LSOM by Pune Running – The Run which changed the Running Culture of Pune
Chances are if you ask any regular runner in Pune about where they ran their first Distance Run, the answer would be at Pune Running’s LSOM. LSOM or Last Sunday of the Month run is a unique event organized by Pune Running, on as the name suggests the last Sunday of the Month.
It is a simple no frills run organized by runners for runners. LSOM is a free run with a request of a voluntary donation of Rs 100 – voluntary, not mandatory. The LSOM which started in March 2011 is now a regular affair with about 500 odd participants running in every edition.
LSOM was perhaps the first structured attempt to promote group running in Pune. With no mandatory registration fees it has given an opportunity to hundreds of runners to do their first 10k or their first 21k. It has been perhaps for many of us the first event where we tasted the Adrenalin rush of running in a Race as opposed to just a practice run. And that is where we got addicted, because you knew there was another one coming around the corner.
The LSOM converted running from just a Sport to a Passion – – an addiction as every LSOM brought new challenges. Either the terrain was different, the course was difficult or you did your PB and wanted to improve your timings. Additionally, the regularity of the event ensured a schedule to look forward to
In five years since the first edition of LSOM in March 2011 a lot has changed with so many events now happening. But it was quite different in 2010 and2011 when it all started.
Let me give you an idea of the running culture in Pune circa 2010. For all practical purposes there wasn’t any. Pune University back then in 2010 was devoid of any serious running activity. There could be that occasional runner but it was mostly senior citizens doing their morning walks or the cricketand football enthusiasts doing a warm up run. The roads of Pune were also not troubled by too many runners. Good for theGreat Indian Driver.
It was in this background that Pune Running was formed by some running wannabes in 2010. It was a small group of 20 30 runners who met on Sundays to run atthe Pune university. Way back in 2010 we at Pune running had just heard of something called a full marathon which was 42 Km from Vivek Prasad and he was the only runner we knew who had actually run one.
All in all Pune had just a bunch of running enthusiasts with as far as I remember Pune Running being the only running group google threw up in a search result.
Fast Forwarding to early 2011. Mahesh one of the founders of Pune running was bored. He had signed up for a race in May 2011 in Ottawa, Canada, and needed a bridge from Mumbai Marathon. After running an inaugural Thane run (don’t know if it still exists) in February, he knew the only way to get a decent time at Ottawa was to keep training.
We had been running for now over a year but somehow we were not feeling challenged. Also summers were approaching and running during the summer months would be tough. We needed a reason to put on our running shoes at least three four times a week. Mahesh came out with an idea which in hindsight I realize was brilliant. “Let’s do a six month challenge. We will run 21 km every month for six months”.
Everybody else bought in and we planned our first event on March 27, 2011. A few of us did recce of the routes and we decided to run from the university to Chandni Chowk on towards NDA and back. 10.5 km one way, out and back. The route was quite challenging with the steep incline from Bavdhan to Chandni Chowk. Here is the route which was used for the run http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=487533
We did not have much experience of organizing events but we were clear that we needed to have proper support with Water, Banana, Gatorade and Biscuits.After we sent out messages to whoever we knew we were able to gather tons of volunteers – just kidding, actually three. We also cobbled up support by recruiting Mahesh’s driver, Daljit’s watchman and driver as well.
After lot of brainstorming sessions we decided the locations of the volunteers and how they would travel by bikes to be available on multiple points. Thus emerged the concept of support on a bike – a volunteer with water, bananas, a spray, etc who would patrol the route looking for folks in need.
Finally we gathered at 5:45 at the University end of Pashan road for the first edition of the monthly run which would later be christened as LSOM. There were around 20 odd people who dared to show up and we ran it all mostly together.
It was then also even with just six Volunteers flawlessly done. The Race started at exact 6 am as planned. There was support throughout the route with adequate water and Gatorade. The Volunteers as they were runners themselves tried their best to egg on the runners. Everybody waited at the finish line to cheer in the other runners. All in all a great event.
At this time we had no clue how much money was required to organize the event so we looked at the expenses, opened our wallets and contributed. At some point, we stuck on Rs 500 per person. Sometimes we would have money left over – most times, one of us would put in the deficit and on we went to the next LSOM.
Later we realized that we needed the events to be cheap for people to start running. So we got it down to Rs 100 and finally to a voluntary contribution so that you did not pay if you could not afford it. Amazingly we have almost always collected as much or even more than the runners because many people would put in Rs 200 and even Rs 500 to support running.
LSOM after this became a regular event only taking halts when there were too many events already happening in Pune. We found that while in training wecould only get few people to attend, our LSOMs were always heavily subscribed with over 500 runners turning up. Somehow an event is able to attract many more runners than a practice session is able to.
Over time LSOM became the most popular place to do your first 10K or your first 21K and people cherished the certificates they got at the end.
The other big innovation happened when we got kicked out of Pashan Road and simultaneously out of the University which has been our home turf for a while.Nikhil Shah one of the other founders of Pune Running, wanted to bring running closer to people so that they did not have to travel an hour just to take part in an event. So we started organizing the event in different places in the city. One month it was Kothrud, next month it was Koregaon Park, next month Viman Nagar and then back to Aundh. We went all over the city organizing LSOMs in different places giving newer runners a chance to take part in an event.
Yes, LSOM is a very basic event but it has created a lot of runners, more than some of the glitzy events because it is still the most amazing Event and very close to the heart of 100s of runners who remember their first Distance Run.
There are many reasons why LSOM is still an amazing format and would love to get more comments on this:
Spot Registration:Register if you can but we will accommodate you even if you just turn up. It is still one of the very few events which allow a Spot Registration five minutes before the event.
Arrived Late:You came in late, no problem put on your running shoes and run. Don’t know the route, no problem – it is marked and there is a Volunteer at every possible turn. And hey if you get lost no harm you will have a run a few extra kilometers.
Low Costs:Just pay Rs 100. You can’t pay that, no sweat, we still love you. Just come and run.
Low Travel:You don’t want to travel to run, No problem we come to your home. Join the LSOM which is close to your home.
Certificate:Get a Certificate, so that you can remember your first Run. Still cherished by most runners. Jitendra Patil has decorated his whole office with his past certificates.
And the big thing – we always took pictures and posted them on our Pune Running Facebook page – folks who did their first 5K could brag to their friends,family, work colleagues and as the number of likes grew, so did their engagement with running – from 5K to 10K to 21K to 42K to ultras – each step recorded and liked 🙂 So you can go to Pune Running Page on Facebook and see the photos from all the old LSOM’s.
Of course it goes without saying that LSOM always starts on Time, there is always enough water and food and you will find an enthusiastic cheering squad when you finish the run.
Vikas Kumar is a regular marathon runner and one of the founder members of PUNE RUNNING. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mahesh Narkar is a regular marathon runner and one of the founder members of PUNE RUNNING. He can be reached at email@example.com
To know more about Pune Running and take part in an LSOM visit the Pune Running Page on Facebook