24th March 1966 was the day I was brought on to this planet. This year I celebrated my 50th birthday. One to remember for a lifetime.
Those who know me well call me a “limited edition” model with some manufacturing defects built in. I don’t blame them as I always have this itch to do crazy things. It was indeed a crazy idea to run 50km on my 50th birthday.
I shared this crazy idea with Aparna Prabhudesai, my running buddy, the inspiration of our group, the “pusher” and a very dear friend. Her first reaction, as expected, was – “YES- Great idea, you can do it…I will run with you too”. I was very pleased and nervous too. When Aparna decides to do something she will make it happen, no matter what.
Aparna has always believed in my physical and mental endurance capacity and has always encouraged me to take up higher and higher challenges. I was running for many years but she was the one who helped me break the 10km mental barrier and subsequently, the 25km barrier too.
We weighed all factors and decided that Tuesday 22nd March (yeah, a weekday!) would be the D-Day.
The Support Factor
The running community is an altogether different breed. Everyone here is full of positivity and friendliness irrespective of individual age, gender, region, background, profession. We are like those bees attracted to common beehive called RUNNING.
When Aparna shared our plan on “RUNway” (a sub-group of PUNE RUNNING at Viman Nagar) volunteers lined up to support us. Godsend angels!
Start at Joggers park Viman Nagar- go down towards Nagar – back to jogger Park – through Viman Nagar loop – to Kalyani Nagar- to Mundwa – Ghorpadi Road- Kharadi road – Back to Koregaon Park lanes.
On 22nd March 2016, we met at Phoenix Mall signal at 2.50am and went to Kalyani Nagar to Park Aparna’s scooter (our one of the water stations) & returned in my car to Joggers Park at Viman Nagar (my car was to be the second water station). After warm-up & stretches, we started our run at sharp 3.30am after a shot of GU energy gel.
Weather was cool, nice breeze, as we jogged through Phoenix Mall east court on Nagar Road at an easy pace of 7min/Km. We were at a “Conversational speed” and discussed various topics from social transformation, global economy, to how to save the country & the world & the planet. Gosh!
We crossed 10K mark ahead of Wagheshwari Temple and turned back from there.
Had another shot of GU Gel at 10K mark and started heading back to Joggers Park-Viman Nagar.
At 14K mark we reached Decathlon by 5.50am and were greeted with loud cheers by our first supporter- Gitanjalee, with her son & son’s friend. We re-filled our water bottles and got some Enerzal.
The previous night Gitanjalee worked in 2nd shift and reached home past midnight. Yet she was there at Decathlon at sharp 5.45am to support us. Can’t thank her enough.
We continued our run towards Joggers Park and reached Phoenix Mall East Court by 6.15am. Gitanjalee had moved there to support us. Some re-energizing and selfies later, we reached Joggers Park.
We completed 21k and Aparna screamed “Only 29K left!”
The challenge part had begun. The first was a mild hamstring pull for Aparna. She continued though, bravely, as we passed Symbiosis & Ramwadi. At Symbiosis corner our RUNway gang (Aakriti, Ashish, Sumitra, Sam, Mitul & many others) joined us. We reached Kalyani Nagar where Aparna’s scooter was parked as a hydration point.
After a quick re-fill, we were on our way towards Kharadi on Mundwa road. The RUNway gang stayed with us for 10km. Mitul. however, continued with us for the rest of the run and eventually completed his longest distance run of 33km.
At around 7.15am when the 3 of us were cruising at a steady pace of 7:20-7:30 min/km on Ghorpadi Road, there arrived our second supporter on scooter- Daman. We had a quick hydration break and continued. Traffic was on the rise and it became difficult to run past the signals. The sun started having its effect. We turned back to Koregaon Park (KP) Lanes and run in lanes under foliage.
Daman was hovering around us on scooter in all directions and kept our spirits high with her non-stop flow of witty comments and ensuring that we remain hydrated..
By the time we entered KP it was 8:15am & we were through with 35Km. We took a quick toilet break at KP Joggers Park and continued the run.
Mitul had completed 20km by now and yet he was running strong in his mind and body- amazing boy.
Aparna’s problems increased. She got cramps in the groin and quadricepts. She was seriously considering quitting but dragged herself along.
Last Leg in KP
With 15km to go we were running up and down the 1km length in KP lanes. With an average pace of 7:30-8:00 min/km, we were on target to hit 50K by 10:00 to 10:15am.
Shailesh joined us now as a volunteer replacement for Daman.
It is blissful to run in KP lanes at any time of the day. Near zero traffic, huge trees with blossoming spring flowers and birds chirping.
We were cheered on by Manjiri Latey and some more friends of Aparna who were returning from their morning walk.
By 9:00am, I realized that we had run the full marathon distance of 42.2km. And finally, as planned, we reached 50K by 10:08 am at Lane 3 of KP. Thus we completed 50Km in 6 Hours & 38 Min.
There was a feeling of immense achievement, satisfaction & happiness. I hugged Aparna and Mitul who were equally thrilled and happy.
I realized yet again why runners say distance running is a humbling experience.
Much to my surprise I was feeling fine. Just the normal aches & stiffness, a little fatigued and somewhat hungry.
Ashish & Sumitra were there to congratulate us. We had selfie & photo session.
And then we proceeded for a sumptuous breakfast at Kalyani Veg.
I have no words to thank Aparna, Mitul, Gitanjalee, Daman, Shailesh, who actively supported this run and also many other runner friends from RUNway, who were cheering, encouraging and praying for our success.
A few learnings from my experience of running 50k –
- Ultra running is more mental than physical. It requires strong determination, will and patience.
- Strength training helped me a lot- especially endurance building through TABATA and plyometric workouts and core-abs workout. For that I am thankful to my coaches – Coach Daniel Vaz(Mumbai) and Utpal Burman.
- Planning plays a key role in long distance running- planning of route, timing & pacing strategy, hydration strategy, energy supplements. Three days before the run I could visualize the entire route.
- Food eaten and rest taken before the run matters a lot.
- Emotional support is critical. In my case it was Aparna who encouraged and guided me throughout the run despite her own problems. The support by RUNway members made this possible.
It was a memorable 50K run for me, Aparna & Mitul (Mitul ran about 33K) just before the day I was to turn 50 Years and I consider it as a unique gift that I received from my running buddies, supporters and all friends of RUNway & PUNE RUNNING.
Ashutosh Nadkarni is a Pune-based runner.
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