Mar 17, 2017

Sanskar Nagri bares its Soul at SoleFest

This one was different. I was not only running but also a part of planning & organizing it. And this also makes it all the more difficult to write about. I will still have a go at it…

We had been after Dr. Rajesh Chauhan to organize another running event in Baroda, one which would focus solely on the runners. A few days after Vadodara International Marathon, the good Doc messaged our WhatsApp group asking us to come to his hospital to discuss The Marathon. He had gathered the seasoned runners & the utility men to discuss details of the event. The hardest decision we took that day was fixing the date of event, for we had to do it before the temperatures shot up post-Holi. And events had already been announced till then. The contest was between 26th Feb (Bhavnagar HM) & 5th March (Mt Abu Trail HM) & Bhavnagar won because we got an extra week to prepare for the event. This was really tough as we knew many running buddies from Baroda had planned to run Mt. Abu (Bhavnagar too, for that matter), but the bullet had to be bitten. That they would get to drown their sorrow of missing this event in freely available beer made us wipe our tears & gird the loins.

Another one was the Route which threw up plenty of options. We were looking for one that would have a lot of visibility, disrupt minimum traffic, be low on traffic junctions & was an out-and-back one. Also, as far as possible, avoid an over bridge to make it all the more alluring. A team soon got formed that would survey the route to measure the distances & identify critical spots. Which they decided for the next morning itself, all being enthusiastic runners! We were all mighty pleased with the route as the memory of VIM route was still fresh & we were sure this one was as good as any other route. Later the bubble was pricked by none other than the wife, when we were returning after the event. I shall come back to this later.

We also decided that there would be no 5K, to avoid needless attention being paid to non-serious runners. Thus, we had men & women running 10K & the HM in 2 categories each – Open & Veteran. As none of us had any political aspirations, nor did anyone desire the record books noting our participation levels, we could focus on a manageable event to promote the cause dear to Dr. Chauhan – Organ Donation. Lest Rakesh be scared, the doc was kind enough to explain the meaning & rationale behind the objective. We targeted & planned for some 500 odd participants. A small, but not an easy number to achieve as we had only about 3 weeks to put on the show. Not forgetting that many of the seasoned runners were going to Mt. Abu & Surat for events announced much earlier. Apart from social media (WhatsApp, Facebook & Twitter), volunteers fanned out to the parks & hot spots where morning walkers & runners usually hang out. In the end, we ended up with 700-plus runners, with over 70 for the HM. We were not stumped by this response as we already had Plan-B, Plan-C & Plan-D in place to cater to any such jump in participation. The tagline "Daudo Dil Se" (coined by Adil) pulled at the heart strings of Baroda's runners.

Doc Chauhan had gathered a very competent set of individuals to execute the plan. We had people like Rakesh, who did a lot of running around. In fact, he ran around so much that he did not run in the event itself (was it the absence of 4 things?), stationing himself at the venue. And Reni, who made his appearance when (and where) it mattered the most. Then we had Dr. Narendra Joshi, Faiz, Mohammed, Narendrabhai, Harjeet, the Smart couple (Dr. Neha & Himanshu), Dr. Akash Singh, RK Menon, Ajay Sharma, Dr. Piyush Doshi and the lot (which included the Spandan & HCG teams). Pardon me for not putting down the entire list. In their own ways, they went about doing the small tasks that made up the whole event.

We used to meet at Spandan Hospital to discuss the event, in late evening hours when we were done with our professional responsibilities. The discussions were cordial & consensus was attained without much friction. But the best thing used to be the dinner at the end. Dr. Chauhan’s hospitality was always been a benchmark! As you know, runners love to eat. You would also know what all these events feed us after the run. After some debate, we all voted for unlimited puri-bhaji with tea/coffee over samosa/kachori with tea/coffee. Nothing like a heavy meal after a long run, if one is a runner. And the guys actually tasted 3 different types before finalizing the bhaji. Didn’t I tell you, this one was organized with the runners in mind?

Spandan Multispeciality Hospital & HCG Cancer Center were the major sponsors. The basic expenses were met, with some help from the nominal participation fees (Rs. 300). While we were not stingy with the runners’ essentials (dry-fit jersey, medal, hydration, ORS, physio), we were not in a position to be lavish either, on account of the short window to collect funds & organize the event. Of course, this called for innovative solutions (or, if you prefer an indianised term, jugaad). Thus, we had a run without timing chips (promising ourselves that we would have it the next time). But we arranged for LED time displays (finish) & video cams (finish & turnaround) to capture the finish time of runners & avoid controversies. Nor did we have standees marking the distance, but vehicles were parked along the route with KM markers.

We did not even need to decide that there would be no celebrity to flag off the race. With even the Vadodara International Marathon starting on time this year, we couldn’t afford failing on this account. We had arranged for Zumba performance to warm up the runners before the start. It so happened that as the start time neared, there were no signs of the performance ending (because the performers arrived late?). With a delay of a couple of minutes, the HM was flagged off. The HM route took one from HCG grounds to Havmor Circle on OP Road & onwards to Nilambar Circle & Priya Cinema up to the intersection with Gotri Road. And all the way back to HCG for the 21K. The 10K runners turned back a little after taking left from Havmor. The HM was flagged off at 5:30 AM (to be precise, 5:32) & the 10K at 6:00 AM, the time lag to avoid any rush at the beginning or the end.

When the 10K was being flagged off, I was there at the front of the pack. No, I wasn’t aiming for a podium finish. I wanted to return earlier for the puri bhaji before the rush began. But I simply can’t run fast enough for a considerable distance. Less than  KM & Dr. Suresh Iyengar (the one who paced me in Gandhinagar & Vadodara earlier) caught up with a “mera partner mil gaya”. And we were joined by Dr. Sejal, who was returning from injury picked at BSafal (and was consequently out of practice) & Ajay Sharma, one of the pacers at VIM (which reminds me, I still haven’t begun the 2nd post on VIM). This prompted Dr. Iyengar to up his speed as we moved to OP Road & go ahead. And I tagged along (As I have been telling you since the last two posts, there is no better pacer than Dr. Iyengar).

We (Doc Iyengar & I) usually make a guess about who we will come across on the return at what distance. As expected, Fazal came sprinting along at 4K (that was the distance we had covered as well as Fazal’s pace). He loves to run, else we may as well as handed him the 1st prize even before the race began & no one would have uttered a word in protest. Actually he doesn't even run, he gallops & needs under 40 minutes to cover 10K. Next we came across Vasudev & Sameer Gaikwad, strides in sync. I cannot decide whether Sameer is a fast runner or Vasu a slow one. Yes, they were running at the same speed but Sameer, I believe, is more than twice Vasu’s age. And we make so much noise about the age factor in active sports.

I was feeling thirsty but the 1st hydration point was still some distance away. Zaheer Khan had arranged his cyclist buddies to provide hydration support to runners along the route. I saw one coming & stopped to get some water. He pulled a bottle & handed it out but a runner zipped past taking the bottle with him!! The kind cyclist went for another one but found he had run out of stock. He went to replenish, while I moved ahead to get some water near Manisha Chokdi & catch up with Dr. Iyengar. I can put it on record there’s nothing like a quenched throat & Dr. Iyengar’s company to make an early morning run, whatever the distance, enjoyable. (It’s another matter, Dr. Iyengar rarely wakes up early & nor do I!)

The police was out in full force, managing the traffic. Unlike the peak traffic hours, this time the people were patient enough to follow the traffic personnel’s instructions & wait for us to pass. At Havmor junction, we turned left. The turnaround wasn’t too far from here. And as has become the practice since the last 2 events, I took off. Nilesh Shah was already doing the return leg here. Nilesh is a colleague who has started running a few months back. He did his 1st HM at the VIM. Along with a few other colleagues, he was doing the 10K at SoleFest. The music announced the turnaround. It was well stocked with water & ORS as well as the physio. I had a pack of each (but not the physio, stupid!). But where were the bananas? Wasn’t someone supposed to have arranged these? Because of the unlimited puri-bhaji on offer missing a banana here was not such a big deal & the ORS was enough for a 10K. The big deal was not being able to go by Vikram Raval’s suggestion. (On account of the law in force & the prevailing enforcement environment, I cannot share what he said but am sure you would understand.)

There was a pretty large bunch of runners coming from the other side. One of them being Mr. Pandey. The previous night, when we were at the venue overseeing the preparations, two elderly persons walked in. Interacting with them, they informed that they were participants & had come along to see the start point. They stayed nearby & were informed of the event by volunteers who had parked themselves at the park where they went for the morning walk. They participated in all marathons possible, including outstation ones & were happy to have 2 events in Baroda itself. The venue was readied in double quick time. Yes, the plot was vacant & didn’t need much of an effort. But to arrange resources & get it ready for an event was a task in itself. Had you been there the previous morning you would have found a neglected piece of land. By late afternoon, it had been cleared of vegetation & levelled. By evening, stalls had come up & the late night it was all decked up. It was one hell of a task but we wanted the runners to feel heavenly. During the evening itself, Mohammed went & fixed up the car parking at a nearby plot (in a matter of minutes, at that). And while we were wondering what to do about KM markers, we were informed that Faiz was already on the job. Even Narendra Joshi’s Bullet never felt so overworked as it did during that single evening! You know how much men love their bikes? For Narendra Joshi, running some 80-odd KM is a stroll in the park. (He actually did that less than 3 months previously at Kamati Baug.) But considering that his dear Bullet was so exhausted, he skipped the run during SoleFest preferring to run the show from behind the scenes!

Back to the elderly gentlemen, one of them (Mr. Chauhan) was over 60 years, while Mr. Pandey was 71 years young. Here they were again, outrunning those young enough to be their grand kids. One of them, though much older to be a grandkid, was Kamal Saxena. Kamal had seen some of my VIM pics on Facebook & had called saying he wished get into running. I made him register for Sole Fest & here he was running strongly. He had taken this one seriously & had really practiced for the event. I also came across Kishore Talegaonkar, who was on his maiden run, & Dinesh Govinda, who was doing the 10k for the 2nd time in a month. The previous occasion was at VIM where the organisers mistakenly registered Dinesh for 10K (instead of 5K) & he sincerely completed it. Both of them (colleagues at work) are now wedded to running as a regular activity. In this respect, SoleFest achieved what it intended to.

Coming back to OP Road, I reached Manisha Chokdi to hear music being played out. The speakers had been mounted on a Thar (another jugaad). (Did I miss it when I first went past?) We also had arranged 2 groups of Punjabi dancers/musicians with dhols who were positioned along the HM route but I missed it because I ran only 10K. Another water bottle & ORS gave me energy enough to pick my pace. Which brought me to the last leg, below the Kalali overbridge & then to the Sun Pharma Road. Where a cyclist had parked himself with a bottle of water in his outstretched hand. I wasn’t really thirsty & moved along but admired his thoughtfulness. For, this is the point where one needs all support & minor gestures such as this one made SoleFest a runners’ event.

I saw Sameer coming along at a brisk pace. Was he doing a double 10K? No, this thought never occurred to me. All I asked him was whether the puri-bhaji had been prepared (it was too far for the aroma to reach) & receiving an affirmative answer quickened my pace. Abdul was there & he escorted me to the finish, egging me on. His encouraging words (and the puri-bhaji) made me almost sprint (technically, the fastest I can run) to the finish. And I had finished in under 1:10 (1:06, is what the Garmin told me), the fastest 10K (actually, 9.5K as per the Garmin) I have ever done. Whenever Dr. Iyengar paces me, I run faster than I have ever done. This happened on the previous two occasions & this one too!!

I took out my phone & found missed calls, including a few from the wife (made quite some time earlier). Upon calling her, I was told that it being dark, she wasn’t sure of the route after Nilamber circle. She actually went along a wrong route till some runner called & corrected her. Weren’t their volunteers around, I asked & but she hadn’t seen any. They had either not turned up or left for some other alluring activity.

Then, she came across a pack of quarrelling dogs & took refuge at a tea stall. Upon seeing the missed calls, I had feared only an injury but dogs on the road (like cockroaches & lizards inside the house) are far more serious! Fortunately, they minded their own business. She had crossed the turning point & was now in familiar territory, with the darkness gone. We missed out this aspect of the route. The route was good in terms of low traffic, green cover, etc., but our recce team ran along the route post-dawn. Thus they may have missed out absence of streetlights on this stretch. Also, they (like most male runners) would not have considered the canine presence as a nuisance (or, should it be danger?).

Anyway, relieved that I was, I attended the other number that had tried contacting me. It was from Ms. Razia Shaikh (she has at least 3 ph nos.!). We had decided that we shall not have any celebrities to flag off the run or give away the prizes. We zeroed down to Ms. Shaikh & Imran Sheikh to do the honours at the end. To those unacquainted with her (which means those not from Baroda or those born much later than I), this lady was the undisputed national champ in her sport – Javelin Throw, for around 15 long years. In her long career, she won more than twice as many gold medals as silver. And Imran Sheikh has been the captain of the Indian blind & deaf cricket team. (When we first contacted him for the event, he was playing the world cup.) Sportspersons with impeccable credentials but largely unknown for not being involved in men’s cricket.

Ms. Razia Shaikh had reached the venue & I had the tough task on my hand to locate her in this crowd. Though I had last seen her in person some 25 years back, there were recent pics on her Facebook page. Being a small venue & her precise directions, I found her but she had already made herself comfortable by then. We fell short here too. We should have nominated someone exclusively to attend to the invitees. Next time, definitely. Some time later I found I had missed a call from the wife, this time looking for directions at Havmor crossroad. Again, a case of missing volunteers. I was late in responding but she had managed to take the correct turn this time.

So off I went to extend last stretch support to Kamal Saxena & Dinesh Govinda as they finished their run. Having done my duty, I returned back to the venue & managed to get Kishore Talegaonkar’s company for the unlimited puri-bhaji. After all, that was the prime motivation. And I was not disappointed at all. Of all the post-run snacks/meals, I will rate SoleFest as joint-best with Spice CoastMarathon!!  Having finished the puri-bhaji (won’t reveal how many helpings I had), I discovered another call from the wife that I had missed. I had missed too many calls today, and despite a valid excuse I was really scared of the fate that awaited me once we were back home. This time, she had been smart. She had called me from Reliance mall for directions. By the time I called her back, she was at Akshar Chowk, the very point she wanted directions from, which I provided.

To make amends I went off to catch her on the route. As I came out, I saw Anita Rawat on the verge of finishing. The wife should be close behind. Well, not really, but she was also not too far either. And I chaperoned her to the finish. Just in time for the prize distribution to begin. (If this appears very hectic, it was.) Reni was on stage now and, by his performance, upstaged RJ Roshan. But for the absence of a pen to take down notes, he would have gone back to Radio City as a far better RJ. The known suspects walked away with the prizes, but there were enough surprises. 

The winner of men’s HM was a Mr. Kareem (did I spell it correctly?) from France. Without even attempting to be one, SoleFest, in the first edition itself, had turned International!! We have always known Rajesh Tiwari as a speedster of distance running. At SoleFest, his sister-in-law announced herself as one too by getting a podium finish. The Dr’s Kamat kept things predictable by each winning a prize. Dr. Nagesh K revealed that this was the first ever podium finish for him. He would finally have looked the Mrs. (an "Ironwoman") in the eye after an event!! Rajinder Singh, who missed out the podium at VIM by one position, got one here. And when they announced the 3rd place in women’s HM, I wondered who this Anita Rawat was. This one was a new name, till the wife exclaimed & I realized who it was. The two ladies began running less than 3 months back & had finished 3rd & 4th at SoleFest!! (But I am too modest to take credit for initiating them into running & guiding them through the course.)

But, as they say, Drama abhi baaki hai mere dost. It turned out that Shital Pawar should have been on stage receiving the prize. This was conveyed to the concerned & upon checking the data, the mistake was graciously (& publicly) accepted. Same thing happened in one of the women’s categories too. With timing chips & mats the next edition onward, this was the last time such an error was taking place. 

We had also arranged a couple of Fine Arts students to sketch portraits of the winners after the event. Though not all availed this, I am sure this will be another reason (apart from the unlimited puri-bhaji) for they coming back to the next edition of SoleFest.

Bringing this post to a close, I would sum up the first edition of SoleFest as one where a lot of things went right & a few that could have been better. “Comrade” Vandana Parekh (was this really the 1st event she has run in Baroda?), while accepting her prize, was all praise for the manner the event was conducted. Coming from someone who has run all over the world, one would obviously not disagree with her, including the one suggestion she had. I am sure, Himanshu & Dr. Neha would find a trophy featuring a female runner next time. 

Considering the cause being promoted by the event (Organ Donation) & that the event itself was promoted by two hospitals (HCG & Spandan), the medal paid its due homage to this noble profession. (Thanks to Sameer for the suggestion.) SoleFest will return & get much more than the over 100 organ donation pledges we received this time.

Feb 27, 2017

And the Vadodara Marathon surprised us with all those Positives

This is one event where everything that can go wrong, usually does. But this time, it was the other way round. Which made for a memorable one & VIM should leapfrog places on the “must attend runs” list.

Let’s begin from the beginning, when it appeared that VIM will be its usual mismanaged self. I received an email from the organizers with a long list of participants. I managed to dig out my details & found that I had been registered in the HM Relay category. Inox group being one of the sponsors, our HR team was coordinating the registration of employees & they immediately intervened to bring this to the notice of the organisers. But VIM relishes giving nasty surprises to the participants & the SMS I received a few days prior to the event again referred to me as one of the relay participants. It was finally all sorted out satisfactorily which I may take up in another post on VIM. (As you know VIM always gets more than one post on this blog!)

The morning of 5th Feb was cool & pleasant. Maybe, a delayed start will not feel so bad. Yes, one doesn’t expect VIM to start on time. Last year (2016) it was delayed by almost 45 minutes because the CM arrived late & then gave a long speech. I would have dropped out but Suresh Iyer, who had come all the way from Mumbai, didn’t let me. The previous occasion (2013) was even worse. Not only did the CM arrive late, he gave an even longer speech as if this was the last time he would get to practice addressing election rallies. That time, HS (name withheld as he is an active member of the party) & I went back as soon as we were out on the road! It was previously announced that the current CM would be flagging off the VIM. Later news came in that he would be flagging off the HM at Rajkot, being organized on the same day. The confusion turned to bewilderment when someone in the know let out that the CM would first flag off Rajkot HM & come to Baroda to flag off VIM. This year seemed to be turning out worse than the previous years!

But I was adequately prepared. 5:30 AM being the flag off time, we left home at 5:00 AM. It was around 5:20 when we reached the holding area. I was astonished to hear the full marathoners (yes, we had the FM this time) being called out to the start line. Even the HM should now start on time which was not something I had planned for. Some anxious minutes & I located Nikki Joshi to hand over the daughter who was running with his group, where I also bumped into Dr. Suresh Nayak with his daughter. Coming to the HM enclosure, it was time to catch up with the known faces of which there were many. Some of them were playing the bus this time, but more on them in the other post.

I am not much into pre-run stretching & the routine, but some warm up is needed. This timely start left me no time for that even. So, I walked for almost 2 KM to make up. It was up to this point only that the plan did not work. With the experience of Gandhinagar, I had planned to run the 1st half at Dr. Suresh Iyengar’s pace. If it worked once, it should work again too. In fact, this time it was very well planned keeping the whole distance in mind. For instance, I always need to take a pee break soon after beginning. Knowing the route like the back of my hand, I had pre-decided that it would be near the tea stalls opposite SSG. With a relieved bladder, I would rush to catch up Dr. Iyengar & carry on along with him. But the initial walk & the break had taken him farther ahead than I expected. I overtook Mukti Shah, carrying the 3-hour bus & came to the Fatehganj Flyover underneath which Reni was positioned with his camera & other essentials. Moving on to Nizampura, I soon overtook the sister & then the wife & her friend (more of them too in the other post) who were on their maiden run. And saw Rakesh Rawat leading the 2:45 bus a little ahead with Dr. Iyengar for company. For some distance, I boarded his bus but it seemed slower than what Dr. Iyengar can do & we left Rakesh with our good wishes.

As I told you in my previous post on the Gandhinagar Half Marathon (, it’s a pleasure to run with Dr. Iyengar. He runs at an even, leisurely pace which looks so easy that one feels he can easily finish a FM of he only so desires. And he doesn’t mind chatting during the run which helps in diverting the mind from any physical discomforts. He also spotted Dr. Piyush Doshi standing under the Chhani overbridge with his camera. And I got my 1st photo clicked! The likes of him & Reni are the good Samaritans that make running long distances so much sought after! And Zaheer Khan too. I usually feel famished around 8K which happened this time too. That was when Zaheer came from behind & greeted us. He was one of the volunteer cyclists who were riding the route to assist the runners. He didn’t have any bananas but offered us water which we didn’t need. He moved ahead but stopped to offer us oranges, which we accepted. Something is always better than nothing.

As we neared the toll plaza, we saw water dripping down on the road. I would have blamed VMSS for the poor condition of the water pipe (hoping it wasn’t sewage!), but for two things. One, even VMSS will not take a water line overhead above a toll plaza & two, it was pouring (and not dripping) over only a part of the road. Coming close to it, we realized VIM had put up showers. Wow, this was beyond expectations. This time, the organisers had ticked all the right boxes. I haven’t seen a shower in any of the places where I have run. In fact, I have seen it only at Rio 2016. Getting drenched underneath was a luxury that I also availed when I returned.

As usually happens on an out & back route, we started coming across the faster ones on their return. The half way mark was approaching & leaving Dr. Iyengar behind I moved ahead. Sheetal Griglani, carrying her busload of 2:30 hour aspirants along, informed that the turnaround was not too far off. Which also meant that I was not too much behind the 2:30 barrier that I missed the previous weekend at Gandhinagar. The half way mark was very well provided for. Enough volunteers, hydration, fuel & medical aid too. I think this time there were fewer medical facilities than last year. Or maybe, I missed observing most of them.

A little beyond & I saw Smriti (wife) & Anita (wife’s friend & running buddy) coming along. Their faces did not show any signs of having run almost 10 KM on the trot. This did not surprise me despite the fact that they started running barely one & a half months back. Because I was sure they had been chatting all the way from the start. And if they continue to chat till the end they would not even know when they come to the finish point. Hopefully, the organisers would have positioned volunteers to guide runners to the finish point, else these ladies may very well chat & run all the way home (some 7K beyond the finish) missing out on the finisher medals & post-run selfies! Keeping these fears to myself, I gave them the good news of the half way mark being very close & carried along.

The 10.5 KM point starts playing with one’s head. Up till here it all seems easy & effortless. You cross it & the thoughts turn to the remaining part, especially the end when it becomes a task to carry oneself forward. This is also the time when the sun would be up & it starts getting warm. But the weather held good. The cloud cover shielded the morning sun. As a result it was still pleasantly cold, good enough for a long run. Except that we had to go over a bridge near the half-way point. Being a lazy sort, I always walk up a bridge for I see no point in tiring oneself by running all the way. And I did this twice, cursing the organisers both times for making us climb the bridges within such a short span. The route selection could have been much better, more so for the FM. The poor guys had to go right inside the fertilizer-petrochemical complex which is always much warmer than rest of the town. Add the pollution level which would have been even higher than normal owing to the cloud cover. I will pass this on as Siddharth Katju has left nothing unsaid in his facebook post. Yes, those of us doing the HM were lucky in this aspect.

Descending the bridge, I passed Nilesh Shah on the other side running strongly despite this being his maiden HM. Even I ran up the bridge during my 1st HM, I don’t know how but the first one always draws extra energy that one has never been aware of. But in all my subsequent ones, including VIM 2017, I have always walked up. I am so lazy that I avoid the bridges even during my routine runs. Another reason for this aversion to bridges is that most bridges in Baroda have not been built for runners/pedestrians or cyclists. Which reminds me that I have long been thinking about doing a blogpost on the bridges of Baroda from the eyes of a runner/cyclist. I hope the coming months would see me doing it.

Dr. Iyengar not besides me, I missed Dr. Piyush under the bridge with his camera this time & he missed me too as I have seen only one photo of mine clicked by him. Actually, I realize this only now as I write this. But I did not miss the group of sardars at the Chhani gurudwara. The day being a Sunday, it was inevitable that the sight of a gurudwara would make one think of a Langar & I tried to smell the familiar aroma but it was too early. The Langar’s at gurudwaras, for those who have been to one, dishes out the best Punjabi food the taste of which cannot be matched by even the highway dhabas. But this time, they had brought out the water for us. Which was better because it was on the return leg that the hydration points had gone missing. Perhaps, I didn’t miss them in the first half.

Last time, many schools had put up support stations along the route with adequate stock of water. I particularly remember the one at Mehsana Nagar crossroads, Nizampura, put up by Jumbo Kids which had a young kid stuffed inside an elephant outfit on that hot day (hotter owing to a delayed start). It seems they opted out this year owing to the route that took us to the outskirts of the city. Or, they may have been asked to participate in the run to shore up the numbers. This was more important because Rajkot was competing with VIM this time for the world record for highest participation. Anyway, the last two hydration points I found were at Nizampura & Kamati Baug. Why can’t the organisers understand that runners need hydration & fuel when they are nearing the finishing point? I had anticipated this to some extent & asked Reni to keep some bananas when I would be returning.

Coming to the Fatehganj flyover, one saw Reni holding the fort with his camera reminding one of the BSF jawans at a border post. The runners of Baroda find as much joy in the run & the finisher medal as in Reni’s photographs & his comments when he posts them on facebook. After he clicked me running, he went over to hand me a couple of bananas. Most welcome as I was feeling so famished, but only one. He didn’t take the other one back insisting that I could give it to someone. He knew what lay ahead of us. Later, nearing the end I needed water & not having any, I had the other one just to get something inside. As Shakespeare once said, blessings come in all shapes & sizes.

I had been trying to catch up with the 2:30 hrs bus, something I just missed at Gandhinagar the previous week. But there was no sign of her ahead & I hurried up. The last 2-3 KM are the toughest as the legs start giving up. With a particular time in target the mind has also been overworked & starts feeling the strain. Pushing the mind & body one last time, I gave it all I had & the Garmin told me I had finished it under 2:30. But it said the same at Gandhinagar too while the official time showed I had just missed the mark. But Sheetal, who appeared to have reached a little while earlier, was of the same opinion as Garmin & I went about looking for the daughter. I found her with Nikki & both of them told me that she had run 10K. A few hours earlier I won’t have believed she could do this but here she was, though very tired which doesn’t happen in the case of a 5K.

The two of us waited at the finish line for rest of the gang to turn up. Gauri was the first to arrive, followed later by Smriti & Anita. Leaving Aanya with them, I moved on to join Harjeet, Nishant & Ajay Sharma at the food court. The food not being enticing enough, we decided to go to Shastri Bridge for some eggs/omelet, picking up Reni from his post.

But not only was he nowhere to be found, even the larri’s near Shastri Bridge were closed. We came back to Reni’s spot & he returned soon to click the full marathoners on their way back. It was late in the morning & the commuters were getting restless. The police personnel at the junction were not enough to manage the crowd & we joined in. There was some exam/test on the day & the parents ferrying their children were getting restless being made to wait for the runners to pass. It was a tough task, deciding who gets the priority. Is it the runners who have done over 37 KM or the students going for an exam? With the help of the traffic police, we managed to keep both the groups from getting too annoyed. As the last of the full marathoners passed us, we also moved to Kirti Stambh to hog on eggs. Where we came to know that VIM had run out of medals to hand over to FM finishers. Somehow, some things need to go wrong at VIM!! But overall, this was far better organized than any of the previous ones & I believe VIM can only get better in the years to come.

I had received my medal & was happy with it but the medal was not, going by this picture. Poor thing, this was the best it could get in a dry state.

Feb 8, 2017

Getting Lost in Babuland

The earliest two HM’s I ran were at Ahmedabad, so going to Gandhinagar felt more like returning to familiar territory. At Ahmedabad/Gandhinagar, one also gets to meet many friends who travel to from Baroda which is another attraction. Rakesh Rawat not only hosted us at his brother-in-law’s place which was vacant for the weekend, but also drove us all the way. While RK Menon dropped out, Adil Marawala & I did our best to prime Rakesh for a super finish. We began with delaying the departure by 45 minutes. This was enough to bring Rakesh to his elements, who covered the Expressway in another 45 minutes. An early South Indian dinner at a neighbouring larri, we awoke to a cool, pleasant morning. Rakesh stopped enough to get the proper directions to get us to the venue in, you guessed it, 45 minutes. We were sure 29th January 2017 was going to be his day, which it turned out to be, with Rakesh getting his PB. But I am getting too far ahead now…

On the way, I realized I had forgot to pick up my mobile pouch & was not sure whether I would be able to take it with me during the run. As it turned out, the mobile did not fit in the pocket & I left it behind. The main reason you won’t find any photographs in this post. Of course, I have been to Gandhinagar earlier & it is a boring city with a very monotonous layout. I am not sure, but I believe Gandhinagar would be the only city in India not to have a MG Road!! I do not think this is because the whole city has been named after Mahatma Gandhi. The naming of roads in Gujarat’s administrative & legislative capital is as unimaginative & uninspiring as only seasoned bureaucrats can achieve. More on Gandhinagar roads later…

The weather had turned cold the last couple of days & we were hoping it stayed this way on the run-day too. Of course, Gandhinagar is greener & we expected it to be not as hot as Ahmedabad. It felt good when we got to the venue. Apart from the weather, meeting up with the Gang from Baroda, many being contenders for the podium. This was the 2nd time Gandhinagar was organizing its HM. One of my apprehensions was the start of the race. Having had bad experiences at Baroda, which is flagged off by CM’s who have always been late & follow it up with a long speech. Of course there was hope that Gandhinagar being a small town, the neta can always come on time, flag off the event & return to catch up on the sleep. So it was with crossed fingers that we awaited the flag off time. The dignitaries arrived 10 mins before the start & the flag off was as scheduled. Gandhinagar, take a bow!

Some time after the start (usually around 2 to 3 km), I always need to take a pee break. In fact, this has now become a ritual (and I planned for it during my next HM at Baroda)!! Gandhinagar does not have those convenient spots (trees, bushes, boundary walls) as other cities do where one can take a leak. Fortunately, the route passed through Mahatma Mandir, the venue of the famed Vibrant Gujarat investment fairs, which has enough public urinals. I got to one but found the male one locked. I tried the one for physically challenged but found it locked too. Fortunately, the one for the ladies had its door open & I made my way towards it. But finding a female runner also coming to it, I left the place looking for another “public utility”. Which was not too far off and, fortunately, the guy was just unlocking the door of the male urinal just as I reached. I should have thanked him but I was too preoccupied with the task at hand.

Mission accomplished & I returned to the road to find the ever-smiling Doc, Suresh Iyengar. I joined him & we ran at his leisurely pace. The only time one finds Doc Iyengar awake at an early hour is during a marathon at Baroda or Ahmedabad/Gandhinagar. He loves his sleep so much that he won’t get up even if you offer him a beer as an incentive. You should try this, but I will have to be there as a witness (to finish off the beer too).

I had told Dr. Iyengar before the start that today I will return a fast time as I did not have the distraction of the mobile. While we were chatting during the run he spoke about how he always reaches the halfway mark around 1:15 hrs, which was remarkable. Because, I run stronger in the 2nd part of the run. So, if I stuck around with Dr. Iyengar till the halfway mark, I could make an attempt to finish around 2:30. Of course, he runs at an even & leisurely pace that helps in conserving strength & energy. We were still running around Mahatma Mandir, when Dr. Iyengar spotted an SBI ATM & pointed it out to me. Out of habit, I asked the guard whether it had any cash (remember, cash withdrawal limits had not been lofted then). An affirmative answer made me regret leaving my wallet behind. It would have been sad to leave a cash-laden ATM behind without withdrawing anything. But one had Dr. Iyengar for company.

Around 8K mark, we knew we would now be coming across the faster ones from Baroda on their return. Soon, they arrived – Sameer Gaikwad, Shital Pawar, Narpatsingh Jadeja (Bapu), Siddharth Katju & the rest of the express runners. At around 9.5K, Rakesh crossed us, lost in thought (was it about the 4 things?). Bereft of distractions, he was running a fast one today. The route was flat till this point after which there was a mild downward incline to the turnaround at half way. It was also cooler here with the breathe frosting as we exhaled. Thus, if you want to return a PB, Gandhinagar should be on your calendar. But, maybe not & I will tell you why a little later.

I had earlier during the run decided that I will stay along with Dr. Iyengar (who usually finishes around 2:45) & break away at 15/16 K. But Dr. Iyengar was slowing down & I was getting restive. So, wishing him well, I went ahead. Running alone is something I am quite used to. I was frequently checking the watch to see if I could make it in about 2:30 hrs, perhaps the reason I did not notice the surroundings or other runners. I simply maintained the pace & followed the other runners ahead of me.

Let me now take a breather & count some of the positives about this event. Apart from the timely flag off, the hydration & fuelling arrangements were very good. The hydration/fuelling points well provisioned & I did not find any station out of stock. There were enough volunteers at these points to hand out stuff to runners. The medical aid stations were also sufficient for an event of this kind. It helps when the government machinery itself is involved in organizing an event as I had observed at Rajkot last year ( I didn’t come across any traffic (which is a big problem at Baroda & Ahmedabad) along most of the route except at very few junctions. Now for a couple of negatives.

Crowd support was practically absent. Compare this to Rajkot/Baroda & one would think one is running in a ghost town. It seems the netas & babus catch more than 40 winks on Saturdays. Lack of crowd support would turn off 1st timers & those coming from outside from returning for the event. But this was not such a big problem as the nature of Gandhinagar’s road layout. This was my prime fear prior to the run. I have always been confused about these whenever I have been to Gandhinagar in the past. Fortunately, this time I didn’t lose my way in the maze of metal & tar. Unlike some others.

After around 15K, I came across runners walking dejectedly & telling friends they met about how they took the wrong route & gave up. The first time I heard this I thought the lady was from outside & got lost in Gandhinagar. But a few more times & it dawned that I hadn’t come across any markers along the entire route. Later when I finished, I came to know that Sameer ran into a group of 7K runners on the return & ended up following their route to finish, thus ending up with a DNF. Another podium contender returning empty handed. A little before Mahatma Mandir, I came across a runner carrying a staff as he ran. I wished to know what bus it was (though passengerless) so that I could guess my finish time. He informed that he found it lying on the road & picked it up. Well, a positive here – Swachh Bharat works! Upon finishing, we were told that the entire 2:00 hour bus went along a wrong route & ended up with DNF. Probably, the staff that our friend found was the one this bus threw away. When I was some 3K away from the finish, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, in front of me, were a couple of runners, one of them I could make out to be Bapu. As I reached them (the other guy was Abdul), I asked them how far it was to the finish. I thought they had already completed & were just out to relax the muscles. They had another story to tell – they actually had already run over 21 km (again, victims of this massive blunder) & had given up when they realized this. They were just jogging to the finish line. Mind you, all of these were the fastest guys but ended up with nothing. Seems more like a modern day version of hare-and-tortoise story, doesn’t it?

Now I wasn’t sure whether I had run the correct course, but looking at my pace & distance it seemed to be in order. I have never run this fast earlier over this distance (I had done Goa & Daman, both in 3:00 hrs the previous month) & the last few kilometers were tough. While I wasn’t really tired the legs were losing their strength fast. I was also very much within the target time of 2:30 hrs & pushed ahead hard. I was forced to take frequent walk breaks on this last stretch. And each time I started walking I would realize that this was only slowing me down. While I gathered strength to run again I also walked as briskly as I could. Never before have I been so focused while running. It was as if the last few days were left in the year & a few more orders would see me through to achieve the sales target. It seemed, real life is so much easier!! The watch showed that I was just a few hundred metres short, the finish was in sight & I pushed along with whatever I had, my eyes set on the watch throughout to see whether I would make it. It told me that I had managed to run 21.1 km in 2:29:something but the finish was a little further away & I raced to it. Later, the official timing turned out to be a little over 2:30, but it was still worth it.

After catching up with the rest of the gang at the finish, a round of selfies & hearing more stories of how the faster ones got lost, the first thing I did was get my mobile from Rakesh’s car, next thing was having some tea (the Gandhinagar one is so less that it can’t even be called cutting) & then another tea, but not before placing the medal on the altar as some rituals need to be done religiously.

Dec 16, 2016

A Long Beerathon before a Half Marathon (and after too)

We decided we will go in a single bus rather than two SUV’s so that, we convinced ourselves, we all could be in a one single group & have lots of fun. Which was a good thing to do, else who would have volunteered to drive (and stay off beer?) from Baroda to Goa. We suffered the 1st casualty when Dr. Rajesh Chauhan withdrew owing to a genuine medical problem. Then Durgesh Merchant dropped out of the 1st part of the trip as he had to stay back in town on Friday.

Now, Durgesh (along with his running mate, Dr. Suresh Nayak) was our inspiration for this trip. While it appeared as if a bunch of running enthusiasts were going off for an event (true, in a way), in reality we were simply a gang of beer hoggers out to have a good time outside our dry state. Having always admired the heroics of Durgesh & Suresh, we wished to run in their hallowed footsteps. Let me first tell you about their routine whenever they travel outside Gujarat for a HM. They reach the town in the morning the previous day by train. Check into a hotel. Collect their bibs. And hit a bar. They are not at all selfish & let us join the fun by sending us their pictures (with the beer prominently in the foreground) on whatsapp. Once the race is complete & we have their finisher photographs, we are again treated to another round of pictures of Beer. Their commitment to Beer is appreciated by all who know them as well as those who know about them.

Our 1st halt after departure was just after crossing the border into Maharashtra. Pls don’t get us wrong, for that’s where Parsi Da Dhaba is & we had intended to go for only local cuisine while on the trip. Parsi Da Dhaba also serves beer & we had no choice but to quench the dry throats coming out of a dry state. It was late afternoon when we finished our lunch & proceeded into Maharashtra. Fortified by the traditional parsi meal & beer.

In ancient times, the Great Wall of China was built by the Chinese emperors to ward off the Mongols in the north. Mumbai also has something which serves the same purpose. It goes by the simple name of Ghodbandar. Stuck in the jam at Ghodbandar, we got down to loosen up the leg muscles (we were running a HM in 3 days) only to come across chilled beer. Reni George, a religious type who goes to church every Sunday, thought this was a divine signal welcoming us into Mumbai. And we had to have beer, for it was another form of Prasad for us devotees.

It was late in the night when we crossed Sheel Phata. Dinner did not worry us as the home-cooked dry chicken brought along by RK Menon was practically untouched along with Methi Parathas & Theplas. Having been advised that the wine shops close at 10 PM, we got some beer for the dry chicken. This helped us till the hotel near Pen where we stayed overnight. It was too late for another beer as we planned an early start.

We started quite early the next day so as to reach Goa well in time. A little after 10 AM we stopped for tea. We walked around a bit to loosen up the muscles (we were running a HM in 2 days) & found that a country liquor outlet also sold chilled beer. It was not hot, but the sun was truly up. What else, we stocked up beer for the next leg of the journey which lasted us till lunch.

It had turned dark for some time & we were still in Maharashtra. Taking Reni’s advice seriously we stopped to collect another stock of beer. An atheist, I always ridicule the believers. But I am now starting to believe that going to church each Sunday has its benefits. Hope Reni continues this practice.

With a small hiccup at the border check post, we reached Goa. Google Maps guided us to Calangute & to the vicinity of our hotel. It was late in the night & our hotel’s kitchen was not taking any further orders.we had to decide whether to check-in & come back for dinner, or have dinner before checking in. The experience of Suresh helped us here. We stopped at a hotel for dinner. And while waiting for the dinner to be brought in we had some beer. We also picked up some cans for Durgesh who was checking in later.

Reaching the hotel, Rakesh realized that he couldn’t last till Durgesh came in & had a can of beer. Rakesh Rawat is his full name & you would have guessed that he is from the hills. There is a famous saying in the hills – Surya ast, Pahadi mast, which translates as Once the Sun sets, the Hillman drinks. Rakesh proved during this trip that he lives his life by this dictum. Rather more, as he gives an equal importance to moonset.

After breakfast the next day, we moved to the race expo to collect our bibs. We met Siddharth Katju & we hooked him as we went to Hotel Anant Ashram for the highly recommended sea food. The high point for Durgesh & Suresh in any HM (outside Gujarat) is lunch on the previous day & no power on earth (or rest of the galaxy) can stop them from their pre-race ritual. Thus, while we waited for the fish thali to come, we had some beer.

After a short rest at the hotel, the gang went to Calangute beach. Durgesh & I stayed behind to rest some more. I lazed around even after Durgesh left to join the rest. But my thoughts were at the beach (and the beer) & as it was getting dark, I too joined them. And had only half a beer mug (I was running a HM the next morning).

Most people would tell you to stay off mild or hard liquor a few days before an distance run. It is supposed to dehydrate the muscles leading to cramps, and what not. But none of us had any such problem. Yes, Rakesh did get shin splints at the beginning but the generous quantity of beer that he had been having provided the mental strength to get over the pain & he finished with a respectable timing. The rest of us also achieved timings that we usually get while running in Gujarat. I believe, one of the reasons for this was the complimentary beer waiting for us at the finish line.
The best thing about the Goa River Marathon is that they provide complimentary beer after the run. It is so reinvigorating that after the beer, Reni & I were off to play football with the kids on the ground.

The joy of having collectively proved the pundits wrong on this count was not as great as the joy of seeing Harjeet Singh & RK Menon finishing their maiden 10K. The afternoon was spent at Lobo’s on the Calangute beach with, what else but Beer! After a short sojourn for rest & recuperation at the hotel, we were back in action for the evening & the ceremony continued till late hours of the night.

It was with a heavy heart that we left for Baroda early the next morning. To uplift the mood, we had no option but to relive the 1st leg of the journey till we crossed Maharashtra late in the night. Into the land of cutting chai.

Dec 14, 2016

How to manage negative splits

This is the 1st of the intended 3 posts on Goa River Marathon (GRM). I honour the events I participate in with a post each. GRM deserves an additional post as it offers complimentary post-run beer. My sister also being a participant here, I got two beers & I have thus decided to write 3 posts on GRM 2016. (hint to GRM – offer me unlimited post-run booze next time & I will write a book.) But I am digressing from the subject, so here I go…

We (a group of 7 runners, incl. me) went for GRM by road as this would give us plenty of time to spend together. One of the two debutants, I think it was Harjeet, was pestering Coach Reni with a lot of queries on technical jargon. When it came to Negative Splits, I casually informed the gang that I do this every time. The company, all 6 of them, was in shock! Now, I am not the fastest of runners. Nor a focused one at that. To me, running a half marathon includes everything else including running. And a time of close to 3 hours is what I aim for. Yet, I have invariably managed to achieve negative splits each time I have run 21K. Your turn to be shocked? No, for I present the evidence from the GRM.

Here’s what Timing Technologies website ( says about how I progressed through the distance (you have my bib no. & can verify the same):

Ashish Diimri
Open (Age group 35-45) MEN
1086 / 1284 Finishers
Category Rank
360 / 417 Finishers
Gender Rank
940 / 1084 Finishers
Split@5 Km
00:48:47 Avg. Pace 09:46, Avg. Speed 6.15 Kmph
Gender Rank : 1061 / 1084 Finishers , Category Rank : 408 / 417 Finishers
01:33:53 Avg. Pace 08:56, Avg. Speed 6.71 Kmph
Gender Rank : 1044 / 1084 Finishers , Category Rank : 400 / 417 Finishers
02:16:31 Avg. Pace 08:29, Avg. Speed 7.08 Kmph
Gender Rank : 996 / 1084 Finishers , Category Rank : 378 / 417 Finishers
Net Time
02:59:35 Average Pace 08:31, Average Speed 7.05 kmph

As you can see, I shaved off 50 seconds in the 2nd quarter & another 27 seconds in the 3rd quarter. The 4th quarter of the run was slightly slower (by 2 seconds). Which means, as I crossed the finishing line, my pace was a good 75 seconds (or 1:15 minutes) faster than when I began. You will have to trust these numbers as these are provided by the official timekeeper. I myself do not usually track my runs & do not have data to corroborate the official results. If you study the analytics closely, you will see even my gender/category ranks improve with each split. This is something I always find – people overtaking me initially while I do the overtaking in the later part (unless it’s a full marathoner overlapping me).

But I can explain why this happens. Usually, most of the events (Vadodara International Marathon being a notable exception here) have runners running along for 10.5 kms & returning the same way for the half marathon. The FM participants do 2 loops of this route.

Now, when I am running, you will find me admiring the route (& clicking pictures on my phone), reading the hoarding & race posters (& clicking pictures on my phone), trying to play some musical instrument (& having my picture clicked on my phone) & chatting up with fellow runners (& if they consent, clicking their picture on my phone). This takes up a lot of time. I usually manage to get some 40-50 pictures on each race (assuming 10 secs per picture, this adds around 8 minutes to the time). This slows me down (as you can see in my timings), but gets me a lot of stuff for the blogpost to follow. It’s a tradeoff where I have never been a loser as the organisers give a medal & post-run breakfast to each finisher.

Coming back to the topic, when I do the return leg of the route I have already seen the sights in the 1st half & have less distractions resulting in fewer halts (this time only for hydration & fuelling). One also comes across other friends who are already returning from the half way mark, (at GRM, apart from Durgesh Merchant, Dr. Suresh Nayak & Sameer Gaikwad, even the little sis who was doing her maiden HM crossed me) which does egg you to hurry along. This is how I end up with a faster 2nd half of the run. But what explains the negative quarterly splits? You know what, I can explain that too.

When the race begins, it is all crowded & people jostle to get going. That’s the time when I walk & let others get ahead. I take this as a warm-up routine for I am no fan of pre-run warm-up & stretching (nor of post-run cool-down & stretching). Thus, the 1st quarter of a run is always the slowest. As the table above shows, the 1st split pace at GRM was practically walking speed. (The 1st split at GRM was unusually slower as I stayed with Rakesh who was having shin splints, which got better only during the 2nd split & after generous spraying on the affected part.) Having warmed up, the 2nd split turns out to be faster.

Having explained the 1st half, I will get down to the return leg. As I explained, the return leg is faster on account of far fewer halts. But why is last 5K the fastest? You know what, as the last 3rd approaches the sun is truly up & it starts getting hot. Escaping the heat quickly is one of the reasons for the quicker (actually, less slower) finish. Moreover, having had enough of water, enerzal, bananas & oranges (stay away from Parle-G biscuits, is my advice), the promise of a post-run breakfast (a veteran always knows!) generates extra energy to power ahead. Also, my run till this point has been a leisurely one with more than sufficient rest. Thus, when the other finishers are huffing & puffing along, I run past them with effortless strides (having no Garmin, I don’t have the data on cadence). Thus, I get a perfect negative splits each time I finish a HM.

But, not this time. Coming off the bridge after the 16K checkpoint, I went back to the musicians positioned there. Harjeet, doing his 10K called me out & I joined him. Coach Reni was waiting for us & I thought of finishing along with them at their (rather, Harjeet’s) pace. We also met RK Menon striding along on the other side & Harjeet may have felt elated on seeing a fellow debutant so far behind! But I soon recalled there was beer waiting on the other side of the finish line. This was one of the biggest decisions I had to make in my life, but chilled beer (being a post-run pick-me-up like nothing else) did the trick.


So, this is how I manage negative splits. The accomplished runners would have other strategies & I suggest you go to them for advice. This post is of help only if you are out to have some fun.

Aug 19, 2016

Sustained Sporting Excellence is Round the Corner, If...

The games are still not over as I write this. And Shobha De is a much relieved person now that we have two assured medals, a figure that can only go up (hopefully). At least the twitterati have so much to be busy with. But a 2-week long wait for the 1st medal got me introspecting on how we can go about for a better sporting future. So here goes my prescription:

Our athletes have been spoilt by the facilities available to them today when compared to just a few years back. We should make them travel in state transport buses & passenger trains within the country. And make them stay at the decrepit dorms in our stadia. This will not only make them tougher but also help them focus on their sport. Today, they only worry about economy v/s business class when they travel to mega events ( 

The best in American sports are found in its universities. Our education system is no different, it has the students rushing from one tuition class to another. Make them do so on foot & we will see the next set of sprinting heroes & heroines wrapped in tricolor. But only if the banks & auto finance companies play ball on this front. Our schools also need to go back to the old practices of disciplining students (as in our days). Though not very effective (else, why did they drop it?), it at least made the kids tougher.

We need to get more officials accredited for the events so that our ministers can concentrate on the wellbeing of our athletes. If they have to spend all the time worrying about their chamchas (, how will they ensure proper lodging/boarding for our sportspersons? We can’t leave this task to the federation office bearers, they are too busy politicking at a global level.

Forget Lodha Commission’s recommendations, we need more career politicians in the sports federations as is the case with cricket. This will help us frame rules that are favourable to our sportspersons. And also manage tricky situations. Had someone like Sharad Pawar or Arun Jaitley been in IOA, would Narsingh Yadav be banned just a day prior to his bout? Maybe our netas believe the scale of corruption in apex international sporting bodies is beyond their caliber, but they also need to prove their credentials globally.

I hope the bulging biceps of Sakshi Malik could give rise to a new fad where our girls & their parents chuck the quest for a size zero figure ( for a more muscular one. And if the advertisers give more endorsement deals to the well-rounded bollywood stars, beauty could have a new definition. Of course, with the gau rakshaks protecting all those cows our budding wrestling heroines will have all the milk & ghee they need.

Earlier, the best in combat sports moved to a sporting career, while the rest kept democracy alive. TN Seshan & his successors then detached the art from of our elections. Unfortunately, this cleanup robbed our brave youth of an alternate career & our wrestlers & boxers now return home empty handed (or dope tainted) from showcase events. And as Sakshi Malik’s stupendous show proved, our political parties now have a large cache of strongwomen to choose from. (At the time of writing, the male wrestlers were yet to take the mat, so some medals may be on our way.)

Just as we have training camps for the athletes, shouldn’t we also have a conditioning camp for the visiting officials? It is very demoralizing for our athletes when our leaders tweet about one but put in the picture of another ( In fact, we should have ready draft of tweets & Facebook/Instagram posts to be posted online by the netas during the meet. Saves their time too.

This could have gone one & on, but our girls finally ended the medal drought & I would rather celebrate their performance. And that of the rest who went to Rio & gave their best. Bravo, girls & boys!! You are one of the best out there, whatever the soft porn writer may say!!!

Aug 5, 2016

Runs & Rains

I like running in the rain because then no one can see me sweat. This is total BS. I like rains, running too & running in the rain takes me back to those carefree childhood days. Which happened when I went out for a run. But this is starting from the middle & let me go back to the beginning.

Till a few months back, life was easy. If I woke up early, I would go out for a run, walk or a bike ride. Till the fitness bug bit the wife & her friend. Rather, the friend who wanted to reduce her weight & thought of going for daily walks (as if this would have helped). All was well, till they decided to change their schedule from post-dinner to early mornings which is my preferred time. But one can’t argue with a wife, especially if one of her close friends is involved. After some negotiations (actually, a one-way dialogue), it was decided (by them, obviously) that they will have the 5:00 to 6:00 AM slot, as they had to return in time to get the kid ready for school.

With weather being good, I had returned to an active life by cycling in the mornings. But having woken up early today, I had ample time to go out & run. As part of pre-run routine, I walk about half a km to a tea stall, which not only primes up the body to the task ahead but also helps in catching up with friends who would be out walking or cycling or simply going to work. So it was today. I switched on the mobile data & turn on the GPS prior to beginning my run. And it started drizzling. Not wishing to spoil a mobile, I handed it over to the tea stall owner. And went for a short 4K.

A few metres & I was already drenched. By the rains & maybe, some sweat too. It felt good, being wet & running. The traffic reduces too, which helps. The cows move under the trees, which helps more!! And the temperature drops, making it very pleasant to run if one can avoid the puddles & ignore the wet road. One doesn’t even feel the sweat, assuming the effort has made one sweat. Or the rain may have washed away the sweat as the water didn’t burn the eyes or tasted salty.

The only negative part being I did not have my mobile with me but Runkeeper lets one log activities manually. You may be surprised I did not have any misgiving in leaving a premium flagship mobile handset with a roadside tea vendor. Firstly, I trust him as he provides me with hydration support after my runs. And not just hydration, this is also the place where I had my customary post-event drink after VIHM (read about it here - Secondly, haven’t we handed over our country to another chaiwala? Surely a mobile phone cannot be more valuable than our nation. And I trust my chaiwala as much!!

As you know, we runners are not only sensible but also very particular about our safety. We always run against the traffic to avoid any vehicle coming from behind running over us. Now, I differ here when not running a loop (as was the case today). I run on only one side (to avoid crossing the road), so that while I follow the runners’ credo during one leg, i forget all about it on the return leg. But not really reckless, for two reasons. One, I run with the traffic when the legs are fresh so that I am safer when I am tired. Two, I run on the streets of Baroda & a vehicle can come from any direction. This is what this tempo, going for delivery of packaged water cans, did. To avoid taking a U-turn, this guy (as is the common practice) was driving on the wrong side. He was also very concerned about avoiding the oncoming traffic. So, he was driving right behind me & honking continuously so that I would give way. I had to give him an angry look before he overtook me.

Coming back to the tea stall, the friendly chaiwala handed me a small plastic bag to keep my mobile in as it was still raining. And I proceeded back home to begin my day on a satisfied note.

Running after a long time & I have spoken about everything else but my run! As this post is already long enough, I will give the briefest of specs. I did 4.1 km in 33 minutes returning a pace of a little over 8 min. Not bad, if you ask me!