled days. To be very candid here, I am not sure when that turned into a habit, as I stopped counting after a few days I think to the extent that even for emergency reasons if I had to miss my running, I was on a complete guilt trip.

Looking back, here are the few things that probably helped me build ‘Running as a habit’:

  1. Decision: Awareness that you need to cultivate a habit is a big thing in itself. 10% of your work is done here.
  2. Choice:The next big thing is to decide what is it that you want to do. This could take a while as you may have to do a bit of introspection to arrive at this, or just go with what your heart tells you one fine morning, or what your best friend suggests, it is an experimentation anyway. Another 5% is done here.
  3. Enjoy: You should like what you have chosen and thoroughly enjoy it. Might be a taste you have to develop but that you should be aware of in the early days as it will most likely make you happier, content, energetic through the day to pull your daily chores and office routines without any additional effort- this gets you to the 40% mark.
  4. Partner-In: Rope in a friend/ family member/ partner/ spouse/ colleague.For me, this was an important step, especially in the initial days one pushes the other and unknowingly you have crossed a week without missing a single session. This takes you to a 50% mark.

The next 50% is the tricky bit, here come the cliched big words like regularity, consistency, determination, persistence and so on. I can share what helped me to bridge the gap of the next 50%.

  1. Note down the changes the new habit has brought in you. E.g. ease of waking up early, longer days for self, more Me-time, less grumpy, sustain more energy through the day and help me have a positive outlook on life itself.
  2. Talk about it to as many as possible.Of course, you risk shooing people away at the very sight of you from afar, but your well-wishers will stick around for you, noticing the change in you and to support you. Talking about your new habit only reassures that you are liking it, you are spreading a word about it, and in a minute way, influencing the people you are speaking to. That in itself is a big motivation.
  3. Set goals. This could be tough, as you are new to the habit, and may be unaware of what goals to set, you can either use our google mom to read blogs and research good articles or pester your coach/ mentor/ guide to help you here. I did the latter of course 🙂
  4. Measure yourself. This could be basis your goals for the habit you chose, but as it’s said, “only if you measure, can you change/control it” so measure! I defined performance for myself in running and then started measuring it. Needless to say, my original obsession with weight was also being measured, but along with it started measuring more meaningful yet simple aspects like BMI, fat%, skeletal mass, water content etc. And trust me, any of these moving in the positive direction is a huge stimulus.
  5. Share your success stories. While your successes will be evident to yourself and people around you, you can choose to share on social media if you are a social media friendly person, or even just talk about them. But having said that, consciously remember to have your head fixed right on your shoulders and not have the successes get to your head. In simple words, ‘Always Be Humble!’

Parting Message: Don’t get overwhelmed by the words Consistency, Dedication, Introspection, which I have used to describe my journey, believe me, this looked scary to me as well, but just remember #21Days and you will enjoy the journey. In our multifaceted daily life as a mother, father, child, caregiver, employee, manager, wife, husband and so on, never forget YOURSELF. Before I say Adieu, I would say have some time to live for yourself.

As an amateur runner, I have shared what helped me to ‘SHOW UP’ on all mornings of the run days and eventually cultivate ‘Running as a Habit’. Am eager to hear from you what helped you!

GUEST COLUMNIST

Kavita, employed with an International Bank had taken up running to stay fit in summer of 2016. Her leisure running has now developed into her passion. She fondly inspires people around her with her enthusiasm, infectious energy and love for running

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Record Breaking Runner

Eluid Kipchoge has done the unbelievable, Deepthi Velkur looks back at the marathoner’s stunning run.

The BMW Berlin Marathon is a premier long-distance running event that attracts many runners from across the globe. It is regarded as the fastest course of the six major marathons and it has been the site of seven world record times since the event started in 1974.

In this year’s edition, which took place on 16th September, there were a total of 44,389 runners from across 133 countries and it has been a much-awaited event as it brought together two of the greatest runners in history – Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge and former world record holder Wilson Kipsang.

In what was an astonishing display of distance running, Eliud Kipchoge broke the world record winning the IAAF Gold Label road race in 2:01:39 in the process shaving off 78 seconds from the previous record set by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014.

Kipchoge, 33, is considered (and rightfully so!) as the greatest marathon runner of the modern era.

15 years ago at the age of 18, Kipchoge won the U20 race at the World Cross-Country championships and with that win, he announced himself as a worthy challenger for the marathon majors.

Starting off his marathon career in 2013 with a victory at the Hamburg marathon, Kipchoge has an amazing record of winning 11 out of 12 marathons he has run so far (his only defeat being at Berlin in 2013).

The Berlin marathon is a happy hunting ground for Kipchoge who has now won the event thrice (2015, 2017 and 2018) in six years and after a dazzling finish to the race, Kipchoge was left speechless – “I lack words to describe this day,” he said. It did not matter. Kipchoge let his running for the talking on the streets of the German capital. Right from the start, Kipchoge’s only opponent was the clock.

Kipchoge ran at the front from the very first kilometre. He had just a few pacemakers for company and got through the first five kilometres in 14:24 and 10 kilometres in 29:01. A little after 15 kilometres, which was timed at 43:38, two out of the three pacemakers were unable to continue and had to withdraw from the race. Josphat Boit, the final pacemaker led Kipchoge through half-way point 1:01:06 before he dropped out at the 25-kilometre mark which was covered in 1:12:24.

For the remaining distance of 17 kilometres, Kipchoge was alone and at the 30km mark, he was 52 seconds ahead of world record pace and his hopes of breaking the world record suddenly became a real possibility. “It’s a breathless leap in the world of marathon running,” said one excited commentator as Kipchoge crossed the 40km in 1:55:32 – 50 seconds inside world record pace.

Many questioned Kipchoge’s ability to maintain his pace after losing his last pacemaker but Kipchoge believed and he finished the second half in 1:00:34 which propelled him to a new world record timing.

After such an astonishing run, mere mortals would have slumped over the line – Kipchoge however, leaped into the arms of Patrick Sang, who has been his coach and mentor since Kipchoge was a teenager. What a journey these two have had since then!

Apart from Kipchoge’s history-making run, Kenya claimed a podium sweep with Berlin debutant Amos Kipruto finishing second clocking 2:06:23 and former world-record holder Wilson Kipsang claiming the third spot with a timing of 2:06:48.

Evolution advocates athletic improvement happens in steady increments, but on rare occasions, someone like Eluid Kipchoge comes along and redefines what we thought was humanly possible.

No matter what happens, this race will in all likelihood go down as Kipchoge’s crowning moment, his very own marathon opus.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

 

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The Indian Blade Runner

Capt Seshadri writes about a Major in the Indian Army who despite his physical challenge has gone on to achieve personal goals and live life on his own terms.

It is very easy to QUIT… majority does so… I, however would like to TRY till last breath, even if I fail. I know it is hard but then I am chosen by God himself for these challenges so why should I bother. Let HIM only worry about result. Jai Hind.

The Indian Army is a voluminous storybook of heroes. In fighting for the safety and security of their countrymen, that they may live in peace, many are martyred, several live on maimed for life, and a few take their disabilities as part of destiny and turn them into a motivation to live life on their own terms.

One such is a veteran of Kargil, hit almost directly by mortar fire, given up for dead, but who literally rose from the ashes like the legendary phoenix, to prove to mankind and more so to the world of runners, that nothing can keep a good man down. Eighteen marathons under his belt which covers what is barely left of his intestines, and fitted with a prosthetic leg, this indefatigable braveheart continues to be the embodiment of the ‘never say die’ spirit. Not without justification has he made his mark as India’s only ‘blade runner’.

Major Devender Pal Singh, born on September 13, 1973, in the north Indian town of Jagadhri, was commissioned into the 7thBattalion of the Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army, on December 6, 1997, graduating from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. Called to action for Operation Vijay in Kargil in July 1999, Maj Singh was deployed at the LOC in the Akhnoor sector. One fateful night, he was barely 80 metres from a Pakistani Army post when a mortar shell landed and exploded barely five feet away. Shrapnel from the blast tore into him, injuring several internal organs and almost blowing his right leg away.

Brought to the nearest Field Hospital, Maj Singh was declared dead and his torn and bleeding body was consigned to the makeshift mortuary. Fortune must certainly favour the brave, for an army surgeon, inspecting the bodies at the morgue, found signs of life and immediately commenced an emergency operation to remove a portion of his intestines. A part of his right leg, which by then had developed gangrene,  also had to be amputated. Maj Singh, never ready to die, was now determined not just to live, but to do so on his terms. A year in hospital and none believed he would ever walk again; none but himself. He thought: Why just walk? I want to run!

In his own words: “When I learnt I lost my leg, I told myself that this would be yet another challenge in my life. I just couldn’t get used to the sympathetic glances I used to get from people. After a while, I was desperate to change that”.Maj Singh’s foray into running and his astounding achievement of becoming the ‘Indian Blade Runner’ was never a quick affair. In fact, apart from the regular training in the Army, he had never been a runner in the true sense of the term. His internal injuries and the amputation made him push himself beyond the boundaries of perseverance and pain. He never gave up, opting to fall, get up and continue running, rather than crawl. A few agonising marathons later, along with a stroke of luck, a team of prosthetics specialists from the Hanger Clinic, Oklahoma, chancing on a video clip of Maj Singh, called him over and fitted him with a prosthetic that would allow him greater flexibility and more comfort. Naturally, more marathons followed.

In 2002, Maj D P Singh converted to the Army Ordnance Corps, for a more sedentary career. However, in 2007, ten years after being commissioned, he retired to manage a support group called ‘The Challenging Ones’, to instill confidence in similarly challenged people. As a motivational speaker, he travels across India, inspiring amputees break through the chains of dependency and overcome fears of immobility.

 

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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Walk, don’t run

Running not your cup of tea, try Racewalking instead says Capt Seshadri

The glamour of the marathon has possibly relegated another gruelling track event to a lower position in the pecking order. While ‘pedestrian’ is a word usually associated with slow movement, there is a term not so well known, although the implications are far from slowness: ‘pedestrianism’, or its better-known synonym, racewalking.

This sport reportedly took roots sometime in the mid 1800s with a set of rules that typified and differentiated it from running. In this case, one foot must be in contact with the ground at all times, unlike both feet in the air during the running stride. Finding increasing participation over the decades, racewalking has now evolved into an Olympic and World Championship event, with races ranging across different distances, although the 20km and 50 km are probably the most popular. In some countries, there are even competitions from a short 3,000 metres to as long as 100 km.  In the modern era, the sport has been dominated by walkers from Russia and China, but now facing intense competition from Latin Americans.

The intricacy of racewalking is in the length of the stride and the rhythm, or cadence. While the former is short, in order to keep both feet on the ground, the latter could best compare with the stride of an 800 or 1,500 metre runner. And there is much more to the sport than just these two. Racewalkers typically keep low to the ground and pump their arms with the elbows almost tucked into the hips. This pelvic rotation results in achieving the best momentum, sometimes as close as 15 km per hour, while adhering to the rule of both feet on the ground. Judges rely purely on observation and usually warn participants before disqualifying them for running.

In England, as early as in 1866, the first racewalking championship was won by one John Chambers, judged to have been fair to the ‘heel and toe’ method of contact with the ground. Today, it has developed into a state of art event, with a training regime on par with the toughest long distance runs, having been an integral part of the Olympics since 1904. But it was a century later, in 2003, that the IAAF thought it fit to organise a World Race Walking Challenge, a series of walks held in different venues across the world and culminating in a World Final offering USD 200,000 of prize money.

Racewalking employs more muscle groups than regular walking, which means you have a higher exercise intensity, similar to that in running. It is a vigorous-intensity activity while normal brisk walking is a moderate-intensity activity. Your heart and lungs will be working much harder. Maria Michta-Coffey, a Polish origin American, and the fastest US woman racewalker sums it up nicely: “Most people who’ve ever seen racewalking in action assume it’s ‘just walking.’ But there is much more to the event. And no—even if it appears a racewalker is running, he or she is not. For us, racewalking is technical because there are rules, so it’s slower than running. (But) You’re still pushing your body to the limit and maximizing efficiency as best as possible.”

For the statisticians, the Olympics, has three racewalking events: a men’s and women’s 20 km and a men’s 50 km. While the men’s 50 km was introduced in 1932, the shorter version came about in 1956. The women’s event started as a 10 km race in 1992 at Barcelona, and the 20 km was introduced as late as in 2000 at Sydney. London 2012 saw all the racewalking records shattered, by Chen Ding of China in the men’s 20 km, Jarred Talent in the 50 km and Elena Lashmanova among the women, setting a world record in racewalking in the Olympics for the first time ever.

So, if you don’t feel up to running, racewalk. You might just surprise yourself at the effort.

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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Running clubs in Namma Bengaluru!

Running alone has its perks but the quickest and fun way to improve as a runner is to join a running club says Deepthi Velkur

Running is that alone time we need, isn’t it? It’s the ultimate “me” time when you can get away from it all, reflect on life’s important matters, or even push your body to the absolute limit in splendid solitude.

So why on earth would you want to ruin all that by joining a running club and have other people chattering in your ear during a steady run? Also, aren’t running clubs meant for those who take running seriously?

Well, actually, no. Choosing to join a club is one of the best decisions a runner can make, no matter the level. You often see a big improvement in your performance and, more importantly, it provides for enduring memories, experiences and friendships.

We all choose to run for different reasons – some to stay reasonably fit, some to lose weight and others to become competitive runners who want to win races. No matter the reason, being a member of a club can help make your runs even better.

Motivation can be a challenge for some of us when we look out of the window and see a cold, rainy morning but knowing that there will be others to share that experience can often be the difference between you going back to bed and heading out the door.

Over the past few years, Bengaluru has developed a thriving running scene and with running groups in almost every locality, it has never been easier for us to join one.

Famed for its pleasant weather, Bengaluru also boasts some scenic routes and parks that can make any runner happy. Cubbon Park, Lal Bagh, Nandi Hills, GKVK campus, Kanteerava Stadium are a few of the iconic running tracks around the city.

Most people run in smaller groups during the week and weekends are reserved for a bit of strength training and long group runs. Running groups start training very early in the day and last for about 2 – 2.5 hrs and on the long run days might be longer.

Out of the 25 running clubs active in Bengaluru today, let us discover a little more about a few clubs:

Runner’s for Life were the pioneers of the running movement in India and they believe in the philosophy of taking running to places it has never been before. The Fuller Life started by Arvind Krishnan is the parent group of RFL. They started out as a google group of runners’ back in 2005. The group meets once every fortnight. They organize three major running events across the city like the Bangalore Ultra, Kaveri Trail Marathon, and Puma Urban Stampede. They were also the first to launch the country’s first duathlon in 2009. The team grew to a few hundred and so did the scope of their events and the connection they built with the running community. They continue to show efforts in supporting the running community in as many ways as possible.

Soles of Bangalore are the most diverse and active group of amateur and like-minded runners who train in and around HSR Layout, Sarjapur road and Bellandur. Santhosh Jayakumar who is one of the co-founders of the group says running is looked as more of an activity to stay healthy and fit. They help organize group running events in the city on Sundays and events/seminars for amateur runners as well. The group strives to remain inclusive and has grown to about 60+ runners both beginners and experienced runners alike who engage and share their experiences for the joy of running. The group also provides training for people attempting to run marathons, injury prevention methods, organize talks on nutrition and many more.

Jayanagar Jaguars (fondly called JJ’s)is one of the oldest and largest running groups in Bengaluru who believe in their mission to deliver a structured and an affordable training program for all be it a beginner, experienced marathoner or ultra-runners. They uniformly follow the structured training program which focuses on building strength, fitness, and stamina across all their 10 locations. Over the years, more than 3000 runners are benefited through this program crafted carefully by their experienced head coach Pramod Deshpande and the same is implemented by designated captains for each group across their locations. Some of their training programs include training for half and ultra-marathons, TWTK (10weeks to 10k) to run the TCK10k, fitness through running for people who want to stay fit through running and many more.

Pacemakers are a group of 100 spirited and strong-willed long-distance runners both novice and experienced who coach under the leadership and guidance of their Coach Pani- an Ex-IAF athlete. He has many commendable achievements to his credit in various competitive races covering varied distances. The primary objective of this group is to train runners to better their performance and run injury-free by applying the right principles of training. They design a structured program for each athlete keeping in mind their current fitness levels and individual goals. The programs are designed to balance the intensity and volume of workouts which gradually reaches its peak before any event. The group trains at Kanteerva Stadium three times a week in interval training, tempo runs, Fartlek runs. The runners are also required to do strength and cross training workouts independently. The long-run workouts are usually reserved for Saturdays which happen at GKVK.

Runner’s High is a community who want to make running and fitness sports accessible to all irrespective of their background and reach their individual potential in the truest sense. They offer training and coaching to walkers and runners whether novice or advanced. Their training programmes are designed by a team of experienced coaches and sports medicine specialists who are themselves runners of great repute. They also organize various running events in the city. Members who train with them, supporters, patrons and the education efforts the team is involved with form the crux of the Runners High community.

While running clubs and running with others do have their merits, some of us like having that bit of time and space where we don’t have to talk (or listen), where we can go any route or direction we want. Go on that solo run once in a while to give you that sense of freedom.

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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