Category Archives: Running

Cannes on the morning run-A runner’s perspective!

Cannes is a city that not just basks in glamour from its rich and famous visitors every year, but it also basks in a lot of sun. Incidentally, I have had the fortune of visiting this city on many occasions. And being a running enthusiast, I have loved running in Cannes. There are many beautiful routes that this city has to offer for us runners. And the best part about this place is that you will see someone running here at any given point in time. So it doesn’t matter if it is early morning, afternoon or late evening, even at night, there is someone always running at Cannes.

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Beautiful and glamorous Cannes! 

Running on Promenade de La Croissette

Promenade de la Croisette stretches along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea and is a little over 2.5 km long.  It is known for the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, where the famous Cannes Film Festival and Cannes Lions Festival is held. Many expensive shops, restaurants, and hotels line this promenade and it goes along the coastline of Cannes. If you go a little ahead and run towards Antibes, you can encounter beautiful beaches with clear blue water. I typically run till the end of the sea-front and as soon as this tunnel arrives on the left hand side to take a road towards Antibes, I take a U-turn. This distance till the tunnel from the Cannes Centre is about 4.5 to 5 km.

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Promenade de La Croissette: it begins from the famous Palais des Festivals et des Congrès

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Running on Boulevard du Midi

This boulevard runs nearly 7 km, terminating at the Pullman Royal Casino and it is a very scenic route. You pass La Bocca on the way too.  The promenade is a little narrow in parts, but still very runnable and extremely pretty. All you have to do is keep the sea on your left! That’s your guideline.

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Running on the very narrow Boulevard du Midi. This image was taken was while returning to my hotel at Cannes City Centre.  

 

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The street of Boulevard du Midi Louise Moreau that runs along the seafront of Cannes la Bocca is closed to traffic on the last Sunday of each month so that it can be enjoyed by pedestrians, cyclists, roller bladers and joggers.

If you are running from the Palais then there is only some part near the port where you are not next to the sea. At the beginning near the port you will get to see some spectacular views of the gorgeous looking yachts lined along the old port.

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Yachts lined up along the port 

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Always keep the sea on your left if your are running towards Mandelieu la Napoule from Cannes

If you intend to go a bit further from Pullman you can take a right straight to Mandelieu la Napoule. There is a beautiful running/walking route next to the golf course which is well-shaded too. This is at a distance of about 10 km from Cannes city centre.

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Mandelieu la Napoule is at about 10 km from Cannes city centre

And then you can also combine Promenade de La Croissette and Boulevard du Midi for a long run too.

Running on the beach

It is great to run on sand. Especially, running bare feet on sand can be extremely soothing. However, the beaches around Cannes do not have one extended long sandy coastline. Hence, occasionally you will have to step up on either of the Boulevards and then get on the beach again to be able to go the distance.

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Bear in mind that beaches around Cannes do not have one extended long coastline

Running up to Musée de la Castre

It was in the 12th century, that monks built a castle on top of the hill, now known as Musée de la Castre. In the 14th and 15th centuries, a church was built just under the old fortress – the Eglise Notre Dame d’Esperance – it offers great views over the harbour and city.

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Way to run up to Musée de la Castre

As it was only about 400 years ago, that the roads were laid out. With such close proximity to the harbor and the sea, the fishermen began to make their homes here. The entire approach to Musée de la Castre is extremely steep and lined by beautiful houses. It is a great route for hill repeats.

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View from Musée de la Castre

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Bird’s eye view of Cannes from Musée de la Castre

One can run from Gare des Autobus or take an inner route from Le Suquet which is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Cannes. If you start from the Croisette, walk past the old port on your left and head up the windy, cobbled street of restaurants to an old beautiful church and castle.

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If you are starting your ascend from Gare des Autobus…

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Running up the narrow windy stairs from Le Suquet

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Along the charming homes…

 

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A beautiful staircase that takes you to the hill top from Le Suquet

If you want to run in the evening, then route that takes you from Le Suquet is avoidable as it will be too crowded with shoppers and diners alike. It is also good to know that at the foot of the hill leading up to Le Suquet, there is this wonderful Marché Forville (the market) that can be found, along with the many restaurants in the rue Saint-Antoine. It is wonderful to run here early in the morning and it offers a great breather from the hustle and bustle in the city centre.

So be it night or early morning definitely go for a run at Cannes!

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Running in Cannes is a great idea indeed! 

 

 

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Travelling? Don’t worry. You can Still Run!

Whether you are travelling for work or escaping to an exotic location for some rest or a holiday-travelling can interrupt even the most devoted runner’s schedule. With a bit of planning and the right attitude, runners can maintain their training during vacation or an important work trip. In fact, running can be an enjoyable addition to anyone’s travel schedule. Today, we can discuss how can you run when you travel. As they say, ‘the best way to explore a new place is on foot’-running truly helps here!

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With your travel research do some running related research too! 

When you are doing your general travel related research about the places to visit, etc, don’t forget to get a little information about  running at your destination too. Search online for the websites of running clubs or running stores where you will be visiting. They may have routes mapped out and even weekly social runs that you can join.

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A run in Vodelpark, Amsterdam where I saw several brands such as Adidas and Nike Running their own clubs and practice runs on weekends! I joined one such club for stretching! They were nice enough to accommodate me on that day. Otherwise one needs to register on their websites before hand! On the other hand, I knew that Vondelpark was a great place to run, hence I had booked my hostel very close to the park so that I could venture out for a run each morning. 

 

Pack your clothes accordingly

 It does like an obvious advice, but don’t forget to pack running clothes as per the weather conditions of the location. So, look at the weather forecasts for your destination and bring the appropriate clothes. You don’t want to land in shorts and racer back on a route with temperature in single digits.  And do not forget your running shoes. I always keep some space in my bag for the running shoes and running gear. Also, tights which can be worn during a run are also very comfortable to travel in.

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I flew to Reykjavik straight from South of France! And the only tights I had carried was drenched due to a waterfall visit the previous day! As you can see, I am freezing on this run! Thank god I had packed my running gloves. 

Safety First

 Runners often boast of running in the most unique surroundings and situations. But, there are a few precautions to take any time you are running in an unfamiliar city. It’s important to listen to the locals. If your hotel’s employees say it’s not safe to run, then don’t run in that area. There’s no workout that’s so important that you need to risk your personal safety.

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Jerusalem: There was some tension in Jerusalem at the time I had visited the city. And it was only after speaking to a few locals, I ventured out for a run the next day! 

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At Gulmarg, the locals asked us to stick close to the roads and not venture into the trails. Followed this advice too.

Carry GPS or Map to take you back home

I have a tendency to get lost in new places, hence my best friend is the data that I feed on my GPS watch to take me back to the hotel. But, if you don’t have one, downloading an app or two on your phone may come handy or even google maps for that matter.

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Right after taking this picture, I got lost in Berlin. Just couldn’t find my way back. Had to find a restaurant nearby with Wi Fi to find my way back to the hotel. This was a work trip and I had to head back soon to my hotel for a meeting.

Carry some cash

In case if at all you get lost or feel uneasy or simply get tired, it is in your best interest to carry some amount of local currency with you to either take a public transport back home or just take a cab.

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When I ran from Nice, France to Monaco, all by myself, I ran out of water as the distance was way more than what I had calculated! I had to purchase some juice+water to hydrate myself as it was extremely hot and humid at that time of the day. Also, post finishing this run at Monaco, I took a bus back to my stay at Nice Ville. 

Carry your own hydration

In case if you feel thirsty during your run and don’t know whether there are shops on the route where you can buy water- it is the best to carry a small bottle of water that you can sip while running.

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I always take along with me a bottle of water on my runs in a new city. 

And finally, the most important……

DEDICATION. It is most important thing to bring on any trip. It’s not easy to stay focused and dedicated and hence fit in your workouts when you are in that “vacation mode.” Or on a stressful business trip. Decide before you leave home that you will run, come what may!

I hope these tips will help you run when you travel.

 

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Find time, stay dedicated and take good pictures on your runs in a new city! #shotongopro

 

Tips to Follow for the race day

Mumbai Marathon is round the corner and there are many who participate in this event. Personally, 2018 would be my fifth year of running Full Marathon at Mumbai Marathon. So if you are planning to run this event (whether full or half), or any other race here are a few useful tips that you can follow on the race day. 

  1. Reaching early, a few minutes before the race

My advice would be to wake up a few minutes earlier than usual in morning and give your body a chance to fully wake up. Before a run, I give myself almost one hour to fully wake up on the race day. Please don’t arrive too late as it creates a lot of stress and chaos. (I have experienced this situation too). Most of the roads leading to the holding area are closed for vehicles. Hence, if you are getting your vehicle along please factor in the time to walk from the parking lot to the holding area. Sometimes you will find parking too far away from the venue.

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Wake up early and reach the venue early to avoid chaos. Target reaching atleast 40-45 minutes before the start. Often there are long queues outside the washroom in case if you want to visit. 

Consider taking Public Transport or you can even UBER it to the venue to avoid any form of parking related stress.

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Most races around the world have special public transport arrangements for the race day. It is the best way to travel to the start point. 

2.  Set an achievable target

Plan your race either on paper or in your mind and go as per plan. It is good to be optimistic when you are going strong in the first few km. But, don’t go too fast because there is a lot of excitement around you. Set and achievable target and stick tick to your own target.

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Stay Focused and stick to your plan. Don’t get carried away by those running around you.

 

3. Divide the entire distance of your run into a batch of few kilometers each

I love do this personally. Let’s say I am running a 42.195 km. I divide this whole distance into four 10 point something kilometers. I break my target into smaller four targets and focus on the small targeted distance at hand. Puts your stress off to a great extent. Instead of obsessing about each of the 42 kms, I divide it into segments-like 4 segments or 6 segments, whatever you are comfortable with. “That makes it more manageable mentally. 

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It helps to divide the entire distance of your run into small achievable targets. It somewhat helps the run look more manageable.

 

4. Hydrate well and do not hesitate to visit the washroom if you need to.

You sweat when you run. Hence, please hydrate well during the run drink as much water as your body needs along with taking adequate salts. Please avoid ‘not dinking water for fear of having bathroom breaks’ logic. It is not water, but the food that you eat the night before or day before will impact your bathroom situation before or during a run. My advice will be to pee as close to the race start time as possible.

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drink lots of fluids and visit the washroom as close to the race as possible

 

5. It is advisable to carry your our hydration

I carry a bottle in hand for every single marathon. Some intelligent person once told me ‘never depend on the organizers for your hydration and nutrition. Yes, you have paid the money as a registration fee, but things can go wrong on the part of the organizers too. You don’t wish to suffer for their errors, right?

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Carry your own bottle! Some intelligent person once told me ‘never depend on the organisers for your hydration and nutrition.

6. Don’t come to a complete stop when you get to the water stations.

It breaks the momentum, sometime it becomes difficult to pick up when you come to a complete halt. Try slowing down a few meters earlier when you see a water station and run at that pace till you reach the water station and then stop there.

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Slow down before coming to halt

7. The golden rule is do not try something new on the race day.

No new apparel or shoes during a marathon. The socks should be the type you wear in other races. The shoes should be something that you have done long runs in. It is not a day to experiment with a fancy new tee or shorts either. Wear something which is used even if it has holes. Also, you might get some fancy eatable on the route. Eat them only if you are used to having them on training runs. Otherwise it may lead to a bad tummy.

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Don’t try anything new on the race day! This applies to food, clothes, shoes, everything. I have run marathons in even tees and shoes with holes.

 

And Finally, Enjoy the experience. There is nothing more awesome than running in a new place or even for that matter in your own city. Just simply enjoy the experience than being too much into the run and obsessing over your time taken to finish it. Look around; soak in the surroundings, the energy, the weather. It is an experience and it feels beautiful to go through it. And at the finish line, do not forget to smile and pose.

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Don’t forget to pose for the cameras

How to start running? A few tips for those who want to begin.

A lot of people often write to me asking how did I begin running. Well, my answer is simple-by substituting a few meters of my morning or evening walk with a slow jog and then getting back to the walk. That’s how I began! You can do the same. Begin with small 1 to 2 km walk-jog-walk routines that you can practice and bring to slightly longer runs over the weekend. And also here are a few easy steps that you can follow.
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Start running today!!!!!

 

Take time out to follow a routine

First, take 30 mins of your time each day and start with run-walk-run, at least 3 times a week. As you get regular after a couple of weeks, try and increase this to about 5 times a week. You can also try one minute of brisk walking, followed by one minute of jogging, and repeat this 10 to 12 times.
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Apps, fitness bands and smart watches help to give reminders to follow the set routine

Keep it slow

Bear in mind not to go too fast initially. Keep it slow! Now you may ask, how to measure slow and comfortable pace? Well, you don’t really require hi-end gadgets for this. My measurement is simple- you should be able to run at a ‘conversational’ pace. As long as you are able to speak while you run, you are doing fine.
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You should be able to chat with the person running next to you! That is a great, easy pace to follow. 

Gear?

One of the biggest advantages of running is that very little gear is required. But, having said that, runners should invest in a good pair of running shoes. Now, by running shoes, I mean ‘running shoes’.  Not cross-training, not walking, neither basketball nor tennis shoes. But running shoes. There are several good shoe brands available in the market. Drop into your nearest store, and pick a pair you find the most comfortable.
 
For women who want to start running, I would recommend well-fit sports bra, preferably made of a sweat-wicking material to keep you cool. 
A fitness band or digital sports watch is also helpful. Initially, you can do with a basic one, but as you advance in your running and set new time goals you can invest in advanced watches with a GPS, heart rate monitor etc. You can also track your runs through mobile apps.

Will it hurt?

One of the most common questions I get is ‘Will my muscles hurt?’ The answer is yes. Of course, initially, they will hurt. Your legs will feel sore in the beginning, but if you keep up with the routine, the soreness will subside. Having said that, if you feel acute pain anywhere, take a break and stop running for a few days to let your legs recover. This will help prevent injuries and bust the myth “running doesn’t give you bad knees”.
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Your muscles will definitely be sore initially! But that does’t mean that you should stop 

Treadmill, soft loose soil, road or grass?

 
If the question, ‘where do I run?’ is bothering you, my reply is ‘run wherever you can, just do it regularly. Follow a routine’.  Many experts will give you a list of pros and cons for each of the terrains. I personally prefer running outside. But for many, the weather or the surrounding may not be conducive.
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Running downhill on trail

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Running on sand

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Running on soft grass

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Road Running

What should I eat/drink before I step out for a run & during a run?

 
Well, something small like a banana before your run is good. And during your run, you can carry a small bottle of water. Sip, don’t gulp too much water at a time. You can also carry a balanced energy drink like Enerzal & keep sipping it occasionally. It is rich in necessary electrolytes and helps in replacing the vitamins lost through sweat, in order to re-hydrate you better. It is easily available at any chemist store near you. Once again, my tip will be to keep it simple. You don’t really require gels or expensive workout bars at this stage.
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Carry a small bottle and keep sipping water or Enerzal!

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Energy drink such as Enerzal is rich in necessary electrolytes and helps in replacing the vitamins lost through sweat, in order to re-hydrate you better

Am I ready to run a race?

 
Finally, setting a goal to run a race is also a great way to stay motivated and true to your routine. I do it all the time. So sign up for a race a few months away, and work towards a goal. Local races are a great way to start. Choose a race, set a realistic target and get moving. Set small and winnable goals, don’t overdo things, take adequate rest, and nothing can stop you!
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Set a goal and get moving!!!! 

What does it take to climb Mt. Everest?

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

-Edmund Hillary

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Many of us have read about people who have climbed Mt. Everest. But, I don’t know any of them personally. It is something to read about such individuals in newspapers and appreciate and applaud their efforts. But, when one of your friends climbs Mt. Everest it is a different feeling of pride and admiration all together.

Now such an individual is Brij Mohan Sharma or Breeze Sharma as we runners call him. I have known him for many years and have had the privilege to run several ultra-marathons with him almost end-to-end.

And Breeze recently became the first civilian from the Indian Navy to summit Mount Everest.

Breeze tried to climb Everest in 2015, but his attempt came to a halt following an avalanche, in which he was buried under heavy snow. All of us who knew of his expedition, know how much he had invested in this effort, including selling his bike to fund his trip.

But, he did not give up on hope. A year later, in 2016 he participated in what is considered as the toughest Ultramarathon in the world- Badwater 135 miles race and successfully finished it to become the fastest Indian at the world’s toughest foot race. And only two Indians have finished this race so far.

This year, he also broke his own previously-held record of 24-hour Treadmill-Running Asian Record by clocking 202.50 km in the timespan of 24 hours. And that’s not all. He has finished many 135 mile and 100 mile running events-and he makes it look completely effortless.

Having run many marathons with him, I know him as a person with tremendous grit and determination. But Mt. Everest we all know is a different beast all together. Many of us aspire to climb it someday.

Here I had my own set of questions for him on his journey to the peak of the highest mountain in the world:

What made you set your eyes on climbing Mt. Everest?

Since it’s the highest peak in the world, it attracted me right from the beginning of my mountaineering days. This was way back in 1993. Whenever I went climbing other peaks, I felt closer to the almighty. It was a feeling that this is how closer I can get to the God and this is how the world looks from the top.
How did you book the expedition?

I booked the expedition through my Sherpa, Phurba Sherpa from Darjeeling. I did not book it through any company.

Everest is considered as a financially denting, expensive expedition. How did you manage to fund it?

For both the attempts, I paid a sum of Rs. 45 lacs in total, out of which Rs. 21 lac was raised by Indian Navy, Rs.5 lacs given by my batch mates and  the rest I borrowed from friends, relatives and banks.

 

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How did you begin your training?

I prepared with regular gym workouts and long runs. Also, I had an advantage of having a vast experience doing a few summits before. However, unfortunately, I could not find time to scale one 7000 mtr. peak before my departure, which is extremely important.
This was your second attempt, the first expedition got called off due to earthquake and avalanche. What was that feeling like when you had to return?

It was unbearable. I can never forget the feeling when I was leaving the base camp in 2015 after 42 days into the expedition. My team was the last to leave the base camp. We left only when we got the assurance from Nepal Govt. officials that our permit to climb Mt. Everest would be extended. Only then did we leave.

I was disappointed that I could not attempt Mt. Everest back then. But, there was relief that I would get another chance to attempt it. The expedition cost for me in 2015 was Rs. 27 lac. I had borrowed more than Rs.15 lacs, a loan I had to repay when I was back.

I had gone through a life and death situation in 2015. I got trapped in the middle of an avalanche. For 3 days, 3 corpses were kept below my tent and I used to see their faces every day!

While returning this time, I was very well aware that anything could happen to me and I was completely prepared for that.

There were frequent avalanches at the basecamp even this time. Every time I used to hear the sound of an avalanche it would take my mind back to the things that happened back then, the things that I experienced in 2015.

How did you motivate yourself to go back?

It was my dream since last 23 years. This was my second attempt, I had no choice but to summit.

Now, whenever the thought stuck me that I may not return back alive at all, I used to tell myself that one day I have to depart from this world in any case, so let’s leave it on the AKKA (God). If he wants to send me back from here, I will return to Mumbai. Otherwise, I am fine to take my last breath right here.

“The choices we make lead up to actual experiences. It is one thing to decide to climb a mountain. It is quite another to be on top of it.”

-Herbert A. Simon

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What was your learning from the first experience? And how did these learnings help you change your approach this time round?

There are certain mountain manners that you learn. Except those nothing was applied second time.

It is a fresh start every time you attempt to climb.  Every time glacier changes, terrain changes, level of difficulty changes. Mountains never respect experience, every time you climb is a new attempt and a new challenge. Every time, you have to encounter a completely different sort of situation.  So, there was no co-relation between two expeditions.

What was the toughest point as you were climbing?

Around 8600 mtr. there was a wall which was around 60 feet high. It had an elevation of about 80 to 85 degree. Zummering over here was the toughest. After every push, I had to rest for at least 5 minutes. This took a very long time, almost more than two hours.

The saddest moment was around 8400 mt. when we passed the preserved body of a climber known to us. We had met during the 2015 expedition. My mind switched off for few moments there.

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We know you are a fantastic runner with great achievements. Did your running experience help you in your climb?

Running or ultra-running is relatively an easy activity. We run in areas with full oxygen level. We can regulate our speed as per our ease and requirement. Yes, it did help me. But not in a very big way. Maybe up to 10% of the entire effort.

When we run, we lose a lot of calories yes. But one loses more calories by sitting in a tent trying to balance body temperature with the outside temperature.
Also, we wear the lightest gear possible to reduce any kind of weight on us when we are running. At any given point in time a climber has more than 15 kg weight on his body, only the boots weigh around 5kg. There are no aid stations here, like you have when you run. And when you reach 8000 mtr. that is when you need the most energy and the irony is that you cannot eat!

At any given point in time did you feel that you can’t do it? If yes, then how did you motivate yourself to get back on track?

No, I never felt that I cannot do it. I was very sure that I would do it.  With permission of AKKA (God).
How did you feel when you reached the peak? What was the first thought?

It was like meeting the Almighty!  It was so amazing, so beautiful to see the world from the top. First, I thanked the AKKA for his permission to let me  reach his ‘DARBAR’!

What was descending Mt. Everest like?

Descend was the most difficult part. Even after having oxygen supplement, I was feeling breathless many times and used to rest frequently. My Sherpa, Phurba Sherpa was the most experienced person around me. He has summited Mt. Everest 7 times. He used to check my oxygen supply frequently and kept motivating me every second in the process.

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How does your body react to so much altitude? Did you get any hallucinations or hypothermia or loss of appetite?

Yes, my body reacted in a different manner. Up to 8000 mtr. it was normal, at 8000 mtr due to heavy wind of around 90km/hr we had to remain at camp for 28 long hours in tents while we were waiting for weather to clear. We were on oxygen, but I completely lost my appetite and I barely ate. Those hours spent in the death zone were critical including summit attempt. In that period I drank 2 litres of water, some soup, cup noodles and coffee. My Sherpa used to check oxygen supply frequently specially in the night after the summit. But no hallucinations or hypothermia no cold related injuries. I will never forget those 28 hours trapped in the tent.

Will you recommend others to go for Mt. Everest Summit? What are the tips that you will give to those who aspire to climb?

I will never recommend any one to go directly to this expedition unless someone is a mountaineer or has sufficient knowledge and experience in climbing. Even the best climbers fail there. In reality this expedition is toughest thing you will do in your life. There is no retake here. If you commit a mistake, punishment is right there.
I will suggest, first do the Basic and the Advance mountaineering Course. Then gain sufficient knowledge of climbing by summiting peaks of different heights such as 6000 mtr to 7000 mtr. One must know the subjective and objective hazards of climbing. One must know the acclimatisation process as per the height of the peak. One must know the improvised methods of survival.

Sherpa selection is equally important, Sherpa must care of the climber and must have sufficient experience to handle any odd situation. In my case when we stuck in death zone for about 28 hours, oxygen cylinders were limited. Our Sardar Sherpa Mingma Tenjii did not use oxygen for 72 hours to save the oxygen for the members. Also, he purchased more cylinders for the team from the other teams those who were returning from the camp due to heavy wind.

Ok, Bad Water done, Mt. Everest done. What is next on your list?

Ha ha ha….I think I have done everything.

About Mt. Everest, it is really costly to climb. If I get a sponsor, I will definitely go for Everest again from China side.  Also, I would love to climb Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and K2 someday. All are 8000 mtr and above.

As far as running is concerned, I will go for top 10 toughest ultras of the world.

 “To see what others can not…
You must climb the mountain”
― Ron Akers

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My 17 questions to the first Indian participating in the super challenging Spartathlon 2016

 

When I started writing this blog, I thought of writing stories that have inspired me to do the stuff that I do and make me say ‘why will I do it again’. But, there are also stories about people that I have had the pleasure of knowing. It is some of these stories that I would like to unfold for many.

I really admire those who have the courage to try out something big on their own. And one such courageous person is Kieren Dsouza. I am always heard saying this, “Kieren is one of the finest ultra runners that we have in India”. And I totally mean it!!

I met him at the time when I was doing my first 100 km race in Nilgiris. Kieren had also participated in a 100 km race there and had finished it in a little over 13 hours. Killing those hills stretching over- 100 km, in 13 hours, I was massively impressed with this guy sitting on the table next to me, at Hyderabad Biryani House in Ooty.

And over the years, I have met him during many running events and have seen him grow and become better at what he already does so well. He has ran a spectrum of races from Bhatti Lakes, to Stadium run to Mont Blanc, and have done them really well!!!

In fact, very recently he finished the tough 111 km La Ultra High in a crazy time of 15 hours 30 minutes. Considering the altitude, this is bloody insane!!!

Just to give you a teaser on how this guy trains, during a training run before La Ultra High, a friend of mine Shailja Singh Sridhar was pacing him for a 60 km run on her bike and this fellow did a full marathon (42 km) on a training run in 3 hours 23 minutes. A pace many can’t imagine on the flattest of the surfaces during a fully supported actual marathon.

To me he completely redefines the perception of ultra runners being slow runners in India.

Now getting to his next event, he is participating in Spartathlon.

It is one of the few runs I aspire to do someday. And I am sure many like me want to, too.

But, currently I am so happy and proud that our Kieren will be on the start-line at Spartathlon 2016, this September.

So, what is this Spartathlon? And what is the fuss about?

This is how it is described on their website:

SPARTATHLON is a historic ultra-distance foot race that takes place in September of every year in Greece. It is one of the most difficult and satisfying ultra-distance races in the world because of its unique history and background.

But, I will tell you as a runner, you should know it is a race between Athens and Sparta over the distance of 246 km. And you have to do this distance in 36 hours- non-stop (ouch)

Now to begin to tell you what a beast of an event this Spartathlon is, well, it is one of the most difficult races to qualify for:

To qualify for Spartathlon, you have to achieve one of the following

  1. Finish a 100-km race within 10:00 hours (men) or 10:30 hours (women).
  2. Cover a distance of 120 kms (men) or 110 kms (women) in a 12-hour race. (We have seen even in our most well controlled stadium runs, with all the hydration and nutrition facilities at your beck and call this has been tough to achieve)
  3.  Finish a 100-mile race in 22:30 hours (men) or 24:00 hours (women). (oh my god, that means no sleep??? )(And kindly note: from next year -2017- on, the qualifying performance for a 100-mile race is changing to 21:00 hours for men and 22:00 hours for women)
  4.  Finish Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run within 24:00 hours (men) or 25:00 hours (women)
  5. Cover 180 kms (men) or 170 kms (women) in a 24-hour race. ( two who managed this miracle can totally apply)
  6. Finish a non-stop 200-220 km race within 29:00 hours (men) or 30:00 hours (women).
  7.  Finish UltraBalaton 2015 (221 kms) in 31:00 hours (men) or 32:00 hours (women) (note: the Ultrabalaton edition of 2014 – 212 kms is covered by criterion
  8. Finish a non-stop race longer than 220 kms or Badwater within 41:00 hours (men) or 43:00 hours (women). (Note: from next year -2017- on: the qualifying performance for a non-stop race longer than 220 kms is changing to 36:00 hours for men and 37:00 hours for women. The qualifying performance for Badwater is changing to 39:00 hours for men and 40:00 hours for women. Finally, from 2017 on, Grand Union Canal Race has its own distinctive qualifying performance of 34:00 hours for men and 35:00 hours for women)
  9. Finish Sakura Michi 250-km race in 36 hours
  10. Finish Yamaguchi 100 Hagi-O-Kan Maranic 250-km race in 42:00 hours (men) or 43:00 hours (women).
  11. Cover a distance of 280 kms (men) or 260 kms (women) in a 48-hour race. (next year’s target maybe)

*Source: Event Website

 

And you thought the qualifier was tough. Then please check out the crazy sectional cut-offs.

Check Point No Distance from Athens Final Point Closes Distance for Sector Max Time
0 – 22 81 KM 16:30 FRIDAY 81 KM 9:30 HOURS
22 – 35 124 KM 23:00 FRIDAY 43 KM 6:30 HOURS
35 – 43 148,4 KM 03:30 SATURDAY 24,5 KM 4:00 HOURS
43 – 52 172 KM 07:30 SATURDAY 23,5 KM 4:30 HOURS
52 – 60 195 KM 11:00 SATURDAY 23 KM 3:30 HOURS
60 – 75 245,3 KM 19:00 SATURDAY 50,3 KM 8:00 HOURS

*Source: Event Website

 

NOW you know why am I making a big deal out of it…

I caught up with Kieren and asked him these 17 questions that I need to know answers for before he ventures out to conquer Spartathlon:

1. Why did you choose Spartathlon?

Well, Spartathlon is one of the biggest races out there. From what I have heard, it is easily the greatest foot race on earth :), so I can’t wait to experience it.

2. When did you set your eyes on it? 

 It’s been a few years since I was aware of the run and dreamed of doing it someday. It got a little more real when I qualified last year and really real when my entry got accepted.

3. You just completed the La Ultra High 111 km challenge and that too in a record time. How was that race and how are you recovering for this next big challenge? 

 La Ultra was great, the weather was great and things pretty much moved smoothly during the run. I feel I am getting along ok. I have a couple of long runs planned in the next few weeks so I will get a better idea then.

4. Spartathlon has a very difficult cut-off qualifying time. Which race was your qualifier and how did you achieve your qualifying time for this race?

 So, I did the 100miles at Bhatti Lakes Ultra last year. That was my first 100 miler as well. I did not really think much about Spartathlon before Bhatti, as I was not sure how I would be able to do the distance. Once I finished, I realized that my finish time was fast enough to qualify me for Spartathlon.

5. It is in September, less than a month to go, how are you training for it? 

 As of now, being in Faridabad, I am trying to make good use of the hot (high) temperature. I have stupidly hurt my back a little and have been resting for the last few days, but I will get down to business from the weekend again :). I plan to train three times (thrice) a day; run twice a day and cycle in the afternoons, mostly spending a good amount of time in the heat (as I find the heat quite hard), and a good deal of strength training.

6. What is your ‘real target’ and what is your ‘optimistic target’ for Spartathlon? 

 Well, my optimistic target is to finish and real target is to finish well :). I have read a lot and chatted with tons of people who have run the Spartathlon, they all warn me to take it nice and easy till the 81km mark as it has a tight cutoff of 9hrs 30min. So that is what I plan to do, take it easy till there and then try and last the rest of the distance of 145km 🙂

7. It is a race with a lot of sectional cut-offs. Which one looks the most challenging to you?

 Well each one would have its own challenges depending on where I am in the race. 81km in 9hrs 30min is fast, and then you have 246km in 36hrs, which is also fast so all of them are going to be challenging.

8.You have ran so many ultras, both in India and internationally. Which one has been your toughest? 

 Well, the toughest is the one that I am yet to complete, whether it is Spartathlon or a run after that. From what I have done, they all have had their own share of up and downs.

9. During ultras, what is the strategy that you follow? For eg. I run the first half much faster than then second half. I run much well in the sun than at the night. So what is your strategy? 

I have never really thought of these things, I work from race to race and try and keep it simple – make sure you are not hurting at the 10k mark in a 100k race. So I try and start out at a pace I am comfortable with and one I can manage for a long duration. As for the day or night, it depends a lot – both has its pros and cons- the nights are cool, it does get a little boring as you can’t see much but if there is company things get a lot easier. The day brings in some light, it feels much better that I can look at the place I am running through, but then it also gets warmer. I enjoy it both.

10. How do you hydrate yourself? And what do you have for nutrition? 

 A lot depends on the temperatures, if it is cool I drink less, but if it is hot I drink more. I try and keep a simple strategy 1 liter an hour – 500ml of it is water and 500ml is RRUNN PRE/DURING. I have some solid food that is provided at the aid stations, gels from Unived, Unived RRUNN PRE and DURING Drink mixes. When it is hot I definitely take a salt tablet every hour or so.

11. What do you tell yourself when you are feeling low? 

 Hahahah, well I am normally cursing my self why did I not train harder, but then I move on and start focusing on short term race goals about getting to a particular point, or to run for X amount more etc.

12. What is the regime that you follow in the final week of a race like this one? Do you train till the last day? Or do you rest for 10 days before such a race? 

 Pretty much the last week is quite easy, nothing specific maybe a couple of 10km runs in the early part of the week and a few shorter ones closer to the day. I would also do a good deal of walking around. The last day is mostly rest, maybe a bit of walking 3-4kms.

13. Do you worry too much about numbers- pace, heart-rate, etc? Or you follow your body’s natural rhythm and take it forward? 

 Naah, I don’t really worry much, I mostly keep a check on how I am feeling and focus and getting into a good easy pace.

14. At what point in the race do you think the going will get tough? And how do you plan to handle it? 

 I have no clue about when things could get rough. I just hope I am make it at the 81km mark nice and comfortable. I have never done anything more than 160km, so at Spartathlon I am going to have a good 86km more to cover after the 160km mark. Nope, I have no clue as to when it is going to get tough, it could be before the 81km,  getting up the mountain at 160km or maybe after. Well, I like to keep moving during the run and I do not really like to sit much, so that is what I am going to do, focus on putting the next step forward.

15. Every race is a new learning. Can you elaborate with eg. some of the learning from your previous races that you would apply in this one? 

 Oh many-

Make sure I enjoy the parts I am running through (what better way to explore a new place than running through it)

Make sure I get in some food regularly. (Did not eat much during LaUltra, would have been better if I had)

Keep my salt tabs handy.

Ah, I forget this in every race but I definitely need to keep a cap (I had decide to keep a cap for the day bit of La Ultra and conveniently forgot it)

16. Ultra running requires a lot of sacrifice- food, social life, etc. the list is long. What has been your biggest sacrifice? 

 I have None really, I enjoy every bit of it.

17. One thing that you are looking forward to after Spartathlon?

 The next race and training for it :).

 

 

17 types of people you encounter during a Marathon

I love observing people and I am always at it even when I am running a marathon. Yes, I am always excited and nervous about a race. But, I am also excited to meet a lot of people on the route, during a race, well, sometimes not. You like it or not, you will definitely meet one of these characters during a race. I have listed them into 17 different types. One may have a list longer than this. So, on your mats, go!!!

17 types of people you encounter during a race:

  1. The Storyteller– when I began running…..my nutrition plan, my future race—–zzzzzzz ‘my last race’, ‘the race before that’………ZZZZZZZZ (wake me up when it’s all over!!!!!!!)    9TzoGz48c
  2. The conversation striker: ‘Is this your first race?’ (like seriously, you can come up with a better line than that)
  3. The coach: you should drink this before the race, you should tie your laces like this, you should put powder in your t-shirt (Race se pehele kyon nahi mila??????)
  4. The finding faults in every thing : ‘not enough Enerzal points, there is a water station at every 1 km only (abhi pani se naha kar, Enerzal se moisturize karoge kya mere bhai?) oh, wait for it ‘The race started exactly 5 seconds later- this is crap, bad organisation!!!!!!’ (bhaaag lo) shouting
  5. The one who thinks your are the organizer: Do you know the route? Is there a turn here? What is there for breakfast? Where is the finish line? Is it going to be exact 21 km or more or less? Where is the next aid station? Where is the loo? ‘(ek raat pehele booklet, kyon nahi padhi, meri ammma?- PACE BADHAO)
  6. The one who wants to tell the answer (speak about his knowledge) through a question: What is your VO2 MAX? What is your resting heart-rate? What is your pulse? What pace is this? (Don’t worry if you don’t know, he/she will tell you)
  7. The selfie expert: at start, with you, ahead of you, everywhere, they just never stop taking the selfie. (smile and move) toonvectors-18087-140
  8. The gossip monger– ‘do you know….haaaawww and do you know ‘ooohhhh’
  9. The flatterer: you form-waaah (arey!!!! but, I am dying), your shorts, your breathing style, oooooohhhh (race course se seedhe, I have reached atop World Towers!!!!!)
  10. Disapproving of everything  you do types: This one is finding fault in everything that you do: ‘Your stride, your shoulders, your hand, your leg!’ (Seriously, my mother will be more optimistic about me than this guy)
  11. The excessively competitive: His/ her race depends on your pace. Chutney test: if this person is running next to you during a race, try increasing the pace, he/ she will follow the same, then go easy-there!!! your test is successful.
  12. The excessively patriotic: Having an Indian flag at the finish line or on the jersey at every event, whether it is Republic/ Independence Day or not.’ Has loud music and songs such as ‘kandho se miltein hain kandhe’ playing right next to you, yes on speaker. (Thane marathon hain dude, aur hum India mein hi hain! Relax.) patriot
  13. The enthu cutlet: If this person is running next to you, then you better have ear plugs or at least cotton in your ears. As this type will cheer for everyone on the route. The sweetest of the kind, actually and the nicest to run next to. But you don’t want to get deaf during your long run. 6ip6RzLAT
  14. The speed-breaker: A person who wants to run ahead of you for a few seconds but will come to an abrupt stop right in front of you, not just hampering his or her pace, but yours too.
  15. The popular one: He/ She has a cheer at every step he/she takes, sometimes runner next to you will cheer right in your ears for this runner. Their hands are always in the air too, obviously acknowledging the shouts from the crowd.
  16. The happy go lucky: doesn’t care about who has organized the race, or about the route, distance, time, pace, nothing rocks his boat. ‘We are too cool for this’. The focus is straight ‘Omlette and beer post run’ throw in some wada pav too.  eating-spaghetti-clip-art-black-and-white-boy-eating-spaghetti-image-P3UKSh-clipart
  17. The winner: Who doesn’t indulge in any of these luxuries of meeting interesting people on the route and is straight seen on the podium.  big-prize-clip-art-gallery-ObEr4Z-clipart