Monday, December 26, 2011

Goa River Half Marathon – River soothes while Vasco fumes

Goa River Half Marathon – River soothes while Vasco fumes

The second edition of Goa River Half marathon was eagerly awaited because of the wonderful experience that we had last year – scenic road, beautiful weather, excellent organization, post run party in fun filled Goa.

This year many of us decided to spend a couple of days extra in Goa after the marathon to laze around in the beaches enjoying the excellent Goa weather, drinks, foods et al, a kind of resurgence of mind and soul before the wind down to the much awaited and dreaded Mumbai marathon in mid-January.

The fact that GRM is gaining popularity in its second year itself was evident when the bib distribution venue was shifted to the Municipal Ground near Vasco market, a much larger space compared to last year and with few stands as well selling t-shirts etc.

We landed in Vasco-da-Gama on Saturday morning and collected our bibs etc. from the venue after dumping our luggages in the hotel. What followed during lunch on Saturday was something defying all laws of marathon practice as enumerated and codified by the gurus world over. Here were a bunch of enthusiastic runners merrily gulping one glass of beer after another much to the amusement of a few non-drinkers and to the chagrin of the purists. It was a sight to behold – few would have to dared to guess that we were going to run 21.097 kilometres early next day after barely sleeping for a few hours during the night.

The evening pasta party was an event to forget because there were hardly any pasta and fruit salad available in the trays, such was the demand from the runners.

If the previous evening was pleasant, early morning on the race day was a different weather altogether. It was warm in the morning itself before the race portending a difficult day for the runners. The race route was exactly the same as previous year, so those of us who had run the previous year were confident knowing the route and its uphills and downhills. The race starts near the Baina beach and loops the Vasco railway station coming to a railway flyover within the first kms itself. Then it hits Vasco town for about four kms, before coming to the river front, where the road opens out to a scenic beauty and greenery all around. But until we reached the river front, it was sheer torture for the runners because of the intense humidity which was killing the runners. At about 3 kms there is a small uphill and then at 4 kms, the largest climb which is about 500 metres in length and twisting and winding, which was a real beauty. Around 6 kms there is a small climb and at around 7 kms another small climb. Last year when the weather was pleasant we barely noticed the three small climbs, although we did come across and navigated the largest one at 4 kms. But this year the humidity humbled the runners to the point of desperation.

Only when we came to the river front, we could experience good breeze blowing across and the humidity had lessened here. It was very pleasant to run along the river front enjoying the scenic beauty of the place. The first of the Africans returned when I was in the 8th km while the first of our friends Dnyanesh went by after my 9 km mark, gliding smoothly like a Rolls Royce. The cheering and hollering had started. Every few metres there was one runner who was familiar and it was this cheering and hollering that kept us going as there was hardly any local residents of Vasco on the road to cheer us. There were about four spectators at around 18 kms clapping for us.  I feel the organizers need to build more local sport by involving a local sportsperson as the brand ambassador instead of a film star. They should drum up support by using the radio, television and local newspapers.

Last year I was battling ITBS in my left knee which was my first serious running injury so I was very cautious in the first half. This year I took off in the first half at a good pace. Upto 15 kms I was doing good pace and in line to break my personal best at the distance, but after that the humidity again hit the runners severely slowing me down considerably. I took all the uphills on the return leg albeit slowly and realizing at this point that a personal best would be difficult concentrated on staying the course comfortably. I sprinted down the last 200 metres to finish in a time of 2.15.48, lopping off 9 minutes from my last year’s finish time.

The unwinding started pronto and for the next two days, we enjoyed Goa tremendously and ran on the beach on Tuesday – a recovery run deemed as such more to recover from the after effects of the beers on Sunday evening and Monday full day, rather than from the Goa River half Marathon. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bangalore Ultra – Experience the Beast

About little more than 2 weeks ago, we came to know that the Bangalore Ultra edition of 2011 is having a brand new route – few who had done a dry run there said that it was a tough course with lots of twists and ups and downs with no tree cover at all and that if it rains, it could be treacherous because the mud was softer than last year. A2 told me the previous day that the course has less gradient compared to last year. Mid-week before the event date, I checked the weather forecast for Bangalore for the weekends and there was a prediction of a nice and sunny day.

Having done two very tough half marathons in August (at Hyderabad) and Kaveri trail half in September and taken part in the Raj’s 100 kms event in the hot afternoon sun, I was like ready to tackle the toughest marathon event in India. There were few niggles here and there but I guess that is part of a runner’s life.

Last year’s Bangalore Ultra trail was tough in itself but had some little forest cover, but no straight patches of road at all. It was tough on the legs and though I had registered for 37.5 kms I could manage only 25 kms in the end having to throw in the towel due to a double strike of itbs in the left knee plus a back pain. The back pain had in fact surfaced early in the week itself due to running at Juhu beach only a week before the ultra – a monumental folly that. This year also I ran at juhu beach, albeit two weeks before the event and picked up a shin trouble. Well, two weeks was enough time to set things right. But last year’s failure was perennially at the back of my mind and that made me nervous. But one thing I was determined to do and that was to turn around at the end of the second loop.

Well, there I was at 6.00 a.m. at the start of the 37.5 kms event all set and raring to go, it was cold and chilly and there was enough of sunlight to go full blast on a new track and riding my early luck I started at quite a brisk pace keeping only such distance behind the runner ahead of me to see the track for any lurking dangers. I was surprised at the gentle nature of the track because there were quite a few patches that was straight though the soil was loose kicking up some dust. Little after 1.5 kms the route veers off to the left where the road undulates severely before turning left again to the second water station on the route.

Thereafter the route meanders through twists and turns but from 3 to 4 kms it is a straight path until it reaches a gravel path just after 4 kms mark for about 150 metres. Immediately after the gravel path the route turns sharply to the left to a monstrous triple pit which has the hallmark of an ankle breaker and then the water stop is situated. From this point onwards the ultra beast rears its ugly head and it is the most difficult part of the entire route. There are numerous twists and turns at this section for about 2 kms until the 6.25 kms turnaround. There are straight paths interspersed with stones, heavy grass and on a few places monstrous cactus plants that juts out onto the runners’ path threatening to sever the arms of the runner. It is this section of 4 kms to and fro that I consider the most difficult part of the entire ultra. Runners were falling regularly like Windies wickets at the Eden Gardens and there were bruises, cuts, sprains galore. The Ultra was again going to test my will and nerves.

By the time we were returning to the starting point on the first loop the 25 kms and 12.5 kms runners were let loose and veritably they were on a treasure hunt coming in hordes, occupying both sides of the road and threatening to bulldoze everybody else in their path. It was nerve wracking to keep your eyes on the road as well as look up at the runners trying to wrestle and knock you down. I had to holler out to the runners to keep to their side of the road. This went on for about half a kms until there was relative safety.

By the time we had come back to the start point after the first loop the sun was out, so the second loop was going to be difficult, which indeed it proved to be. The demons in the mind started rearing again and tough as it became on the second stretch, negative thoughts started occurring. Doubts whether I can come back for the 3rd loop, whether I should come back, why am I doing this thing, all sorts of negative thoughts started appearing in the brain. I started making a plan – that I would surely cross for the 3rd loop and then start a run-walk-run routine and take it further from there. I remembered that this was a long run practice run for the Mumbai marathon in January and if I miss this one, then surely I am on the backfoot. Plus with the glorious sun at your back, what better practice can you get for the Mumbai marathon. Slowly the demons started disappearing and crushing the negative thoughts from my brain, I turned for the 3rd loop with my left fist pumped up.

By this time, my groins were paining, shins and arms were hurting and by adopting a run-walk-run routine I managed to reach the last cut-off point from where it was only another 6.25 kms to the finish. The distances loomed huge though I was reminding myself that it was only 6 kms to the finish. I was running at all the straight paths and taking it easy at the treacherous ones thereby slowly whittling down the distance. It gave me immense pleasure to see the distances at the billboard mounting from 30.5 to 34.5 etc.

Normally I do not look at my watch at all during any race but here at 36.5 kms I looked at my watch which showed 5.04 hours. I reckoned last kms to take about 10 mins so I should be home by 5.15 hours which was fair enough considering that I had given myself 5 hours to finish this one. Last few metres people were shouting encouragement – “finish strong”. At the entrance to the finish arena there is a small bump so I waited until I crossed that bump and then slowly picked up pace for a few metres and with fists pumping in the air finished my 37.5 kms Bangalore Ultra in a time of 5.14.56 hours. A big leap of faith for me.

This year’s Bangalore Ultra is a tough demanding course and my title says it all – you have to experience the beast in this course – difficult to compare whether this year was tougher than last year but it brings out the best in you. The intensity of my effort was evident in the immediate aftermath of the event, when I could barely walk to the lunch counter, the bus, the hotel and for the next two days was in excruciating pain and discomfort. I had to travel to Chennai by the Shatabdi train that same afternoon and it was a considerable effort to climb the railway steps at Bangalore railway station and even more difficult to get down to the platform.

So, that ends my 8th event of the year and three back to back tough events.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

3 hours feet on the street

Three House feet on the street

As part of the ramp up in mileages, I had decided to do a 3 hour run today, 2nd October 2011 along with the monthly bandra-ncpa group training run. With me I had Hemant for company for he was a absolutely steady runner, good rhthym, steady pace and unflagging and he remains all the time with you. So we were about 6 of us starting from Khar Road station on the west side and going towards the town side in South Bombay. Along the way, some runners were coming in from Bandra carter road, so in order to do more mileages, we decided to venture into Carter road and meet them and run alongside with them. Barely had we gone 50 metres into carter road, then that group started streaming in at full blast as if they were to catch a train and they were already late.

Anyway, we were going at our steady pace, myself, Hemant and Sharan. The humidity was a bit high in the early mornings but the weather was holding good. When we reached Shivaji Park, we decided to do one loop of the Park, but the moment we entered the Park loop, the wind dried down and we were caught up in a dry air. So, one loop was enough for the day.

We took our first toilet break at Worli sea face and a little after that we met Venkat who was coming from Bandra MIG club. Sharan went along with Venkat so myself and Hemant were then going steady towards Haji Ali, when we came across a huge line of devotees standing early in the morning itself to pay a visit to the famous Mahalaxmi temple. The line was long running half way past the Haji Ali, but it was very orderly and disciplined.

We decided to take a water break at Haji Ali juice centre and ordered one bottle water and one glass of mosambi juice. Unfortunately the juice took long time in coming so we must have taken about 5 minutes break there. Climbing up the pedder road, we saw Sejal Sheth going along so she joined us before the Kemps Corner flyover. There was a huge temptation to do the Cumballa hill and come down from Marine Drive side, but we were already 2.08 hours into the run, so we estimated that we should reach marine drive by 2.20 hours and then take it from there to NCPA. But we reached at about 2.17 hours so decided to go along the Malabar Hill road, but since it was a climber, and the legs were protesting, decided to turn back and head towards NCPA.

The weather was still holding good, the sun was behind the clouds, so running on the Marine Drive was not difficult. Sejal came for company for a while and said it was her first group run and thoroughly enjoyed it. Finished 3.00 hours somewhere near the air india building so decided to walk a bit before running down the last 50 metres or so to finish a good day of running in 3.04 hours.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Marathon Man Feat of Endurance

7.09 p.m. 25th September 2011 will forever be etched in the memory of Rajesh Vadgama a.k.a Raj, because that is the precise moment when he crossed 100 kms at Marine Drive, Mumbai. His friends and supporters running alongside him and waiting for him at NCPA erupted in a thunderous applause reserved for the high and mighty sportsmen – people who have won the world or Olympics titles or achieved monumental feats of endurance. There was no sign of exultation from him, just a casual walk down to the end of NCPA inwardly soaking in the pleasure and joy of having completed a mammoth 100 kilometres in 15 hours.

The last lap of 5.1 kilometres was a joyful one as all his supporters had decided to run alongside him on that last lap. The lap started casually as were the previous ones, but since it was late evening, the Marine Drive promenade was packed to the rafters with families and children and elderly people all coming down for a casual stroll down the Marine Drive. Since he had to run in a straight line in order not to cramp badly, we had Sameer, Roshni, Ganesh, Milton and others shouting and waving to people to step aside for a few seconds for the running cavalcade to pass through. It was a majestic and magnificent feeling to be running alongside him that last lap as it was in the previous laps. Since he had to run 5 kms in the last lap, it was decided to run upto 2.5 kms and make the return leg to NCPA the home stretch to glory. Taking few walking breaks in between as advised by Dr. Ashish Contractor of the Asian Heart Institute, the final stretch of running started somewhere after the Jazz by the Bay restaurant. With barely 500 metres to go, Raj upped the pace to about 6.5 minutes per kilometer making all of us running behind him to suddenly scramble up for pace amazed at the man’s endurance, mental strength and determination. It was a moment of pure joy and triumph for him and all of his supporters. Triumph of mind over matter, man over the elements of scorching heat, humidity, tiredness, pain and sheer distance. A distance that will daunt an ordinary human being, running 100 kilometres in the sultry climate of Mumbai is no mean feat. Originally it was planned to do the distance in 12 hours, but as the day wore on and the sun beat down mercilessly, it was evident that running 100 kilometres in 12 hours would have been a daunting task in the humid climate of coastal Mumbai. But neither Raj nor any one of us had even an iota of doubt that the man will not finish the distance that he had set out to cover in the early hours of that Sunday.

The quest for glory started at 4.00 a.m. outside the Borivli National Park gate in Borivli east where about 10 runners had doggedly woken up at unearthly hours of 3.00 a.m. or thereabouts and travelled to Borivli to start the tryst with destiny alongside Raj. The run started precisely at 4.00 a.m. along the Western Express Highway and the plan was that runners could come in and join along the route. The route that was chosen for this event was the western express highway upto Bandra causeway and then via Cadell Road, Shivaji Park, Prabhadevi, Worli Sea Face, Haji Ali, Babulnath, Marine Drive upto NCPA and thereafter multiple of NCPA to Mafatlal Swimming Pool and back until the 100 kilometres were over.

So we had the indefatigable Bhasker Desai starting alongside Raj at BNP along with Hemant, Milan, Gayatri, Dr. Sharma, Unmesh, Nachiket, Sanjay Kasle and few other runners. Running at an earmarked pace of 7.30 minutes per kilometer, the group reached Goregaon check naka at 5.05 a.m. where they were joined by Sunil, Priyankar, Beena, Anjali, Atul Tuli and Milind Soman. The early morning motorists were probably bemused to see this crazy lunatic bunch of people getting up at unearthly hours on a Sunday morning to hit the roads running. It was decided not to take any of the flyovers, so running along the highway, the group ticked off one milestone after another along the highway, places we remember only as auto or cab destinations, such as Chakala, Airport, Vakola, Kalanagar etc. Alongside the runners there was a support vehicle laden with water, Gatorade and refreshments like bananas, chikkies, dates etc. Since it was a humid morning the runners were consuming water regularly. Ashok joined on the highway in order to take photographs along the route. His vehicle and the support vehicle was driving along in tandem with each other.

The first set of runners from Borivli were to get off at Mahim, a distance of 23 kilometres for a fresh set of legs to take over from there upto NCPA. It was decided that the fresh set of runners will wait at outside the St. Michael’s Church at Mahim at around 6.30 a.m. The running group was expected to reach Mahim around 6.40 a.m. and a 5 minute halt was scheduled here. The running group reached about 6.42 a.m. and instead of waiting immediately left via the Cadell Road. The runners waiting at St. Michael’s Church scrambled up to join him and the running group which took him to Mahim then left for their respective homes, satisfied with their morning accomplishments. However there were a few runners who continued running even beyond Mahim. There were more than 10 runners who joined from Mahim – Kavin, Zubin, Kaushik, Dhanraj, Apurva, Apurba, Ashwin Jain, Sripad, Suresh Negi, Qureshi, Amit & Neepa Sheth etc.

The wait which was scheduled for Mahim was taken at Shivaji Park. The ambulance from Asian Heart Institute also joined at Mahim. Also joining at Mahim were the duo of Varun Joshi on his bike and Mike behind him taking photographs along the way. Manish Rahul, Bijay Nair, Unnikrishnan Nair & Francis joined in at Sidhivinayak Mandir bringing in divine intervention of the Gods to bless the runners.

The support vehicle was stopping every 2 kms in order for the runners to refresh themselves. By the time the group had reached Haji Ali the sun was in and already streaming down though it was not very difficult at this stage.

The group reached NCPA at the expected time of 9.00 a.m. by which time 40 kms was done with. Few of the runners who came from Mahim exited at this stage while few such as Kaushik, Zubin continued their spree in marine drive also.

The idea was to do multiple loops of Marine Drive from NCPA to Mafatlal Swimming pool and back along the Marine Drive promenade which was a distance of 6 kilometres. However, it turned out to be more than 6 kilometres and slightly less than 7 kilometres.

Meanwhile, Puneet Chawla, Mani, Srinivas & Rohit had also arrived at NCPA with fresh supplies of water and refreshments, A water stall was placed at the Mafatlal Swimming Pool end with Ganesh and Shyam T as the initial set of volunteers. The water stall at under the marine drive flyover could not be set up immediately because we did not have enough volunteers. Luckily by the 3rd loop or so, Mrs. Raj and her family friends decided to set up the stall at beneath the flyover. Before the event, hectic preparations were on to procure the supplies and co-ordinate and here people like Puneet Chawla, Pramila Pai, Mani, Srinivas & Rohit Bansal were of immense help in arranging for ice-box, ice, water & refreshments.

Fresh set of legs were coming in at each loop with Sunder, Aishorjyo, Rohit, Srinivas joined in the loops as it was increasingly getting hotter and brutal as the sun kept climbing up. Milton, Giles, Varun, Venkat & Usha came in later loops as did Anand, Ashwini, Vikas and his friend. Manish Rahul & Kavin who completed the leg from Mahim to NCPA came in later for a second round of running along with Manish’s wife Ami. Khushro Patel came in at Mahim and also at NCPA during late evening in order to provide cheer and support to Raj. Ganesh, Chetan, Subra Shyam, Swami & Jitendra were doubling as runners as well as volunteers manning the counter at Mafatlal Swimming Pool. Abbasi did a couple of loops in the morning session and then came back to an evening session as well. He was of great help in procuring items from nearby places for Raj. Venkat brought in the weighing machine and immediately started weighing Raj and some other runners at the end of each loop to determine weight loss, if any. He also brought in a delightful sprayer which was used to spray cold water on their return to NCPA. Scientific, methodical and innovative approach to running.

If the afternoon session was proving to be brutal, Savio de Souza, the renowned marathoner and now came on the scene like a messiah and immediately took charge of Raj and helped him with proper stretching routines at every stop. Meanwhile Dr. Ashish Contractor of the Asian Heart Institute was at the site early itself and constantly taking care of Raj and exhorting him with the proper pace, right time to take a walk, encouragement etc. He was on a bicycle throughout the day as were a couple of other volunteers.

As the day wore on, and the loops kept getting completed one after another and the sun beating down relentlessly on the marine drive promenade which had no tree cover whatsoever, the determination of Raj never relented even for a second. There was never a thought that this was an impossible task. Raj never had a grimace on his face even for a second. In fact all throughout the run from BNP onwards there was a perpetual smile on his face as if he was relishing this challenge all through.

The volunteers at both ends i.e. NCPA and Mafatlal Swimming Pool were keeping track of the times and keeping the water bottles filled in with Gatorade, putting them inside the ice, peeling off the oranges, slicing the water melons etc. all to ensure that minimal time is lost in the turnaround at the loop ends.

As the evening wore on, the sun started setting down into the Arabian Sea, it was certain that he was going to miss the 12 hour deadline that was set for completion of this mammoth event. The crowds started swelling on the Marine Drive promenade for evening stroll It was around 6.30 p.m. when he embarked on his last loop of 5.1 kms, this time accompanied by all the runner friends. Since the crowd had by now risen to alarming proportions, and it was absolutely essential that he be given space to run and that too in a straight path, Sameer, Roshni, Ganesh, Milton and few others took it upon themselves to clear the path ahead, shouting and beseeching pedestrians to stay on the sides. The crowds thronging the Marine Drive were witness to a grand spectacle of a marathon man completing a feat which very few Indians have achieved so far.

What was heart-warming and endearing was the best efforts put in by everybody that day to make Raj’s 100 kms run possible. From the people who co-ordinated and helped with the logistics such as Puneet Chawla, Pramila Pai, Srinivas, Rohit, Mani to all the runners who ran alongside him, many of whom completed their longest ever mileages ever that day, to volunteers like Ganesh, Shyam, Jitu, Swami, Giles to front runners like Sameer, Roshni etc., coach Savio de Souza, Dr. Ashish Contractor, Venkat etc., everybody put their best feet forward to make this event a success – all this reflects on the love and affection that people in the running community of Mumbai have for Raj. There were a couple of runners who had completed their early morning mileages, yet were there during the evening hours to lend support for this event. Ashok and Ganesh were to leave after a three hour sojourn, yet they remained until the very last lending full support to the group. Even the few drivers who had come with the runners assisted in the group event.

Meanwhile another story was being played on the same day at the same route: that of Apurba Dass, the man whom we affectionately call as Marathon Monk. He started from Mahim with the group, but before that he had already run a few kilometers from his house to Mahim. He was going through the entire route from Mahim onwards alongside Raj, which was to somewhere around 90 kilometres. Somewhere during the day, he probably decided that he would also notch up 100 kilometres run that day by adding another 10 kilometres. Since he was planning to run the Navi Mumbai barefoot half marathon scheduled for 6th November 2011 he also decided to do a barefoot running on the hot pavement of Marine Drive which he did with no pain whatsoever. All though the day, Apurba kept the pace for which he is famous for and not showing any signs of tiredness whatsoever, he completed 100 kilometres a little before 8.00 p.m.

Monumental feat of endurance by two of our best running buddies in one day – Raj & Apurba.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kaveri Trail Marathon 2011 - Weather Benign

Well, Kaveri Trail Half Marathon bloodied me last year, since it was my first ever trail marathon and I cramped badly from 13 kms onwards and came home battled and bruised in 2.35 hours. That was last year, 2010. So I was determined to go back to the Kaveri trail and do a better performance than last year. It was not a revenge but this is what all marathoners do, I believe, when they don’t get a good performance in a particular track, they go back and try to do better.

With that intention in mind of doing better this year, I dutifully registered for the Kaveri trail marathon as soon as it opened. But before the registrations itself, we had done the group train bookings for more than 10 persons from Mumbai There is a great camaraderie in travelling together for marathons, as I have experienced since last year. We get to exchange notes with other runners during the journey and believe me all we runners talk about during the train and air journeys is nothing but running all the time. In Hyderabad, we had Kavin as our official host being a telugu spokesman for the group. In Bangalore and Mysore we were lucky to have Srivatsan and Vikas as our language hosts. More of that later.

In August, I had done the Hyderabad half marathon in a time of 2.27 hours in a beast of a course. Since I knew the Kaveri trail I was sort of mentally prepared as to what to expect this year from the trail. The trail remained the same, only the weather behaved better this year compared to last year. I wanted to do better than last year’s time of 2.35 hours, no other expectations of a personal best half marathon.

The train group dwindled to about five members being myself, Anand, Milton, Hari & Manoj. Srivatsan & Bhasker were flying separately. The 24 hour train journey took its toll on us despite having a third a/c accommodation. The train from Bangalore to Mysore however was a beautiful journey, only 2 hours, comfortable seating and quality food was served in the Shatabdi. Srivatsan joined us at Bangalore and immediately made us comfortable with his language skills in Kannada, talking and negotiating everywhere. At Bangalore station, we also met facebooker Panneer Selvam, he was doing a full marathon.

Since we were arriving into Mysore by mid-day on Saturday and the bib collection was at the Young Island resort that day itself, I had requested Ashwin to help us out somehow and he graciously agreed to keep our bibs at the resort on the race day itself. However, Vikas, a local Mysore boy was also travelling to Mysore from his work arrangements that day and he readily agreed to collect our bibs from the resort. He was also running a 10km at Kaveri, so that was indeed a great help as we were saved the tiring journey to the resort on the Saturday. It was a great help to have the bibs and chips on Saturday itself as we were able to pin the bibs on the tees and also fix the chips on our running shoes, saving last minute botheration at the race venue. He also invited us to his house to be his guest. Later that evening, we went to the famous Dasaprakash restaurant and gorged on some delicious local snacks. Besides, Anand & Bhasker made provisions for post race tipple. The dinner at Ginger hotel was also quite sumptuous and delicious.

We had, again through the help of Vikas, arranged a vehicle to pick us from the Ginger in the early hours on Sunday in order to take us to the venue and bring us after the run and also ferry us to the Mysore railway station. So everything was in place for the race day.

Since all of us had already tied the bibs to the tees and fixed the chips on our shoes, we decided to leave the hotel for the race venue at 5.00 a.m. The race venue was about 12 kms from the hotel. Bhasker’s event the full marathon was to start at 6.15 a.m. followed by the half marathon at 6.45 a.m. We reached the venue comfortably ahead of the race time and set about meeting other runners from Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and other places, notable being Ashok Nath, Suneela Katikala, Suresh KP, Sujit Kolke, Pramod Pai, Rupal Shah etc.

Bhasker set off with other full marathoners exactly at 6.15 a.m. to the sound of a conch horn. While the half marathoners gathered nervously at the start, many eyes were looking upwards at the skies to detect any signs of impending harsh sun and also probably seeking the blessings from the upper reaches for a safe and comfortable marathon. The half marathon started exactly at 6.45 a.m. with the sub-2 hour runners positioned ahead of the others.

I started cautiously by ensuring proper footing at the start and also not stumbling upon other runners. A couple of runners badly twisted their ankles in their anxiety to get going which made me nervous. I was coming out a bad ankle week with only one run during the week on Wednesday, a gingerly done 4 kms and so was testing the ankles to gauge their performance. Feeling comfortable I upped the pace after the initial kilometer. Saw Srivatsan surge ahead as also Unmesh & Sujit who was wearing a VFF. Around 3 kms I started developing stomach cramps which was unusual because I had never experienced this before and that too so early in the race. I thought back to what I had eaten, whether it was too much and started weighing the reasons for abdominal cramps. Then I immediately cut the pace and started breathing deeply and kept at it for about 3 kilometers during which time the cramps slowly went away.

The sun mercifully kept away during the initial stages and feeling the cap which I was wearing to be more of a hindrance to me, I immediately removed the cap and hooked it around my right hand which was also holding the water bottle. I was taking a swig of water at each kilometer and more also in between because there were plenty of water stations provided by RFL along the route. Each station was also equipped with bananas, oranges, biscuits, and medical aid.

I reached 9 kilometers comfortably during which time the water canal was on the left side of the runners. At 9 kilometers, there was a short bridge and a gradual climb but with full of gravel stones so one had to be careful at this stage because the full marathoners and also some of the half marathoners were returning back from the 10.55 kilometers mark. After 9 kilometers the canal came on the right hand side of the runners, but it was shorter in width than on the left hand side.

I reached the turn off point at 10.55 kilometers comfortably and turned without any stoppage whatsoever feeling strong. Started the return journey feeling strong and navigated the downhill at after 11.0 kilometers carefully. From 11.0 to about 14.0 kilometers I was going very strong by overtaking other runners and getting into a ritual of reining in the runner just ahead of me and so on I overtook many runners. Also during this stage, I was careful because last year at this point, the calf cramps started hurting me badly. Luckily the sun was still behind the clouds though the humidity was a factor. For Mumbai runners humidity was not a threat as we are used to running in extreme humidity.

In the meantime came across runners from RFL, DM & Facebook on the opposite sides so hollered out to Sahine, Gopal, Bhasker, Milton, Panneer Selvam and others. Srivatsan was pacing himself just behind Milton, so I thought there is going to be an interesting battle between the two.

From 14.0 kilometers onwards, I thought I should take it easy until 18.0 kilometers and then give it all out effort. In hindsight I feel that I should have kept the momentum going at this stage. The sun started peeping out at around 18 kilometers but would immediately go away behind the clouds probably doing recompense for its last year’s brutality. At 14 kilometers Bhasker passed me on his second leg and despite my hollering out, he was in a trance like state, determination furiously writ large on his face. So much was his focus that he missed out all our cheering and encouragement at the second lap.

The going became slow and steady in the last 3 kilometers and started pushing it through in the last couple of kilometers to come home in a time of 2.25.22 hours. The time was an improvement of 10 minutes over last year’s time.

Met Ashwin Bala at the mat followed by Arvind Bharati who was doing the announcements. Gracefully acknowledged the medal hung around my neck by a volunteer.

Before me the stalwarts Milton Frank, Srivatsan, Anand, Unmesh had already arrived. So we waited for Bhasker to arrive and since we were expecting him to come in less than four hours, Srivatsan & Anand took off their shoes and Milton with his shoes went into the track to bring him home. They met him at 500 metres distance, a little disoriented from his fall at 41 kilometers due to wrong direction given by a local. But the champ that he is, Bhasker immediately put stride in his legs and sprinted down to a first position in the veteran category in a time of 3.57.58 hours. Earlier Milton frank was declared the third place winner in the men’s veteran half marathon. Later on, Rupal Shah came in fourth in the women’s half marathon in veteran category.

So, RFL Mumbai runners again struck gold at a running event and this is becoming like a welcome habit these days. After the fantastic show at Hyderabad, this was another superlative performance at Kaveri Trail Marathon.

After tending to Bhasker’s bruises, we all dutifully went to the Young Island resort to have our post race carbo loading as well as collect the prizes for the podium finishers. Prize collected to a tumultuous applause and brunch taken, we headed back to the Ginger to refresh ourselves and indulge in the post race tipple.

All of us were travelling to Bangalore in the same Shatabdi train before dispersing our different ways by air or train or staying back. Bhasker was in his elements during the train journey and provided ample entertainment to the passengers as well as the ticket checkers who were in splits at his repartees.

Myself and Milton travelled together in the Udyan Express accompanied by a brick kiln distributor and a garment trader. While the brick guy was in shudh Hindi, the garment trader improved his English and Milton his Hindi by conversing with each other.

The most crucial element in this year’s event was the benign weather at least for the half marathoners. The full marathoners did bear the brunt of sun’s fury for some time, but then again it was playing hide and seek behind the clouds.

The arrangements by RFL were fantastic as usual with ample food & water counters, timely on the dot start, timely prize distribution etc. Kudos to A3 gang of Arvind Krishnan, Arvind Bharati, Ashwin Bala along with Nikhil and his team for this superb organization.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2.45 hours Feet on the Street

Had been doing 2.30 hours run on two consecutive sundays - 2.27 being the half marathon race at Hyderabad on August 28 followed by a 2.30 hour run last sunday at the Bandra-NCPA group run. So, decided this run today would be a 2.15 hour run in preparation for next sunday i.e september 18, kaveri trail half marathon. There are so many group runs going on nowadays in Mumbai that it is getting difficult to say no to friends. That being the case set out on a 2.15 hour feet on the street run today at Aarey Forest. The weather was quite good in the early morning with some welcome showers also in between. Navigated the hill first itself and thereafter it was rolling hills all the way. Found Hemant at about 3 kms into the run and he decided to stick with me. True friend that he is, we both stayed together until almost the very last. He was doing a 3 hour run and going very steady, neither too fast or too slow, good rhythmic pace! We decided to stick to the flats rather than go for the hills so set about discovering new routes. We did find one towards the Aarey Diary which was a good road, nice overflowing tree cover and latter part it sloped downwards. Once we hit the main road, the roads were pathetic. 1.30 hour done i took a 5 min walking break and then around 2 hour mark,we came across a shop - quickly purchased one litre of cold water and refilled our bottles as well as drank some and splashed some on the head, face. 2.20 hours done the sun was out now, but not too difficult to run. Hemant left me at this stage as his car was parked up the hill and his route to the top would take him to 3 hours. I decided to go uptp 2.45 hours, but the last 20 minutes was like difficult. Perhaps running alone at this stage was the factor. Took about 3 minutes walk here and crawled to the 2.45 hours mark. Did not get a rickshaw so had to walk another 1.8 kms before i got another bottle of water, took rickshaw and went home.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Heel Cord

Dr. Ruth Heidrich

Amazing story of 76 year old Dr. Ruth Heidrich, cancer survivor for nearly 30 years, a triathlete, senior olympian and also most importantly a vegan athlete. She recommends a full vegan diet is sufficient for runners and also triathletes. Having survived cancer without undergoing chemotherapy and being cancer free for nearly 30 years and also multiple winner in marathon, triathlon including ironman events, that does bring some major credibility to having a vegan diet plan. Her story is told here

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bandra-NCPA run - Sunday, 4th September 2011

About 30 runners turned up today as against 43 that had confirmed both on RFL and FB. It was a very windy run today throughout the run and at some places the winds were very strong. I don’t remember such a windy run ever on this route, despite the route almost skirting along the coast. The humidity was not such a factor today because the winds were drying you up but at the same time forcing you to work harder. As usual we started in batches with the slower runners moving up ahead before the faster ones. Varun Joshi & Kavin were planning a 30kms run today in preparation for the Vasai-Virar marathon on 18th September and they along with Ronak did an extra loop of the Carter Road before joining us. Few runners started from Khar road – Kaushik, Unmesh, Dhanraj, Santosh, Sanjay etc. This run was falling in the middle of Ganesha festival – so we expected to see many Ganesh pandals along the way – the one opposite Bandra talab had so many trophies kept there, probably won by them as prizes in the best pandal competition, but everywhere we could see only the ad hoardings, not the idols themselves. Only at one place i.e. opposite Shivaji Park could we see the pretty looking Ganesha smiling at us from inside.

Giles Drego was going slow to ensure that all the runners from behind were taken care of in terms of knowing the route etc. Only when he was sure that they were all okay and knew the route that he sped ahead somewhere around Worli. We went through the Annie Beasant road instead of taking the Worli sea face road because of the huge winds. Stopped for taking a water refill at Haji Ali juice centre. By then the flow of runners from the opposite had already started – saw Sameer coming that way. Navigated the Pedder road incline comfortably – yesterday I had done the dreaded killer at Aarey forest comfortably, so was feeling doubly happy for that. Mani and myself had thought of taking the diversion i.e. the hill after the Kemps Corner flyover and come out of Malabar Hill, but he went ahead as he was to do only 15 kms and so that project awaits another day.

I had planned to do a 2 hour run today since I had already done a 2.30 hour (well, almost) run at Hyderabad last Sunday, but decided to finish the course at NCPA which became about 2.30 hours. At Marine Drive, it rained heavily for precisely 2 minutes, after which the winds increased its intensity as if angry at the rain gods’ intrusion at what was its day today morning. We could see lot of muck thrown up at the Marine Drive promenade from the sea – there could have been high winds at the bay, perhaps a couple of days earlier.

The Mumbai marathon training season is fully with us as many runners did 20+ runs today – Ashok, Sameer, Manoj, Varun, Kavin, Ronak etc.

Thanks to everybody for coming today and welcome to the newcomers today – Sanjay Padmanabhan, Shyam, Kshitij Sharma, Sebastian Schuller (whom we will be sorry to miss as he is leaving for Germany in a couple of weeks).

Next run on Sunday, 2nd October 2011.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hyderabad Half marathon - Rolling Beast


The decision to take part in the Hyderabad Half marathon in August 2011 was taken as part of the program to do at least 8 events in the calendar year 2011. Plus we were busy in the organization part of the BNP Half marathon the week before and therefore, needed one event to participate in.

So, Hyderabad beckoned on 28th August 2011. Spontaneously, about 7 to 8 of us joined and said ayes to Hyderabad. Unfortunately about three of them had to withdraw at the last minute citing office situations.

About 5 of us traveled together in HussainSagar express on Friday evening, Bhasker coming in by air on Saturday. The discussions throughout the journey on the train centered around the marathon event and various running related topics. It always marvels me that we runners find so many things to talk entirely about – running. We had carried the graphic route chart for the half and full marathon and pronto, Giles Drego became energetic in dissecting te various ups and downs on the chart, the hills to attack, which ones to go easy with and what strategy to follow.

We reached Begumpet at around 11.45 a.m. reached the hotel, refreshed and set out for a lunch before setting off to the bib collection venue. The lunch, an unlimited meal costing Rs.50/- obviously did not set our wallets on fire but certainly did set our stomachs on fire, spicy as it was, saving grace was the dahi, of which we had copious quantities.

Lunch done, off we went to the St. Mary’s college in Yusufguda to collect our bibs. There was a nice little sale going on of perfomax t-shirts and shorts – the prices were good, colours were better, so all our wallets became lighter in one hour at the bib venue.

That done, Kavin and myself went to Nampally to buy some biscuits from the famous Karachiwala – I think, in the process our legs got hammered from so much walking, standing on the bus, climbing stairs etc. It was getting late and we were sort of getting edgy to get back to the hotel and relax. But any and every auto-rickshaw guy was quoting exorbitant rates to ferry from one place to another even a 2 to 3 kms distance. The guy just quotes a high price and then starts coming down repeatedly to where we desire the price to be. I wonder why they don’t have a system of metered tariff in these parts. Finally, Kavin hit upon the idea of going by local train from Nampally station to Begumpet station and then hitching an auto ride to the hotel. The local train ride from Nampally to Begumpet was an experience in itself. The cost of the train fare to Begumpet was Rs.2/- which was about 5 stations away from Nampally. The journey took exactly 13 minutes, so our calculations to reach Begumpet before too late was better, though it was tiring in itself.

The organizers had made transport arrangements to pick up participants from the respective hotels which they had mentioned in the website, but the pick up time from our hotel was at an unearthly hour of 3.15 a.m., which meant we had to get up at 2.15 a.m. at least in order to get ready by their pick up time. Luckily, we had a runner in the hotel who had arranged for a cab to take him to the venue, so the full marathoners i.e. Dnyanesh & Sebastian hitched a ride with Madhu in his cab. We, the three half marathoners also arranged a call taxi to pick us at 5.00 a.m. Ready as were by 4.50 a.m. the call taxi guy needed multiple directions from us, newcomers to Hyderabad, in order to reach our venue. Looks like Hyderabad traffic police needs to give geography lessons to its cab and auto drivers, because very few knew all the distances thoroughly.

We reached the venue at around 5.15 a.m. and the full marathoners were still lined up to start because the dignitary who was supposed to flag off the race, as expectedly came late. Off they went to tumultuous applause followed few minutes later by the relay runners. Next we were lined up to start at 6.00 a.m. There was a song item by a local singer, which as an item song and a few runners started dancing vigorously to the tunes. Wisely the singer stopped a few seconds before 6.00 a.m. and the race was flagged off with a lot of enthusiasm. There were a lot of local runners including some who I think were from the police or some services department and they were enthusiastic in running as if left out of school early. That jammed me up a little at the start. I was planning to stick to the 2.00 hour pacer but he was going too fast and all I could see of him was at a distance already about a couple of hundred feet ahead. The race was jammed up for at least half kilometer before we started getting space to move around.

I did not see any kilometer marking until 11 kms so my description will be devoid of each kilometer description. At the start itself we ascended a flyover, which threatened to never end and when we came down finally, we ran into another hill going up. It became a constant succession of one hill ending and another one looming ahead. The gradient varied from gentle to monstrous to double headers. Constant gusts of wind was blowing across the runners hitting them directly in the face and abdomen. The route traversed through the office district of Hyderabad and then it went onto Cyberabad and Hi-Tec city (not sure if these are the same name for one place). Enthusiasm was evident at various places by the organisers – the water station was well stocked and neatly arranged with water and Gatorade and few places also had bananas. The route was passing through some famous brands like Porsche, Nike and some local ones as well. At one place there were boulders on the left hand side, so I thought this place must be named Boulderabad. There were very few people lined up on the road to cheer the runners since the route did not hit any residential district, but surprisingly the police were cheering the runners. In fact, they were multiple tasking that morning by cheering and giving directions to the runners, holding back the traffic, scolding the jaywalkers etc. What surprised me is that the police were cheering in English and they looked fitter than the police we find in Mumbai. Home Miniter, R.R. Patil to note this and do something about it, rather than close the dance bars. The roads were clean and without potholes, though the same cannot be said entirely of Hyderabad – some very dangerous potholes could be found here. But the roads on which race traversed were smooth, tar roads with nary a crack in it.

Well, digressing from the report, but the run had now become one to enjoy the scenery, Personal best be damned. It was one of those days, when you run into an unsurmountable mountain, you decide the next best thing to do – to somehow reach across without too much damage. That was my strategy now and chugging along nicely at comfortable pace, took walking breaks three times for exactly 15 seconds each. One pee break and two times that I stopped to refill my bottle meant I did not run for about 1 minute. Came across offices of TCS, Microsoft, Lemon Tree hotel – all state of the art buildings and gleaming nicely on a Sunday morning and waiting perhaps for the throng of its employees to join it. Well, IT people do work on Sundays as well, I am told.

19 kms done and we entered Gachibowli stadium and still more than 1 kms to go. The outer periphery itself is more than a kilometer, so there I was running along nicely the 2.30 pacer was ahead of me, then he became behind me as I accelerated the pace. With only 300 metres to go a sardarji runner on my right stopped suddenly, so I urged to push for a few more metres. I came into a stadium track with only 50 metres to go and pumped up the pace to finish in 2.27.15 hours. Not a bad effort in a rolling, undulating hilly course with very strong head winds – I call it as the Rolling Beast. It was definitely not an easy track to run and since I have done more than few half marathons, I had to call upon all my experience to pace it properly without getting burnt off in the middle itself. Not at all unhappy in not getting a personal best – finishing was important here and enjoying the scenery.

The Gachibowli is a magnicient stadium, very clean and elegant but the runners had started throwing the discarded food packets and various other things on the track itself. It was sad to see a magnificent racing track littered totally with garbage. While the organizers did a marvelous job in bringing this marathon to fruit and I hope this event happens every year – there were a few hitches and hiccups, which needs to be highlighted.

My friend Bhasker Desai in line for a sub-4 hour marathon and a strong contender for a podium finish in the senior veteran category was denied a relispray by the people manning the water stations at 35 and 36 kms. In fact, they did not even have a relispray on hand. I thought that was basic in any marathon. Few minutes lost at km 37 blew his chances for a sub 4 hour finish time. He did come 1st in the over 55 age category. Plus I thought they should have arranged for few garbage bins in the stadium itself so that people could throw leftovers in the bins rather than on the track and the grass.

Amongst our group, Dnyaneshwar Tidke came in 3rd in men’s open in his personal best of 3.11 hours whilst Sebastian Schuller came in 5th in 3.17 hours. Veteran runner Giles Drego came in 1st in the men’s senior veteran in half marathon and Bhasker Desai 1st in the over 55 age category in full marathon. So, all in all four top 5 finish from a six member contingent from Mumbai. Not bad, eh!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

tempo run

20 minutes tempo run today in between 15 mins each of warm up and cool down - sheer blinding rain today with very strong head winds - almost toppled me backwards - sharp prickly rains were giving free acupunture treatment to my face - first time i am doing tempo run this season - therefore start with low tempo - need to progress that in the coming weeks - total 7.5 kms in 52.24 mins

Sunday, June 12, 2011

11th Bandra-NCPA group run

After yesterday's full day heavy rains - we were like exultant children out to have ice-cream; running in the rains is after all one of the greatest pleasures of mankind. The day started with myself, Bhasker and Dhanraj assembling at  Khar road station at the unearthly hour of 5.20 a.m. when the auto-rickshaw drivers standing there were sort of amused by people in their chaddies, pata nahi kya karne wale hai.  We started off sharp at 5.30 a.m. without waiting for unnikrishnan who was late by about 3 minutes – I remarked that the humidity is still a factor despite the rains and this was evident in the first km itself. We were sweating profusely even before reaching bandra. At first the pace was quite good with bhasker dropping to our pace. Just after the bandra masjid we espied Rebecca streaming past in her long strides as if out to break the world record. It was great to watch her running by. Radhika sauntering by on the opposite side of the road just after bandra causeway and then she came on to our side of the road and bingo bhasker got company for his pace. We i.e. myself and dhanraj dropped to a more comfortable pace, but it was still a good pace to maintain. First pee break at shivaji park – pace dropped slightly but going well – first water break was to be at a small hotel just after siddhivinayak, unfortunately it was not open today – damn! Now I have to drop worli sea face to take the next water break at mela restaurant. Missed the water break at mela because I thought it would be on the left side of the road, whereas it was positioned on the right side, damn again! Now I have to stop at haji ali juice centre, which we did had a watermelon juice and replenished water stocks – enough till the end. Before that the stretch from near the bus stand to haji ali was very difficult with very strong head winds slowing me down considerably. Pedder road climb was comfortably done – and just after finishing the difficult portions of pedder road, Milton came by ostensibly in a bus having seen me running got down and joined me from there. He was battling a cold so wisely did a truncated run today. We were comfortably ambling along and turned into marine drive, where I decided to take a second pee break at the public toilet opp Wilson college. Milton went ahead – I decided to run most easy pace and take in the sights of the magnificient marine drive – it was definitely high tide today morning, but the winds which I encountered at haji ali had died down here – the seas were rough but the water was just managing to keep down – there were no water sprays. Just about half a km to reach NCPA Giles comes by and we start pumping up the pace till we were like sprinting down to the end. It was great fun – more than 35 runners today – many from new Bombay – went down to the stadium restaurant near churchgate station had bhurji pav and irani chai and went home to a satisfying morning.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

44 kms week ending 8th may 2011

completed 44 kms for the week ending 8th may 2011 including a 22.5 kms on saturday at the aarey forest followed up with a recovery run of 10 kms on sunday at marine drive. Two earlier runs of 4kms & 7.5 kms on wednesday and thursday. aarey forest run was a staggering one in extreme humidity and heat which had me roasted almost. marine drive was also extremely humid even as early as 5.30 in the morning, possibly to due the arabian sea.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Corbett Park Half Marathon - Roar of the Tiger

Corbett Park Half marathon lived upto its image of a scenic route, skirting the forest all along the way with some parts being tough with gentle undulations and tough hills as well. It was definitely not an easy route with the start itself on a trail path for 300 metres before it hits the main road when it immediately hits a climber and a steep descent. Mental notes made – to navigate this killer hill on the last leg, the route thereafter petered into a steady straight path with the forests on both sides. The race started at 6.00 a.m. by which time it was already bright and clear. I had mentioned to Rahul Varghese that perhaps we should have started at 5.30 a.m., but then the distance of the route from the respective resorts where people were staying and being the first event of its kind, the timing was perfect.

When Rahul announced the Corbett Park half marathon dates, I think around early to mid-February, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get away with the family on a holiday as well as get to do a half marathon in a world renowned natural forest. Late april seemed perfect with the weather still holding good. In order to reach Corbett, one had to first come to New Delhi and then take a train or a car to Ramnagar which was the nearest rail head. There are two trains from old Delhi railway station to Ramnagar, one leaving at 1630 hours and another one late at night. We took the 1630 hours train which arrived at Ramnagar station at about 2030 hours. In the train itself, I came across and met fellow runners from Delhi and Ahmedabad. Percy and Vijay respectively from these two cities were equally enthusiastic about running in Corbett. The resort Jaagar – the Village Resort was about 15 minutes away from the Ramnagar station.

Jaagar is a quaint little resort with individual cottages for each guest. Each cottage had a thatched roof and all the amenities to keep the guests comfortable and rested. The food was like home made, very delicious, so carbo loading was done with gusto. They had about 8 cottages, so the quality of service was excellent.

We were up the very next morning at 4.00 a.m. (well runners never crib about early mornings, hanh!) to do a jungle safari visit where we saw every animal in the forest but the tiger. We saw the tiger pug marks, heard the roar of a tiger which was closing in on a sambar deer, saw the carcass of an animal – the handiwork of a tiger, but the magnificient royal Bengal tiger was elusive to us.

Well, we visited the Expo organized by Rahul at the Mapple Resorts which was unlike any other expo visited by me. There were about 4 stalls, all running related - forest honey, saloman trail running shoes, suunto & R&L stall. The goodie bag was a paper bag with all the stuff in it being running related – there was no masala powders or noodles pack in it!! They had WWF coasters, health magazines, discount coupons for saloman trail running shoes and other stuff. There was a complimentary t-shirt as well.

Nikhil Shah & Divyesh Shah had already checked in before me and there was Priya who was doing 10K and a couple of other friends who had planned a Corbett trip.

Cars were arranged to take us to the starting point, which was near the Mapple Resorts. The route was an out and back route with the first/last 300 metres in a trail route with mud and stones and then straight road all the way to 10kms and from 10 to 10.5 kms also being a dirt road. Water stations were kept at 2.5, 5 & 7.5 kms respectively. Met up with Nikhil, Divyesh, Sujit all from Pune and Suneela from Bombay at the start point. There was a lone Kenyan in the race and it was certain that he was going to bag the first prize.

The race started exactly at 6.00 a.m. and had to be careful for the first 300 metres in view of my delicate ankle. Having negotiated that comfortably, ran into a steep climb immediately on hitting the tar road and then a steep descent as well, which was described in the first paragraph. Thereafter the route was a flat one with tall trees on both sides. Nikhil and Sujit went by, but I was like holding back the pace in order to gauge the course upto the half way mark. After 4 kms there was again gentle undulations – the sun came out somewhere around the 6 kms mark. Just after 7.5 kms, the Kenyan came by expectedly followed by two Indians much later. At the 7.5 kms station, I had a honey water drink which was very good – kept me strong upto the halfway mark. At 10 kms, there was rough patch of 500 metres on both sides which was like up and down with lots of stones – a muddy path which needed to be navigated carefully.

Halfway done, refreshments taken – I hit a blue patch at this point streaming away with all might from 11 kms to about 14 kms. The sun was out in full glory at this stage and the tree shade was not sufficient to provide succor to the runners. From 15 to 16 kms, it was absolutely brutal with no tree cover at all – so kept the pace steady at this stage without exerting too much. 16 kms to 18 kms were relatively better but from 18 kms onwards again it was quite tough with the sun beating down hard on the runners. At just after 19 kms there was a flutter amongst the runners, and when I turned to look at what it was all about – there was a magnificent and majestic tusker standing just near the road – it was an awesome sight. At around 19.5 kms there loomed a large and killer hill just abreast which looked like a beast, but I kept chugging on without stopping, this hill was the distance from the bottom of the aarey hill to the first tabela and the gradient was also the same, so navigated it comfortably, but then just down the hill the cramps started on the left calves, saw my daughter holding the placard.

Went into the last 300 metres for a good finish in a time of 2.10.35 hours just outside the Personal Best but entirely satisfied with the effort in April.

Got a medal and a certificate immediately on arrival.

Met up with other runners at the finish line. Nikhil finished in 1.58, Sujit in 2.02, Divyesh in 2.16 and Suneela in 2.24. Priya who had done the 10K finished comfortably in 1.03 hours in 2nd place.

The organization of the event was impeccable and in fact there were quite a few innovative things which stood out as something to be emulated.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

BNP 5k Team Relay Race

Though the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi is known more for its organizational mess and corruption, it was also the event which saw some stirring performance by Indian women sportspersons – one of such electrifying performance was the Indian women quartet winning the 400 metres relay title besting holders Nigeria and England. This was followed a month later by another stupendous feat of winning the 400 metres relay gold at the Asian Games held at Guanghzhou in a tougher field. Indians were on their feet!

This led to a clamour amongst the runners’ fraternity in Mumbai to host a similar such event for runners i.e. a relay race – thus was born the concept of a relay race for long distance runners. The idea was to have a 4 into 5K relay race in a team with four runners each doing 5k each totaling 20K for the team. We were aware that RFL Bangalore organized urban stampede on somewhat similar lines, so were comfortable with the concept.

The concept was debated amongst few of the organizers and it was felt that the team selection should be left to the runners themselves – the organizers would not get into the nitty gritty of selecting teams – however, since this was first time event in Mumbai a lifeline was offered to the runners in the sense that they could look for teams online. The event was originally scheduled to be held on 28th November, 2010 but due to some reason got postponed and then the Mumbai marathon season dawned upon us, which therefore resulted in the event finally being scheduled for Sunday, 27th March 2011.

A core organizational team of Ram, Giles Drego, Milton Frank, Ashok Someshwar, Shashidhar Shankar, Bharatbhai & Kaushik Panchal was formed to tackle the various issues that kept cropping up vis-à-vis the organization of this race. It was decided to give certificates to the first three teams and for that purpose Milton Frank took control of the design and printing of the certificates. Bharatbhai took charge of the printing of team bibs, Kaushik of organizing day passes at the Borivli National Park and Giles Drego of procuring the team batons. Giles and Ashok were responsible for doing the km markers at the BNP in yellow paint, a back-breaking job in itself. All of us met a day prior to the event to take care of last minute glitches and procure the snacks and refreshments to the runners.

We received entries from 30 teams for which registrations were closed one week prior itself. Many a teams were made online at the RFL wall, some were locality based, few were company based and a few teams kept on getting changed from time to time and sometimes on a daily basis.

Finally on D-Day i.e. March 27th, 2011 we had 24 teams turning up and every team hoping in their hearts that they would do a good race, do well for themselves, come in the top three etc. Bibs distributed, it was time to brief the runners the rules; tell them what to expect and explain a few other details. This was beautifully done by Milton Frank with a few skipped out details being added in by Bharatbhai and Giles Drego. We had four volunteers collecting the registration fees and giving out team bibs and batons. A couple of teams were made on the day of the race itself comprising of runners who did not have teams or whose team members did not turn up at the last moment.

The Relay was of 20K and each runner in a team was to do a run of 5K. The runners were supposed to go 2.5K out, U-turn and return back, passing the baton to their next in turn team mate. The teams were a mix of champion athletes, veterans, regulars, sprinters et al. There were three all-Girls teams as well vying for glory with the Veterans. Surely there must have been some thought process to the composition of the teams as well as race strategies. There was a lot of eager, animated and frenzied talk of which team would win. Hot on many runners lips were teams like The Twlight Zone, Flying Cheetahs and Speed Kings; the first two teams boasting of State Level runners.

The race was flagged off by Khushru Patel a legend in running circles in Mumbai. Khushro Patel, 71 years still runs regularly and recently completed the Mumbai half marathon despite having an injury. Khushro was recently felicitated in the RFL Mumbai Runners’ Bash held in January 2011 with a Lifetime Achievement Award in running in view of his tremendous achievements in the last few decades.

At the whistle, there was loud cheering and the runners were off with some of them running with such pace and gusto that it looked as if they were in a 100 meter dash. But it surprised many to see the first 3 or 4 runners all doing their first 5K Leg in 18 to 20 minutes. Looking back, that should not have surprised many, as there were quite a few top runners, some representing their State and others from top Mumbai clubs and groups.

Once the event started, everything started clicking in clockwork precision – batons were exchanged to the thunderous roar for the incoming runners and steadily each teams started completing their respective legs. Priya & Sripad were noting down the names of each team that came in at each leg and Venkat Krishnan & Ram were noting down the timings of the teams that were finishing at the 4th leg.

Few popular runners such as Giles Drego, Radhika Misquitta, Roshni Rai, Ganesh Krishnan, Mahadev Samjiskar, Shiv Dogra etc. came in to thunderous applause from the remaining runners and people gathered to witness the event.

The Flying Cheetahs team of Gaurav Saktavat, Gautam Salaskar, Parvachan Kumar & Dharmendra Yadav came in first in a time of 1.25.50 hours followed by Twilight Zone comprising of Radhika Misquitta, Adrian Lasrado, Gareth Dias & Craig Fernandes in a time of 1.28.02 hours. Third came in BNP 3 team of Ambarish Gurav, Prashant Abhange, Devendra Yadav & Sanjay Kasle in a time of 1.36.01 hours.

The certificates were awarded with Milton Frank being the MC of the event and the first three awards were given respectively by Khushro Patel, Ashok Someshwar & Bharatbhai Oza. At the end of the relay, soft drinks and glucose biscuits were provided, snaps and photos were taken by our official photographer Ashok Someshwar.

Thus ended the 1st edition of the team relay race which we hope will be a regular feature in the running calendar in Mumbai.

Thane half marathon makes a dream debut

Narendra Deraje and his team deserve a standing ovation – for an almost perfect start to the Thane half marathon innings – few glitches remained which has been pointed out to him and for which he has responded in double quick time with positive intentions.

THM route straddled between two highways – starting from eastern express and almost touching the western express highway – it was a undulating hilly route with few twisters – a tough route for runners. It was an out and back route from the starting point it goes to the left for about 500 metres before turning back all the way to 11.5 kms and then returning to the starting point. Timing mats were placed at 1.5 kms and 11.5 kms in between – the road most part was concrete on the way up and on the return leg, there was a small stretch of tar road on the extreme left, which was used by the runners. The route was a straight east-west road and so on the return leg, the runners were running into a climbing sun, which was gentle for most part of the stretch except perhaps from 15 kms onwards. One part of the road was closed to traffic, so the runners had one entire part to themselves. Volunteers there were plenty – all enthusiastic and smiling friendly faces – lots of water stations, forgot to count, including lucozades and also volunteers holding water bottles in between the water stations. Medical teams was roaming up and down the entire route and ambulances were blazing their sirens up and down the route indicating the toughness of the route and the requirements of medical aid by few runners – in between young volunteers were providing relispray to the runners. Music bands there were about four in number, I think – providing much needed boost to the tiring legs.

THM was to start at 6.00 a.m. and so we set out from our houses at 4.15 a.m. travelling by eastern express highway despite staying in the western suburbs in order to pre-empt the possibility of road jams on the ghodbunder road. Reaching the venue at 5.00 a.m. we found everything in orderly fashion – volunteers directing traffic to the parking slot, people standing at the entrance guiding runners – everything working in smooth clockwork fashion.

Bhasker, myself and Sripad travelled in Bhasker’s car to the location and ran into a whole horde of RFL runners – it seemed the entire RFL fraternity was there – enthusiastic, eager and boisterous – Mike with his camera and all others exchanging notes and hi5s and wishes a plenty. Met with Neeraj from DM site while waiting for the event to start – the holding area was huge with sponsors’ banners on one side and cloth wall on the other side – fireworks was in eager display and announcements from the MC kept us in high spirits.

Start at 6.00 a.m. got delayed first by 5 minutes, then by 5 minute instalments until at last it started at about 6.33 a.m., delay which we thought was due to a politician’s delay in arriving at the site, but clarified by Narendra to be due to an overturned truck which needed a crane to be brought in to clear the site.

The weather was pleasant at the start, the route reached the main ghodbunder road and then branched off to the right for about 500 metres which had the first timing mat and then turned left – Milan stayed with me for about 5 kms – good going at the start – brisk pace – unfortunately there were a few walkers who were blocking our road – we had to urge them to move to the extreme left in order to allow the runners to proceed. First small incline at just after 5 kms – okay no bother – Milan stayed back at this point. At about 6.5 kms there was a monster hill which was a twister as well – a real beauty – almost 1 kms in length. The kms markings were on the road so had to strain to look out for them. A couple of times, had to stop to re-pin the bib, which was coming off, possibly due to sweat from the t-shirt.

At around 8 kms, runners started coming back on the return leg, our guys started I think at around 9 kms onwards – first of course, the marathon monk Apurba, no surprise that – was looking out for him only as the first one – followed by ageless Bhasker, Sohanlal, bare chested Ajit, Kavin and others.

Reached the turnaround at 11.5 kms still going good, sun not yet out in the open. Again on the return leg, hollered out to runners still coming in to the turnaround at half-way mark – Hari, Gary, Genieve, Supriya, Pandurang and others, Shashi bringing up the rear. Encountered a few hills on the return leg as well by running slowly and picking up on the downhill. From 15 kms onwards, the sun started hitting the runners, but there were plenty of water stations, so stopped at a couple of them to throw water on my head and neck. Ran into Mani who was not running but was there to encourage us and to take some pictures at around 17 kms. Dr. Oak passed me with his trademark umpire hat and full sleeved white shirt at about 19 kms, turned the last corner - slight twinge of cramps here, but not enough to come in the way of an almost sprint finish – to a personal best of 2.06.54 hours.

Came in to a joyous reunion with RFL friends – almost all of them returning their personal best – unanimous confirmation that it was a beast of a course. Stayed put at the finish to greet other runners coming in one by one – Supriya, Mohana, Ganesh, Dhanraj and others. Went in to collect medal from an ever smiling volunteer who actually put it around my neck, some refreshments, some more joyous shouts, hi5s, camera clicks galore – all in all a satisfying second event of 2011.

Waking up from a much deserved siesta, a SMS greeted with the net timings – WOW! how brilliant was that – Masthane has surely upped the bar with their outstanding first marathon at Thane.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

i am a marathoner

After having run 6 half marathons in Mumbai and 3 more during the year 2010, the beginning of the year saw me resolve to go upto full marathon – why? Because I thought I was ready for it and many of my friends were also graduating at the same time. So, when the time came to fill in the forms for Mumbai marathon sometime in July 2010, I filled in the form for full marathon without any trace of trepidation whatsoever.

My preparation for the full marathon which should ideally have encompassed two or more 32 kms long runs, did not really take off at all because I was doing all sorts of runs throughout the year with the KTM trail half in September, Bangalore Ultra 25K in November and Goa half in December. So the build-up did not take place at all – October was my busiest month in terms of mileages – I logged in 260 kms that month compared to about 140 kms in September, which month also saw few ankle twists taking place – a couple of them monstrous ones. Post ultra, the ITBS came knocking on the left knee – the scourge of all long distance runners – my first injury since I started running.

Nevertheless I managed to sneak in a 30 kms on December 26th of which about 12 kms was barefeet in mahalaxmi race course and 27 kms a week later, barely two weeks to go for the main event. So injuries, lack of proper mileages were the bane when I started off the full marathon on 16th January 2011. my idea was to somehow reach 30 kms and then do the run/ walk or walk/ run or walk/ walk for the rest of the distance, time was not a constraint at all. The days leading upto 16th was bitterly cold and perfectly good conditions for running a marathon. We were eminently pleased with the weather leading upto the marathon and was expectedly awaiting similar conditions on the 16th. Alas, it was a different story on the 16th, as even at 3.30 a.m. it was quite stuffy and I was in fact, sweating – I decidedly thought weather was different today and cursed the weather gods – same thing happened to us during the Bangalore Sunfeast, KTM & Bangalore Ultra – the preceding day was lovely weather whereas a different pattern prevailed on the actual day.

Well, we assembled at goregaon station at 4 a.m. for probably the first ever train to depart on the western railway system – we were raj, arjun, sripad, sohanlal & myself. We had to perforce take a leak at the churchgate station – this was a yearly ritual except last year when they started the half marathon from bandra – met with giles, qureshi all raring to go. Walked down to the azad maidan – on the way we met a couple of foreigners – a Kenyan with a 2.18 time and a Japanese. Security was no problem this year and when we sauntered in to the holding area, the rest of the crowd were already there – zico, amit, srinivas, allan, santosh, ashok and others – tension was palpable in the air – we met up with asha arora – seasoned ultra marathoner from Chandigarh and ashok nath – accomplished marathoner with a 3.15 target time. Met a few more folks, took a few more leaks to completely clear the system, handed in our baggage and went in to the start line – amit sheth was holding his 5 hour bus balloons and Rahul Varghese was distributing head bands to the other runners. Started off exactly at 6.15 a.m. and maintained a steady pace along d.n. road and then to the v.n. road, marine drive – the front runners were already crossing the other side when we hit the marine drive – early ones included ashok nath.

my waist pouch started moving sideways causing me disturbance and I had to repeatedly keep it shifted to the right side which was more comfortable. Apurva shah kept company for some time, then rohit bansal came by and went past to catch up with the 5 hour bus, the pune runners – Nikhil shah & vivek Prasad came by and also went past, caught up with veera who was clutching his sides complaining of side stitch after having decided to run with the 5 hour bus and then sanely decided to do his own pace – mithika came by – we were to push each other in our first marathons – but she was too damn quick and picked up pace. End of marine drive – had to take a toilet break and also adjust my waist pouch – by then the first of the half marathoners started coming in – I kept my pace up the kemps corner incline – where I espied the first runners from our group – tanaji nalavade – hollered out to him – am sure he did’nt hear because he was running at furious pace – kept looking for other runners – there was a sardarji runner who went down the kemps corner flyover instead of up and we had to shout to reach him – Milton came by at haji ali – since the half marathoners were coming up, the positive vibrations from them were rubbing off onto us (am sure they felt the same thing) so the route along the annie beasant road etc. went off like a blip by shouting encouragement to other runners – saw savio with his 2 hour bus – hemant before him, kaushik after him, bharatbhai, supriya, radhika, genieve, Milan, venkat with his 3 hour bus, shashi & others.

When I reached worli sea face – the full runners were turning out from opposite the old passport office, so the same cheering and hollering went on – going still good – there was an undescribable mist tunnel of no use or purpose to the runners – descended to annie beasant chowk in good condition, saw the sun searing out at that junction, but there was enough shade from the buildings – people were lined along the street – though sparsely – and feebly shouting encouragement – reached prabhadevi – when the buzz for which I was waiting for started – this was the arrival of the elite runners – those magnificient athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia – was hoping to get a glimpse of them at the siddhivinayak temple – giving me a double darshan of the goods – and that is what precisely happened – the gods both spiritual and human blitzed past near the temple – going still good – met neeta ramakrishnan at the hinduja hospital who handed me a Cadbury dairy bar – passed suneela at around mahim causeway – she was struggling a bit – but went on to the sea link road – here the sun hit the runners very badly – there was nary a tree cover or shade and it was brutal – sea link started – pain also started – struggle to get going with the unrelenting sun – reached 26 kms and decided to walk a bit – that bit became almost 5-6 kms – tried running but the cramps put paid to any efforts in that direction – first suneela went past – she was running good now and then veera came by strongly – ashish met me at the end of the sea link and graciously handed me a volini cream sachet – sea link ended – still the walk/ struggle run routine – went past the 29.9 kms mat – and walked a few more – until mela restaurant – by then the traffic was allowed to start and by the time I reached the haji ali corner – traffic was in full swing – walked through the pedder road incline – slowly starting to put some effort in running until it hurts – did this same routine i.e. running until either cramps or ITBS or both started nagging me – was determined to finish no matter how much time it took me that day; I was not bothered with my baggage kept at the baggage counter – I was going to finish this one.

Turned the Babulnath corner – this was my arena baby – milton’s monthly bandra-ncpa group runs were of much help here psychologically I was very strong, my mental reserves were very good – continued with run/ walk routine until I turned into v.n. road – and yes, almost there – few runners were ahead of me – kept them in focus and reached flora fountain – few more kilometers and I am there – when I reached the Canada building opp the old handloom house on d.n. road, was awash with emotions because this was the very same building in which my late father had worked in his whole life in a LIC branch – there was an old gentleman in ordinary banians, working shorts and barefoot running determinedly – I gently tapped him on his shoulder and said “well done, uncle” – he just nodded and I went by – determined to get a strong finish – cramps were very strong (evident in the marathon photos), could barely run but did have a running finish to clock 6.10.57 minutes by my watch (later the chip timings recorded 6.10.52 seconds). Very glad to run into madhu who was there at the finish line to greet all us runners, despite not running that day. Finally, I am a MARATHONER.