A newly minted ultra runner shares his story

My running friend Dilawer Khan, who lives in Jammu, has just become an ultra-runner.

How fantastic is that?

A week after running a super fast half marathon in delhi, Dilawer tackled a 63km run, and has thus moved himself into a new league altogether!

Congrats, my friend, and thanks for sharing your experiences in this vivid telling of your first ultra run.

Dear reader, I give you Dilawer in his own, happy, humorous words:

“It has been on mind right after some time I’d started running and now I’ve accomplished it- to run an ultra (anything beyond 42 Kms).

I started running in the year 2015 and ADHM was my first official race. Since then I’ve run around 15 half marathons, 2 full marathons and few 10k’s. With time I’ve been able to improve my pace and I’m only getting greedier. However at the same time I feel like running longer distances as well.

So basically need to strike a balance between distance and speed.

This Sunday my team, Jammu Runners, planned to run an inter-city ultra run from Jammu to Udhampur(65 Kms approx). I was a bit sceptical about this as I had ran my fastest HM only a week ago (ADHM’18).

Then I decided that I’ll take it as my usual Sunday LSD (long slow distance) run and see how far I could go.

We, the group of 13 runners (everyone with his own set of targets) and 3 crew cars, started at 5 AM and it was perfect weather for running. With the brief flat/downhill start it was mainly a continuous uphill run till around 20 Kms on NH-44. So it was even slower than the LSD pace.

The weather and the scenery around the highway made the ascent easier though the monkeys, our side spectators, did scare me at times. I crossed the highest point till that distance in around 2 and a half hours and it was the first time also that I crossed that toll plaza without paying anything 😀.

I along with my experienced ultra runner friend Gagan started with leading the run, were at the back of the pack now thanks to our generous stoppages and photo shoot sessions.

After the toll plaza we ran through the mountains (thanks to the tunnels). There we came across a man on his cycle rickshaw coming all the way from Jalandhar to pay his obeisance to Vaishno Devi at Katra(power of faith).

Thanks to our support team, we had been having proper supply of nutrition in the form of energy drinks, fruits and biscuits. After running for more than three hours and completing 22 kms we stopped for proper breakfast. After that it was kind of a picnic run, if I can call it so, with more stoppages and photo shoots. Without much fatigue and tiredness touched the mark of 30k, so my next target was full marathon. Some of the runners had already finished their run after achieving their respective targets and the leaders – Rajesh Padha (running 60k on his 60th birthday)and Mukesh(his first full/ultra marathon) had made the u-turn after touching the full marathon mark (they finished after completing 61kms).

As we, Gagan and me, decided against U-turn(to add an inter-city run to our running profiles 😋) bid adieu to our crew captain and had to carry our bags now.

After some more pics and more breaks and I crossed FM in around 5 hours (running time). Then the goal post shifted further to 50k(ultra).

After 10 hours on feet and 7 hours of running time I touched my first ultra run mark. Honestly speaking there was no special feeling of jubilation or sense of achievement, as now I was eyeing to finish it at another town.

Then we had our last break at 55k and set for Udhampur town.

The sun was setting and it was getting colder now.

Legs had started to show the signs fatigue.

After running 62 Kms on the highway we took the left turn towards the town, finally the destination was in front of my eyes and we finished after 63 Kms with more than 12 hours on feet and almost 10 hours of running time.

There I was with the feelings of joy and contentment or maybe no feelings at all. But now when I look back and go through that run again in my head I cannot believe that I have run from Jammu to Udhampur.

Here I have to thank my friends who made it possible (and look easier).

First of all Mr Rajesh Padha for making the plan and leading from the front, Rajeshwar for his unrelenting support on the way, Sandeep Singh for his energy injections (not literally!) and everybody who ran along with me.

Last but not least, Gagan, who actually turned this ultra run into a fun run with continuous sharing of his prior ultra running experience, holding me back whenever the speedster in me tried taking over and everything he did to make it a memorable experience.

This first ultra run of mine exactly did the same to me what most of the long runs do – makes you humble.”

Dilawer, my friend, I am speechless with admiration!

You put lazy ol’ runners like me to shame 😛

Fantabulous achievement & I am super proud of you.

#keeprunning #keepinspiring & the next time we meet in Delhi, you can buy me a coffee with the money you saved from the toll plaza!

“Just run, have fun”. A great running mantra

One of several runners in my ASICS Running Club who ran their first half marathons last weekend, Mudit Chawla has a lovely and very unique source of inspiration – his gorgeous little daughter, Saisha
This wee little muppet came to one of our training sessions a few weeks ago, and stole the show 🙂
Here she is running her own race a couple of weeks ago, and please don’t miss the relative size of the water bottle to her!
It looks to be about 20% of her size, bless her!
With Saisha as his inspirtaion, let Mudit tell you in his own words, his thoughts and reactions to his very first half marathon:
“Running has never been my cup of tea.. It was never on my mind. But after being blessed with a beautiful daughter, I always wanted to take up some kind of sports for her but was always confused. It was only when my 4 year old ran 100 mtrs in her school’s sports day and grabbed a silver, I decided to take up running..
I still remember the day when a dear friend of mine, Ujjawal Gomber introduced me to this running group “ASICS running club” and then there was no confusions and no looking back.
The credit for my first HM goes completely to my coach and mentor Vijay Shukla. My daughter inspired me and he turned running into my passion.
Since it was my first HM, I had a simple strategy – “Just run, Have fun and Enjoy the game” but Vijay Shukla sir made me believe “The harder the battle, The sweeter would be the Victory” and this is what I made my motto too while running 21 km. Unfortunately, I even had terrible ankle pain just 10 days before ADHM, which is constant till date but since it was my first HM, my team mates of ASICS running club (now my family) encouraged me to run and assured me that the pain I feel today will be the strength I will feel tomorrow.
That’s all I had in mind while running and thus could proudly finish my First ever HM – 21 kms in 02:28:34
A big shout out to my daughter for being my inspiration and my ASICS family for their motivation.”
Mudit, well done on both your first half, and also your gung-ho attitude, running despite aches and pains.
I love your sense of determination – “the pain I feel today will be the strength I will feel tomorrow.”
Like so!
This photo, below, was taken on Saturday at our agility session.
I shared it in the blog post I wrote about running with a parachute, but it’s such a smashing photo, I feel like sharing it again 🙂
And finally, here’s Mudit in action during the Airtel Delhi half Marathon:
Well done my friend.
#keeprunning and #keepinspiring

“I believe I can fly…”

“I believe I can fly…” really could’ve been the motto for our ASICS Running Club session this morning 🙂

I think I speak for all my running mates, when I say that we all had great fun at a very different kind of training this morning.

We did our usual warming up jog and stretching and drilling, but then we tackled a course laid out by our coach to test our agility.

I had missed an earlier session of this circuit agility training several months ago, & so was super happy that we did it today.

It was a bit like an obstacle course which we all had to tackle, with jumps and hops and more jumps.

There was a baton relay which was GREAT fun.

I had NEVER taken part in a baton relay, ever, and am therefore living proof that it truly is never too late in life to try something new!

But the star of the exercises was parachute training, which is exactly what it says.

You sprint, wearing a small parachute.

Like so:

Mudit in action, above, against a gorgeous wintery sky.

There is a small parachute, attached to a belt that you wear, and off you go running like the wind (in theory!!) with the ‘chute behind you, creating drag and making you work harder.

You can see a little of how it fastens on, from the photo (left), I’m wearing a belt with the parachute behind me, and was waiting for Harry to film one of our team.

The damp grass in the park wasn’t ideal, according to Coach, since it created resistance.

I imagine dry grass or a track would be optimal.

But the less than perfect conditions didn’t stop us all from having great fun.

I checked online to find out a little more about this form of training.

howstuffworks.com had this to say:

“The nylon parachutes attach to a harness around your waist or your chest and then expand as you speed up. As the chute expands, it creates drag, forcing you to work harder which, in turn, builds overall strength. Runners using parachutes create wind resistance even on a day when it isn’t windy at all.”

http://www.therunnersguide.com/parachutes/

This was interesting:

“The running parachute operates on a system of progressive resistance. Simply stated this means the faster a runner runs, the more resistance they experience. This factor alone makes it obvious that running parachutes are adaptable to accommodate runners of a variety of different levels of skill and speed. Slower runners will experience less drag than faster runners. However, both slower and faster runners will experience a sufficient amount of drag to challenge their bodies and cause them to improve.”

http://www.therunnersguide.com/parachutes/

Wearing the parachute and wanting it to float dramatically behind me certainly made me run faster, but the reality was quite different from the super phots you find online…

Online

Me

Ah well 😛  You can’t win ’em all 😛

Harry kindly did a super slo-mo of me in motion.  Please imagine the sound track of “I believe I can fly” playing…

[jwplayer mediaid=”30052″]

But the undisputed stars were our 2 youngest members who tackled today’s training with great gusto:

[jwplayer mediaid=”30053″]

A perfect end to a week in which we all took things a little easier, as we recovered from the half marathon.

Today’s training is, I suspect, the prelude to our next goal, as we all start working towards the many races happening over the winter.

What did you see on your run today? #382 stars Casper the lost dog

My running friend Rohit Manaktala has a lovely story from his 15k run in the Lodhi Gardens this morning.

Let him tell you this sweet story in his own words:

“As I finished my cool down walk after a nice 15k interval run at Lodhi today, I saw a car drive up with a beagle which looked exactly like Pixie, my neighbour’s dog, except he was not a she!

I came to know from the lady, a resident of our colony, that the dog was found loitering outside her gate and she thought it was Pixie, and so brought him here only to discover the vital difference!

We had seen a beagle being taken for walks to Lodhi, so surmised he was probably from the adjacent colony.  A couple of boys were sent to ask around and spread the word, and we also flashed the news on our colony’s Whatsapp group.  Whilst waiting, we kept Casper (discovered his name later) busy by playing with/petting him, and also introduced him to Pixie who, after some initial alarmed barking, started sniffing each other and became quite friendly.

The owner meanwhile had hard about the boys enquiring and came looking for Casper on a scooty.  She recognised his bark and zeroed in to where we had tied casper and given him water and biscuits while waiting.”

Awww.

A happy ending and, maybe, just maybe, a budding romance between Pixie and Casper 🙂

Here’s the star of this cute story:

So what did we think of the 2018 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon?

It’s Thursday.

The half marathon was on Sunday.

The dust has settled.

The results are out, the medals proudly flaunted on social media.

We’ve all done at least one recovery run.

The euphoria is still there, for sure.

But I think emotions have calmed down enough by now, for a balanced assessment of the race to be made, and that it is now fair to do a short ‘n sharp balance sheet of this flagship race.

I’m not talking about running performance here – for example, mine felt good while I was running, but proved to be only average in the end.

I’m talking about how a major event of this prestige and nature was conducted.

THE CHANGE OF TIMING

We amateur half marathoners and – for the first time – 10k runners started at 5.00.

Yes, you read that correctly.

5 o’clock in the morning.

Reporting time 4 o’clock.

Get up at…in my case 2 o’clock in the morning.

The change of timing for our race was, I understand, so that the elites could start at 7.00 in order to beat the heat.  The race was brought forward from November (it’s usual time slot) to 21 October, to beat the infamous Delhi pollution.

I feel for the organisers, I truly do, trying to balance health vs weather vs pollution vs heat vs the elites vs TV viewership vs all we thousands of amateur runners.

I feel for them.  Truly.

But 5.00 in Delhi in the winter is DARK.

Damn dark.

And the street lights were not enough.  There were 2 stretches where it was downright dark and I slowed down to a snail’s pace, terrified I was going to trip.  I know I wasn’t alone in this, because I’ve asked others.

Dear organisers, if you’re going to make us run in the dark, then GIVE US EXTRA LIGHTING.  It’s really not rocket science.

Once it got light –  about 5.50 – then everything was fine, and the temperature was brilliant.

If we could’ve started at 6.00, everything would’ve been perfect.

FACILITIES ALONG THE ROUTE

Water stations, energy drinks & snack stations (didn’t use them), medical stations (didn’t use them, thank goodness), music – all was great and as it should be for such a major event.  One water station gave me my bottle opened and minus the cap which meant I wasted a lot of it and had to throw it sooner than normal, but that was the only niggle.

No complaints.

SIGNAGE

No issues.  Ditto for the timing mats.  Everything just fine & dandy.

No complaints.

FOOD

I didn’t eat after the race.  The thought of idlis and whatever, immediately after a run, does not appeal.  I had a banana from the goody bag and headed home to eat.  So I cannot speak to the food.

LOOS

I used the loo once, on Lodhi Road, thinking it would be OK so early in the race, since I was lucky enough to get an early start slot.

It was beyond disgusting.

Absolutely, stomach-churningly revolting.

No water in the flush nor in the tap.  NO WATER IN A LOO?

No soap.

No toilet paper.

Obviously no light.

I leave you to imagine the stench, and the horror of having to deal with this in the pitch dark.

TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE.

RACE T SHIRTS

I collected my race T-shirt on Thursday, along with my bib, and (as in previous editions of this race) I gave the T-shirt away immediately to one of our staff.

Yet again, women were given men’s T-shirts.

But this year, enough of us grumbled on social media to galvanise us all into doing something, and letting the race organisers and the sponsor know, that to treat women runners with such disregard is unacceptable.

Many women are returning their Ts to the organisers.

I’m not sending mine back because I’ve already given it away to our cook.  I have no problem in his wearing it, none at all, but that’s not the point.

Give women a woman’s T-shirt.

Or let us opt out of a T at registration and reduce our fee accordingly.

One of my running friends, Juby George, started the protest in a FB post, on the day before the race with these words:

#Procam‘s utter disregard for women runners continues as we get Men’s fit #Puma tees again!

Dear fellow female runners, voice your discontent on your timeline with a size comparison photo and let they organizers know what you are going to do with the over-sized tees you got…

Let this be the last time organizers (of an IAAF gold label race) treat us this way… and let there be an option to deselect race tees in the future…

Some of us took comparison photos, like so, showing our usual T against the Puma race T:

I have a suggestion.

Next year give all the men womens’ fit T-shirts and see how they like it.

CONCLUSION

A good event.

Safely managed.

So well done Procam for that.

But there are still things that must be addressed, like the fact there was no water in the toilets.

And the poor lighting.

And the oversized, mens Ts that irritated and alienated a lot of women.

MY HOPES FOR ADHM 2019?

A 6.00 start.

Working toilets.

Either a T-shirt that fits or the ability to opt out.

How good are the ASICS DynaFlyte 3?

Disclosure, before I even start my review

I have recently been named an ASICS Running Influencer, and, on the advice of my running coach, I chose the new DynaFlyte 3, in which to run and train.

ASICS has, however, placed me under no obligation whatsoever to write a review, favourable or otherwise, of these shoes.

So, what do I think about these shoes so far?

I’ve only had these lovely shoes for 2 weeks, but have already run 101km in them, including a half marathon.

So I feel that a “first impressions” review is in order.

I live in New Delhi, India and in the 2 weeks since I’ve used these shoes, I’ve run on a variety of surfaces:

    • on a dirt track in my local biodiversity park
    • on grass in the park where we train
    • on roads
    • and then, also on roads, a half marathon

The shoes felt comfy from the first second I put them on, in the shop, and had the lacing explained to me, including the need to use the spare holes, as you can see in the photo, below:
I’m just a humble runner, not a running-shoe expert, so this might not be as technical a review as it should be.

Here are the official technical specs:

As I said, from the outset, the shoes felt super comfy, and I have had no discomfort, no blisters, nothing.  I wondered whether running a half in them, after only 80km testing, was a good idea, but since they had felt so good since Day One, I decided to go for it.

Wise decision.

We had a good run (gold medal in my senior age category) so my DynaFlyte 3s and I have got off to a great start.

As the tag line says, I did indeed “feel fast”.

The shoes also feel incredibly light.

They really do.

I didn’t weigh my shoes, so offer you the detail below as I found it online:

Weight: 8.9 Ounces (men’s size 9)

The cushioning at the back of the shoe – the Rearfoot Gel technology – is there to mitigate the shock of the impact on your heels and it makes for a great, comfortable feel:

Then there’s the Flytefoam gel being Lyte technology midsole, the combined effect of this and the gel making the shoes feel incredibly bouncy.

I know that “bouncy” is not a technical term, but it is most definitely the way these shoes feel – lovely and bouncy.

They are easy to put on, and fit snugly.

The ASICS logo is super discreet, and (in a cool touch) it is almost more visible when a light is shone on it – making them, I imagine, strikingly visible at night.  I’ve yet to run in them in the dark, so cannot speak from experience to that, but look at how the logo can be seen when the flash is on, in the photo above.  The name on the heel is also highly visible when light is shone on it.

I’ll keep on running in these shoes over the coming weeks and months and will post a couple more reviews, as we evolve together.

But, since first impressions do count…

    1. I love the colour.  Absolutely love it.
    2. The shoes feel super light.  You almost don’t feel they’re there.
    3. Despite the lightness, they cushion your feet perfectly.
    4. The laces are easy to hold and tie.

So far, so good.

Pretty much love at first sight for me, and since we won a gold medal together, I think we’re going to get along just fine together.

Meet one super-duper exuberantly happy first time half-marathoner!

When I asked Anyuta Dhir, one of my ASICS Running Club friends, to share her thoughts on her first ever half marathon, I knew I’d get happiness.

And how!

Anyuta is fairly new to running, and indeed only touched 13km for the first time at the end of August.

Less than 2 months later, voilà!

Her first half marathon.  Done & dusted.

This is a young woman with determination, grit, and oodles of enthusiasm and passion, and she totally deserves the joy of her first half.

Here you, the lady in her own, inimitable words 🙂

“They say LIFE IS AS BEAUTIFUL AS YOU MAKE IT….. 

I realized more than that in this RUNNING GROUP that I joined just a few months ago.

All the wonderful BEINGS I met….made me a RUNNER out of the FREE SPIRIT I never knew I HAD.

List of Acknowledgement is endless….but today OUT OF NOTHING I AM A HALF MARATHONER….that too a first timer.

How every, bit was contributed by these beautiful souls I met every morning…and today though I FEEL it’s me but I KNOW IT’s the CREATION of GOD that made me reach here and the VIA MEDIA his creations IN WHO I CALL FRIENDS.

This BIG DAY, I RAN rather was made to run with my AWESOME PACER who pulled me through in the literal sense….made me learn DETERMINATION and COMMITMENT…

SINCE I HAVE JOINED THE GROUP I HAVE LEARNT TO GIVE, TO MAKE WAY, AND TO ACCEPT THIS BEAUTIFUL WORLD AS IS….and the RESULT IS MATCHLESS…

FULL OF LOVE, FULL OF JOY, HEALTH, and VITALITY not to mention the UNIVERSE FULL OF AFFINITY I GET.

NO WONDER I REALISED THAT I RUN ONLY FOR ONE CAUSE AND THE CAUSE IS LOVE.

ADHM 2018

21 km

DEBUTANT 02:35 Hours….

ONLY BECAUSE OF ALL MY RUNNING COLLEAGUES, COACH, GUIDING LIGHTS, INSPIRATION and FRIENDS.

YOU ARE, SO I AM.

LOADS OF LOVE TO EACH ONE OF YOU.”

Shabash, my friend, and here’s to many more races and even more joy!

#keeprunning #keepinspiring

2 sides of the same super cute running story

How I love these 2, Kathakoli Dasgupta, the gal who got me running 5 years ago, and her met-in-India hubby Dave Hogg.

They both ran a race yesterday and they both share their stories here.

(Pause for everyone to say “Awww…” 🙂 )

I didn’t even have to badger them to write, bless ’em.

By the way, you need to know that Dave was injured recently, by the way.

So, Katha first:

“There are some races that you just do, some you are proud of and some that make you happy. Today’s Great South Run was the happiest I have felt during a race.

The weather was gorgeous, the energy infectious, the music uplifting, the cheer from the crowds super encouraging. I did high-fives with every kid I could reach and was beaming throughout the 10 miles.

What makes this race even more memorable is that Portsmouth’s historic sea front has a special significance for Dave’s family; plus Dave’s achieved another milestone in the road to recovery—he is running again, having started to jog a few days back, and finished the race in 1:20:53! I wasn’t far behind and am pretty chuffed with my 1:29:32. #HappyRunner “

Now over to Dave:

“So I wrote last week about new found enjoyment from walking whilst I couldn’t run after an accident. Since then I’ve taken steps back to running, first a short jog, then a longer one, then further again. It felt really weird as I’ve never had such a long time not running (albeit 6 weeks) since I started running 19 years ago: my muscles just weren’t used to it and had lost their running edge. But given we drove six hours to run the Great South Run—or at least for my wife Katha to—and the weather was unseasonably fantastic, I couldn’t but reverse my decision not to run. It wasn’t easy, but I gritted my teeth and got round the course in a not unreasonable time. And the best thing was that, with no pressure to race or get a PB, I again got to enjoy the coastal scenery en route.”

Dave, as a fellow Brit, I applaud your totally British understatement – “not unreasonable time”.  Arre, baba, you’re running after being knocked off your bike, and you do 10 miles in 1:20.  Amazing stuff.

Fantastic!

And gotta love the Indian T shirts in action!

Thanks the both of you & #keeprunning #keepinspiring

An open letter to my running coach

For almost 2 years now, I’ve been going regularly to a Delhi running group, twice a week. The ASICS Running Club was started just after the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in late 2016, and indeed I attended their very first session, and have been a regular ever since, travels notwithstanding.

Nearly 2 years on, & I have made definite progress in my running and overall fitness, that’s for sure.

But I haven’t made spectacular progress. That’s also for sure.

And the blame for that lies uniquely with me.

I don’t train as much or as hard or as diligently as I should. For example, I still can’t do push-ups properly…note to self – need to restart that aborted 30 day push-up challenge I started a couple of months ago.

Our Running Coach, Vijay Shukla, is dedicated, caring, and treats every runner with equal attention and courtesy.  Which is why he deserves better than the performance I fear I’m going to give in this Sunday’s Airtel Delhi Half Marathon.

I’m not really sure what is going on in my head and in my heart right now, but I’m feeling possibly the least confident and the least psyched-up I’ve ever felt before a race.

Is it nerves?

I’m not sure.

Is it being under-prepared?

Most definitely.

I have yet to get close to cracking a sub 2 half marathon, which is a sort-of magical figure for runners.

My best was 2:05 about 3 years ago, when I ran on the Formula 1 circuit in NOIDA in torrential rain, and just wanted the damn thing to be over and done with as quickly as possible 😜

My ‘average’ HM time hovers around 2:10, and so that elusive 1:59:59 remains just that. Elusive and, this year for sure, totally unattainable.

It’s silly to be so fixated on a time, isn’t it?

As if 2:05 is a ‘bad’ time. Or 2:10 or 2:15, for that matter.

In earlier blog posts, I’ve chided people for apologising for their ‘slow’ timings, and yet here I am, already pre-apologising for what I suspect will be another creditable, but totally middle-of-the-pack performance.

But not an outstanding performance.

No siree.

But, playing Devil’s Advocate here with myself, isn’t the mere fact of completing a half marathon outstanding in itself?

Hells yeah, as my children would say.

So what’s the solution?

Stress about my ‘mediocre’ pace and not enjoy the race?

Or enjoy the race and not stress about my ‘mediocre’ pace?

The latter is is.

This is the approach I intend to take on Sunday, Coach.

I plan on enjoying my race, and not spoiling my enjoyment by stressing and fretting about a dream that won’t happen this year.

I would like to do you proud, Coach, and turn in a great performance, but will you please accept a good, happy, enjoyable performance instead ?

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