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 😄.
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.
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 😯.
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 😥.
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.
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.