130 Days of Celebration of Training : My Journey of First Comrades - 87Kms Up Run- Mumkin Hai !!
Updated: Jun 30, 2019
Isko Laga Daala toh life Zhinga lala ………At around 63rd km around 5th Cutoff point , my cramp was nowhere to be easing , in one of the unofficial medical aid , one of the spectator applied a zhingaat balm on my cramping leg and to spread the same , I too helped her , the traces remained and then after 15 mins I adjusted my shorts from everywhere without thinking of traces of balm on my hand ……………..rest they say is history …. Bahut jalan hua bhai ……kahan matt puccho….
Pace badd gaya and I crossed the finish line.
Like in the movie where Amitabh Bachan was shamed “Mera Baap Chor hai “ , with me the common line remained “ Slow runner hai aur O Shaped hai “ ……
When I signed up for comrades , there were few hush hush ….. even trump called for the meeting of his senates and Putin went on leave with his girlfriend ….. in India Narendra Modi won the election ….
Some even saying , I will go to Durban for Sightseeing and not actual running . But the fact is I gave my arse , I gave my everything for this , I had read a great quote “ I can do it , I must do it , I want to do it and I will do it , story over” . This quote remained with me day in and day out till I crossed the finish line .
It all started 2 years back , when I decided to focus on my body weight and timings , had been running for 10 years plus and 16 FMs , 110 Plus HMs and 10KMs. . Earlier I use to run easy , pacing in most of the races …. to the tune that I was labelled “Social Runner”.
So it was all about continual improvement, my journey started with Viv Menon being my coach , since we knew each other , he studied my Garmin timings , my overall well being and the journey started .
In the year 2018 during Mumbai FM thus crossed my first Sub 5 i.e 4.52 something from a timing of my first FM 6.10 something , which was a great moment for me . Subsequently I started believing in me and reduced my training junk miles to more focused running which included speed training and tempo training . (Trust me I am a big fan of speed and tempo training) . In the two years to come till Jan 2019 , had a great time in the events having a good outing at 10kms getting my PB in 54.40 Mins and bagging Second Position in Corporate Category in year 2018 and the first position in same category in the year 2019 with 53.30 something . I drastically reduced running in the events .
So the same question was asked to me in Nov 2018 are you going for comrades 2019 . This time the reply was yes , since I knew this was my fittest best . Thanks to my mentor and icon Satish Sir , who is one of the ambassador of the running as a sports . Am sure most of you have read his story from being a chain smoker to legend (Read in TheyInspire) . When I expressed my desire , he said gohaead but with a promise that you will give your best in training , since lots would be at stake since most of the people believe that you are not a comrades material and you have to prove them wrong.
I was knowing lots would be at stake , but kahin yeh bhi pata tha “Fauji Hun”.
I qualified for comrades with Ahmedabad Adani Marathon with a timing of 4.46 cut off for comrades was 4.50 . It was a touch and go qualifier since couldn’t get hydration support during last 10kms which made the run bit worse. Thanks to buddy and lifecoach Bobby for returning back on route after his HM and pacing me for the last 5kms .
4.46 means you get the last wave in Comrades ( So I got H Wave – which is the last wave in comrades line up) . I wanted to better it at Mumbai TMM but it turned out to be a disaster clocking 5.01 in the infamous Mumbai TMM surprise weather .
Training : -
Post TMM , Viv messaged me , bhai what about comrades training . I mentioned him wanted to start at the earliest but there is a problem.
“People say I cant do it “ , He replied “Ok then lets do it “ .
But please be dedicated , determined and disciplined . Do share your daily garmin Mileages. To me Viv is one of the most scientific coaches , who believes in data . Can you believe, he has predicted my timings more or less in all the event I ran in last two years including comrades (where he said Ho jaayega on the penultimate day of the race) .
Celebration of Training : Mala and Mom would be up before me most of the days , many a time mala waking me up , its time . I required this pep up since many days body would rebel , a black coffee and day begins.
My first day at training was 28th January , I still remember running a 7kms and panting because the weather was bit tough . Comrades training for me was all about mileage , being a slow runner . Within 10 days of mileage , one of the days I felt that my body was crying , I woke up with a lower back spasm and feeling extremely tired . I knew something somewhere was wrong. Figured out that somewhere Nutrition was not upto mark . I started concentrating on what I am eating and what I am too eat. Started feasting on egg whites and chicken . Dal became a staple in my diet .
Beetroot juice became a part of my life. My dear friend Ritu had advised me on benefit of BeetRoot juice .She would also say “ training hard its fine , but if you don’t cross finish line no one remembers your efforts”. It remained with me during my training days , crossing matter.
Day 1 my urine showed red color , was not aware that I had beetjuice in the morning . I thought my liver or kidney would have torn because of the training . Started having plenty of water ( I am not use to have water neat ….. very often ) .
From day 1 , I use to post my workout with some model shoot angle on Did You Run today and MRR Active . Two of the lead photographers who clicked me for 130 days were Kantilal Tea Stall Owner and RadheShyam who works as a security guard . They both can go professional now …..bahut photo nikale , to the tune that they did not stop till they got a great angle – “Sir Saans Keecho Andar”. The biggest issue with photos were the right angle of shoot , nahi toh assets dikh jaate ( in my case my stomach ).
Days went on , everyday was a run and minimum run use to be a 10kms , combination of hills , flats , long runs …..everyweek Viv was building me up to higher mileages next week . Within weeks , results were their to see . I started loosing inches ( hello….dont imagine …..waist ke inches) . My Cardio Vascular fitness was getting better .
Babu : My buddy , my first friend from the running community and now we are brothers . A person who call spade a spade . Even when I was running comrades , he was abusing me on watsapp , not happy with the way I was running .
Babu , was my engine during training . He would be at designated place before me in the morning and would run along . Hill , flat , speed or long runs , he use to be there. At days when I never use to see his morning watsapp ping I use to feel liberated and glad , I never use to call or ping him back ….. I knew today I can run as per my mastii pace . Thank you Babu …..you owe me a party (rather than I giving …..heheheh) . Remember , the hills of yogi you discovered for my training, thanks again .
My brothers Ajay is a marathoner and would check on me , my little brother Sanjay started running during my training days.
My buddies at GoS were my lifeline. Reji delayed his returning back to Bahrain to train with me, we ran many runs together , Bobs wud come with the hydration and nutrition support on Sundays , PC would keep his car on EEH with hydration , Murali ran with me according to my pace , Abhi and Pankhs ran with me for few runs . Other guys were travelling Pranav , Rajesh but they would keep me wishing and checking on my training .
In the meanwhile, I had to travel for work to Dubai, I managed to register for 3 Emirates Run and ran with buddy Pratik Desai , who is a champion (A comrades and a Triathlete) . He shared lots of insight during that 32kms run and also in general about comrades , the day after 3 emirates run when I landed in Mumbai I had to run Navi Mumbai HM since had registered for the same long back . Can you believe I clocked my first sub 2 after running 100s of HM and 15 odd FMs and could do in 1.58.59 .
It signaled me I am getting better . Days went on , each day I would post a picture about my run along with Garmin Timing.
Then came Tata Ultra 50K , somewhere I knew this event will give me my standing , I ran it very well without any cramps and as per the expected plan . A 6.16 in that terrain means I was inline for comrades. . This was my first long run of training plan .
By now running 32 or 42 or 45 had become weekend activity . Running in hot , humid Mumbai weather was a blessing in disguise . My mileages were being registered and I was pretty happy how my body could cope . One of the issue with me was when I get tired I feel drowsy being a hypothyroid . Many a times I would not feel fresh while driving to office , this indicated lack of sleep ( and trust me I cudnt do anything about my sleep ) unfortunately didn’t get or rather manage to get gud sleep during these days . (First mistake of my training towards comrades) .
Second long run was of 65kms at lonavala , somewhere for novice comrades runner it’s a big test of mind since this particular run gives you a feeler of where you stand . I was lucky since Satish sir agreed to pace . 04 of us ran this 65kms together and what a beautiful run it was . Could complete it in 8.16 and in my mind this was make or break . I had promised myself if I clock anything greater than 9 for this run , I will withdraw . I started wearing India Tshirt after this self decider.
Third run was of 56kms and this was again paced by Satish sir , 06 of us completed the same together in 7.02 . Thank you Satyendra , Santosh , Shailesh, Gitanjali for running along .
Satish sir paced us so beautifully and giving us whole lot of information on what to do and what not to do during the run.
Throughout my training , I never had negativity in mind . I am a avid reader , while this journey I read a book by dear friend Ravi Nair , who himself is a runner and fitness enthusiast . The book is titled “Weekend Miracles” . Boyyy…. This book changed my entire outlook . Book speaks on positivity and also on the power of visualization . I started practicing positive visualization backed by a strong training . Day in and dayout I started visualizing , how I am crossing the finish line . I started seeing comrades videos on youtube regularly and also spoke to many friends who had attempted or successfully completed the comrades earlier .
Satish sir was the biggest influencer to me. I have many dear friends and awesome individuals who I would speak to Col Sundaresan sir – inspite of his busy schedule , he would find time to chat with me . Hari sir for all the inputs . Suresh bro thanks for many runs together. My dear friend Hetal Thakker she was one who gave lots and lots of insight. My inspiration Vandana Parekh she is one person I look upto and use to pep me whenever she use to see my training . Poonam Dahiya , she was a constant source of motivation and would review the entire route and what not to do and what to do .Neha Lodha , we discussed comrades pretty often . Vidya Shah , I call her chechi and she was the one who mentioned me last year that I can do easily with training . Pratik I would chat with him to feel easy and get insight . Taru Mam , I am so inspired by her and Chandan sir . Falgun , he was crewing during lonavala run and gave me lots of insight . Kiran Giri , probably he was one after Satish sir , who motivated me to go for comrades after sharing his experience . That day probably I made my mind , I will have to do this (thank you Kiran) . Thank you Ash for all the insights on the watsapp group . Like Satish , there is Shyam Lata, Dilip Patil sir , Sangeeta - Thank you for your message - do it for your akka, Sunil Shetty ,Amit Seth , Pervin , Vaijyanti mam, Tushar , Deepak Budhrani , Mahesh Nagwekar , Sandesh , Namdeo sir , Kranti Salvi , Satyendra , Nitin Sir , Ashish Gandhi , Dr Anand Patil Shailesh Shah, Dr Oak . Thank you Deepak Sir from Striders and team Striders, Samson sir and Team Run Indian Run . Dan sir . Lalit Bhai would send his workout and his recovery inputs to me . The strong Indian Contingent was a constant source of inspiration .
With all inputs and with the power of visualization where in I was seeing myself in India Tshirt with Flag in Hand and with a crisp Naval Salute crossing the finish line . I did cross the finish line in similar fashion , however there was one story which happened of helping a fellow runner (part of life , any one of us would have done that) .
One of the training days , when I came home as I removed my tshirt (don’t imagine , chest ke hair dikhenge) , shloka mentioned papa there are heat boils all over . Running in such horrible weather made skin susceptible .
Injury Scare happened some 2 months in to training . I started getting pain near the plantar area . For few days I thought the race is over . But then have great physio friends to bank upon Nikhil Lathey, Rajani Patil , Abhishek Bangera and Akshay Wagh . They were my constant guides for the aches and pains . I use to take regular sports massage from Prashant Dhuri and Sagar . Sports massage helped a lot to ease the fatigue . I broke in to new adidas Ultra boost (thank you Adidas for sending across).
Fastandup is my hydration partner . Most of the days my prerun use to be Black Coffee, Almonds and Banana/Peanut Butter . During Run it use to be FUP reload and Gels , Post run use to be Whey Protein and BCAA . I use to have intermittent coke during the very long runs. Thank you Vijay , Pavitra , Varada , Aarti , Aditya .
2 Months in to the run , most of the morning goers started recognizing me on the road and use to wonder at the comrades distance when they use to enquire why I run daily . Silently, they may be wishing a prayer too for me .
Work at office was keeping me on toe . Thanks to my colleagues and also the support I got from my work place was tremendous and as I write this , my office is still celebrating the achievement.
I started loosing weight and when i stood on the start line , I was 6.5kgs lighter from the day I started training . This was the first time in 11 years I kissed 82kgs.
Diet : I never followed a diet plan per say, but would avoid extras , avoided red meat throughout only once when we went to Mohammed Ali road , feasted during Iftaar.
Drinks - I started cutting off from parties and the parties I use to go , I use to have beer that too 01 or 02 . Avoided hard drinks . One of the GoS parties before I was to leave for Comrades I just had Tomato Juice.
Three weeks before the race , I had my family vacation planned to Singapore. Many of my friends said it was a wrong move . But , family time is also a must and since it was vacation time for daughter . Thanks to my brother in law , he booked me near Mount Faber, which meant I was to get hills to train and boy it was an awesome decision . Out of the 6 days of vacation , I cud run 4 days that too mostly Hills . During the day we use to walk in the amusement parks etc and my leg was getting mileages.
It was time for the ultimate show and the day neared. We reached airport wearing comrades India Jacket , it was a proud moment . A total of 16 hours flight including 03 lay overs and we were in Durban.
I shared the room with awesome athletes Tushar, Shankar Thapa and Hiten, we had gala time and great bonding. Thanks Hiten for all the arrangements. Team India arrived in Durban from across the corner of the country.
We did our beach promenade run on 07th June Morning , trust me the mere sight of this run is enough to make you pulverize to comeback again and again .. I was lucky to be in the company of some awesome runners whom I look up to Hari Sir , Suresh , Preeti Lala, Reena , Dinesh . We had a great time being together most of the time.
On 07th we went for expo, trust me, the comrades expo is at different level. Had a great time meeting and greeting fellow athletes. I was in awe of the south African runners and other international runners on seeing on how they enjoyed the process of running.
Some moments will be etched in life forever and lining up for comrades was one such experience . I was wearing a jacket and my face was covered with Tata Ultra Bandana to avoid the cold .
Since I had a timing of 4.45 FM , I was allotted the H wave . As the National Anthem and Shozolala, chariots of fire played it was a goose bump moment . Then the cock cry to announce the start of the race. Race was flagged off . My 2nd learning was qualify for comrades with a better wave , since the timing in comrades is calculated from the Gun Time . At times I felt nobody was moving . I was advised by many to move in to the earlier wave , but you deserve what you qualified that’s the spirit of sportsman ship . So by the time I reached start line i.e 0km I was already some 10 mins plus down. So technically I had only 11.50 Mins . Start was further crowded and 1st Km you could only walk . So my technical first km was around 20 mins .
I was a bit worried since the first cutoff was 2.40 for a 18.60 kms and the route was only inclines. Since I was attired in National Colors , the crowd was cheering for India and were pronouncing my name too hey Beeejayyy ….. run maan … at 9th Km I got rid of my jacket and gave to a needy (Suresh you will remember the jacket ) . The ascent to infinity started and thanks to the sea of runners , only sight which was visible was the doling heads , some ponnies , some shining baldness and if you dare to look back there was a sea converging on you , it was like you are engulfed in Tsunami , yes tsunami of runners , different colors, creed and sex .
I had a gel plan in place . 01 gel and 200 ml of reload in each hour and solid food post 2hrs along with gel and water . Further , my ascent up , my only goal was to go past first cut off in decent time at Pine town . The moment I crossed first cut off I had 15 mins in hand , so my ticket from Durban to Calicut stands cancelled here , know I could come to Mumbai , atleast first cutoff clear hua .
There in the hills never ended. Second Cut off was at 29. 51 Kms and I crossed the same at Winston park with almost good time in hand , around 35th km a niggle started on my right quads , which was pretty unusual , since it never happened during my training runs , I treaded in carefully on uphill . The crowd support was amazing and the route refreshments were fully loaded. I had targeted 42kms at 5.10 Mins , coach had advised a 5.20 , however due to anticipated niggle , I went conservative and crossed 42kms in 5.28 and the halfway 43.5kms somewhere in 5.42 , so I had gained an edge of 30 mins here . Cramps started showing its severity now , because from here on was the killer hills of Inchanga . Its like Peddar road X 25 times . I braved running at few places , most of the people were walking , but I had dared to run few mtrs with cramps . At around 52nd Km I started cramping badly , I feared , however it went through but I knew I will get over it .
Thanks to Shailesh Karkera , an amazing runner , he helped me to run again during that difficult time , we both ran together few kms . He advised me to moveahead , since he was cramping . Reluctantly I moved .
Hydrated enough , followed gel strategy and unleashed the pickle juice . Pickle Juice is a immediate cramp release . Had never tried before , had bought in the expo and had no intention of having it unless forced too. I opened the sachet and gulped it . Saala , gandha tha . Cramp continued , but I observed cramp fading . I ran with many of my fellow runners Santosh , Vijay , Ameeth, Anshu , Sachin, Gautam , Chandrakant . The next Cut off was at 57th Kms and I cud go past in a decent time .
As I was at 63rd Km , a bike ambulance was trailing me , he thought I may require medical attention because of limping . I was impressed with the way medics track you , the moment they feel you are not fit to run , they just cut short your run and pack you .
This was the time when I ran with a local lady runner, we spoke about running and other things about india, she said I want to marry an Indian and smiled at me, mastii mein , I ran fast thereafter , where was the cramps heheheh and the balm helped me too.
Next cut off was at 65th Km and had decent time advantage at CatoRidge . It was walk run most of the time , admist the chant of India , viraat kohli , Amitabh bacchan , Narendra Modi , Surya etc .
Around 75th Km an incline did welcome us , I was asking fellow runners and enroute supporters whether this was polly shots , some one mentioned It will embrace you later , but this is little polly . BC said me . What was that asked some one “I just said BenStokes , great all rounder he Is “
Then it was climb to heaven and polly was like up up up up …up up …… around 79.80 kms crossed the final cut off at Umlass road , which also happened to be the highest point in the Comrades route .
My Garmin was choking and with all its might tried its last pumping in and it konked off distance reading 80.91kms and 11:00: 14 . Distance was 1.6kms more in my Garmin . Since had a H wave and some route gain .
Last cutoff done , now I had almost 7kms and an hour plus precisely 62 mins soomething .
My Zone started here . If you know my pattern of running , my strongest mileages are last 8kms plus in all my long races . Route had eased out now.
Remember the Romeo Boy of Matheran , he entered my soul . I was running good, then very good and then was at a tempo pace ….. I was checking the timing with fellow runners since my Garmin had konked off by Now.
The beauty of comrades is that the kms are shown in reverse way i.e at start it is 87kms to go and then on it decreases in descending order …… till it shows 1km to go .
When I checked timing again post 2kms to go mark , I knew I had done it , trust me cant write the feeling which I was going through .
All friends tracking me should have seen a sudden surge on tracker . I was at 5.50 to 6.10 pace . My expected finish time was 11.52 somewhere but at 2kms around I knew it could be around 11.40 if run at the same pace .
My joy knew no bound , when I unfurled the flag , the tricolor , one of the respected and the thing for all of us . I shed tears of joy , with tricolor over my shoulders . This moment as I explained , I had visualized , I had lived for 130 days . Dream of every athlete , dream of every amateur runners .
I was running at great pace amongst the cheer of lovely people who were in the race course along the finish line , the marker showed 1km to go , I had around 24 odd minutes , I wanted to run fast just embrace the finish line with a crisp Naval Salute and then …………….
I saw an athlete who was ahead of me , about to fall , he balanced himself and got grounded . I was just behind him . I don’t know what thought went through , I went by and lifted him on my right shoulder , another south African athlete joined . All 3 of us walked for around 300 to 400 mtrs and then he had to stop . By now , he had given up . Interesting thing was I was requesting many runners to help , probably cut off was catching up in everybody’s mind . I could hear fellow runners and spectators cheering for 3 of us . To me It was a moment to remember I was to become part of his bravery soon , he is my unsung hero .
As I asked someone , how much time was left , I knew we spent around 8 to 10 mins for that 400 mtrs . With a pause of 1 more min , 3 of us moved again and meanwhile a runner joined on hearing my call (the video which was circulated widely I.e part 2 of the incident) . We moved further 100mtrs however , he couldn’t move further , we urged him to move . Unfortunately he was not in a further position to drag . With a heavy heart had to move further towards finish line . Sorry Mate .
I could see the finish line with the timer from faraway . This was the moment I have lived for these 130 days , I dreamt for , Mala, Mom, dad and shloka dreamt for , my brothers , sister in laws had dreamt for , my GOS had dreamt for , My coach had dreamt for , my friends and well wishes across various running groups had dreamt for …. My soul had dreamt for……
I kissed in air to salute the almighty , I remembered every one who was part of this journey , emotions running high , I kissed the tricolor and with a Crisp Naval Salute , I earned the tag Comrade . Time Read 11.48.49
Running comrades is a process of transformation in those 12 hrs , I went through sea of emotions. Happiness , ecstay, sorrow , euphoria , pain , triumph - endorphin , serotonin everything just went past and mixed in brain creating a chemical lochaa …..
Mumkin Hai…. Visualise it ….. train for it….if I can do it ……each one of us ……. “Fauji Hun”.
Gratitude and Thank you . I may have not replied to each one of your message , but thanks for following my training , keeping me in your prayers ….. this is the essence of running and the making of a runner.
Thanks to the community I belong, GOS (This is where I belong ) , MMA (My training grp) MRR, DYRT and the running fraternity across.