18 till I die

No matter how many times you tell yourself “age is just a number”, as you grow older, there are inevitably moments of self doubt, of regret, of wishful thinking.
I doubt there’s an older person on the planet who hasn’t had one such moment.
I certainly have.
Wishing I’d done x.
Not done x.
Said this.
Not said that.
All part of growing up and growing old, I s’pose.
But (other than still not writing that brilliant, award winning novel I KNOW is waiting to be written 😛 ) I am currently in the enviable position of doing “young people” stuff.
And thoroughly enjoying it.
I celebrated my 65th birthday by running one of the world’s highest half marathons, up in Ladakh, in the Indian Himalayas, and by being appointed a running influencer by ASICS, the Japanese sports brand.
Now how super fun is THAT?
Oh yes, before we go any further, let me share this clipping (below) with you, which I saw a few months ago, and kept especially for a blog post such as this.
This is STUPENDOUS news 🙂 🙂 🙂
I. Am. Officially. Young.
This is super exciting news, you realise.
It means that I am in the same official age category as my children! Of everyone in my running group!
I am no longer a freak, an old lady hanging with the cool kids.
I. Am. Officially. Young.
Joking aside, taking up running when I turned 60 has proved to be one of the most intelligent things I have ever done.
Truly.
Never felt healthier in my entire life.
I have had fewer illnesses, fewer colds, coughs, and sniffles over the course of the past 5 years then ever.
To offset this, of course, I’ve tripped and fallen during runs. But that is small fry compared to the fact that I am w-a-y healthier than ever before, and that significant markers for a woman my age (like bone density) have improved hugely since I started running.
My knees, that gave me so much trouble in my late 40s and then in my 50s, no longer trouble me. (Tries not to think about the cost of 2 double arthroscopies & the money we could’ve saved if I’d discovered running earlier 😛 )
So, where does all this leave me?
Joking aside, despite what the World Health Organisation declares, I know I’m getting old.
But running is proving to be my window to better health, to fitness and – let’s be frank – to a whole new world.
A brave new world of fluorescent Ts and age-inappropriate clothing.
Of new music.
Of making friends with great youngsters, who welcome me with kindness, and never seem to mind my hanging out with them.
It’s led me to take better care of myself diet-wise and sleep-wise than before.
I’m even thinking about joining a gym.
Quite.
And, the icing on the cake, to be considered influencer material by ASICS is exciting.
And a great honour.
On Sunday, I went to the Bryan Adams concert in Gurgaon, the satellite city next to Delhi (where I live).
Obviously the “Summer of 69” was amazing.
Obviously “Here I am” was very special.  It’s been the first song on my running playlist since Day One.  I find it uplifting and encouraging and it calms me down in those first few minutes of getting out of the stadium, in a big crowd, and trying to get into my stride…
And then came the iconic “18 till I die”, which had a new line.
I guess Mr. Adams, now that he’s nearly 59, felt he had to update one crucial word:
Someday I’ll be eighteen goin’ on fifty five, eighteen ’til I die”
On Sunday, 55 became 65, and I shouted out with glee on hearing it 🙂
Don’t believe me?
Here you go.
Proof:
[jwplayer mediaid=”29991″]
So, off I go on an exciting new adventure, that of being a running influencer.  If you don’t already follow me on Instagram, please do.
Please feel free to ask me questions about running and training and exercise, and I’ll try to answer as best I can, either here or on Insta.
And never forget “18 going on 65” 🙂

How 2 women runners tackled a groper

India is going through its own #MeToo movement, with the naming and (theoretical) shaming of Bollywood personalities and politicians.  I use the word “theoretical” advisedly, since in the case of a journalist-turned-politician M.J.Akbar, he is brazening it out, and our government remains steadfastly silent about the fact that their junior minister for External Affairs stands accused of sexual harassment.

Speaks volumes about the way India regards its women.

All of this is by way of introduction to the following story shared by my running friend, Shalini Verma.

For readers not familiar with the places Shalini mentions in her account, all you need to know is that this took place in Gurgaon, a bold, brash, brand new satellite town next to Delhi, where many of the biggest companies have their HQs and where there are glitzy towers blocks and malls galore and…read on, and you’ll see what else there is.

The other thing you might need to know is that ADHM refers to the big half marathon taking place in Delhi this Sunday.

And now, over to Shalini:

“As part of #ADHM training, my friend & I were doing a 3 hour run today. We started at 5am from Galleria and went till Mega Mall near Bristol Hotel.

When we were crossing the metro station, a white scooty crossed us from the wrong side and the driver touched my friend’s butt…and drove away.

We both were shocked and for few second did not know how to react. 
Then we saw him crossing us from the service lane side.

We both decided to follow him. So we started running towards Mega Mall. After a few minutes we were not able to see his scooty. We thought he must have gone, so we turned and started running again.
But no…… he came back again and stopped at the Galleria turn…. after a few seconds, he took a right turn towards Galleria.

We both decided to catch hold of him, thinking that there are cops near Galleria market, so we might be able take their help.

But within a second he again turned back and started coming towards us …… by then we knew what we are going to do….. I was ready with my water bottle and she was ready with hers.

When he was about to cross us, we both ran towards him. He was not ready for this attack…. my friend pushed him towards the road dividers ….and he lost his balance. That’s when we caught hold of him and started slapping him left … right … centre.

I used my water bottle to hit hard on his face and head. Since he was on a scooty he managed to escape …
But we both felt nice….and then we went on and completed our run.”

Firstly, ewww that yet another woman was groped by some low life man.

Been there, sad to say, on several occasions.

Secondly – WELL DONE, ladies, for fighting back.  Great reaction and brave of you to tackle him.

In my experience of being groped when I’ve been out running, no one, repeat no one, comes to your aid, not even the cops.

So you 2 handled this as well as you could.

So bad that this stuff happens.  But then look at what is NOT happening with the #MeToo movement…

And the pre-race nerves begin…

This time next week, fingers crossed, I should be safely tucked up in bed, race gear all laid out, ready for a super early start.

Next Sunday’s Airtel Delhi Half Marathon starts at 5 o’clock in the morning, which will mean reporting at 4.15 latest, which will mean leaving the house at 3.45, which will mean getting up at…

Pause while I hyperventilate.

I had this exact same conversation this morning with Vaibhav, one of my ASICS Running Club mates, and I think we ended up deciding we’d have to be in bed by 6pm 😛

Jeez Louise!

This fretting about the time I’ll have to get up pre-race, is all part and parcel of the countdown to an event, and in the 5 years since I entered this exciting world of running, I’ve learned that nerves are all part of the process.

So better to get them over and done with in advance.

Further proof, if it were required, that I’m in race countdown mode is that I tinkered with my playlist today.  Added a couple, moved a few around.  That kind of stuff.

And thus it will go on all week, as race day gets closer.

In our running club meet this morning, we did just one fast hill work out: 20 x at a fast pace, about 80% of our normal fast pace, according to Coach.  Between you and me, I was crushed when I was giving it my all (or so I thought) and was told by Coach to speed it up…ah well 😛

But it felt good to pit myself against a stronger runner like Saurabh, and sort of keep up with him (below):

Here’s our real speedster, who must’ve done 30 reps.  He just didn’t stop!

But other than this short and fast drill, we mostly worked on strength and stretching, and we did some different strength exercises, which were fun and challenging at the same time.  The idea is to taper, gradually, before race day.

The weather is beyond perfect in Delhi at the moment – borderline chilly at 5.50 when we started – and it feels invigorating, after the muggy summer humidity.

One of our members, Sushil Hooda, made a lovely video of this morning, which sums up our training, with a week to go before race day.  It also gives you an idea of the fabulous light, early in the morning.

Great memory of a good session:

[jwplayer mediaid=”29962″]

What did you see on your run today? #381 stars competitive tractors!

The young woman who was my first contact in the world of running 5 years ago, Kathakoli Dasgupta, is now married and living in England.  Katha married a fellow runner, Dave, and if you haven’t already read their running love story, here you go – such a great story 🙂

Over the years, Katha has been a regular and generous contributor to this blog, but today we hand the reins over to hubby Dave.

Here, let him explain himself what he saw when he was out today:

“6 weeks ago I was knocked off my bike by a rogue driver. Hospitalised and unable to train. I had to change my mindset to not be frustrated by not running, cycling, having the same level of fitness as before the accident. One great way I’ve found is to walk in the country. Walking instead of running means you get to see things that you wouldn’t otherwise. On today’s walk-substitute-run I saw a tractor ploughing competition — never knew this existed and a great sight to lift me.”

Firstly, great that you’re back on your feet, Dave,  Get well, soon, my friend.

And yes, who knew there were tractor ploughing competitions?! 😛

And the weather looks smashing, by the way.

Thanks, Dave, and looking forward to seeing you back on your feet, literally and metaphorically.

PS –  these tractors were strutting their stuff in Willangham in Cambridgeshire.

So what’s YOUR excuse for not running, then?!

We’ll have no more of the usual wimpish excuses like “I’m feeling tired…I have no energy…I have no time…”

No more excuses, people!

Just watch this video (below) from last weekend’s Pune marathon, and then tell me that you’re tired or demotivated or lacking in energy.

[jwplayer mediaid=”29949″]

24 year old Javed Choudhari only has one leg, and he ran a half marathon and then he danced.

How utterly amazingly inspirational is this young man?

Read his story and then go on, head out to exercise 🙂

Are you a running nerd?

Confession time.

According to a Buzzfeed quiz I took, I am a total running nerd.

Like so:

So, in the spirit of true nerdiness, I’m going to share with you my latest discovery, from this morning’s session with my Delhi running group…

My discovery is that I really, really, REALLY enjoy unstructured fartlek.

Doubt it gets weirder than that 😛

As I’m sure you all know, fartlek training is “defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running.”

In structured fartlek, you do (for example) 1 minute fast followed by 1 minute slow, or whatever combo you decide.

In the unstructured version that Coach Vijay made us do this morning, it was random.

We all started out fast – but our own version of fast – and when he blew the whistle, we changed to slow, and so on and so forth, in a pattern of uneven times.  Coach didn’t set a pace, nor a fixed time frame.  We ran on our own, according to the whistle.

What I liked about this morning’s session is that it was me fixing my fast and my slow, so I was totally running for and against myself.

No feelings of dismay at the superior speeds of my fellow runners, as happens in tempo runs, for example.

Today, I decided my level of fast, and ran my own drill.  Since I am naturally a slow runner, and habitually the last to finish drills, often I admit to feeling disappointed by my own lack of speed, compared to the others in my group.

But not in this training method.

I finished the fartlek session shattered, but not at all discouraged.

No one comes first or last in such a drill.

So you end the session totally elated 🙂

Hey!

One last thing before I go.

Won’t you please share your level of nerdiness?

Post a comment (directly here in the blog, please and not via Facebook) and we can see just how nerdy we all are!!

All hail the new marathoner!

Disclaimer.

    1.  This post is almost a week late.  My bad.
    2. This post is 99.99% written by the shiny new marathoner in question, so my input is minimal.

Having said that, it is now with HUGE affection that I hand over the reins of this blog post to my Delhi girlfriend and BRAND NEW MARATHONER, Reeti Sahai.

Reeti is a well-known & much-loved member of the Delhi-NCR running community.  Tall, willowy, with an infectious booming laugh and a personality to match, Reeti just run a sub 4 in her first ever marathon in Berlin – where running records were broken.

Fabulous achievement, girlfriend 🙂  And having seen you out running all through the summer, you totally deserve this outstanding result 🙂

Let’s here it for Reeti:

Marathoner – this word gives me immense JOY !

I had been running half marathons for 6 years now and I somehow always said, “ Nah not a full marathon. It’s too much.” And while I said so, I respected every person who ran a full. I turned 40 this January and one fine day (just about four months before I ran the Berlin marathon on 16th Sept 2018) I just sprung out of bed and said, “I’ve got to run a full marathon in my 40th year”. And that was IT. There was no looking back once the mind had conceived it. Thankfully, like most decisions in my life, this came from my gut too and I was convinced that this had to be done.
I called up my running coach Ian Dexter Ladbrook and broke the news. I was apprehensive he’d say, “you’re not ready. You’re too old to start running one. “ etc etc However, to my surprise and delight, he said, “that’s amazing and you can do a sub 4 hour marathon Reeti”. While I loved his confidence in me, I wasn’t sure what that meant in terms of training and hard work. And yes, it certainly didn’t mean that cause I can run a half in sub 2 hours (my PR being 1.44.03) I could run a full in sub 4. Those of you, marathoners, who’re reading this know exactly what I mean. To cut a long story short, I started receiving my weekly training plans and I started off with running four days a week and strength-training once a week. Gradually the mileage, intensity and days of training increased. And so did the heat and humidity in Delhi. I trained in the brutal summer of Delhi. There were mornings I’d question my decision. There were days I didn’t feel like running. I had hell training days. I went through emotions I hadn’t experienced. Training in the Summer wasn’t easy. I chafed and HOW. Discovered aches and pains in new parts of my body. I slept for 10hours a couple of days a week. I tried to eat as healthy. I had a bare-minimum social life (my friends almost dis-owned me and will vouch for this). They thought I’d hit mid life crises. I visited my sports physician for every minor niggle I had. I didn’t want to jeopardize my training. I got regular massages done. I almost slept at 9pm if not earlier for these four months. I barely drank alcohol.
I had the most amazing set of running friends who are family now. I couldn’t have done this without them. They say sport has the power to change lives – I can vouch for this.
Subhash, Jyoti, Hritik, Vipul, Vinay, Harveen, Amit, Nivi. Subhash ChauhanNivi Samanta Hrithik Prakash Vipul Manocha Vinay Bhardwaj Harveen Singh Johar DrAmit Ballani
I don’t know what to say, except GRATITUDE from the bottom of my heart. You guys have been beyond amazing ! To run with me every Sunday morning. Crazy hours. Crazy distance. And the runs only got longer and tougher but you ran with me throughout. I’m blessed. I owe you !
Preet Singh Thankyou for being there. Thankyou for constantly pushing me, encouraging me and telling me I could do this. For bearing with my rants and for also being selfish at times to achieve my goal.

Amna Ahmed Divya Vaish Aggarwal Hamid Ahmed Bharat Sharma Nitin Bhardwaj Deepak Bhardwaj Arvind Kumar TheKhati Amit Bhavya Sharma
Amna Divya Hamid Amit Bharat Nitin to name a few – who saw me train every morning and always encouraged me. This gave me so much strength guys. Wouldn’t have been possible without you guys rooting for me.
I know I’m missing a lot of names. Each one of you know who YOU are. And I can’t thank YOU enough. This has been one hellva journey and it has changed my life!
My entire family who always supported and encouraged me. They love to see me follow my heart. I’m blessed to have the family I have. I know I may have compromised on family time, trips. I promise to make up for it now. Love you all.
Arjun and Ruushil Arjun Saraswat Ruushill Bhaskar – Thankyou for believing in my abilities and giving me this opportunity. A shout out to the adidas Runners Delhi – for all the training and running mornings with all you fabulous aR people.
Thankyou Ian Dexter Ladbrooke for everything. Yes, let’s discuss marathon No 2. I’m hooked.
I landed in Berlin on the 13th of Sept and settled in. We went to the marathon expo on the same day and it was an overwhelming experience. I loved it. But I also wanted to move out of there as quickly as possible. It was HUGE – the word also doesn’t do justice to how BIG a world major marathon expo is ! Picked my bib number and it all seemed REAL. I was almost there. Nervous and excited. I kept trying to stay positive. Visualize the finish line. How elated I would be once I’ve crossed the finish line etc. it wasn’t easy but I was doing all this. Walked around the city a little for the next two days and these two days seemed never ending. I couldn’t even do much on my feet. You need a pair of fresh legs to run strong kept echoing in my mind. Saturday morning and I went for the shake-out run with adidas Runners Berlin. As always, it was a brilliant morning and we ran from the Berlin City palace to the Olympic stadium – where Usain Bolt created history. It was a beautiful 6km shake-out run chatting away with aR runners from across the globe – this running community is incredible ! I’ve met and made some friends for life. Soon I was back in my hotel room and it was a few hours to the start of my maiden marathon. Butterflies in my stomach as I started pulling out my race gear. Everything was out and ready to be worn the next morning. I couldn’t believe it. I tried to calm.
Ate some pasta for dinner and went to bed early and before I knew it my alarm rang. And it was RACE day.
Off I went to the Start point and almost got lost. It was so huge. 45000 runners from across the world. We kept trying to find the adidas Runners enclosure but couldn’t. It was one hour fifteen minutes to start time. I panicked a little since I had to drop off my bag that had my phone, post race change, some snacks etc. We decided to drop-off at the official baggage counter instead of the aR counter. And then we stood in a 30 minute line to pee. It was crazy. While you could see portapotties all over, the queues were never ending too. I heard the gun and the elites took off.
This was going to be a super special maiden for me. It is a world major marathon. A very saught after marathon. And It was rumored that Kipchoge will break the world record too. And as luck would have it, Yes, he did and I ran on the same track as him. History was created. This will stay for a while now. It was an incredible morning.

Soon, I was at the start line for my maiden marathon to begin and before I could stress more about it, we were flagged off. We were tonnes and tonnes of us who started together from my line up. It was hard to navigate through the crowds but that’s how it was going to be. It took me 15kms to kind of find a little space of my own to run. My pictures will be a witness to what I’m saying. While it was hard to navigate, the crowd also gave me energy. It was contagious. The streets of Berlin will never be the same. It was amazing to see the sheer numbers running and supporting and cheering throughout the 42.195kms. It was one BIG party on the streets of Berlin.
I kept an eye on my watch and tried not to go faster (which is what I usually do and then crash towards the end) than my race pace. I was on track at the 5km mark. I felt great. Soon I had reached the 8th km. I popped a gel and took a couple of sips of water and by the time I settled it was 10km. I felt good. I felt strong. And I said to myself, “let’s do this Reeti. 3 more 10kms to go with the same pace”. I kept talking to myself to run strong and not drop pace. I went into a zone and before I realised it was 16kms done. I had finished the water I was carrying. Thankfully, I was holding on to the bottle. Picking up a glass and drinking while running wasn’t the easiest thing to do. You could neither drink the entire glass nor run with it. And I didn’t want to stop at all cause I would loose momentum then. This was painful. And the water stations had traffic jams – if you know what I mean. It was the hardest to navigate through a sea of people to pick that glass of water while running. I popped my second gel at the 16km mark. Downed a couple of sips of water and threw the glass away. To my delight, I saw a water re-filling station. Atleast, I wouldn’t need to stop as often. I quickly stopped for a few seconds to fill my bottle and continued. And as I looked I had reached the half way mark. The first half-marathon was done. And it was done on point. Pace and time – even splits. I was smiling and said, “let’s crush the second half too”. I was focused. I saw a couple of cameras clicking, I was smiling. Visualising the finish line. Bands playing. People offering energy drinks. Rooting. Encouraging. Shouting along the way. The energy was incomparable. I looked at my Garmin and I had reached the 25km mark. I said, “15 more to go” Come on Reeti. I popped another gel and felt as good as the start. Had a few sips of water. Sprinkled some on myself as well and I was good to push for another few kms. I zoned out again. Was just enjoying the energy around me. Smiling and grateful thinking that I’m actually living my dream of running a world major as my maiden marathon. I notice around and the crowd got slightly lesser. I’m at the 34th kilometer. I do feel a little tired. I was almost on track even now (fingers crossed). I had heard of THE wall from most of my marathon friends. I was well versed with the term NOT the feeling yet. Was hoping I don’t hit the wall. I quickly popped my fourth gel. I realise I’m out of water and just then I see another water re-filling station. I stopped for a few seconds and filled my bottle hoping it will last me till the finish now. By now I was thirsty, I wanted to drink a couple of litres of water. I had almost half the bottle and my fourth gel and felt better and continued running. And YaY, I did NOT hit the so called wall.
Before I could realise I was crossing the adidas Runners cheering station at the 37th km and I see familiar faces and hear louder cheers ! I got a bout of fresh energy. And it was a matter of the last 5kms now. I knew I had no choice but to push. Giving up is easy. I was a bit tired now. My legs were screaming. Pain is temporary. Glory will be permanent – is what I told myself. 37done Reeti. The last 5km to go.What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This is an absolute favourite of mine and it actually works. I was smiling too thinking I’ll soon be a marathoner.
As I got closer to the finish line, the cheering got louder. I could see the Brandenburg gate and I knew I had done this. I crossed the timing mat on the Brandenburg gate and realised I have another 400 meters to run. The finish line was finally in sight and I crossed it with a huge sense of pride and couldn’t stop but tear up. Yes, tears of joy ! I had done it. Done it strong. I was smiling. I was at peace. It seemed like a dream. It’s still sinking in. I’m still basking in the glory of a sub 4 marathoner ! Yes, I’m flaunting my time. I’ve earned it.
This will always be special – so close to my heart.
My maiden marathon
At 40
A world major
Berlin marathon 2018
Where Kipchoge broke his own world record
And a sub 4 marathon for me.
3.57.32
Does it get any better ?

Counting my blessings.
Grateful.

Now, isn’t that THE most fabulous sharing of a super moment in time?  This young woman has described every emotion so perfectly, and reading it brought back so many memories and feelings of my own maiden marathon…though I trained alone and trotted over the finish line w-a-y slower than my rockstar friend :P.

Reeti, fabulous achievement.  Fully deserved.  And here’s to many more wonderful achievements.

What did you see on your run today? #381 comes from Cape Town

One of Delhi-NCR’s most talented runners, Juby George (who was also part of our #sheditrun) flew to Cape Town yesterday.

As if that isn’t envy-inducing enough, Juby posted THIS photo of her run this morning by the beach in CT.

“One of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen in my life… Good run along Beach road, saw a rainbow and made few friends en route… “

TOTAL envy!

TOTAL love for South Africa (where I used to live).

Juby, I am going to enjoy your trip vicariously, through your running photos 🙂

#keeprunning #keepinspiring  & #keepsharing your photos!

Guest post #5: how was YOUR experience of the Ladakh Marathon?

Today the blog is being hosted by a remarkable young lady called Gayatri Mathur who was part of our group in Leh, who trained quietly and seriously with no fuss, and then – quick drumroll – coolly placed first in the open category.

First, people!

How fantastic is that?

Without any further ado, let’s hear Gayatri’s account of running the half marathon in Leh, 2 weeks ago.  It is very modest and completely downplays her rock-star performance!

“I started my running journey in 2015, but somehow I hadn’t heard of any high altitude runs until last year, when I saw some of my running buddies posting pictures of their run from the very picturesque Leh. Seeing so many of them run and talking to them obviously motivated me to push my limit and sign up for this new challenge this year.

Now in terms of my past preparations for all my half marathons or even the full marathon that I have attempted, I had typically practiced in Delhi and I reached my run destination a few days earlier – say a Friday or a Saturday for a Sunday run. However, Leh with its high altitude & low oxygen levels had to be tackled differently.

After consulting a few of my running buddies who had done this marathon I realized that it’s best to reach a week in advance. Therefore, both my partner and I took time off our work and decided to make this a vacation/running trip. For the training part, I consulted Coach Gagan who gave me a week long workout plan to prepare for the race. As for the travel part, I consulted the event organizers, Rimo Expeditions to help me with a great travel itinerary that allowed me to follow my training plan and travel around Leh.  

We finally reached Leh on September 1st (Day 1) and as per the plan we just rested in our hotel for most part of the day and ventured out in the market for dinner.

Day 2 had a unique workout in store wherein all we had to do was climb 650 steps of Shanti Stupa. Though this workout wasn’t difficult to complete, it definitely left both of us breathless at numerous points. In the latter half of the day we visited places around Leh – Magnetic hill, Pathar sahib, Zanskar and Indus sangam, Alchi and Hall of Fame.

Day 3, had an easy 5K jog as per the plan and I was pretty confident that this was an easy task. I stepped out of my hotel at 5:45am, did a bit of warm up stretching and started my run uphill towards Shanti Stupa from the market area where my hotel was located. To my utter shock I realized I was tired and slightly out of breath at the 2Kms mark with a speed of 7:20/km! This is the slowest that I have ever run and this didn’t seem like a very encouraging start to my Leh training. Anyhow I completed the intended route to Shanti Stupa and back and went ahead with the other exciting part of the day, ie the  travel to Khardungla first followed by a night stay in Nubra. Both places were spectacular but the best part of the day was a sighting of a double full rainbow at Nubra.

Day 4 was an interval run day and as Nubra was pretty flat and slightly lower in altitude vs Leh, I had a slightly better run there. After the workout and the hearty breakfast, we moved towards the exceptionally beautiful Pangong lake. We stayed the night at a camp in Pangong and did some pretty decent night sky photography with a basic DSLR.

Day 5 was an easy 10K run which I did along Pangong with spectacular views and a little bit of rain. Running pace was still hovering around the 7/km mark (yikes!). We headed out to Leh via Changla pass and Thiksey monastery. Our driver was kind enough to show us a bit of the marathon route on our way back and also point out that the last 3.5Km of the run are a complete uphill.

Day 6 was a rest day when I did a bit of strength training exercises and we just roamed around Leh, exploring the city and some great new restaurants

Day 7 was meant for the last run before the marathon – easy 7k run and I attempted the Shanti stupa uphill course again, but without any breaks. We were in for a pleasant surprise around lunchtime when we were walking the main city and noticed the finish line for the Khardungla Challenge right in the middle of the market area. We met up some of our mates and cheered the daring runners completing the insane 72km Khardungla challenge!

Day 8 was a rest day and we did a bit of rolling & stretching and during the day we went out to explore beautiful Leh palace.

Day 9, ie the race day we reached the venue an hour before the race and caught up with all our friends from Delhi. To my surprise the race started off pretty well and I was comfortably averaging less than a 5:30/km speed until I reached the 16.5Km mark. Post the 16.5-17km mark I could see the uphill course of the run and despite so many locals and army men encouraging me to keep running I could see my speed falling. At around the 17.1km mark I finally stopped and for the first time ever walked in a marathon. Post this I did a mix of run and walk with small milestones (next set of buddhist flags, next water station etc.) that I saw on the route. Finally at around the 20.5km mark I met a fellow runner from Bangalore and we both decided we will not stop till the finish line from that point. At the finish line my Garmin showed a time of 2hours 8 minutes and some of the photographers told me I should be within the top 10 women finishers. Though I wasn’t disappointed with my timing, I was irritated that I walked some portions of the run and that should have pushed myself continue running even if it would have been at a slower pace. Post the run I met my husband at the finish line who had finished his 7k ages ago and was keen to find out about my performance. We met some of our friends from other running groups got tonnes of pictures clicked and then went rushed to our hotel to have a quick shower and head out for an interesting modern Ladakhi meal.

While at lunch when I got a call from a friend of mine from the presentation ceremony who informed me that my official timing was little under 2:08 and that I was fourth overall among women and had won a gold medal in the non-Ladakhi women category. Honestly I was very surprised but realized the uphill combined with the altitude might have slowed down many.

Overall I think it was a beautiful trip as both me and my husband enjoyed every bit of the trip, but I think some meticulous hill training especially for the last 3 kilometres combined with enough rest and acclimatization should be the formula to tame this beast for next year! “

Well done, Gayatri & congrats on such a fab performance.

Guest post #4: how was YOUR experience of the Ladakh Marathon?

Gotta love a guest post that starts with “Any idiot can run but you need a special kind of idiot to run a marathon” which is what this one did 😛

Today another of my ASICS Running Club mates, R K Bahuguna, takes over as our guest blogger, sharing his thoughts on the Ladakh marathon.
RkB has an interesting, almost philosophical take on his experience, and makes some good, insightful points.
Enjoy!
“Listening to the heroic tales from runners who had conquered the Ladakh marathon last year, I was excited for the challenge.
The stories of acclimatization needed for 4-5 days, low oxygen levels in dry-arid climate, direct sunlight & UV piercing your eyes & body at 11000+ feet around barren picturesque mountains, invite you to conquer this highest marathon in world as certified by AIMS.
A video of the Ladakh run was posted in our ASICS group and huge interest was generated with 30+ people registering for the Ladakh half marathon. My excitement led to booking of air tickets to Leh on 13/03/18, 6 months before the event.
(Editor: Well done, you!)
ASICS running group friends reached Leh for acclimatization from 01/09/18 onwards to 06/09/18 for the race scheduled on 09/09/18. What better way to acclimatize than visiting various places of interest around Leh like Leh Palace, Leh market, Hall of Fame of Indian Army, Patthar Sahib Gurudwara, Sangam of Indus & Zanskar rivers, rafting in chilling Zanskar river, monuments & places of worship, school of Sonam Wangchuk etc.
Daily morning training uphill run of 4-5 kms to Shanti stupa was exposing us to the forthcoming challenge.
(Editor: It sure did 😛 )
A road trip of approx 170 kms on 07/09 through the difficult uphill terrain via Changla Pass (A passage/road connecting two valley ranges) at 17500 feet, took 12 of us to Pangong Tso (14000’). The lake is 160 kms long and 500m to 5000m in width at various points.
A night camping at the lake side in Swiss cottages in chilly, windy weather was another experience. We were better acclimatized but tired after the arduous journey, when we reached Leh on 8th evening.
 After enough of sight-seeing & good acclimatization, now it was time for official running in the festive environment.
(Editor: Aha!  Finally we get down to the serious business of running :P)
We confidently took to the start line at 6.30 am and ran along the Leh-Manali highway with approx. 1500 runners for the half marathon.
My strategy was to pace up on down slopes, as up gradients shall stall.
Hydration was important as we were frequently feeling dryness in mouth and lack of oxygen to match the running pace.
The down slopes were easy to traverse once I got the hydration sorted and I managed the up slopes of Saboo village.The route goes down hill for about 5-6 kms and reaches again Leh-Manali highway & U turn starts at 11.5 kms. I was gasping for oxygen even on down/flat  tracks, a unique experience. We passed through the home of His Highness Dalai Lama at approx 14kms and then the gradual uphill started. The last 4 kms are steep and I had to run-jog-walk in the stretch after gathering oxygen & hydration.
 
Ladakh region is strategically important as it shares sensitive borders with Pakistan on west and Tibet/China in east, and so there is a good presence of Indian Army. I was elated seeing Army personnel lined up on either side of route and cheering we runners. I responded with ‘Salute to Indian army’ & could sail through the uphill sections charged up and reached finish line at 2.25.46 hrs, in a better than expected time of 30 mins over my PB.
Leh marathon attracts people from all parts of country and overseas, & has unique clientele. Every runner wants to prove his/her endurance by conquering the Ladakh Marathon, and experience life in these difficult terrains with remote places.
When I shared my 21 kms run with the local caretaker at my guest house, he explained that it is routine for them to walk continuously for 160-200 kms with their animals for grazing.
With every daily necessity being transported from Srinagar or Delhi & no local produce, the cost of living is very high. They look forward to tourism for any income whatsoever, & that too for 6 months, as there is hardly any activity in winter times & people migrate to habitable places.
 
Although I feel that this Ladakh run is abnormal, is too killing and that logistics are difficult, it is done for once and all, but…the running bug likes challenges, so who knows…you might just land up again for the 2nd time in Leh, like our friend Neeraj…
RkB – what a nice account of your whole experience, and I love the way you have cleverly left yourself an opening, possibly running in Leh another time, just like Neeraj did, running it this year for the second time 🙂
Basically, RkB, as I said to Neeraj, it’s a case of “never say never again”!!
1 2 3 4 5 6 102