Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wednesday's Workout

Last Wednesday I tried working on strides. I must confess, the general public thought maybe some mad dog was chasing me, all i can say is, it went horribly wrong, that weekend i had severe shin splints. Anyways, today I was there at Cubbon park working with Thushar to correct my workout's on strides. We did our 5 of 6 drills taught by our super coach ( forgot 1, need to ask the coach again ). I could do 2 loops of stride.

As, I was stretching after the run, a guy walked and asked me is that bag on the bench yours. I said, no. um .. he said, he has called the cops.. they would come here at any moment. At the end it turned out to be of Thushar's.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Run this weekend

Last weekend (Nov 29 and 30) we went through our training schedule for Mumbai and Auroville. On 29th Anita, Sanjeev, Santosh Hulkund and I were at Cubbon and started the run at 6.30Am. It was drizzling quite a bit. I ran around 7K with Anita and rest with Sanjeev. Nice time of the year as well as the winter was setting. Anita, Sanjeev and Santosh left for breakfast as I had to head elsewhere.

Sunday (Nov 30) we all met for a quick run at Lal Bagh glass house at 7AM. This was my first run in Lal Bagh. Got my friend Abhay sarkar as well for the run. Siva, Thushaar, Anita, Sanjeev, Balaji and I were there for this run. Met others for the first time. I paced Abhay for around 3KM and then caught up with Balaji for the rest of the 7K. Others had already moved into SKK (Sree Krishna Kafe) at Koramangla for breakfast as Balaji and I hurried to finish our 10.5K inside Lal Bagh. The drizzle started again and we reached SKK to join others.

Breakfast runs are always exciting !

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Balu's First Bangalore Ultra Run with Asha Folks Amid Running Demons

The buildup

It was my first Bangalore Ultra and the idea was to do a 25K as I was coming back from an injury. For beginners Ultras typically cover distances greater than your marathon (42K) distances up until 100KM (and beyond sometimes). I was training with Asha folks as I ran my first run for them.

Doc Rajat and Santosh where to do a crazy thing, like run for 24 Hours or 200KM which ever comes first. Later we got a mail from doc that he may not run because of flu and Santosh was up to it. Guess couple of others volunteered to run with Santosh.

AS the Bangalore Ultra starts on 16th Nov from 6.30AM to 6.30PM the idea was to reach the run sight a day earlier and begin on 15th Nov at 6.30PM and end by 6.30PM the next day. Shumit surprised all of us by declaring that he would do a 100K and would accompany Santosh and Doc. This just spruced me to aim for 50K subject to how my leg reacts.

Asha Tent: Our Eldorado

Santosh and I did an easy 5K at cubbon the previous Webnesday and I decided that I'd be up for volunteering and Santosh picked up Shumit and myself in Tata Sumo. We reached on 15th Nov by 4.30PM and soon got into business.

We setup the Asha tent from scratch as it was fun to build it following the manaul for dummies and filled it with all possible paraphernalia that was required for such an event. Santosh' mom and dad were a wonderful company and Aunti had got so many varieties of food and I chipped in with few Aloo phulka rolls. This was just the beginning of so many things to follow. It was a long night.

Gathering Storm

Soon Doc and Anita joined us and by 6PM we were all set. The Three Musketeers were all set with water bottles, lights. Unfortunately Sudhir had his gearbox jammed and could cycle further but was a great company in the tent.

On dot, at 6.30PM all three started for the (epic) run and the RFL guys had already marked the path for the next day event. All that we now had to do was to wait for them to come back as the loop was 6.25 one way, so 12.5KM would be like one and half hour and thereabouts.

I was starting to feel heavy stomach as there was so much food out there. Luckily Anita had some "poha" as a quick starter. Doc had got some loads of breads and his car bonnet had some 10 pair of running shoes (no kidding).

First Break

We had our time sheets ready and in about one hour and forty five minutes the trio turned up. It was dinner time and every one were happy to serve them. After some fueling the runners started again. They had spotted couple of snakes as well.

Soon Gaurav joined us and he cycled with them the rest of the night by providing them support. Make no mistake Gaurav also planned to run 50K the next morning.

The moment they all left we volunteers had a galla time and there was so much food that every visitor to our tent was offered food and many tasted it as well.

Sleep, Snooze, Sleep, Getup and Sleep

Well this is what we precisely followed the entire night. Suhir, Anita, Uncle (Santosh's dad) and I were doing this after the third lap onwards. The were taking about 1 hour and 40 minutes so we had to keep the alarm at for every 1.5 hours. Luckily no mosquitoes and there were some great sleeping bags.

Then somewhere from horizon three-four lights begin to appear and keep moving in a sinusoidal fashion and approaches towards you. They were our runners all glued for refill and begin afresh taking one lap at a time.

This cycle went on till 6AM and now Aunti and Uncle were back fresh to take over. Aunti initially called me "Balasubramanian" and soon she made it "Balu". But the tone with which she used to call was all the more soothing to my ears.

I must have bugged Anitha, Sudhir, Aunti and Uncle with my gibberish and some silly PJs. But guys it was fun !

The Morning of 16th Nov

Sreeram and his wife had come my motorbike around 4.30 in the morning and Sreeram's wife also joined Aunti and Uncle in the tent for support. Soon other Asha runners came by and by 6.30 we all were set for the run.

There were around 300 runners in various categories and it was a very well managed event and planned to perfection.

My Run and Running mates

Soon I was slowly settling to a pace and hit upon Rajesh Vetcha from Hyderabad Runners and Pankaj from Dell. Rajesh Vetcha calls me as "Son of AP (Andhra Pradesh)" and soon we three of us hit rhythm and Rajesh Vetcha took lead in all sorts of topics and 25KM just passed by. As I was aiming 50K I slowed down around 20KM mark and was doing fine up until the 31KM mark.

Now I started to walk and was feeling worn out and had lost all the motivation to run. I just walked the next 6 odd KM and decided to stop at 37.5KM. I could have walked the rest 12.5KM and finished my best ever 50K but decided to save it for next year. One my leg was slowly beginning to hurt and the next is I want to run bulk of my distances and not walk instead. I guess it was a wise decision to stop and tapered for rest of the day.

Massage and Stretching
Luckily Anita pointed me to go to the B2F (Back to Fitness is Doc Rajat's Venture) folks and have massaged and stretched. Thanks folks !

Then I took room keys from Anita and went to room and took a fresh bath. It helped a lot and I had lunch coupons from the RFL guys. Gaurav was also done by then and we had lunch together. It was pretty decent lunch and the only thing that I did was to sleep for the next two hours.

Screw It, Lets Do It

The above pic explains it all. The kind of motivation they all had. Way to go Doc !

The Grand Finish

The time was approaching 6PM now and Santosh and Doc were planning the distances for the next half hour. As the clock slowly ticked we all waited and just about 6.18PM Santosh and Doc finished. Santosh finsihed a mammoth 160KM. These three, Sanotsh, Doc Rajat and Shumit were like Running machines. Running tirelessly can going on and on like the machines and stopping every hour and a half for fuel. It was one long 24 hour !

It was photo session for all of us to get noticed and be part of this elite company. Soon we got the Asha tent down and packed up. Doc was very tired so Sreeram drove Doc's car as I cannot drive a car. So I took Sreeram's motorbike and we all met Bombay Post near Domlur. Had some decent dinner and discussed some topics orthogonal to running.

All in all it were great two days with Asha folks and hope to join you soon for a run again.

Just in case others if you have forgotten to contribute, please do so by going to my Asha support page:

Some of our Pictures are at Picasa:

Thanks to everyone who have supported me for this run. It is primarily you who are the winner !

Keep Miling !

First Ultra in India - Santhosh's experience at the Bangalore Ultra.

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” - Kahlil Gibran
“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” - Edmund Hillary
“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things – to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated.” - Edmund Hillary
"Courage has never been known to be a matter of muscle; it is a matter of the heart. The toughest muscle has been known to tremble before an imaginary fear. It was the heart that set the muscle trembling." - Gandhi

In different ways the above quotes mean the same to me. This post is my experience and a report on my first ultra marathon attempt after I moved back to India.

Why Running?

A couple of years back I wrote a post about what running means to me. Its been an education for me. I believe it has taught me a lot of things in life and can be quite transformational to a lot more folks. Moreover, the soul of these efforts is to fund raise for the underprivileged. This motivation has kept me going for the last 5 years now.

Why Ultra?

There is no easy answer for this. Many folks think its an 'ego trip' or something 'whacky'. Its quite the contrary - when a 'normal' person does it, I think running and the desire to attain one's physical or mental limits becomes normal. The intent is to take away the 'super human' aspect away from the idea of running! You don't need to be fit and thin to run. If you run and develop a passion for it, you will be what you want to be :) Nowadays, I would rather not talk a lot about it to people who most probably won't get it - because I tend to get expert medical advice on how I would die soon, if I carry on with this - some of the rather funny ones include - "My brain would shake a lot within my skull as I keep running and eventually, I will loose my brain cells and god knows what..", "By running on pavement, hard surface etc. etc. one day my knee caps would just pop out and I won't be able to walk", "I would be exercising my heart too much that I could die very young". So, my reply would be "Thanks! I would keep that in mind when I run next time."

Why fund raise for Asha?
This is an easy one. But, I still get social experts who leave me speechless with some rather sad quotes. For e.g. "The poor in India are poor because they are lazy.", "Discrimination was in the past. There is no caste or gender discrimination in India", "Our culture and way of life keeps us ahead of so many nations
", "The sensex is booming, the GDP is high. Talk about poverty etc. is only a crib and the work of pessimists". Now, I have written enough in this blog about how all the above statements are blind to reality. I have also written about how Asha works at the grassroots levels in various areas towards empowerment of the underprivileged and creating a systemic change. The many visits to various efforts have only convinced me and created hope to help make the change in a small way. Feel free to contact me if you have any doubts. Here are some of my recent visits.

The 24 hr run - until D-day
Ironically, after all the expert medical advice I get to quit running, the person who inspired me and came up with the goal to run for 24 hrs at the Bangalore Ultra was a Running doctor. Dr. Rajat had a crazy dream to do 200kms in 24 hrs. It got me excited immediately, but I was worried that 200km in 24 hrs was not my cup of tea. I decided to run all 24 hrs after I start with him. We trained together with night runs in an army campus (thanks to doc's friends!). We did a couple of 30k+ runs and a 50K in the night. We then ran real early in the morning, with dogs chasing, doc flying etc. for a 60k+ run. Followed that with a 42K marathon run in a couple of days. Then, both of us fell pretty sick around Diwali time. While, I recovered from the food poisoning in a week's time, Doc was not as lucky and couldn't recover in time from the viral fever, congestion and cold. So, even on Nov 15, as he came down to support us he was sick. He had dropped the plan for the 200K or 24 hr run. But, he was there to make it happen for me! We had planned quite well for this run - a tent, food, volunteers, pacing etc. - thanks to experience from Austin, my parents and wonderful friends.

So, before we started the run - we had food (chappathi rolls, puliyogare, curd rice, vegetable rice, fruits, biscuits, noodles, soups etc.), water (we filled water in our own drums), a small stove, our own running gear, lights for the tent and a dedicated set of volunteers! We set things up by 5:30 p.m as Doc and Anita reached the race location. We realized that the race starts at 6:30 A.M, so we relaxed for sometime and went to the start/finish line for our run at 6:30 P.M.

Loop1 - Time: 1hr 35mins, Break: 15mins

The initial plan was to go with a preset run/walk interval - this was designed for a really flat course. But, I didn't want to take a chance, and thought of the first lap as a survey lap to figure out strategy for the rest of the run. As Shumit, Doc and I started at 6:30 PM on Nov 15th, we had 5 cameras clicking at the same time - so for a moment under the flashlights it felt like we had a million folks cheering us :) - there were about 15 ppl (a good part was the crew) wishing us the best and a RFL race organizer announcing where bibs can be collected for the race next day :). The weather was chilly and nice. We figured in the first lap that there was quite a bit of bumps (about 3) along the way and lots of open area - we feared that we would all be roasted peanuts the next day! Though it was supposed to be a survey lap, we ended up being too fast (one of the fastest laps!)

Shumit, is one of the recent Team Asha runners. Its amazing how he decided to do a 100K with us. He had not done a marathon distance in a year and here he was! Doc and I suggested that he take it easy and look at things one lap at a time. I have not seen anything like this - but, I surely wouldn't recommend it to anyone! I hope the ultra bug gets him and he trains well next time around :)

Loop2 - Time : 1hr 36mins, Break: 12mins

We had a sumptuous dinner after the first loop. For all the folks who are not used to the 'Team Asha' ultra way of life :) - the elaborate dinner was a bit surprising - but, trust me whatever you do, your body needs what its used to. You can't just survive on candy bars, gel shots and sports drinks to do an ultra run. I have almost weaned off all the so called designed-for-running foods. I get the salts I need with some salt capsules (high concentration of minerals in a capsule), take plain water and eat normal home food, fruits etc. Second loop we stuck to the walk breaks at bumps as planned, yet we finished with a faster time again!

Gaurav had volunteered to bike with us as support all night through! He got his bike and came out with us every loop, making sure we didn't take any wrong turns or did anything funny. After his biking ultra marathon through the night, he went on to do a 50K run of his own!

Loop3 - Time: 1hr 36mins, Break: 14mins
We did an even loop again with the same walk breaks and amazingly did the same time as the last loop! I had a couple of Bananas and some oranges. I requested for some lime juice in my next stop. Folks at the tent were getting tired a bit. My mom had gone to the room to get some sleep, while my dad dozed in his chair. During the run, we discussed a lot of stuff - about sensitivity of races and courses to the runner community, what running means to each of us etc.

Balu is another Team Asha runner who trained for the ultra with us and would be doing the Auroville marathon as well. He was up all night supporting us and by the first few loops knew exactly what needs to be done. He was awesome as crew support! After all this, he came out and ran his race in the morning as well!

Loop 4 - Time: 1hr 46mins, Break: 9mins
By the 4th lap, it was kind of obvious that we were hitting a low. Halfway into the lap, all of us were feeling a bit groggy and tired. This was around mid night and probably past our usual sleep times. There was also a slight drizzle and thankfully it was not a downpour. Around this time, I had some serious concerns. I was getting an urge to urinate, but every time I did, there was a burning sensation and this kept happening too frequently. This distracted me and got me worried - had not happened to me before. Meanwhile, Doc had his issues and was looking pretty bad too.

Sudhir is another good friend who jumped up to volunteer with this effort. The plan was for him to bike with us all along like Gaurav. Unfortunately, his bike broke down and he pushed quite a long way to the race location. He was up all night and supported all of us. He also went out to run in the morning!

Loop 5 - Time: 1hr 51mins, Break: 17mins
The 5th lap was slow. Doc dropped out of this one. He felt like throwing up and just lay on the sleeping bag and he said he will take a loop's break. Shumit was not doing all that great, but still was in high spirits! So we set out and did our thing like always - walk the bumps and run the rest. By the end of the loop, Shumit wanted to walk most of the way back and I jogged to the tent. This was one of the slowest loops. Obviously, this was the most crucial stage in the night and we were fatigued. I had a shot of hot black coffee to wake me up.

Anita was an angel at the Asha tent. She patiently listened to what we needed and made sure we got it whenever we wanted it. She took a few sleeping breaks and with a rather sleepless night still finished her 25K run in the morning! I feel bad that I didn't help her with her running as much as she did with mine.

Loop 6 - Time: 1hr 45mins, Break: 15mins

We had completed 62.5kms through 9.5 hrs of running by the end of loop 5. Shumit was feeling pretty groggy and fatigued. He decided to take a break and work on his legs a bit - massage with bio-freeze etc. Meanwhile, the short nap woke Doc up and he was his usual self again! We did a faster clip and by the end of lap 6 we shot back to a 1:45 lap time. My coach joe mentioned that, its quite possible to face ups and downs in the run and I had to play it according to my body and situation. He was right and just when I thought things might get screwed up, it got better. I had controlled the urge to pee for a while, drank lots of water with more salt intake. After a while, the burning sensation was gone and my urination turned normal.

Around the middle of this loop a couple came in the bike and cheered us along! It took me a few minutes to realize it was Sriram and Aarthi! Aarthi spent all the time from early in the morning 4:00 AM till late evening helping out all the runners. Her enthusiastic cheers every time we came in, woke us all up and made the break lively!

Loop 7 - Time: 1hr 35mins, Break: 15mins

Its an amazing feeling to have the sun rise and the day break when you are in the middle of a run through the night. I don't think I will ever be able to express it well enough. Time and again I have found that it brings amazing energy and your body and senses literally wake up. It happened to all three of us as we went on our 7th loop. We did our fastest lap time again! By the time we were returning back from the half way point, we saw the 50K runners coming in with all their energy - just the sight of all the runners pushed us and I had to pull back Doc a few times :).

Sahrika, Preethi and Vish work for Back to Fitness (B2F) and are part of Doc's team. These folks did an amazing job volunteering for us. We were lucky to have them at our tent. What they did meant a lot to all the runners at the event. My mom mentioned that they couldn't even have lunch and they went on and on. Special thanks to B2F - you folks are simply amazing!! You mean the world to the runner community and that's what matters most!

Loop 8 - Time: 1hr 43mins, Break: 11mins
In this loop I had a kind of a stabbing pain right under my rib cages. First, I though this was side-stitches (due to running too fast and the lungs can't get enough oxygen), but this pain was actually from a muscle and I felt it with every step I took. It was not too bad to make me stop, but was something new. As we reached the 4Km point, Shantanu joined us - he literally switched directions, took his bib off (so as to not confuse anyone) and ran with us! Moreover, he gathered a gang around us by needling folks to join us :) - Soon, we had a gandhi gang as Shantanu liked to call it! He made the morning and afternoon entertaining for all of us! It was an amazing feeling to find folks you have not met, run with you and egg you on. I was not in a shape to carry a lively chat, but this support meant a lot to me!

Shantanu is another Team Asha runner that many folks don't know about. He trained on his own and couldn't make it to many of the runs with us. He did more than the 25K he had planned, proudly wore the Asha T-shirt and brought me home on the next two laps!

Loop 9 - Time: 1hr 47mins, Break: 9mins

The weather was actually pleasant and wonderful for running. The sun never came out although it threatened to, hiding behind the clouds that were too coy to rain. I couldn't have asked for better weather and as I saw the Team Asha shirts go by - Siva, Santosh, Balu, Sridhar and others, it brought a smile and an encouragement that's again not easy to explain. It might sound cliche' - but, I really do derive inspiration from other runners when I realize what they have been through - training, injuries etc., yet they come out to achieve their goal. Shantanu was still sticking along. He was hoping for the good food at the tent that was the buzz on the entire running course. It made me hungry too!

I am still not sure how I get away with things I do when it comes to my parents. They seem to have taken the role of 'running parents' with ease! In Austin, my mom made the trail runners in Texas crazy about good indian food. In their short trip to Austin, they knew more runners and became friends with so many more than I did in the 4 years I was there! Back in bangalore, they did it again - this time offering all the food and affection to the running community here!

Loop 10 - Time: 1hr 51mins, Break: 10mins
Shantanu was done after Loop 9. I had a quick lunch of puliyogare, curd rice, water melon and lime juice with black salt. I was looking for someone to run with me on the mid-afternoon loop. I was almost desparate as I yelled out in the tent - "Can someone please run with me on this loop?" - Nischal called out from behind me and said she is going out right now and was up for it! She was being treated by the physio at the tent and looked like she was in pain. We trudged along for the 10th loop. By this time, I was quite sure that my loop times was not giving me enough leeway to finish a 13th loop. We decided to discuss a few nasty things about doc behind his back :) We also saw Pratibha go past us with all smiles. I asked her if it was her final loop and she nodded her head - we thought she was really strong for her final loop - it did turn out that she was strong enough to come 2nd in the girls' 50K!!

Nischal is one of the ultra runners that almost everyone on the course knows! When I found that Nischal wanted to do the same thing as me - i.e. finish 2 more loops after this one and go as far as possible in the 3rd, we decided to stick along. Nischal had a bad problem with her foot. It was swollen and she was dragging herself along in pain. Around the last 2 miles in the loop, I decided to run along as Suresh gave her company. She really inspired me with her all out effort this year!

Loop 11 - Time: 1hr 48mins Break: 11mins
125 kms down and 4hrs 45mins left. While, a 160km run would have been awesome, there was also a back-up goal that Doc and I had discussed months back :). I was in with a chance for it, if I could finish the 11th and 12th in a fair enough time. So, I had to find fresh legs to help me out! Sriram volunteered to help. He was worried if he would be able to keep pace with me. I told him that should be the least of his worries. We set out on the 11th and chatting with Sriram took my mind of the times etc. As most folks were finishing their runs, they check on where I was with regards to the distance. Towards the end, when there was just 2kms left( a nice straight downhill and a flat stretch) I picked up pace and started off.

Sriram is a veteran Team Asha runner, a good friend and a colleague at work. He was amazing with his support. He had finished his 25K in the morning and came out this loop to help me out. If not for his company, it would have been very easy for me to give up and do a long walk.

Loop 12 - Time: 1hr 43mins, Break: 3mins
I was like a kid waiting to see Santa claus when I came inside the Asha tent after the 11th loop. There was Doc, ready to go with me for the last stretch! He looked fresh and raring to go. I asked him if I can do it, he said "Of course, we are doing it!". He was wearing a bib which said "Screw it, do it" - which of course had many meaning for many folks :). We set out for the final few hours. I had about 2 hrs and 45 mins left. Doc, pulled me along at a brisk pace and I had done a fast loop again. We discussed how best to handle the final stretch. We estimated about an hour in our hand when we finished the 12th loop.

Doc and me decided that no one is officially recording our times (other than vols at Asha tent) and this won't even count as any official race - because RFL never recognized it. AID stations were winding up and there was no point going beyond the 3K mark on the course. We decided to do 2K repeats - go to the 1km point and return back until 6:30 - I estimated that I will be able to do 3 of those in that time.

Loose change - Time: 47mins, Break: 0mins

As we came into the tent after the 12th loop. I had done 150kms. Folks were expecting me to either stop or really go after the 160km mark. Then we announced to the rest of the team why we are doing this - 153K is the longest distance run in 24 hours by an Indian on a surface other than a treadmill. We requested Balu to get the clock and the note pad and wait at the finish. We wanted him to give times as we crossed the turn around point each time. The first 2k was in about 17 mins. I knew I was close to the mark. Doc, was relentless, he wouldn't let me walk more than what we decided. We did a fast 2nd repeat - I really pushed it and when we clocked in at 6:01 P.M, we had 154K! I was elated as I went out for the third 2K repeat.

So, finally by 6:18 P.M I was close to 156K - I was not in a mood to go further, because I knew I can't do another 2k repeat in that time and I wanted to finish with our folks around. I sprinted to the finish and jumped up in glee in front of the team that made it possible for me! It took me a while to realize that it was over and then I was incessantly chatting and eating people's heads off!

Nothing official about it
Firstly, this was a team effort from the beginning. If any of the folks I mentioned in each of those laps were not there, I doubt if this run would have been possible for me.

Now, there was nothing official about this whole effort. It was a purely self organized run that has no real proof for supporting a claim. Then what was the point of going after a record? Well the quotes at the top of this write-up are really cool - Lets say I like the third one :). My motivation has always been the efforts that Asha supports. I believe once we are truly convinced about our motivation, there is very little that can come between us and our goals.

Running is one sport that is meant for anyone. I sincerely believe it should be made affordable and achievable for everyone. It has the potential to increase confidence and self esteem in folks. Of course, like any rules or dogma, records are meant to be broken and only when more and more folks come out to run, can we see more records being broken. The real finish line for me was to derive meaning out of this effort and reach out to folks with the cause we are all striving for. I don't think an official commendation, my name on a piece of paper etc. matters as much. This effort was not about me, it was about the change we were trying to bring in many lives - through Asha's efforts and through running.

As we made our way back home, I got a phone call from one of the kids at Thulir (Background here). He patiently asked me for this week's schedule. There would be four kids from Thulir who would be training for the Auroville half and full marathon.

I sincerely request you all to support Team Asha's efforts. You could donate to us through my runner page. My family and I hope to fundraise at least Rs 3lakhs through our efforts this year.

Go Team Asha!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ananya, A Hope for the Flowers

I visited Ananya last October for a run. This was Team Asha's first year in Bangalore and we wanted to organize a run at a school. Also last October, Doc was doing his 'Run October Run' which was basically a half marathon every day of the month. He was open to running in different places and with different groups of people to raise awareness about running. Asha had supported Ananya in the past and Sanjeev got in touch with them to organize a run there. Shashi, the coordinator of Ananya, and others were very enthusiastic about this, which was very nice. Running is part of the activities the kids do there. Also, Ananya had supporters running to raise awareness for them in the Mumbai marathon. So Team Asha, running with the kids - none of this needed any explanation.

A bunch of runners that included Team Asha, Doc, RFL reached Ananya early in the morning. The kids were all up and ready for the run too! We started soon and it was a blast. People were running, walking, jogging and there were a good number of us on the road. The route, near Bellandur, was very beautiful. Post run we all had breakfast at the school. It was a wonderful experience and we are plan to organize another run with Ananya this year too.

Right now the children are on a tour, visiting places across the country. They start with Goa, then get to Rajasthan, Delhi and Mussoorie. They are also staging a play in many of these places/schools they are visiting. Its an adaptation of a book by Trina Paulus called 'Hope for the Flowers'. A wonderful, very quick read. I highly recommend it. You can find a version online here

In their adaptation, this is what they are talking about:

"fighting the Diploma Disease, not joining the mindless majority who are a part of the rat-race and oblivious to their goals in life. It is about each one of us identifying our latent qualities and using them rather than following the herd in the quest for something unknown. It talks about transforming our lives in our own unique ways, not by competition but by co-operation."

I am joining them during their Mussoorie trip, where they will be staying at SIDH. A four day workshop has been organized for the children there and then we will all be trekking to nearby schools that SIDH works with. More on this when am back, which is just before the Bangalore Ultra!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Team Asha Rocks KTM!!

Here is the email I sent out to the lists giving a report about our efforts and showing at the Kaveri Trail Marathons.

Here are photos from Santosh's camera

Hi All,

This weekend many folks from Team Asha completed their target race and finished the Kaveri Trail Half marathon and full marathon! More than 20 runners were at Srirangapattinam fighting out the hot and humid conditions. This surely was not an ideal day for running. But, our team did great even against such odds! I have had the privilege of observing all our runners train and reach many of their goals. So, I guess its my responsibility to give a brief account, which in my language is a long email :) - So, here goes!

She has been silently working for the program behind the scenes. Her hard work and time commitment in the last couple of years has setup this program that we are all part of now! She is one of the few girls from Team Asha who have done ultra marathons (i.e. Team Asha across the world!). This was a training run for the upcoming ultra and she did great on Sunday for her 21km.

I can't imagine a better suited name for a team member :) - Asha completed her first half marathon in one of the most trying conditions on Sunday. All through the training and the race she was smiling and cheerful. She has had consistent problems with blisters and bad shoes. But, she didn't let that stop her from finishing the run on Sunday. Her effort is awe inspiring and I am sure she will go for more from here on!

Even with major developments in her life :), she has been consistent and committed in training. She showed up for almost every workout until she had to take some time off. But, she did not lose heart and switched to the half marathon. Her first half marathon effort is admirable and I am sure she is well within reach of her goal of a marathon! What is even more amazing is that, she has kept her commitment to the team on the fund raising front and has already surpassed her fund raising goals!!


For every workout early in the mornings on Saturdays and Sundays, he would come all the way from Yeshwantpura in BMTC buses. This just shows how dedicated and committed he was to the cause. I have never heard him complain about anything at all and he really made it look effortless! Congratulations to Manohar for an amazing first half marathon and wishing him a lot more marathons!
For every workout early in the mornings on Saturdays and Sundays, he would come all the way from Yeshwantpura in BMTC buses. This just shows how dedicated and committed he was to the cause. I have never heard him complain about anything at all and he really made it look effortless! Congratulations to Manohar for an amazing first half marathon and wishing him a lot more marathons!

A veteran Team Asha runner, she made it all look easy and was the energizer in the team. Whenever she turned up for workouts, all the pain and struggles seemed to be replaced by smiles all around. For the most part she trained on her own and had a fun run on Sunday. Her target is the Bangalore Ultra and looks like she is all set for the 26K already!

Nitin Gupta
Not many folks have met Nitin, who joined the team a few months back. He has been running consistently though with the RFL folks. He completed a half marathon yesterday and I guess he finished too fast for us to catch him after the run :) - I am sure he will be successful in his goals of doing the Bangalore ultra and Mumbai marathon!

He is the senior most member of the team, but he really is young at heart! Even after all the trouble I gave him, like asking him to come for a run right after a tiring train journey etc. he never complained and kept high spirits through out! His effort was very inspiring not just for Team Asha runners but, for others on the course as well! He patiently listened to all those who discouraged him to not get into this at such an age and still completed in style on Sunday!

Pratibha is one more of the consistent and dedicated runners that make Team Asha. The way she has been going through the training routines and the races, one would never guess that this is her first marathon or ultra! She is already a seasoned runner and even with busy travel and work schedules she gets all the running in! Her enthusiasm and lively nature surely spreads around at all our runs! All through the run on Sunday, she gave company to many friends on the course and did a great first marathon herself!

I never thought I would actually get him to listen to me :) But, he was amazing. The first time we discussed this, he was even worried about just walking this distance. But, on Sunday he did a great time for his first half marathon. Somewhere along the way, he dropped the plan of walking and started to run! He brought life to all our running trips with his smart comments and silent provocation :)

A Team Asha veteran and one of the brains behind the Team Asha program in Bangalore, he has always come out successful against all odds. Food poisoning, old injuries, humid weather conditions etc. would have typically meant a struggle for most folks, but here was Sanjeev with his fastest half marathon! On any other day I am sure he would have done even better! After a hard race he waited for almost every runner at the finish line to cheer them across the finish line!

The name itself commands respect and admiration :) - Seriously, he has been one of the most committed in the program. His replies are prompt and he showed up for almost every workout. He has vastly improved even in the short time he has been with us and is well on course for his first half marathon at Auroville on February 15. Sujata and he have been our 'official' photographers and have given us some great memories! He had a fabulous 10K run on Sunday!

She has been my inspiration for years now. Behind all the fun and frolic is a very serious and committed effort. She even sprinted at the end to finish her first half marathon! Wherever she has been - all running courses from Austin to mysore, she has inspired folks and fellow runners. There is a lot to be learnt from her patient and consistent effort through this program! She has made everyone beleive that you can get to a goal if you set your mind to it.

He was actually on course for a stupendous effort on Sunday! By the half way point he was coming in as 5th in the marathon course. If not for the bad cramps, I am sure he was in with a great chance for a top three finish! Nevertheless, he did an amazing time for his first marathon! Senthil is from the village of Sittlingi and is one of the kids from Thulir, an Asha supported effort. All through, he has been training on his own with almost no run support! As it can be seen, he is a natural at this and at this young age he has amazing potential! His effort has really been inspiring and his passion for running is simply awesome. I really hope we can keep this passion burning for a long time!

Siva Athreya
We all affectionately know him as 'Prof' or 'The fast one' :) - He keeps the team entertained thoroughly whenever he is around, though at times it has been at my cost :) . He had a bad cold to start with and felt he wouldn't be able to finish this one! But, he showed amazing resilience and while folks dropped out as they withered under the sun, Siva endured through the race and finished with a really great performance and as we all expected him to, he got the fastest time for the marathon as well :)

Siva Ramasubbu
Life wouldn't be the same without Siva around :) - He truly is the life of the party! Be it lost key chains, beer hunting, interesting arguments or wild GPS measurements, he made sure we were entertained. Behind all the sporting smiles, patient and sometimes timely rejoinders, is an amazing effort. Siva ran for more than eight hours on Sunday in the most humid conditions for his first marathon. I am sure none of the bunnies (the fast runners :) ..) have any clue to what this means. It really takes true grit to endure through something like this! You inspire all of us Siva!

Sridhar Desikan
One more of the behind the scenes man of Team Asha! His silent and dedicated effort is amazing in the middle of a hectic work schedule! He came in at 1:30 AM and slept for 3-4 hours only before the run on Sunday! He has been going through a bad injury phase with his ITB and rightly judged to take it easy at KTM. He did 21K at KTM and I am surely he will bounce back from his injury in time for his first ultra marathon next month!

Sridhar Srinivasan
Sridhar has a hectic work schedule that involves a lot of travel. Its really amazing how he gets time out of his daily routine for a run almost every day! For the most part he has been training alone and not a lot of us have met him yet. On sunday, he had one of those bad days and stopped after 21Kms. I am sure he will have a great time at the Ultra and this is only a training run. We missed him at the end of the run and hopefully we will get to meet him soon!

Sriram Srinivasan
Our Team Asha Old Airport run co-ordinator made 'sure' everyone finished :) - His busy work and life schedule not withstanding, sriram made sure he completed his goal of the half marathon at KTM. He was part of the team that conspired to get medals for everyone ;) - He makes it so easy that I am afraid people would stop training for races! We look forward to Sriram's run at the Bangalore ultra!

Thushar is a testimony to the grit and determination involved in marathon running. He has an ITB problem that has been troubling him for more than a year now. It started showing up even before the longest training run we had this year. But, he told me "I have learnt to live with it"! On Sunday, he had a late start, bad weather, the ITB problem and many other battles to be fought. He weathered through all of these for an amazing marathon, that I am sure we would all remember for his effort!

The self acclaimed superstar of the program, who never forgets to pose when there is a camera around :) - His consistency in training and the runs showed in his first half marathon performance! Under such torrid weather conditions, he still endured for an admirable effort on Sunday! His involvement and eagerness to know more about the efforts we support is really amazing and inspiring!

A special thanks to Sujata, Vinoo, Shashidar and Sreesh who traveled all the way to Mysore to support Team Asha on the course! It was also amazing to see other friends - Anand Rao, Meghana, Shantanu on the course, cheering us and inspriring us on our runs! They all put up an amazing performance as well!

Thanks to Apu, Shiv and Puttasamy for their patient and skilful driving to take us around on our training runs and the race!

A big heartfelt thanks to Arvind(A2) and RFL for being different from other race organizers, especially when it comes to waiting till the end for all our runners. This was truly amazing and appreciated greatly!

Thanks to Dr. Rajat and B2F for sposoring our amazing red Team Asha T-shirts!! Thanks to doc for also providing us free consultation on shoes. We are really lucky to have a knowledgeable doc and a super runner who helps us out!

Thanks to Anu, Krishna, kids and folks at Thulir, Sittlingi for hosting us for the training run and making it a memorable experience! That training really meant a lot for us as we endured through the hot weather in KTM.

Thanks to all Asha volunteers, friends and family for giving the support and encouragement that we all badly needed! This has been a wonderful experience!

While many of us have crossed the finish line in terms of our running goals, there still is one more finish line to cross. All this effort, running and crossing the finish line would be worth a lot only when we achieve the goals we all set out for! Asha Bangalore relies heavily on the marathon program for supporting all the wonderful grass roots efforts. Lets gear ourselves up and make sure that this running makes a difference in many other lives as well!!

Go Team Asha!!


P.S: If I missed mentioning anyone's contribution, I surely didn't intend to and would want to blame it on the fatigue from running and typing a long email :)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bellandur and Lal bagh runs - taper for kaveri!

We all went to Bellandur (Off Outer ring road, after the Sarjapur road junction) for this Saturday's long run. The original plan was to meet the kids of Ananya - But, the kids were off for a week's vacation. So, we all went for a run in the bellandur trails. A nice shower made the day wonderful for running! The taper felt real good and the marathoners did 22 kms, while the half marathoners did about 16 kms. After some tense moments all of us decided to get lost in our own ways. But, I am sure we got the distance we intended to! Looks like we all have grown out of the "Did I do 0.3 kms more or less?" mode :)

On Sunday, we returned back to Lal bagh for a 13km run. Did you know that Lal bagh was founded in 1760? I think thats even before the British came here! Maybe, someone can confirm it for us.

We had breakfast at 'Kadambam' after the run at Lal Bagh. 'Thattai Idli' was pretty good and service was real fast! Just what we needed to get to the bi-weekly Asha meeting in Lal Bagh (11 AM) in time. Amongst many other things, we discussed about the idea of getting some crew support and much needed cheering support from Asha volunteers for the Kaveri marathon.

Here are the photos from the run.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Trip to Thulir - Sep 20/21.

The trip we all had been waiting for! Sep 20 and 21 were the longest runs in our training program. We travelled to an Asha supported effort, spent time there and also did the runs. This was a fun trip and an experience to remember!

About Sittlingi:

Sittlingi is a tribal village in Dharmapuri district of Tamilnadu, India. Its around 6 hrs from Bangalore. You can get more information on the exact location here

About Thulir:

"Thulir" is an Education Resource Centre at Sittilingi, for children. It is a Tamil word meaning "a tender shoot", also "to sprout". Asha has worked with Anu and Krishna over the last few years through the fellowship program. The asha fellowship program provides an avenue of supporting individuals who we believe can have a larger impact in society. Their website and blog have detailed information on their experiences over the years. Information on their fellowship can be obtained from the asha projects page (please see History section). Sanjeev and Anita have also visited them frequently. Their experiences at the project are available at their blog.

The gang started in the evening and arrived late night on the 19th at Sittlingi. I had reached Sittlingi by afternoon and scoped out the run with Senthil. We also discussed logistics for the run. Krishna and gang were awesome crew for us! So, except for Anita's mom, the rest of us were going to do the runs! There were eleven of us -
Senthil, kid from thulir

We started out early in the morning and the course was a 16km out and back on the Salem road. It was a beautiful morning with mountains in the background (note to self - next time, we should make the runners go up the mountains!). Senthil, Sanjeev, Sridhar, Thushar and I started on a fast clip. We breezed past the first couple of water holes and reached the 8km mark in about 53 mins! Sanjeev had to turn back from there, while the rest of us continued. The next 16 kms were not too bad as well. The second 8km was slightly shorter than the first 8 kms :). We met Siva on the way back and he was doing great - rock steady!. My mom, Vijay and Asha came way beyond the turnaround point of 8 kms! We saw them at 10k and asked them to turn back. Asha's shoe didn't hold up and the sole came off! Anita was her usual chirpy stuff (just wasn't hungry enough though!). Senthil did amazingly well in the run. When the sun came out towards the end, all of us had a real hard time and we all slowed down considerably. While Senthil, Sridhar and I didn't face a lot, Siva and Thushar got the brunt of it! Thushar got some extra points as he got lost and did some extra kms! We came back home for some really good rava upma for a light breakfast! Later when the whole team made it, we all got lunch and took a short nap.

In the evening, we went to Anu and Krishna's home. They gave us an introduction about their work and tour of their home (composting toilet, beautiful garden, thatched roof, creepers, mud bricks - it was just awesome!). After a lively discussion on the state of the education system, the situation in Sittlingi, Anu and krishna's experiences etc. we went out to meet the kids. The kids were making soap. They taught us the process. We then played Dingari (seven stones) with the younger kids. Later, Dr. Lalitha from the THI (Tribal Health Initiative) came by. She gave a background of Reggie and her work in Sittlingi. After which, she described the work of the Lambadi tribals. There was a huge spread of hand tailored/embroidered products from them. We had a nice time shopping! By the end of the day we spent time with the kids who were camping out at Thulir for that night (It was their monthly crafts camp!). We learnt a lot of things - making friendship bands, key chains, paper jewelery etc. The kids were great with their hands. Then the kids took turn serving dinner, cleaning up etc. We then crashed for some well earned rest!

We got up on Sunday early morning and left just as the sun came out. It was a shorter run on Sunday and though our muscles cried out the first few kms, it felt normal and maybe good :) after a short while! All of us came back home in good time and confident that the marathon/half marathon can after all be done with no concerns! Senthil was a revelation! He is an energetic and athletic kid who can run far and well! I am sure he can go faster and longer. The rest of the kids came out on this erun as well! They did about 4 kms with the elder kids guiding them. One of the elder girls was also a strong runner and was enthu about it. After the run, we took a dip in the nearby stream - the water was muddy, but we decided to not let it spoil our fun! Siva showed us some cool dives and Sridhar thought he could swim :). The dip in the cold water was just what we needed after the pounding in the last two days. After the bath and breakfast, we all spent time with the kids. We had a songs session (our stars were Siva, Anita, Anita's mom, Asha and Sanjeev) and then some discussions/introductions on what each one of us were up to. The kids were enthu about running! The plan is to have Senthil go through the basics with them and guide them to run safe. Senthil will be running the Kaveri Marathon as part of Team Asha! We all bid goodbye and thanked everyone for the wonderful hospitality shown to us. The stay at Thulir, meeting the kids and learning about the efforts made the trip worthwhile! The running, mountains, streams and the rest of the trip just made it perfect!

Photos from the trip - Santosh's camera

Photos from the trip - Santhosh's (the bald one) camera

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lal Bagh Run.

Here are photos from the Lal bagh run. Our determined runners did this right after the first Half marathon (full marathoners) and first 10K (half marathoners). We ran out of battery power and could only get a few photos. We surely would post more photos in the coming weeks.

Photos from Lal Bagh Run

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Team Asha in GKVK.

Hi Folks,

Here is my first post! Team Asha in Bangalore is doing great. We have a committed group of runners communicating through various means, training at various corners of Bangalore, Chennai and the rest of the world!

There have been a ragged bunch of us who have been meeting up every weekend and have been going through a training schedule. The Marathoners and Half-marathoners have reached the Half-way point this week! I am really inspired by our wonderful team! No frills, no cribs, just pure fun :)

We did the Half marathon distance (marathoners) and the 10K (Half marathoners) at GKVK, the closet to trails you can get in Bangalore. Its a really nice scenic location. This is an Agricultural University on NH 7 on the way to the New airport/ Hyderabad, just after the Hebbal flyover.

The run was amazing and even when the sun came out in all its glory, our team didn't let go! We had some wonderful fruits, biscuits and electrolyte drinks after the run. Thanks to my patient mom, the neatly cut juicy watermelon was just amazing! Hmm...hope all the 'no shows' are watching - you are missing a lot of good food, company and parties!

The other highlight of the run was our newly adopted unofficial mascot - GikkuVikku, who ran the complete half marathon with no training! He was enthusiastic and showed us all the knooks and corners of the GKVK trails. Unfortunately, he has a busy life and mentioned that he will be available as only the GKVK tour guide. Don't forget to say hello to him when you go to GKVK again. To know more about him contact Divya or see the photos :)

We took a few snaps on the run. I don't think I got a photo of every person. This is just what I got in the second loop. I will make sure I get a photo of everyone the next time - there are lot more runs to go :)

Photos from GKVK runs

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Conversations on a Run

Date of the run: 09-Aug-2008
Distance: ~10K

Comfortably Numb, being the coach, has to come up with new/unique ways to keep us motivated during the run. Since he feels that it is "all in the mind" and due to some "mind-distance" correlation (half of us have unfortunately forgotten most of that half an hour lecture) Santhosh decided to ensure that a steady stream of conversation is always flowing.
So with Siva (Athreya) pitching in actively and some of us getting in a word or two, we had a very "enlightening" discussion :)

For no particular reason we managed to discuss about:

1. Dogs [ Santhosh's pet topic - this was more of a monologue than a discussion ]
- Why dogs bite/bark
- Frequency of the bite/bark
- Pack mentality of dogs vs docile behavior when alone
- Santhosh's pet dog in college
- Whether a stray dog's bite is better than a pet dog's bite and the probability of its occurrence

Conclusion: Dogs bite due to "seasonal" reasons (Manohar's contribution) and due to "scientific" reasons (Santhosh's contribution) .

2. Weird Specimens at meditation camps (Siva's experiences with one such specimen who did all of the following)
- Going to meditation camps to "experiment"
- Controlling the "oracle" through meditation (or was the inability to control it?)
- Tantric/Pranic healing by looking at photos of people

3. BJP, Sri Sri Ravishankar and an existing proposal to attract "moderate Hindus" by cleaning Ganga

Oh...and the most importantly, after the run, I managed to get my first traffic rule violation ticket and actually met a police cop who I think was subtly asking for a bribe. And as always I am totally kicked about this new experience :P

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

About Team Asha

We are a bunch of runners, some of us volunteers of Asha Bangalore, who are training together to run long distances. While training for a half/full/ultra marathon is a challenge in itself, we all have also pledged to raise funds for the different social efforts Asha Bangalore supports.

We are curently training for the Kaveri Trail marathon (Oct 19, 2008) and the Bangalore Ultra (Nov 16, 2008). We run 3-4 times every week and try to meet up for the weekend runs. This blog will be a space for all runners to share experiences with other runners and the (runner)' world :D