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

 

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Stockholm-an after thought that created memories

Last year, I visited Finland with a goal to see the Northern Lights. However, considering that Aurora Borealis siting is rather rare-I had kept my return from Northern Finland a little open ended.

Luck had it that I saw northern lights within 20 minutes of beginning the hunt for the Northern Lights and I was lucky enough to cut short my stay at beautiful and very expensive Ivalo to plan a visit to a new place. I toyed with the idea of visiting Poland, Riga, Minsk, etc.  But, finally I decided-‘ok let me go to Stockholm’.

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Stockholm city centre

And I am so glad that I chose Stockholm.

I took a Finnair flight with multiple stopovers from Ivalo to Stockholm and landed at the Arlanda Airport. From there a train called Arlanda Express took me straight to the Stockholm City Centre.

I was staying at Generator Hostel very close to the central station. With my backpack, I walked to the hostel, checked into my very clean room which was essentially a bed in the dormitory.

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In my hostel room! 

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A rather clean and cosy bed at Generator Hostel in Stockholm

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My hostel reception. There was no kitchen in this hostel but the food and beverages were reasonably priced. 

Stockholm was cold and windy. Yet so beautiful!!

I thought there was absolutely no need to buy a city pass as the whole city was walk-able. And that’s what I did, walked through the city over the next few days.

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Discovered Gamla Stan like this on my first night in the city

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When I went to eat after strolling for most of the evening i realised that the restaurants had closed! 

Gamla Stan is charming but the restaurants here shut pretty early. Most restaurants at Gamla Stan take their last orders by 8:45 to 9 pm. I learnt my lesson and had to sleep hungry and foolish on Day 1 itself!!

But general stores such as ‘7 Eleven’ and Burger Kings of the world were life savers.

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A beautiful cafe where I had my breakfast! 

And the best part about the trip was that I had a great roommate. He knew the city inside out and had visited it many times in the past. I ended up walking to the Stockholm Palace, Vasa Museum, the market place, the town hall etc. with my roommate.

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Walked through the whole city! 

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This massive blue gate that leads to a green space close to Vasa Museum! 

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Vasa ship that capsized and sank in Stockholm 1628

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Near Town Hall

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Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe

 

The cherry on the cake was that he had a spare pass to ‘The Cure’ Concert –front row at the Stockholm Arena. That was a memory to cherish. And all thanks to Sokratis Zor’s friend for not turning up to the concert! I could witness the band play from one arm distance and couldn’t have expected a better weekend in this city.

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Queue outside Stockholm Arena to get in for ‘The Cure’ concert. Well, we had a better entry and shorter queue 🙂 

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‘The Cure’ from the front few rows! 

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The huge concert place

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With my hostel roommate Sokratis! 

Days went by in a wink at Stockholm and final day was left for some shopping at H&M, casual walk by the windy seaside and long slow early dinner with music at Gamla Stan. This after thought of a visit truly gave me a lot of memories to take back home.

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Was lucky to witness ‘The Change of Guard’ at Stockholm Palace

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Stood through the entire ceremony which takes place at 1 pm! 

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Inside the palace, the Swedish constitution is on the table here! 

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It is one of the most beautiful palaces I have seen.  It is said to be one of the largest palaces in Europe! The Royal Palace is the official residence of His Majesty the King of Sweden and has over 600 rooms!! 

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I also discovered chokladbollar or Swedish chocolate balls, during this trip to Stockholm

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.

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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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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…

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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!!!! 

In images-why should you definitely take a winter break and visit Gulmarg?

I visited beautiful Gulmarg on new year’s eve and stayed there for a couple of days after new year. It was beautiful, peaceful and with very few tourists around. I got a good deal on flights and hotels while I stayed there and got utmost hospitality and attendance of the locals at restaurants, shops and hotels. But the most beautiful part about Gulmarg around that time was what I saw-with snow and without it too. And it was breathtaking. Here are a few moments captured through my mobile phone camera.

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Bukhara in my room at Hotel Nedous. Landed here with high fever and visited the local hospital the next day for a swift recovery. 

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Inside a Gondola, all the way to the top

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View from the top, after a short trek post the Gondola ride

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In the hotel backyard, while taking a short walk

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Most on the tourists explore Gulmarg on a pony like this one. I preferred walking and would end up walking at least 10-12 km each day.  

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Freezing at -3 degrees while I stepped out on the terrace at The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa. This is the most sought after hotel to stay in at Gulmarg (slightly over priced) 

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Last sunset of 2016 was beautiful indeed! 

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And the sun finally hides behind the mountains! 

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Frozen river captured on one of the long walks

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First run of 2017 and then some yoga! 

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From scantily snow-clad land to land and rooftops completely hidden under snow! Complete change in scene within 12 hours! 

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And snowfall continues

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View from my hotel room

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roads and trees covered in snow

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Long road trips suddenly become very endearing! 

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Isn’t it gorgeous or what? 

Khardung La Challenge-A little over 72 km and 18000 feet

We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.
-Jesse Owens

Almost evening, dust had settled on my sleeves and my nose skin had started to peel off. I had been on the road for over 12 hours. Sipping some water from the van nearby, I checked my phone. Mother had called twice. I dialled to return the call.

“I am fine, last few left to go,” I assured her even before she asked. “Have you eaten?” she asked. I remembered the warm bowl full of instant Maggie Masala noodles. The bowl sat comfortably in my cold palms. A luxury at South Pulu. It did taste like the best dish in the world back then.  “Yes,” I replied and hung up. I didn’t have to explain my brevity, she knew.

“Running 72 kms over Khar Dung La Pass? Have you lost your mind? People can’t walk there at 18000 feet. And you want to run?” This is how she had reacted when I told her first.

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picture taken while approaching the top

 

Visiting Leh-Ladakh was high on my agenda for many years now. And to me the best way to experience a new place is to run there. What could be better than running the entire stretch on the man made marvel Khar Dung LA-the highest motoring pass in the world.

Getting to Leh was a task in itself as there was a cloud burst in Srinagar around the time when I was flying. Had to rebook my onward flight. I was flying from Mumbai into Leh at 13000 feet which also meant that my acclimatisation would be zero when I reached. I had to fix it quickly.

 

I had booked one hotel for 10 days near the market place in Leh. Having booked the hotel last minute, I was glad that I did managed to get the entire booking at only one place rather than having a divided stay split into many hotels. I was travelling by myself.

As soon as I landed,  my body had started giving into the high altitude. I had a nagging headache and loss of appetite. Altitude had started playing its role.

Getting to the hotel was easy, as there are various cabs available at reasonable rates from the airport.

Reaching the hotel, I unpacked. Running shoes first and running gear arranged neatly in my cupboard. I hadn’t taken any medicine for altitude.

The only agenda on my mind was to acclimatize as quickly as I could and decided to stay as outdoor as possible. Considering it was cold and cloudy outside, it seemed like bit of a challenge. I hadn’t signed up for any treks or activities either. But, I didn’t have to sign up in advance either.

Leh-Ladakh is an outdoor person’s paradise and all I had to do was walk around the market looking for signages that showed single seat available in a van or vehicle to the likes of Pang gong Tso, Stok Angri, Nubra Valley, etc. Cheap and convenient for a solo traveller. I shared rides for many monasteries and trees with strangers and foreign nationals. I made some friends too, whom I could meet  occasionally. I would go climbing to Shanti Stupa and visit Leh Palace with them as most of these places were close to my hotel.  Or we would simply catch up over mint tea!

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Compulsory medical check before the race day

But these were all the side dishes. The main course was to be served over the weekend of my stay in Leh. A 72 km run that started from Khardung village (one of the highest villages in the world). All the participants were transferred to the village in a bus, where we stayed overnight. The stay at a local’s place was comfortable. The run started at 3 am. It was cold and windy.

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Khar Dung Village where we stayed before the race

It was a 72 km run that took the runner all the way down to Leh after crossing the Khardung La Pass. Elevation, snow clad peaks, six layers of clothing, slipping on hard snow; everything added to the drama. Every time I had to go to the toilet I would curse my bladder!

And I was on the final few kilometres of this run when I spoke to my mother. The run took me and showed me so many things within a short span of the daytime. It revealed so much about me. From shivering hands while approaching the Khar Dung La top to almost giving up at one point in time during the race; to confident strides running downhill towards Leh.  And these last few kilometres to spare felt like forever!

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Running Downhill towards Leh

The landscape, I had come here for walks, during my stay at Leh and it did seem close by yet the finish line seemed far away . I was happy that the ultimate test of my endurance was ending soon but I was sad that my beautiful time spent in Leh-Ladakh was coming to a conclusion too. At that point if anyone would have asked me, “Will you do it again?” My response would be, “Never!” But as soon as I crossed the finish line at this public school in Leh, I said to myself “When can I do it again?”

Just keep going like crazy and look back when it’s over. Otherwise you just get confused.
-Cliff Burton

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Panoramic Image of the Village and the place where we stayed