Countdown to Ladakh, D-42 to 42k

I tell you what.

Maintaining this Ladakh marathon countdown diary is a great way to focus the mind, & also highlight how the days are rushing by.

I last chatted to you on Wednesday, and today is already Saturday.


Also, since the Ladakh Marathon website shows 42 days remaining, I have decided to align my own countdown with theirs. I think I included race day as well.  (Maths & logic were never my strong points :P).

Anyway, whatever, today is now D-42.

D-42 to a 42K event.

Life kinda got in the way of training on Thursday & Friday, meaning I didn’t do anything, other than a bit of stretching and some paltry push ups (more on them anon) and it poured down, and yadda yadda yadda.

So, by the time Friday evening came around, I felt distinctly cabin-fever-ish and since the rain had eased up, off I went for a solitary trot around my local biodiversity park.

I was feeling distinctly uneasy at the lack of miles put in this week, so a nice, slow 13km sorted me out.

I set off for the run in a bad mood, because of something that happened here (basically a bitchy comment from someone who has always been unpleasant, but still manages to get to me) but within a couple of minutes of running in the damp and lush green forest, I’d forgotten my bad mood.

Talk about running being the answer to every single problem.

I ran slowly, enjoying being on my own.  Much as I love running with my running group, and let’s be clear, I always run better with other people, sometimes it’s good to run alone.  Last night was one of those times.

I came back relaxed and refreshed and with harmony restored.

So that was D-43.

Which brings us to D-42.

This morning was our regular ASICS Running Club meet, & in 99% humidity we did hill reps in Nehru Park.  The strong runners managed 4 reps, but I caved in after 3.  Absolutely wiped out which, doesn’t bode too well for You Know What.

I kept telling myself that there won’t be any humidity up in Ladakh, which is true enough.

What there will be, on the other hand, is that little matter of 11,550 feet…

Anyway, let’s not dwell too much on vexing issues like high altitude racing, shall we? 😛


After our hill reps we did a killer work out – a combo of drills such as leg raises and planks and push ups and squats –  everything that I am so pathetic at.

Although I was pretty chuffed, I must admit, to be able to do all the series of push ups – feeble as they were – after never being able to before.

Here we are, smiling when it was all over!


So, as the week draws to a close, let’s have a look at the week’s mileage to date, shall we?

I won’t include walking, just running.

So far, I’ve covered 31.7km.

Even if I round it up to 32, I’m still technically only 3/4 of the way through my marathon…

Yet again, yikes!

What did you see on your run today? #380 comes from the land of Shakespeare

My lovely UK based running friend, Katha, never misses an opportunity to explore new places on foot, & luckily for this blog, much of her exploration is done at a running pace!

She was recently in Stratford-upon-Avon, the English town famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and shared with us some of the iconic sights as she ran around town.

First up, his birthplace (below):


His school:

She finished by running along the river, the Avon part of the town’s name:

Katha, I haven’t been to Stratford since – gosh – 2008 I reckon, but I don’t remember this Ferris Wheel.  Could do without it, to be honest.

As ever, thanks for sharing your running adventures with us.

#keeprunning #keepinspiring

Countdown to Ladakh. D-46

There are various types of run – not sure “type” is the correct technical word, but bear with me.

There are intervals, fartlek, hill repeats, tempo runs.  And, of course, the famous LSD – Long Slow Distance – which many people run on a Sunday.

With my running partner-in-crime Ripu Daman, we have invented yet another form/type, which we christened Long Solo Running Together.

This is a perfect combo for 2 runners of such varied abilities as young Ripu & I.  We start our long run together, chatting and catching up, then he goes ahead at his fast pace and I trot along at my slow pace, and he usually heads back to join me, and then we run together for a little while more, then off he shoots, and on I trot.  Nominally we have run together, but lots of the time we’ve been running separately.

All very companionable.

Today with Ripu, I invented another yet another form/type/style of running.

I call it Slow Solo Long Hill Repeats Together.  Catchy, huh?

We met in the hyper-muggy early morning, to run long hill repeats on one of the few roads in Delhi that has a long, sustained slope – Shankar Road.

I realised things were rapidly going pear-shaped when I naively thought that our warm up was an actual hill repeat.  Whoops 😛

From then on, Ripu would zoom ahead, & I’d trot slowly up the slope behind him, huffing and puffing away.  He’d be waiting for me at the end of the 400 metre stretch, and then we’d walk back down the slope together, and then off we’d go again, one zooming, the other SO not zooming.

Anyway, when you run with kind friends & they wait for you, then I guess technically we did half the session together.

All the down bits 😛

Shankar Road offers a good long slope, plus the road is wide (the pavement is dug up) but the traffic was pretty heavy by the time we finished.  Add in the traffic cops pulling over trucks and tempos and buses, and it was all happening.

Because I was so slow, I gave Ripu ample time to film me. Like so:

[jwplayer mediaid=”29513″]

Gotta love slo-mo.  Makes any slow lumbering run look good!

Trying to see the positive in the poor air quality, I tell myself that it should all help in training our bodies to exist with less oxygen – like in Ladakh.  In just 46 days.  Yikes!

Countdown to the Ladakh Marathon. D-47

On Sunday I decided to share with you my countdown diary to the Ladakh Marathon in early September.

“And now it’s already Tuesday,” do I hear you mutter.  “So much for keeping a diary.”


Monday = rest day.

I took the dogs to the forest for a nice long, muddy walk, so got my old bones moving a little, after Sunday’s gruelling 24km.  Did my planks and push ups and some other stretches.

But that was it for D-48.

Today, Tuesday & now D-47, saw me back at work with our ASICS Running Club, for a tough interval training session, in 89% humidity.

We were divided into different groups, and I was to do 5 x 800m.

I did the first 800m at an OK pace, and then at the 2 minute break before the 2nd set, Coach told me to run from then on with certain specific people, who are all faster runners than I am.  He said something to the effect that I should know by now whom to run with and whom to match myself against, and so for the next 4 sets I ran with people faster & fitter.

All went well until the last 400 metres of the last set, when I suddenly felt I couldn’t continue and needed to stop.  It was as though all reserves had been used up, and I felt borderline nauseous.

Then I heard the calm, steadying voice of Sanjeev Thapa, one of the most consistent and reliable runners in our group, telling me to keep going.

“I’ll match your pace” he told me, “just keep going.  Slow down a little, don’t worry, I’m here” and just like that, I found the mental energy to continue.

When we were in the home straight, Sanjeev said “Come on, only 100 metres to go, and we’re going to speed up for a good, fast finish”.

And we did.

My pace was not too shabby – between 5:10 and 5:14, but the only reason I could complete the whole exercise in reasonable shape was thanks to this dear man

I tell you, the kindness of running friends is something else.

Sanjeev is also running the full in Ladakh, but although there’s no way I’ll be able to keep up with him on the day, it’s comforting to know that a steady, kind friend like that will be around.

We did some good stretches after our intervals and cool-down, all of which served to re-enforce how horribly stiff I am.  I’ve never been particularly flexible, even since childhood, but ageing is definitely a contributing factor.

So, along with the daily planks and push ups, I am now adding certain stretches.  It’s a tad embarrassing to admit, but I have become so stiff of late that I can barely touch my toes any more…me who could, until a couple of years ago, put my palms flat on the ground…

Old age ain’t for sissies, my friends, but I’m damn well doing the best I can to counter it 😛

So there we are for D-47.

Good interval training.

Good stretches.

And yet more additions to the daily home work-out.

Preparing for one of the world’s highest marathons. D-49

  • Disclaimer before I start.

I thought that the upcoming Ladakh Marathon was the highest in the world, but I stand corrected.  That would be the Everest Marathon.

I think, technically, that the starting point of Ladakh is higher than that of Everest, but the route of the latter definitely goes higher.

So, the Ladakh Marathon on 9 September 2018 may not be the highest in the world, but it is definitely the highest marathon in India, and is almost certainly one of the highest in the world.

And I’m running it.


To celebrate 5 years of running (I started in September 2013, when I turned 60) I have decided to run a full marathon in Leh, the capital of Ladakh, high up in the Himalayas.  As one does.

The city of Leh – one of my most favourite places ever – is at an altitude of 3500m/11,480ft.

And that, my friends, is the nature of the challenge.

I have already run 6 marathons – super, super slow timings – but I have run ’em and I know, all things being equal, that I can cover a distance of 42km.  (I cannot even begin to tell you what a thrill it is to be able to write that!).

What puts the Ladakh Marathon into a completely different league is the altitude, and the consequent difficulty in breathing.

Plus there are hills.  This is the Himalayas, never forget.

Now, how on earth does one train for a race like this?

Especially living in a city like Delhi which is pretty darn flat.

In our running group, we regularly do “hill repeats” in a local park.  They’re not hills at all, more like gentle mounds, but that’s as good as it gets.

And the lack of oxygen?

Ah, who knows, perhaps the very fact of living in Delhi & breathing in the toxic air here might actually be helping us to prepare.  A sad reflection on the state of the Indian capital city, if ever there was one.

If I include today & the day of the marathon itself, we are talking 50 days.

But for all intents and purposes, there are 48 days remaining.  And I am woefully under-prepared.

Travelling, while absolutely wonderful, sure messes up training routines.  In May/June I climbed a 6000m+ mountain in Uttarkhand, so that was nearly 3 weeks of no running at all.  Lots of strenuous exercise, but no running.

Then we went to Bangkok for a week, which is not really a city designed for running.  So I swam loads, but no running.

All of which is to say that here I am, 48 days from one of the most difficult marathons in the world, and I have not got the mileage under my belt.

So I thought I’d share my training with you, as a means of galvanising myself into doing more, and also as a way, inshallah, of getting rid of pre-race nerves.  The idea is that my sharing my worries with you, I’ll reduce them!  A problem shared etc etc.



This past week was the week when I finally got my A into G and started running more, and also doing planks and push-ups at home every day.

Last Wednesday I did the slowest 21km in the history of the universe, so slow that mid-run I cunningly changed the nature of the run from covering a half marathon distance, to a “time on feet” run 😛

Today I ran 24 km, so those 2 runs, coupled with 2 ASICS Running Club sessions brings my week’s total to 58 km, which isn’t a lot, but it’s better than anything I’ve done since I was training for the Mumbai & Delhi fulls in the winter.

This week has been miserably humid – 94% apparently this morning – so speed has not been a consideration at all, but rather distance.


And that, rather alarmingly, is where things stand at D-49.

I’d hoped to crack 25km today but the humidity did me in.

I ran about 15 of my 24 km in the company of Vijaya (above) from my running group.  We were wearing matching T shirts & matching running trousers, totally unplanned, so it was quite funny.  Vijaya is a very disciplined runner, sticking resolutely to her chosen pace, so I ran the first part of 24km much better than the latter section, when I was on my own, and therefore prone to go too fast and then slow down and then speed up.  Gotta work on maintaining a stable pace.

The plan for next week?

1) More mileage, most definitely.  My LSD has to nudge 30km, without fail.

2) Work on longer planks & more push-ups.

3) Start swimming

Jeepers – with all this training, where is the time for a normal life? 😜

Anyway, wish me luck.

Did you know running is a cure for exhaustion?

It is, trust me.

Works like a charm every time.

We were at a party last night, and although hitting the sack at midnight is not late by Delhi party standards, it’s late for me.

Especially when I’d planned on getting up at 4.30 for running practice.

So I compromised & got up at 4.50, but less than 5 hours sleep is no longer a thing I can handle.  I actually thought that older people like me need less sleep as we age, but whatever the logic, I can no longer function on 5 hours.

When the alarm went it was beyond a struggle to get up. I was knackered.

I secretly prayed for some heavy monsoon rain and a Whatsapp message that our ASICS Running Club had been cancelled.

But no.

No rain.

It wasn’t even as hot as it has been.

Brutal 89% humidity, however, even that early in the morning.

I was too tired to eat, and once or twice almost messaged Coach that I wasn’t going.


Wiser counsel prevailed and I drove wearily to Nehru Park where we train on Saturdays, although expecting to feel lousy all through the session.


The magic of running worked again.

By the time I’d done about half of the warm-up lap I felt energised and ready to rock ‘n roll.

Today we did hill repeats, and longer ones than usual.

Even though the slopes in Nehru Park can hardly qualify as hills – not when compared to Ladakh, where a lot of us are heading in 6 weeks – the drill was still tough.

My group had to do 4 reps, consisting of a there-and-back loop, so 8 hills in all.

Killer. Killer. Killer.

Here’s my Garmin track log.

Hill reps were followed by a gruelling session of planks and leg raises, and it was hilarious to hear the chorus of co-ordinated groans from us all, each time Coach ordered another round of exercises, as we lay on the grass, exhausted, sweat pouring.

We did “normal” planks and side planks.  Like so:

We stretched:


And we are at the end, our traditional team photo – sweaty but still smiling 🙂

By the time we headed off for breakfast – our fine dining on the pavement routine – all last night’s exhaustion had gone.  Tiredness, 2 glasses of wine and too little sleep – all sweated out 😛

I tell ya’ – running is truly the cure for everything!

That tricky work-life-running balance

Don’t get me wrong.

I absolutely love running.

In the almost 5 years since I started running, which was all part of my “Oh-my-God-I’m-turning-60” meltdown***, I have never, ever, even for a nano second, regretted the decision to start running.

Actually, let me quickly clarify the above.

***Despite psyching myself up for a meltdown, I didn’t actually have one, much to my children’s surprised & relief.

Instead I made a bucket list.

Since “starting to run” was on the list, off I set on a super fun journey of discovery.

But it’s a journey that has raised several ancillary issues, the biggest and most pressing of which is – how do you balance running with the rest of your life?

How do you organise your life to accommodate the 4.30 wake ups for running practice, during our brutal Delhi summers?

If my running group meets at 5.50, then I have to leave the house by 5.35/5.40 latest.  Before that I’ve had to have a coffee, eat something like a banana, drink lots of water, go to the loo, get dressed.  For me, that’s an hour at least.  So 4.30 it is.  And when it’s a race or an event further away from home, then the wake up just gets earlier and earlier.  It was 3.45 last Sunday, for example.

I leave you to imagine what time I have to go to bed, in order to have the energy to get up at 4.30.

I don’t mind these pre-dawn starts, because I’m getting up to go do what I have (much too late in life) learned that I love.  Running.

But living in india, where – typically – people eat late and party late, it’s difficult to maintain this schedule AND a modicum of social life.

I have a husband who is pretty accommodating, but he does grumble about my dawn sorties and then the 9.00am nap when I collapse back, sweaty and exhausted, just as he’s ready to get cracking.

His constant refrain is that we are living in different time zones, and he is correct.

Up at 4.30.  Running by 6.00.  Exercise, chat with mates, take a few photos.  Sometimes we go for breakfast afterwards.  And by 9 in the morning, I’m back home, loads of socialising done, the WhatsApp chats buzzing away, the photos already up on Facebook.  My dawn social life done & dusted.  And then I sleep.

Fast forward 12 hours, though, and you’ll find me in a party or at a dinner, discreetly looking at my watch, already fretting that I’m going to be too tired for the next day’s running meet.

How do you all do it?

I’m talking to you – all you other runners who arrive looking fresh & energised – how on earth do you do it?

How do you juggle your life?

How do you manage?

And, let me tell you right now, I have it very easy.

My children are adults, I work from home, so there is no school run or office commute.

I am privileged and lucky.

And yet I still seem to make a mess of both my social life and my running life.

I am constantly aware that if I trained more, trained harder, I could do so much better – even at my age.  I could run faster and longer, and achieve better results, without always having to play the old lady card.

Perhaps if I lived in a city with a less extreme climate than Delhi, things would be easier.  But I don’t, so that’s that.

Delhi is hot, hot, hot from April to the monsoons.

Then it’s hot & humid, humid, humid until Diwali (early November this year, God help us!).

Then there’s the winter pollution, but that’s another story altogether.

So during our long summers, we have little option other than to train at dawn.

I survive on post-run naps and a lousy social life.  But it’s not fair on hubby, I fully accept.  It’s not fair on friends, whose invitations I decline because of a race the next day, I fully accept.

When we’re invited out, I catch myself asking the host/ess whether it will be a late night or not.  As if they give 2 hoots about my running practice the next morning!

I clearly haven’t got the life-running balance sorted out at all.

The day I do, ah how my social life would improve immeasurably.


Running footloose. Literally.

Last weekend, I admit it, I took the concept of being footloose to a whole new dimension.

On Sunday, Coach Ravinder, a Gurgaon based runner and coach, organised the 2nd edition of his Footloose Run.  It’s a super interesting concept.  Runners are not allowed to run with a watch, a GPS, a phone, headphones and they have to predict their own finishing time.

And so the winners are not the fastest over the finish line, but rather those who most accurately predict their own finishing time.

How interesting is that?!

I did the race last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Like last year, this year’s edition had another interesting twist – the entrance fee is higher than usual, BUT instead of the standard T shirt, you get a pair of Mizuno shoes.  Like so.

Great concept.

So, very early on Sunday morning, off I went to Gurgaon to run the 2nd edition of Coach Ravinder’s race.

And got beyond lost.

God knows how I managed to mess up – despite using Google maps – but I drove miles and miles in circles. I did one stretch twice, pukka.

My 15km race was due to start at 5.30 so I’d planned to arrive at the venue at 5.10.

OK, make that 5.15.

Oh heck. Might just make it for 5.30…and on it went, and when it was 5.50 and I was still lost I called Coach, only to discover I was still 11km from the venue… 😛

Drive like a bat out of hell.

Finally arrive, to hear the 10k race being flagged off, and then the 5k…and I’m still walking to the venue.

Caught on camera (below) trying to look nonchalant, casually strolling in nearly 3/4 hour late, as the 5k runners set off…& yes, you’re right, that is indeed a lady in a sari running 🙂

But such is the nature of the lovely Footloose people, that the organisers all laughed it off, and just told me to run, and so off I trotted, a mere 42 minutes after the gun start of my 15km run.


You can see my friends Faizi & Tanya (below) clearly finding it all hilarious

Anyway, off I trotted (below), almost certainly the last starter in Footloose 2018 😛

The run itself was good – a 10km loop on a flat, well marked route, and then a 2.5 there & back on the same road.  Loads of water stations.  Lots of friendly faces.

Plus the inspirational presence of India’s very own Blade Runner, Major D.P.Singh.  Sunday marked the 19th year, to the day, since the Major was severely injured during the Kargil war.  Part of his right leg had to be amputated, but that hasn’t stopped the galant Major from becoming a living legend, running marathons and giving inspiring motivational talks. He is also a lovely man, which I ascertained when I was lucky enough to run and chat with him, last December.

He ran 19km to mark the 19th anniversary of what he describes as his ‘rebirth”.

What a man!

Closing thoughts on running footloose?

It really is a very different experience running without a watch.

No constant checking, no fretting about your timing, which is my usual race scenario.

I have yet to run a race where I am happy with my time and feel able to relax.

But on Sunday there was no stress.

It was as it was.

Of course, since both the gross (gun) and net times are recorded, I now have a truly disastrous time for my run – because the internet is forever, right?!

Seriously, I was very happy with my net finish time, so let’s just gloss over those extra 42 minutes that are now part of my record, shall we 😛



Running diagonally in 92% humidity

Let’s get the “oh my God 92% humidity” stuff out of the way first, shall we?

Today was indeed humid.

As in 92% humidity.

Well, that’s what my trusty iPhone weather widget told me (eyes left), as I headed out to meet up with my running group this morning.

But the weather certainly didn’t stop us all training and drilling this morning – “us” being my ASICS Running Club.

The original plan was for hill reps, but Coach decided against these : the rain yesterday made everything muddy and slippery, so we did a different kind of workout instead.

After our warm up lap and drills, we did a circuit of exercises – jumping jacks, burpees, high knees, butt kicks, planks and – pause for dramatic effect – push-ups.

And here’s the thing – I actually did 2×10 push-ups.


The Queen of Not Able To Do Push-Ups Land.

I decided last Thursday – exactly 10 days ago – that I was through with wimping out whenever Coach announced push-ups.  I’ve been trading on my “I’ve got no strength in my arms” excuse for a pathetically long time, and even I was getting bored with my own weakness.

So, a few YouTube videos later, I started a 30 day programme, and today, voilà, 20 push ups.

Rubbish ones.

But they were push ups 🙂

Then came the main event – diagonal training, which we don’t seem to have done in the longest time.  Coach explained that this drill was “invented” by Kenyan athletes, for the rainy season, and so it definitely made sense to do them today, given the damp condition of the grass.

Diagonals are literally that – you run diagonally across a field, walk the end, diagonally back, walk.

Like so:

My track log is a lot wonkier than this.

In our defence, we weren’t in a a rectangular field and there were other people around us – it’s a public park – but we still ran 10 pretty fast reps.

Here is a little of the theory behind diagonals, with thanks to

Diagonals are a drill best run on a football or soccer field, but any grassy rectangular field will do. They can help you:

  • Practice and fine-tune your running form – at both slow and fast speeds
  • Help racers develop a finishing kick (the ability to sprint at the end of a distance race)
  • Improve your speed
  • Use interval training to improve your stamina more quickly

I was super chuffed today because, for once, I ran with the big boys – the fast guys in our group who are usually always w-a-y ahead of me and w-a-y faster.  I was the last of the pack, but nevertheless I sort-of-just-about kept up with them, and we didn’t stop for a water break, so all in all, pretty darn chuffed.

We all drank litres during the training session, and we were drenched in sweat, but boy oh boy, what a fabulous session and what a great feeling to know you didn’t let the inclement weather get the better of you.

Running to the tune of Coach’s whistle

For those of you who were not out running early this morning in Delhi, let me say, quite simply, that it was brutally humid.  Hot and very, very humid.

For those of you who were running this morning, you don’t need me to remind you of the cruel weather.  So let me just say “well done” for being out there, training 🙂

We were a large contingent from our ASICS Running Club to meet up before 6am in a Delhi sports ground, to drill and train and run.

Today we did an unstructured fartlek workout.

We’ve done many fartlek workouts over the 18 months we’ve trained together, and I’ve written about them, too.  Here’s the link to the most recent fartlek session I wrote about, dating from mid-May.

Today, though, was different in that Coach didn’t tell us in advance that we would do x fast reps and y slow reps.

Instead, we were to start running and then go by his whistle.

So we all set off running fast and waited for his whistle, and then ran slowly until the next whistle, and so on and so forth.

Coach blew his whistle in what appeared to be a random pattern, but I’m sure it wasn’t.  Sometimes the long-short rhythm would be regular, sometimes there would be a long fast section followed by a too short slow section 😛 and he varied the rhythm non-stop for 5 km.

Yes, it was exhausting.

But it was challenging and fun and though I felt a bit nauseous about half way through, I didn’t stop, and staggered on to the end. Coach stood there, throwing out his pithy one liners to encourage us.  At one point, when Coach was blowing his whistle quickly between the fast and slow sections (meaning they were each of a shorter duration), as I tottered past, he muttered something about how I could perhaps make an effort in the fast drills, since they were getting shorter.

Although I managed a fast pace at the outset, obviously I got slower as the 5.3km went on, but was pretty darn pleased that I finished it, with no goofing off.

I was wiped out, I have to say, and things were not helped by a fearsomely difficult yoga workout led by one of our tribe, Ajay Jaisinghania.

I’m stiff and un-supple at the best of times, but Ajay’s routine this morning actually had me teetering on the edge of tears.


To be the only one unable to bend and twist, and the realisation that I’m probably too old ever to be able to work towards such suppleness was a sobering thought.

From the “high” of doing a good fartlek, I was almost in tears.

Stupid, but there you go.

Team photo, though probably more than half of the group had left, since it’s a working day.

Once home, I did a little online research about the benefits of unstructured fartlek & I’m sharing here a very useful article from the always excellent Runners World website, which has some interesting insights into the kind of unstructured fartlek we did this morning:

“…workout uses deception as a way of tapping into your hidden reserves. You may think you’re cooked when you finish a hard workout, but scientists have repeatedly shown that people can actually maintain a similar pace for another few reps after completing a prescribed workout. And the benefits can be substantial. In one study, cyclists who were fooled into riding farther than expected were subsequently able to race 13 percent faster when they knew the correct distance…”

Deception as a way of tapping into your hidden reserves“.

Now how interesting is that as a concept?  Certainly worked for me this morning.

And this next sentence could almost have been tailor made for a slow runner like yours truly:

“Don’t get hung up on pace—the goal is to push when you thought you couldn’t anymore.”

Somehow, something worked, because despite feeling super tired, after our ASICS session, I then went for a v-e-r-y slow 6km run with my running partner Ripu Daman.

I was quite convinced after the fartlek workout that I’d have absolutely no energy left, but those hidden reserves mentioned above actually came into play.

We went to check on the tree-cutting, by the way, and found no evidence of further tree cutting in Netaji Nagar, scene of our protests.

That was good news.

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