Running in India’s highest half marathon

Yesterday, high up in the Indian Himalayas, the Ladakh Marathon took place.

Leh, the capital of Ladakh, is at 3,500 metres altitude so the whole focus of this race (well for me, at least) was all about acclimatising for the reduced oxygen levels.

I’d originally signed up to run a full marathon in Leh, but wiser counsel prevailed, so I switched to the half.

Best decision ever.

Instead of being stressed at the lack of miles I was not putting in, in Delhi’s hot and rainy and humid summer, I relaxed & enjoyed the whole experience.  But, since I’d already booked flights on the basis I was running a full, I still went up to Leh early, as originally planned, and had nearly a fortnight in one of my most favourite places ever.

So I suppose I was reasonably well acclimatised, even though I still huffed and puffed alarmingly.  But no headaches, no nausea, no discomfort – just breathlessness frst thing in the morning, when I’d set out to run to Shanti Stupa with a lovely young runner, Shipra Yadav, who was staying in the same hotel.  Every morning, those first few hundred metres were worrying, but after a while, I guess the body woke up and adapted.

I’d been told by other people who’ve run in Ladakh, to expect a timing of about 30 minutes over and above one’s “usual” timing.

So, realistically, I set myself a target of 2:45 and made it in 2:44, so was super pleased.

The route for the half marathon was lovely, with amazing scenery, but the home straight was a killer.  A 3.5km incline (upwards!!) and I am not ashamed to say that I walked almost the entire stretch.  Along with every other runner in my sightline, I hasten to add.

Basically, up until the 17/17.5km mark I felt I was actually doing quite well.  I got a terrible stitch, but managed to work it out by taking deep breaths, and I think it was 2 hours as I passed the 18km mark, and I admit to feeling pretty pleased with myself.

Then came The Slope, and my time got slower and slower, and (for the first time in the race) I actually stopped for a spilt second, and bent over, feeling drained.

I guess I was only a couple of hundred metres from the finish line when hubby dearest snapped this:

At least I’m still smiling, and I swear I hadn’t seen him or my sister Jane, both of them looking out for me.  To smile when you are so bushed says something.  Not quite sure what, but definitely something!

The whole race was most definitely a unique experience.

To run with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop is pretty special.

To run through Choglamsar – where His Holiness the Dalai Lama has his summer home – and see a crowd of red-robed monks cheering and filming us on their mobiles – well, that is beyond special!

I truly enjoyed the race, largely because there was no self-imposed time pressure.  All I wanted to do was to finish the race.  Truly.  To finish it in good shape, having enjoyed it.

And that is exactly what happened.

I crossed the finish line with one of the young men in my ASICS Running Club, Minesh Leekha.  I think we were holding hands at one point – let’s see when the race photos are out 🙂

Great fun.

Great experience.

Super happy.

#runninggoals achieved.

Tell us about your favourite running T shirt

I recently read an article on the Runner’s World website about favourite race Ts:

“Some race t-shirts end up as dusters, but a few are cherished keepsakes, taking you back to a run that, for whatever reason, you will never forget.”

The article then went on to share stories of favourite Ts and some of the stories linked to them were truly moving.

I know that I certainly have some running T shirts that are very special, whereas there are others that I have happily given away, with no regrets whatsoever (no names, no pack drill 😛 ).

So I thought I’d ask my running friends to share with us their fave T, and tell us a little about why it’s their favourite.

Does the T shirt bring back memories of a particular race?

Or does the T represent a cause or a charity dear to their heart?

To kick off this new section in the blog, I asked my running and training companion, marathoner Ripu Daman, which is his favourite running T.

Here’s his story.

The Super Sikh Run ‘green’ singlet is my absolute favourite for many reasons.

Super Sikh Run is extremely close to my heart. Having been inducted into the family so smoothly, wearing multiple hats over the year, and then to become the face of the run, and seeing my posters on the route on race day was a high that I hadn’t experienced before. And all in the same singlet!

The original SSR T is a bright orange colour, but with this limited edition green singlet, we add another focus i.e. environment.

Just look at that singlet and its beautiful message ‘One Race Human Race’ on the back:

My first full marathon was a momentous day and guess which singlet I wore me that day. The day meant so much. We endured so much together  🙂
One thing that Ripu said makes total sense : the message on the T shirt, which is one of the mantras of the Super Sikh Run – “one race human race”.
In these troubled times in which we live, I couldn’t agree more.
Thanks Ripu, and #keeprunning and #keepinspiring

T-6 to India’s highest marathon

Gosh, what a day it’s been, the last day before the Ladakh Marathon tomorrow morning.

Woke up this morning to pouring rain and chilly weather.

All day, I’ve been swathed in 2 fleeces, and streaming away with a cold that has come out of nowhere. Sneezing, non-stop blowing my nose, 2 visits to the market to buy even more Kleenex – jeepers, not what one needs a few hours from the starter’s gun.

Writing this at 18.15, it’s chilly, but at least it’s stopped raining.  The only silver lining is that the surrounding peaks are now covered in a dusting of snow, and we even had a brief rainbow this evening.

Bib is pinned on my race T.

We’re going for an early carbo-loading pasta dinner, we being – oh yes!  You dont know the big news!

My sister Jane and brother-in-law Michael flew over from London to spend this week up here in Ladakh.  And, having never taken part in a race before, (they both claim they have never even run before) they have signed up for the 7k!

Super proud of them!

So, wish us luck, please.  All of us.

And wish us clement weather.

Ladakh, land of high passes, can you please keep your rain and snow and cold winds on hold for one more day at least…?

Why do you run? “For mental peace”

Today we are Q & A-ing with O.P.Pandey, one of the most popular members of my ASICS Running Club (& rightly so) for O.P. is a man who serenades us with snippets from Bollywood songs during our runs.  And what’s not to love about that?

You know the formula by now, and if you dont here goes.  5 simple questions to runners.  And that’s it.

So, let’s chat to O.P., shall we?

Q. Why do you run?

A. I am not sure why I started running.  Now, I run for physical benefits but more for mental peace, meeting interesting people, and the opportunity to share their experiences.

(Editor: this is SUCH a typical O.P. reply.  “I am not sure why I started running” :). Love it!)

Q. When did you start running?

A. I started running around 30 years ago, and I have been running regularly for the last 18 years.

Q. Morning/evening runner?

A. Nowadays I’m strictly a morning runner.

Q. With or without music?

A. Withot music. The chirping of birds, the whistling sound fo the air, the encouraging voices of fellow runners –  this is the best music for me.

Q. What’s your next running goal?

A.  No particular goal.  I just want to run at least 30 unites for as many years as God grants me the strength and opportunity.

(Editor: This is also SUCH a typical O.P. reply 🙂 )

And here’s the man himself in action.

Before we end this chat, do go check out the most wonderful story about his early days of running that O.P. shared on this blog a year ago.  It is a lovely read, I promise you!

Thanks my friend.

#keeprunning #keepinspiring and, in your case #keepsinging

Why do you run? “To give time to myself”

Today we are Q & A-ing with Mahendra Bisht, a young man from my ASICS Running Club, who also happens to be a neighbour, which is nice.

Always smiling, always cheerful, Mahendra is one of the stalwarts of our group.  A rock solid runner and an all round nice bloke.

The formula in this Q & A is the same. 5 quick & easy questions, so let’s see what he has to say, shall we?

Q Why do you run?

A To stay fit and give time to myself.

Q When did you start running?

A December 2016

(Editor – yikes!  How on earth did he get to be such a fast and able runner in such a short time?!! 😛 )

Q Morning/evening runner?

A Always morning

Q With or without music?

A I run with a group so without music.  You will never enjoy the group run with music.

Q Next running goal?

A Anything better than my PB ie 1:52.  More specifically I am aiming for 1:46 to 1:48 in ADHM 2018 (that’s the upcoming Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in October)

As I said a few moments ago – how did this fella get to be such a fast runner in such a relatively short time?!

I am in awe of those times, my friend.

And here’s the man himself, running along Rajpath, in the heart of New Delhi, during the New Delhi Marathon.

Well done, my friend.

#keeprunning #keepinspiring

Why do you run? “I run for LOVE”

Today we are Q&A-ing with the vivacious Anyuta Dhir, a young woman in my ASICS Running Club, who made everyone smile on our WhatsApp chat yesterday.

With a jubilant post that started (& I quote) “MY FIRST MILESTONE”, Anyuta announced that she had just finished her first ever 13k run.

I’d actually passed her a couple of times yesterday morning while running in Nehru Park, but had no idea she was heading towards a milestone run.

Anyuta was so happy yesterday, that it seemed the perfect moment to ask her a few questions, so let’s see what she has to share with us:

Q Why do you run?
A I run for LOVE

Q When did you start running?
A In January 2018

Q Morning/evening runner?
A Anytime is good. Or when needed to be in my space of LOVE…mostly mornings though

Q With or without music?
A With music when alone. Without when not

Q Next running goal?
A 21km in LOVE for LOVE BEING LOVE

Editor’s note: what’s not to love about answers like these ? 🙂

I knew Anyuta had joined our running group recently, but had no idea she was such a newbie runner.

So shabash for getting to 13km in a matter of months!

#keeprunning #keepinspiring and, in your case, Anyuta, keep on being the #stylishrunner #runningdiva that you are.

This girl rocks up twice, thrice a week in different outfits.

Every time.

Colour coordinated.  Accessory coordinated. Shoelace coordinated.  Bandana coordinated.

I am in total awe.  Hey!  Just check the photo above, and see the attention to detail for yourself 😛

Oh yes.

Favourite music for running?

Anyuta shared both a Hindi track and an English one from her playlist, so today I’m profiling the Hindi track.  Here’s the link.

What’s on your running playlist? “Aa jao na”

One of the young women in my ASICS Running Club, Anyuta, who is Q-ing an A-ing with us today, shared one of her favourite running tracks.

It is “Aa jao na” from the recent film “Veere di Wedding.”

It’s a mellow song, and quite perfect for a nice steady long run.  Well, that’s what I think!

Here, listen & decide for yourself.

Nice, right?
If you, too, would like to add this to your playlist, here you go.
Link to iTunes, all sorted for you.  We aim to please 🙂

One step forward, two steps back…

In reality, that is pretty much my running mantra these days.

All too late in life I am beginning to realise that a life of NOT going to the gym is coming back to haunt me.  Big time.

I might well have been fit and active all my life, with lots of walking and hiking and trekking, but did I do strength training ?  NO.

Did I work on my flexibility? NO.

Did I practise push ups and spider crawls? NO. NO. NO.

And this morning was a brutal reminder that running is not only about running.  It’s about all-round fitness and strength and flexibility and and and…

Can you hear a note of rising panic? 😛

Today, in our ASICS Running Club training session, we did a pretty tough workout before we tackled the main event, hill repeats.

Coach Vijay Shukla made us drill on a slope, thereby adding an extra level of difficulty to the workout.

Take, for example, the crunches (below), which we did against the slope of the hill.

Well, I say “we” did…let me re-phrase that.

Everyone else did crunches against the slope of the hill.

I sat like a beached whale, not even on the slope proper, and STILL unable to touch my toes 😛

As you can see (below), didn’t fare much better in the uphill duck-walking either.

But won’t you just look at those boys in the front, totally nailing it.

Pretending to be Spiderman (below)

So much to learn, so little time.

After this workout, which was fun – no, seriously, it was – we then did hill repeats.

The mountains of Ladakh beckon for quite a few of us in the group, but since we live in an uber-flat city like Delhi, the slopes of Nehru Park are as good as it gets.

We did 4 laps, each lap consisting of running up and down 5 “hills”. There and back.

So, with my dodgy maths, I make that 10 hills per lap. So 40 in total.

Here are the speedsters in our group crushing it.

This is all strong stuff for Delhi, but when I saw how much I huffed and puffed, I admit to wondering how on earth I’ll manage in Leh, which sits at 10,500ft.

Well, at least Leh won’t be humid.

We ended an exhausting but exhilarating session with stretching and yoga…sigh…

Once again – so much to learn, so little time.

A session like this is proof, yet again, that being part of a running group really helps.  There is no way I’d do a fraction of this, left to my own devices.

Final thought for the day 🙂

Why do you run? “To help the environment”

It’s been w-a-y too long since I Q & A-ed with my running mates, to get an insight into what makes them tick.

To kickstart a new series, there’s no better candidate for my quick Qs than Neeraj Rawat, a member of my ASICS Running Club and a terrifyingly fast runner. Watching him train is a masterclass in speed and focus.

Right, let’s see what Neeraj has to say, shall we?

Q Why do you run?
A To stay fit and help the environment

Q When did you start running?
A 2004 but actively since 2016

Q Morning/evening runner?
A Morning always

Q With or without music?
A Never with music as I want to enjoy nature’s bliss

Q Next running goal?
A Always be better than last time.  Current best is half in 1:37

(At this point, your editor faints with combined shock & awe & envy 😛  1:37, forsooth!)

Here’s the man himself in action:

Neeraj is also the birthday boy of our group this week as it happens, so happy birthday and happy running.

#keeprunning #keepinspiring

Why running will always come in handy…

So that, like this young journalist yesterday, you can sprint out of the courtroom with the news of the Paul Manafort verdict.

This is such a cool photo.

The story behind it is as follows: no phones were allowed in court, and so the news had to be delivered the good ol’fashioned way – by journalists sprinting to their colleagues waiting outside.

This young lady, an intern and (one is told) a former cross-country runner, got the news out fast AND made front page news all over the US yesterday 🙂

Well done/run Cassie Semyon.

See, told ya!  Running is always a good idea.

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