Malshej Ghat Monsoon Half Marathon, June 2018- Amidst the Splendid Sahyadri

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A few months back, Vishal Gudulkar got in touch asking me to be one of their Race Ambassadors. I jumped at the chance considering this one was just a 3-hour drive from Mumbai. It would be a wonderful place for a family picnic in the Rains considering we hadn’t visited earlier. Especially more fun with enthusiastic friends like Salaj, Sunita and their kids in tow 😊.

We left for the MTDC Resort at Malshej Ghat post lunch. Making our way up the Ghat we saw several people frolicking under the water falls. Thanks to the clouds and thick fog we missed the turn to the Resort and had to double back after enquiring at a restaurant ahead. The weather was just fabulous with a slight nip in the air thanks to the ongoing drizzle. Just as we settled in our Room, the Singh family arrived as well with the kids all smiles 😃. Collecting our Bibs from the Volunteers right outside our Room, we made our way to the Restaurant for some yummy Chai-Pakodas 😄.

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It felt wonderful to just step out and make our way to the Holding Area in the Resort on Sunday morning. The initial Introductions, Route briefing, and Instructions was followed by a short energetic Zumba session. After a quick warm up, we 21K Runners made our way towards the Starting Line Up. All charged up amidst loud cheers we were flagged off at 6 AM as Anu, Dr. Anjali and the Pinkathon Girls entered shouting out and waving joyously 🤗.

 

 

 

The first 2-3K we ran in the clouds descending briskly down the Ghat ensuring we kept to the left side of the Road. Needless to say it was beautiful and green all around. Salaj and I ran together comfortably chattering away to glory. It was good to catch up with Avinash all the way from Hyderabad who was just ahead busily clicking pics on his Camera.

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Next up after the left turn was about 4K of Trail route. I gingerly made my way following Salaj through the slushy mud amidst puddles galore thanks to the recent Rain. Focusing on the path, I kept stealing glimpses at the natural beauty around. Just then, a Runner streaked by splashing away through the puddles as she happily made her way ahead 😯.

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I stopped for a bit to tie my right shoelace as it had come undone. Looking up, I caught sight of a flock of white gulls as they flew amidst the clouds. It felt surreal watching them disappear from view due to the thickening fog as I quickly made my way ahead to catch up with Salaj.

Thanking the Volunteer we took the Right turn entering into the Village. I waved at the smiling young girl standing with her mother filling water from the Hand pump as we moved ahead. Salaj and I joked and laughed catching sight of some hens ahead with the cocks crowing away in the background 😃.

With less than 2K to go we caught sight of the speedsters running back after the U-turn. It was fun running ahead cheering them along as we went. Soon enough we overtook Dilip Sharma who was pacing the splashing beauty Khushali Purohit as we headed back 😎. We ran together comfortably walking in the uphill sections drinking Fast&Up and water continuously at all the strategically placed Aid Stations that were conveniently located every 2K or so.

 

 

 

Waving to the women assembled at the Village well I ran on following Salaj.  Catching sight of Rahul from Striders clicking photos,  I made him click a quick selfie with me 😂.  Then we made our way back ready to face the slushy Trail yet again. We ran-walked our way throughout as Dilip and Khushali passed by yet again running through the puddles. The Runner footfalls had made the route even more treacherous and slippery 😥.

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I ran ahead after Salaj making our way towards firmer ground encouraging a young girl walking with her father. Thanking the Volunteers and smiling at the cameras I took the right turn and ran onto the main road making my way back up the Ghats. It was entrancing running through the clouds yet again as I tried to maintain my pace.

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Running uphill definitely wasn’t easy and I caught sight of lot of Runners walking ahead. I was determined to continue running till the end what with less than 2K to go. I kept plodding on silently cheering myself on keeping sight of the Runners ahead.

At last I reached the right turn entering into the Resort. I ran on all smiles as I was greeted by Manoj, Sunita and the kids all clapping and cheering me on. It was wonderful to have them pace me in the last uphill 200m towards the Finish Line 🤗. Phew, was I glad to finally cross it. I managed to finish in 2:17 standing First in Women (Overall and Below 40 Age Category)

 

 

 

The highlight though undoubtedly was our post-run darshan of the Lenyadri Ganpati- Girijatmaj; one of the Ashtavinayak Ganpatis a exploration of the Buddhist Caves followed by a relaxed and scrumptious lunch at the wonderful Malshej Ghat Agro Resort and last but definitely not the least- an impromptu visit to our native village seeking the blessings of Lord Mahadev at the Paneshwar Temple for the very first time. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to visit the Shivneri Fort. Looks like we have to go back real soon J. Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji.

 

 

 

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Running in the Rain- My Newspaper Discovery

It’s raining, it’s pouring.

The Old man is snoring.

He bumped his head.

When he went to bed.

And couldn’t get up in the morning.

This poem reminds me of the days  when I started running. That’s when I dreaded the Rainy Season. I remember myriads of times waking up to the sounds of the pouring rain, and then going back to sleep. I mean, what’s the point. It’s not like I could run in the rain right? I would hope and pray that it would not rain the next day during my Run time. The puddles and accumulated water wasn’t exactly conducive to Running 😑.

Later instead of taking a complete break, I decided that I would just get up and do some spot jogging while listening to music. After 6-7 songs I’d have enough and quit after some skipping and other static exercises wishing the Rain Gods hadn’t ruined my Run schedule.

The first time I ran in the rain was when I went to Aarey with my friend Roshni Rai while training for my first FM in 2015. I was fairly skeptical when she said that it would be fun to run in the Rain 😯.  I ensured to keep my phone and cash safely in a Ziplock bag. We made our way in the Bus whilst chattering and laughing all the time. Thankfully it wasn’t raining when we started our Run and I hoped and prayed that it wouldn’t rain till we were done.

No such luck, as soon enough we were caught in the Downpour. Oh Boy, it was unbelievable how beautiful it looked as we ran on surrounded by verdant greenery 🤗. It was like being transported back to Childhood days when we would use every excuse to get wet in the Rain. Suddenly, it felt foolish that I had been avoiding running in the Rain.

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As we rode back home, I was all giggly and happy rushing home to hop into the shower. Call it serendipity, when a few days later, I spotted Michael Dsouza’s Facebook Post regarding drying shoes in a jiffy by stuffing and covering them with newspaper and placing under a fan. Oh ya, felt like yet another Eureka moment for me 😄. Besides that, I could easily shuffle between two pairs of shoes. All my so called problems seemed to have melted away.

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That’s when I started actually looking forward to running in the rain. All I had to do was to tweak my schedule and switch to doing Easy Runs instead of Speed Intervals or Tempo Runs to avoid slipping on the roads whenever it was pouring hard. No sense, inviting injury. Of course running on the side of the road and against traffic had to be adhered to even more strictly. The bright colored t-shirts helped perk me up besides being distinctly visible. Oh ya, I make sure I applied plenty of Vaseline to avoid chaffing from wetness.  I’m still getting used to wearing a peak cap to keep the Rain out of my eyes. Once home, all I need to do is hop into the bath or simply dry off if I don’t have time immediately. Works either ways.

Skin is waterproof after all. You gotta get wet anyways- Better getting drenched in the Rain than Sweat 😁. A change of perspective was all I needed to enjoy the beauty of running in the rain. Of course it had me encouraging my Kiddo to enjoy it too. Oh No its raining suddenly became Oh Yes, its raining 😎.

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AFSF Star of India Night Challenger Marathon 42K, June 2018- Like A Star

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Last year in December, Satara Runner Rajvi Halgekar called me telling me about this unique event.   She asked if I would be interested in being one of the Brand Ambassadors for the same. On checking that the date was during the Summer vacation, I immediately agreed. After all, I wouldn’t have to worry about my kiddo and could easily go to Satara from my home town Pune 😃.

Registrations opened up in January and were going to be limited to 500. However based on the incessant demand, later another 200 were opened up for Charity. Of course way more than these were later refused as the Organizers stuck to their guns and refused to compromise on Quality. Yup, they were not only giving personalized t-shirts but even personalized standee medals to each one of the participants 😎.

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Besides the AFSF Marathon was only the second night Run in the country and the very first in amche Maharashtra. Runners from all over India like Darjeeling, Delhi, Kolkatta, Ahmedabad, Surat, Chennai, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Nashik, Satara etc. came to participate in this amazing event.

 

 

 

Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical considering this Run would be on the tough terrain of Satara besides starting at 11 pm. I had never really enjoyed any of my evening runs before leave alone running so late in the night 😑.

In fact, I had registered for the 35K and later shifted to 42K only after the organizers removed the concerned category. I trained as regularly as possible trying to follow my schedule to the best of my ability. However, I had not put in any evening or night runs whatsoever.

D-day arrived and I took off for Satara from Pune along with my friends- Salaj, Sunita and Kalyani stopping enroute for a Selfie. Leaving late afternoon post lunch we reached the Shahu Stadium comfortably by 5 pm just as Vidya and Rajesh D’souza arrived to collect their Bibs. I enjoyed watching the ongoing Girls Basketball game, reminded of my own District and National matches long time ago 🤗.

 

 

 

It was good to meet the Organizers Rajvi Halgekar and Milind Halbe. After a brief discussion and some lovely lemongrass chai we took off for our Hotel along with our bibs and goodie bags. On the way we made sure to pick up the famous ‘Satari Kandi Pedhe from Latkar Bandhu.’ We had an early dinner at 6:30 and tried to get some rest before returning to the Venue by 10 pm.

 

 

 

It was good to meet and greet other fellow runners. Some known, some unknown though everyone seemed excited with plenty of smiles around. After the initial announcements, felicitations, and energetic Zumba session we FM Runners moved towards the Starting Line. We were to run the 21K loop twice. Precisely at 11 pm we all took off amidst loud shouts of Ganpati Bappa Morya 😊.

 

 

 

I ran ahead not realizing that I was going too fast. I got chatting with fellow runner Anand Naidu who turned out to be a Powai Runner too albeit staying Kanjurmarg. Aghast when he told me his PB was 3:57, I immediately dropped my pace and bid him goodbye as my Garmin pinged and jolted me from my stupor 😱. Thankfully Salaj caught up with me and we ran steadily together, though still a bit faster thanks to the company of our fellow runners- 5-hour Pacer Niranjan Pise and his buddy Pankaj Nagori.

Pankaj especially was having a blast as he ran shouting out to other Runners and people in the Cheering crowds alike inviting them to join us 😁. After 3-4K he asked us if we’d like to have Paan at the shop ahead. Spotting the owner of the famous Modi Sweets, he sent him off to get his special Kandi Pedas for us. Of course we couldn’t refuse when he actually got them and distributed to everyone around 😁. Talk about Five Star Treatment. It didn’t really help matters since we were still cramping a bit from our earlier dinner 😔.

It was amazing to see the Enthusiasm of the Satara Crowds. We ran on hi-fiving small kids all lined up by the streets. It felt like practically the entire city had turned up to cheer us despite the late hours. People clapped and cheered us on standing by the roadside and even from their windows and balconies. They definitely made us all feel like stars 😇.

To top it all, there were wonderful volunteers at fully equipped aid stations placed practically every kilometer. Dates, Oranges, Boiled Potato, Biscuits, ORSL, Lemon Juice, Jaggery, Water, Salt- You name it, they had it. We were particularly grateful for the Sponges kept in Ice water. The muggy weather with cloud filled skies was not exactly supportive for our run. The beautiful moon passing through dark clouds every now and then was definitely a welcome distraction 🤗.

Salaj and I ran together comfortably chatting away sticking to our consistent pace walking uphill wherever required. He regaled me with stories about his recent family trip to Thailand 😄. After 15K or so we managed to overtake youngsters Sonya Rai from Darjeeling and later Ashwini from Bangalore as well. We ran on as I told Salaj that it would be fantastic if we ran as strongly in our Second loop. It was fun to run as we cheered and called out to other Runners, especially the Half Marathoners on the other side 😊.

Finishing the first loop in 2:15 we turned back all smiles waving to the onlookers as we went. It was tremendous that even at 1:30 am people were right there still cheering us on. In fact one particular lady stood beating her thali with a spoon since they could not blare loud music. Waving and thanking her, we moved on only to be greeted up ahead by a Police car with Cops cheering us aloud on their Speaker 😎. With so much cheering and support from the crowd, volunteers and even the clapping police there was absolutely no scope to get bogged down.

At the last 10.5K U-turn, Salaj told me to go ahead as he wanted to walk a bit more while returning. Waving to him, I moved ahead picking up oranges with salt as well as sipping plenty of ORSL and water. A little further ahead I spotted speedy runner Yash Shekatkar walking ahead. Finally when I managed to reach him he told me that this one was his 5-hour training run for the upcoming IDBI 12-hour Stadium Run.

I moved on, alternately walking and running in the steep uphill sections. I was particularly careful at some of the dark patches. I was determined to run in the last 4K which was downhill and flat. Urging myself on, I kept going from one water station to the next. In the last stretch one of the volunteers on a scooter asked me if I was ok, speeding ahead when I answered in the affirmative. I managed to run steadily in the last 2-3K which was relatively flat. Finally crossing the finish line, I was surprised to be greeted by loud cheers and hugs from Sunita and Kalyani who had waited for us after their HM 🤗.

Another pleasant surprise was when soon after, I was approached by a Trio who greeted me by my maiden name. Turns out they were my juniors from DYPCOP, my Pharmacy College in Pune. Being recognized even after twenty years felt like an achievement in itself 😂. I stood 2nd in Women after Dynamite Darjeeling Gal- Samiksha Rai and even 15th overall, finishing in 4:37:32. Oh Yes, my very first podium in a Full Marathon. Definitely couldn’t have asked for a better event 😃.

 

 

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Run Less to Run More

Initially when I started Running and trained for my very first Half Marathon, I literally just ran. Yes, I would run about 5k or so daily with a longer distance on weekends and a day off. Most of us make the same mistake. I mean, isn’t that what you are supposed to do- Just Run! Well, turns out here’s where we go wrong. Yes, we are obviously supposed to run but if you want to train and improve your pace you need to try out different techniques of running.
See, if you are simply running at a constant pace, your body gets used to it. Now if you are running simply for exercise then running in your comfort zone is fine. But if you are getting frustrated that despite running regularly you seem to be stuck in a Rut, here’s what you need to do to break the monotony.
Mix up your runs. Ok, what exactly do I mean? Simply put, vary your training schedule to include different types of Runs. These would be Speed Intervals, Tempo, Hill Repeats and Long Runs. So basically instead of simply running at the same consistent pace while varying the distance, we are going to attempt to shock the body and break out of the comfort zone.
Speed Intervals– To keep it simple, essentially you sprint during this workout, usually done on an established flat track. You need to start with a slow easy warm up of about 1-2kilometres. Then do your speed intervals with easy jogging recoveries or 1 minute breaks in between. Start out with shorter distance (200m-400m) and repetitions (6-8) and then move on to longer distance (800-1200m) and repetitions (10-12). Obviously the shorter distances (1500m race pace) will be faster than the longer ones (5k race pace). Initially when you start out, you might find walking rather than jogging back to the start point helps recovery for your next interval. Always end with a short cool down of about 1-2k. As the name itself suggests, these help improve your speed.

Fartlek– This workout is less structured than the speed intervals. It involves alternate bursts of fast, moderate and easy running. Essentially you start out with a slow Warm up of about 1-2k. Then do a short speed burst followed by a slower run to allow recovery and repeat the process till your intervals are done. End with a slow Cool down of about 1-2k. These are useful in building up speed intensity as well as endurance and can serve as alternative to Speed Intervals particularly when missing a flat Running Track.

Hill Repeats– Easily put, you need to identify an uphill section or flyover of about 150-250m and try to run up and either walk or jog down. Initially, walking down will ensure you recover by the time you start your next hill repeat. You will be jogging down sooner than you know it. Again start with a 1-2k Warm up followed by the Hill repeats and then 1-2k Cool down Session. These are helpful in increasing the Runner’s Endurance power.

Tempo Runs– This one basically involves running a longer distance than speed intervals say 4-10k at your Marathon Race pace. Again, start with initial warm up of say 2k, then do your Race pace Tempo Run and follow it up with a Cool down of about 2k. Tempo Runs help to increase speed that you can sustain for a longer duration and increase the time that you can maintain at a fast pace. As I have been told it’s always good to do a Tempo Run once a week even in your off period when you aren’t training to race.

Long Run- Last but not the least is your Weekend Long Run. As the name itself suggests this is when you run long but slow. Easy as we call it when you have a blast chitchatting with your runner buddies. Don’t worry, you aren’t just whiling away time. This Long Slow Run ensures you get used to being on your feet for a long time and makes sure you can sustain for your Marathon duration. The distance will obviously vary depending on your Race Distance. Run 80% of it and you are all set and Race Ready. Of course you need to increase distance slowly, with the rule being to increase about 10% every week with a drop every third week to allow Recovery.

Basically, for your training schedule all you need to do is play around with your Speed Intervals or Fartlek, Alternate Hill Repeats and Tempo as well as your Weekend Long Slow Run and your all set for your Half Marathon. For your Full Marathon you might want to add an additional mid-week Easy Recovery Run after your Interval or Fartlek Training in order to increase mileage. So 3-4 days running per week is all you need. Spice it up further with 2 days of Strength Training and even Cross Training and you are all set to ensure a faster, better Runner. Yes indeed, if you want to Run more, you definitely need to Run less.

 

 

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Aparna Bhingarkar D’souza- Gimme Pink

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This working Mom of two started Running in 2013 in a bid to encourage her teenage daughter to join her in order to lose weight. Though Alisha did not join in then, Aparna discovered that she enjoyed Running. It gave her that much needed “Me time” to clear her head and plan the day. After all she had indulged in Athletics during school; so what if it was more to get out of studies 😉. Later in college, she would walk as much as possible in order to save up her pocket money 😁.

Aparna did her very first 10K at the Pinkathon in 2013 encouraged by her ex-colleague Sharmila Munj. Of course, getting to meet Milind Soman was an added incentive to participate 🤗. Thereafter, she also joined in for the monthly XPTC runs. For someone who did not like Gyms, Running was the easiest activity to take up. Aparna would run solo for about 5-6K daily depending on the time availability as she also had to commute to her office in Marol from Mahim. She enjoyed exploring different routes to keep things more interesting.

2015 onwards, Aparna became more focused and wanted to increase her pace in a bid to improve her timing. She was introduced to the Mumbai Road Runners by her Pinkathon buddies who told her to join in for their monthly Bandra-NCPA run as she wanted to do her first HM at the SCMM in January. Aparna connected with Samuel Chettiar and Bijay Nair amongst others and started volunteering and helping out during the monthly MRR runs 😊.

 

 

Since Volunteering gave her so much pleasure, it became a regular affair as Aparna helped out whenever feasible and took on the onus of managing the 21K which were introduced at Pinkathon over the last three years. With a cut off of 2:30 each female runner was paced by individual male pacers. This HM was started in a bid to help Women Runners improve their timings and achieve their PB’s 😎.

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When Pinkathon started their Inter-city Runs, Aparna felt inspired watching so many runners running long distances from one city to another for days together. While volunteering during one such Run, she mentioned to Sonia that they should at least do Mumbai-Pune when Milind Soman happened to overhear her. He encouraged them to do so and that’s when Terrific Trio of Sharmila Munj, Sonia Kulkarni and Aparna D’souza accepted the Challenge 😯. They trained for a period of 3 months putting in the required mileage whilst also working on Strength training with one compulsory Rest Day following the schedule provided by Milind. The tough ladies managed to achieve their goal of running from Mumbai-Pune in 3 days with elan 😎.

 

 

In 2016, Pinkathon also introduced their Har Ghar mein Pinkathon initiative in order to further promote fitness in women. The idea was to encourage women to take out time for themselves and focus on their health. They started free training groups in different localities. Aparna heads one such group at Shivaji Park. They meet regularly from 5:45-6:30 on alternate days when she usually runs from her home in Mahim to join the Gang.

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Having successfully completed the Mumbai-Pune Run in 2016, Aparna decided to join the fun yet again in 2017. This time, they upped the ante and a group of 20 women who trained for 6 months were shortlisted based on regular tests that confirmed their readiness and capability for the humongous task ahead.  She says that she felt the first time was easier as she could enjoy running at her own pace whilst the second time she had to ensure she ran along with the others in her Pacing Bus.

 

 

Aparna intends to hop on the Bus yet again in 2018, when the plan is to get 50 women to run from Mumbai-Pune.

Recently, she got her very first podium finish in the 10K where she was the Second Runner Up in her Age Category at the Malad Run in February 🤗.

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Since Aparna enjoys Ultras so much, she now wants to get proper Coaching in order to also work on her pace. Her goal is to participate and successfully complete the much touted Comrades Marathon at South Africa in the following year 😎.

On a parting note, Aparna states that she really admires other Women Runners who manage to juggle and work out despite their busy schedules. She advises Newbies to find time for themselves and take care of their health. After all; when you are healthy and happy, your family will definitely be happy isn’t it? Oh Yes- these days Aparna’s daughter Alisha has started Running too. As for her son Abhishek, he wants to beat his Mom in a 5K pretty soon 😄.

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Run for Equity 10K, April 2018- Budding YoungStars

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Last month after the Dombivali Pride Run, Vijit called me stating “60 minutes pacing at the Run for Equity ho jayega na.” Totally clueless regarding the event, I laughingly replied, “Hellooo ek baar ho gaya to phir se ho jayega aise nahi.” 😂. Luckily, the event scheduled on 14th April on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti was the day after my kid’s final exams; besides being close to home at Mulund-Thane check-naka. Needless to say, I immediately agreed to pace. To make it even sweeter, this was a free event backed by Team RunBurn. Naturally, there was a flood of registrations once word got around and they had to stop registrations at 4000.

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D-day arrived and everyone seemed to be headed to the Event 😁. Anu, Sachin, Pradeep and I set off talking nineteen to the dozen at around 5:20. Parking just before Mulund check-naka, we ended up hurrying to the holding area where I collected my pacer flag from Rashi 😌. Laughing, chatting and clicking pics we joked around as the respective Speakers enlightened us with their short political speeches just before Flag Off. It was nice to meet and greet fellow runners as I told them that we would try to run at a steady 5:50 pace throughout to achieve our Sub 60 goal.

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Precisely at 6:00 we were flagged off and set off with shouts of All the Best. I had to literally hit the ground running making my way ahead through the huge crowd. The first kilometer was the toughest as I guided Shilpa Rao along trying to maintain pace. What made it worse was the first U-turn in the tiny lane ahead where the crowd made it claustrophobic and super tough to run. It was particularly vexing to weave our way through the walkers 😑.

Encouraging Shilpa that this would be our fastest pace I ran alongside her a bit flustered up the bridge ahead. The first kilometer we were bang on target at 5:50 despite all odds. I greeted Deepak Pai who had promised to run with me as Salaj moved forward telling us we were well on time. Descending down, Deepak and I went a bit faster taking advantage of the slope chatting as we made our way ahead. Unfortunately, Shilpa could not keep up and fell back, a good decision considering she was struggling what with the horrible weather, crowd and relatively tough course.

Greeting Shilpesh Desai at the first water station around 1.5k mark we ran together as another young lad seemed to join me. Further ahead at the next water station we were cheered on by Vishwanathan Iyer who thoughtfully handed us much needed open water bottles. I easily sipped and poured water on my head with the Pacer flag in the other hand 😊. Well on track, now that the roads had widened with comfortable space to run, I chatted with the youngster running with me. Tanmay was targeting a Sub 62 and seemed to be all set to achieve the same easily. Slightly ahead, another young girl seemed to keep picking up pace in a bid to stay ahead of me. Running with her phone blaring songs that helped keep her going. Noticing one of her shoelace was trailing, Deepak urged her to tie it. However she neglected to do so probably to avoid wasting time 🙄.

We ran on cheering the faster runners on the other side who were already heading back.   Sooner than we knew it, we reached the half way mark and turned back too. It was loads of fun cheering so many Runner buddies on the other side as they too headed for the U-turn 🤗. Meanwhile, the young girl joined us and I managed to convince her to go ahead, stop for 2 seconds to tuck in her shoelace before continuing ahead with us.

Further on we went thanking the volunteers and police who were manning the roads doing a splendid job. Shouting out and smiling at Photographer Chetan we ran ahead together. At the Nitin Company junction, I stopped for the Bus to pass and told Tanmay to step on to the massive Road Divider before we hopped off and resumed our Run. After all, we could easily cover those few seconds instead of taking a Risk by jumping and running simultaneously.

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As we ran further along I chatted with young Simran who told me she had a target of Sub 61. Turned out, both Tanmay and Simran were 16 and in the 12th standard 😊. I introduced them and told them they better achieve their goals considering how strong both were running. Deepak and I joked about going off to have Tea at his in-laws place at Teen Haath Naka while Tanmay carried the flag home 😉.

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I encouraged both youngsters to move ahead in the last 2-3 kilometers but they decided to stick with us. Deepak cheered Simran on while I diverted Tanmay’s attention as both started struggling a bit as we approached the final uphill section on the bridge. Moving on I pointed to the Tennis Courts on my left asking Tanmay if he played Tennis. He told me that he played Football and was a National Level player. He was also a 200m Sprinter coached at Arjuna Sports Academy, had learnt Yoga from Kaivalyadham and was all set to make a career in Sports 😎.

Urging on our Sprinter to take off ahead, I ran chatting with Simran who played Badminton besides running despite being in the Science stream at College. Cheering them on I told Deepak to take them ahead as I slowed down a bit in the final section. It felt wonderful to watch these two Bacchas easily accomplish their respective Goals in style 🤗. I finally crossed the Finish line all smiles finishing in a very satisfying 59:25. Yup, I managed to bring the Bus back successfully well within time 😃. The Thanks and smiles of fellow runners who did their Sub 60 with me was the icing on the cake. I definitely couldn’t have asked for more 🤗.

 

 

 

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Lata Alimchandani- Live Life Neeru Size

 

This sprightly 60-year-old young girl took up Running only at the age of 55. Lata was always physically active throughout though sports were fairly limited to Kho kho et all in school in those days. Post marriage, she ran her own boutique and made quite a name for herself designing wedding outfits. She travelled from Kashmir to Amritsar, Delhi and finally moved to Mumbai. Business and family jaunts would regularly have her traveling abroad. On one such occasion, she was detected with Brain Tumour for which Lata had to undergo Surgery. Fortunately, everything worked out perfectly and she was up and about within no time 😇.

Post-Surgery, when she was living in Bangkok; early riser that she was, she would regularly head to the close by Garden for stretching when loads of youngsters would be returning back from Discos. There she learned Yoga and continued to practice the same for 4-5 years. Always eager to learn new things, she also took up Aerobics later in Mumbai.

Encouraged by her Aerobics friends, she did her first running event- 10K at the Pinkathon in December 2013. At the time, Lata was clueless about Marathons thinking that everyone ran as a group starting and finishing together 😁. In fact, she ended up carrying her timing chip since she didn’t know that the timing tag had to be attached to her shoe and her timing wasn’t recorded at the Pinkathon 😑.

All gung ho, she decided to do her very first Half Marathon at the SCMM in January 2014. She convinced her husband to register her through a Charity Bib as she did not want to lose out on precious time. She went on to do a 25K during training and finished in 2:10 despite her shoes giving her trouble during the Race.

This was followed by another HM at the Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon in February 2014 where Lata stood fourth. Subsequently, it was at the IL&FS 10K where Lata tasted sweet success and got her very first Podium. Elated, she was literally jumping up and down with Joy 😁. Of course that was followed up with several more podiums practically all over the place as she soon became a familiar face on every Victory stand.

 

Subsequently, she went on to do about 60-70 events including several 10K, HM, FM besides track events at the Masters; both Domestic as well as International. Having qualified for Boston, now Lata is training for the World Masters as well as Asian Masters and also wants to complete the World Majors- 6 major international marathons at the earliest.

Not being Social Media savvy, Lata only learned about Mumbai Road Runners from Sunil Shetty. She got connected with MRR in 2015 when she enjoyed the monthly Bandra-NCPA run with them. She was delighted to be awarded in the Best Female Veteran Runner Category subsequently at the MRR Awards in 2016 when she got to meet and interact with several other Runners 😊.

Initially, Lata would train Solo thinking no one can teach you Running. She felt all she needed to do was run more than the required distance during practice. Later, she connected with Sunil Shetty and other Puma Brand Ambassadors and went on to be mentored by different Marathon Coaches. However, Lata continues to adapt her own training plans giving far more importance to Strength training. She believes that one should always Listen to One’s Body and Run or Race accordingly.

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Lata follows follows a 3-4 days Run schedule followed by post run Stretching and Strengthening besides 2 days of Strength and Functional Training though now she gives less importance to Weight training. She keeps trying to do different things and enjoys dabbling in variety. She is highly inspired by the Labor Class who run and says that they manage to find time to work out despite their heavy work load 😎.

 

 

She advises that one should always be active keeping the mind occupied so as to keep aches, pains and illness at bay. There is always so much more to do besides just plonking down in front of the TV. This way you will always be healthy and happy.

Lata loves her Running-centric Life which has given her so much Respect, Adulation and Admiration. She still cannot believe when people message her saying that she is an Inspiration.

On a lighter note, Lata states that she has told her most ardent supporter- her Hubby that he must arrange a Marathon after her death when he is to give away all her medals and trophies. After all, what better way to be Remembered and Cherished by fellow Runners 🤗.

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Amol Pednekar- Be The Change

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This young boy from Sawantwadi was one of three siblings born to Middle Class working parents. Amol’s father worked in the Health Department while his mother was a teacher.   A happy childhood spent in the beautiful Konkan region with the major focus being on studies and scholarship for the bookish roly-poly young lad. Amol went on to do B.E. from the Walchand College of Engineering, Sangli followed by MBA at the MET Institute in Mumbai. Whilst enjoying his Hostel and Bachelor life with not enough home cooked meals the kilos continued to pile on 😑.

Once settled in his job he married Dr. Prachi, a Doctor who works in the ICU at Bhaktivedant Hospital. Soon they were blessed with a beautiful little girl, Sara. As work and home responsibilities increased, his health continued to be neglected until finally realization dawned on Amol as the weighing scale showed that he had almost hit triple digits in 2014 😱. Too embarrassed to enroll in a Gym, he immediately bought a Treadmill and started using it diligently walking for 20 minutes on alternate days. Slowly his efforts started paying off as the kilos slowly started to melt away 🤗.

Amol enrolled for his very first Running Event at ICT where he completed 7K in 50 minutes. That’s when he had a major shift in mindset and felt free for the very first time. Watching other older Runners passing him by as he too overtook other slower runners gave him that special Runners High 😊. He ended up doing back to back 10K at the Khushi Awetism Run as well as the Mira-Bhayander Run.

Catching sight of several Runners in the lovely green Mumbai Road Runners t-shirts, he found out about this wonderful group on Facebook. Soon it was time for this solo Runner to join this lively Running Community. During 2014-2015 Amol diligently started going for the monthly MRR Run. He would join from Dadar and run all the way to NCPA covering a distance of about 15K. In fact his very first HM was also at the monthly Bandra-NCPA Run 😃. The best part was the social interaction with other Runners getting much needed inputs and information. In fact, it was through MRR FB posts that he realized he just might be suffering from an ITB injury approaching a Physiotherapist at the correct time. That’s when he understood the importance of Strength Training to support Running.

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In November 2015, Amol connected with Prashant Pankaj and Niyat Anjaria on the Net. These likeminded local Solo Runners got together and the Mira Bhayander Runners (MBR) group was born. The motley group of 3 grew to 200 within a year, further growing to 600 within 2 years. MBR has grown quickly into one of the biggest groups within a very short time span 🤗.

 

The monthly picturesque Mira-Bhayander Long Run has soon become one coveted monthly event. MBR Gang also conduct Boot Camps, Awareness Camps, Kids Events etc so as to encourage all kinds of physical activity and not just restrict it to Runners.

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The goal is to inspire more and more people to be healthy and happy as well as increasing Running Awareness in the MBR Area 🙂. MBR also sponsors several underprivileged speedsters in a bid to empower and enrich their lives. Currently, all these initiatives are completely managed on the basis of Individual Contribution by the members. Goes to show that when your heart is in the right place, everything does have a tendency to fall in place for you to make a difference 🤗.

Amol did his first official HM at IDBI Federal Life Insurance Mumbai Half Marathon in 2016 finishing in 2:50. He quickly followed that with participation in about 8-9 more events that year. With regular training Amol got his PB of 2:14 at the SCMM in 2017. Unfortunately he ended up getting a Ligament tear due to Overtraining 😥. Deciding to take the Conservative route, he rested for about 6 months despite being advised for 3-4 months break by the Doctor.  During this period, he chose to volunteer and help others pursue their individual goals instead 😎.

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Amol completed his Marathon Training Course from ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) and became a certified Marathon Coach in order to further their goal. He has founded Xponential Fitness, an endurance training academy to create awareness and help Runners and Beginners. Through this new initiative he has started taking sessions on Fitness, Running & Marathon preparation at Running Summits and different Corporate Sessions as well training Kids and Marathon Runners.

 

 

He usually follows a 3-days Run and 2-days Strength training schedule with 1-2 days of Uncompromised Rest Days. However, while training for an event he runs 4 times a week including Speed Interval or Hill Run, Tempo Run, Short Run and Long Run. Of course all this takes a backseat in case of any Injury and all focus is totally on Rehabilitation ensuring sufficient Rest and Recovery.

Amol ends on a note advising Newbies- “Don’t pursue running with Legs & Lungs but pursue it with your Heart & Soul. If you do so, I promise you- it will lead you to places you could never dream of. It will take you on a journey to discover the deepest part of your life, the parts that you never knew ever existed.”

 

 

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Dombivali Pride Run 10K, March 2018- Hop On My Bus Baby

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Sometime after the MRR Bash, Vijit Shetty and Vishwanathan Iyer messaged me asking if I would be interested in pacing at their event on 4th March. I laughed and told them I’m a lousy pacer based on my previous track record 😂. However they insisted and I did end up agreeing to pace once Buddy Sachin Gupta agreed to join me to Dombivali. I was going to be pacing the 60 minutes Bus this time along with Santosh Nadar. Once logistics were in place I borrowed Salaj’s garmin and made sure I did a practice run with it. Yup, I’m definitely learning from previous experiences 😄. The Runburn Team were constantly updating us and also did a Race recce and informing us Pacers to keep a margin of 100m whilst pacing.

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On D-day morning, Sachin was kind enough to pick me from Powai and fellow pacer Bijay Nair from Mulund and made sure we reached KDMC ground by 6. After all he did have to make sure that his Bus with the esteemed passengers reached on time 😁. We were greeted warmly by the Runburn Gang, who practically treated us like Royalty escorting us and handing us our Bibs and Pacer Flags 🤗.

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After a short warm up while the Zumba session was on in full swing, we moved towards the Starting line-up. I joked around with Deepak Pai, the 55 minute pacer asking him if like me he was the cheerleader of their team 😉. Laughing and chatting pulling each other’s legs we gathered around at the Starting Line-up. Precisely at 6:30 we were off and running out through the gates running up the slight slope and speed breaker right at the start.

I ran with Santosh and our self-appointed DJ Tejas Rane who was running along carrying his speaker 😎. On the descent I ended up speeding a bit as Santosh called out to me to slow down just as I saw I was running at a pace of 5:42. Slowing down slightly, I ran a little ahead as Santosh and Tejas were left behind. The next Kilometer I was back on track as I ran at my pre-decided pace of about 5:50 or so considering the extra 100m.

Moving on, I chatted with passenger Amitesh Shah from Kalyan who was trying to do a Sub 60 in a bid for his PB having done 10K in 67 minutes at the recent Navi Mumbai Half Marathon. Cautioning him to slow down if required I ran alongside chatting as we went. Further ahead, was joined by another youngster Aditya from Dombivali. He too had an earlier PB of 67 minutes, though his was at the Navy Marathon couple of months back.

We ran ahead steadily enjoying the patches of greenery as we went. It was quite hot and humid and we made sure to keep sipping and pouring water on our heads. Had fun cheering the speedy Runners across the street as they took the U-turn at the 3.5K mark. Catching sight of a train on the tracks, tried to figure out if it was the Deccan Express as I ran in the opposite direction soon spotting a Local train as well. Pacer Santosh and DJ Tejas were running right behind with plenty of other Runners on the bus as they ran to the tune of the beats 😊. Shouting out and Cheering each other we all ran keeping our spirits high.

I kept shouting out pointing right before all the Hydration points placed at every kilometer. My passengers were kind enough to share their water with me as I ran with the pacer flag in my hand 🤗. After the Halfway mark, people started struggling a bit what with the weather starting to take a toll as well.

After the 7K mark, I told Aditya to move ahead if he was feeling strong. Unfortunately Amitesh and some others had already fallen behind by then 😑. As Aditya moved on, I was joined by Santosh and Tejas along with Runner Deepak. Encouraging him to move ahead after the 8K mark we ran together enjoying the varied songs from Lakshya, Lagaan, Mission Kashmir etc that Tejas was playing full blast. Mentioned to Santosh that shouting out actual Kilometers can be deterrent and sometimes vaguely knowing you are just a short distance from the finish line serves well.

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We ran steadily with Deepak just ahead thanking the Volunteers and Police as we passed by. We were all smiles as we saw Photographer Pankaj Patil at the 8.5K mark. Soon we crossed the 9K mark and moved ahead shouting and encouraging everyone to finish strong. Tejas had moved on as Santosh and I continued steadily to finish together bringing our 60 minute Bus back arriving well on time in 59:44 😎.

 

 

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Nashik Police Marathon 21K, February 2018- Fun Run Fiesta

Some time back in December, Reshma Salian asked me if I would like to join for the Nashik Police Marathon on 18th February. Aatul Sangamnerkar was going to take a Gang of Mumbai Runners for the same. I immediately agreed since we would get to enjoy our picnic to beautiful Nashik along with the Run. As I jokingly told Reshma, “Why not, time mila to bhaag bhi lenge.” 😂  After all, what better way to let your hair down and celebrate after the Mumbai Marathon?

After some back and forth, Aatul finalized on all the logistics and our merry band of Runners was all set. We decided to get a head start and leave early Saturday morning. Piled up in two cars we took off, stopping briefly for Chai and Vada before reaching the famous Sadhana Misal for Brunch 😊. We were floored by the place and yummy Nashik Special Misal-Pav which they served along with tarri, dahi and poha papad.  We also tasted the special Paans and Chuli-varche Ice cream. This one was on the lines of Chokhi Dhani with some animals and birds in cages, bullock cart and camel ride etc. It seems, there are tons of such joints in Nashik and all of them are invariably flooded on weekends. After all what better way to start your day with family and friends? 🤗

All satiated, we visited the close by Balaji Temple taking Darshan. However, we ended up rushing out as one fellow glared at us as all of us burst out in loud peals of laughter at one of Aatul’s entertaining anecdotes. Suitably chastened, we wisely left before we were thrown out. 😁

Then it was time to visit the Rachana Sports and Cultural Academy; Aatul being one of its Trustees. The campus was lovely with some Tennis courts as well as a Boarding School for underprivileged girls along with the famous Badminton courts that’s home to several National players. 😎 Despite visiting in the afternoon, we got to meet one of the Coaches Dr. Amit Deshpande who was coaching two young girls.

Bidding them adieu, we collected our Bibs at the Golf Club Ground and finally went to Aatul’s Hotel Manorath where we settled for some much needed rest. The evening was spent exploring the running spaces of Nashik. The highlight was the fabulous dinner of Prawns, Fried Surmai, Fish Curry and Rice prepared lovingly by Archana, Aatul’s wife. Talk about living to adage, “Atithi Devo Bhava.”

Sunday morning; Pooja, Neha, Reshma, Rodman, Jaj, Aatul and I walked down to the venue chatting and joking wishing the Policemen Good Morning as we went. It was good to see all the Nashikkers out in full form and also meeting a few familiar faces like Aniruddha Athani 😃.

After a short warm up whilst the Zumba was on in full swing, we moved towards the starting line. A slight delay of two minutes and we were off and running. Neha, Jaj and I ran together as speedsters Rodman and Pooja took off. I was pleasantly surprised to see Namrata Patil as she called out to me. Waving and shouting back we moved ahead promising to meet after the Race. Neha joked about both of us being Jaj’s bodyguards as we ran on either side 😂.

We ran together thanking the kids who were all assembled to cheer us. Every half kilometer or so there were children in groups either cheering, doing Lezim, playing the Dhols or playing in a Band 😊. Some 5-year-olds were all decked up in finery and traditional wear. Without a doubt, it felt amazing as they cheered us all on and sooner than we knew it we passed the 4K mark.

After a bit of the uphill section, I ended up racing down and didn’t realize when I left Neha and Jaj behind. Amazed at the display of Rope Malkhamb by some young girls ahead I cheered and clapped as I moved on meeting Inspector Bhujbal from Bhusaval. I overhead another guy ahead saying that he had come directly from Night Duty to Run 😐. At about 7K I met and ran along with Mahesh Patil. He had just done his first HM at the Shirdi Marathon the previous Sunday and was hoping to get a PB here targeting 2:05.

Moving further we met Dr. Sagar Patil who was having a blast with his friend joking and cheering us as we ran together. Just then we were passed by a group of young girls in white shirts and black shorts with long plaits. It was a pleasure watching them run together in perfect synchrony 🤗.

Further ahead, I shouted and cheered as the 10K Elite guys passed by on the other side of the road along with the lead vehicle. A bit further; I was stunned to see one guy jump across the line and head back skipping the mandatory U-turn, a classic case of Cheating 😠. Glad to see the timing mat at the U-turn though.

We moved on enjoying running on the fantastic wide roads as the Volunteers and Cops did a fine job of managing the traffic at signals and crossings. Thanking them profusely I ran on enjoying the open spaces. Soon enough, caught sight of the HM Elite Runners following the Lead Vehicle. I ran on cheering fellow runners as they returned after the U-turn. It was good to see and exchange Hi-fives with Rodman as he ran strong. A little further I cheered Pooja and moved ahead. The U-turn was after the 12k mark and we were greeted by the sight of the glorious Sunrise as soon as we turned 🤗.

It was good to see Neha and Jaj as I ran back thinking they would catch up with me soon. Enjoying the fabulous cool weather I moved on looking around at the greenery. It was fun waving and cheering Namrata, Reshma and Aatul amongst others as I ran back. A little ahead I caught a glimpse of some of the earlier cheering kids performing a play on the stage. If that wasn’t enough, there were some Muslim guys who were handing out Roses to us Runners. Talk about being treated like Royalty 😄.

Running back confidently, I picked up my pace to the beats of the strategically placed Drums being played by the Band with just 3K to go. Quickly I moved forward crossing the 20K Mark. The last left turn, and a bit further I caught sight of the timing clock at the Finish Line. All smiles I ran faster in a bid to finish strong. Unfortunately; in the last few meters I faltered, misunderstanding that the people ahead were telling me to move towards the side behind them. I ended up clambering behind and then coming out again crossing the Finish Line 😑. Turns out they were gesturing to some 5K Walkers behind me🙄.

Nevertheless I managed to finish in 1:56:04 getting my PB in the process 😊. In fact our entire gang had a terrific run with some PBs and Pooja even managing to bag a Podium standing Third in her Age Category 😃. We celebrated in full style dancing to the Punjabi Dhols on the Ground as well as out on the Dhols played by the Nashik Women all dressed in traditional finery near the finish line.

Followed it up by the quintessential trip to Sula. Also visited another fabulous farmhouse called Utopia 😊. One last yummy late lunch at Maharashtra Darbar and it was time to head back home back to Reality wishing Aatul “Annadaata Sukhi Bhava.” 😊 IMG-20180219-WA0078

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