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Uno dos Tres-my maiden ultra (by Manasi Samudra – ultra marathoner)

The other day while running with a group of friends, one of the runners asked me, “Since when have you been running?” Jokingly I replied, “Pretty much since when I was born.”  Well, yes I was always a sports enthusiast playing Basketball in School and Junior college and later indulging in bit of Running, Gym and even learnt Yoga in a bid to stay fit. Post-delivery though, my confidence hit an all-time low what with life having taken a completely new meaning.

Finally, I managed to register for my first ever Running event, 4km in my locality in 2012.  I had been practicing on and off but didn’t feel I was ready to register for 10km.  The only aim at the time was to be able to run the 4km stretch throughout.  Boy was I proud when I managed to achieve it. So what if I didn’t even know the timing. Confidence boosted, I went on to run my first 10k the subsequent year.  Another 10k was to follow to improve my timing but destiny had other things in store. J

Egged on by a friend I ended up registering for my first Half Marathon (21km) at the SCMM in 2014.  Once registered I started training in earnest.  I joined some runner groups on Facebook to help boost my knowledge.  In the interim, I registered for a 15km run at the PRBM event in October since it felt a bit easier than jumping straight to 21k.  I ran my very first 15 km at the event and stood Second in Women’s Category.

Confidence boosted, I took that first step of meeting Comrades Finisher Roshni Rai whose Mumbai Runner Girls group I had joined on Facebook two years ago.  Aided by her advice and support I ran and finished my first Half Marathon in 2:06 minutes.  I started running regularly with her on Sundays.  Then I enrolled for my first Full Marathon (42km) at the SCMM 2015 encouraged by Roshni based on my running background.  It was loads of fun doing Sunday long runs together and going to different places in Mumbai meeting other runners while training for the event.  I did my First Full Marathon in January 2015 completing it in 4:33 minutes and even stood 13th in my Category.

Enjoying the success of my FM with no other plans except to run the next FM in Jan 2016 I was back to running in my locality.  Luckily I met Ultra couple Sunil and Sangeeta Shetty after one such run.  Sunil encouraged me to participate in the Mumbai Ultra promising to guide me in the training.  Once I saw the schedule I decided to give it my best shot.

In the interim I met other novice runners who were going to attempt the same.  We started interacting and supporting each other during our training period bolstered by Sunil’s mentorship throughout.  I followed the training schedule pretty much throughout except for a small stumbling block when I got some knee pain in June as I had neglected my Strength Training routine.  Luckily it was a minor injury and I resumed with a bit of change in the Schedule.  The best time was our longest training run.  Fortunately, we were able to participate in the 8 hrs event organized by the Runtastics Dil Se team.  A fabulously organized timely event where all of us 12 hour runners got that much needed boost of confidence.

All set post the Taper; Carb-loading, Hydration and Rest in the last 3 days just as before every Marathon, 15th August, the day of the Mumbai Ultra finally dawned.  We friends went together to Shivaji Park for the event.  After joking around and meeting up with friends; some old, some new we got down to warm up and stretching.

On the dot of 5 am we started our Run. Sachin and I had decided to run together as we had more or less the same strategy. Shouting and cheering everyone we enjoyed running along with some Running Stalwarts and other novice runners like us.  It was highly inspiring to see “the so called” elderly runners breezing along with smiles on their faces.  The most awesome sight was to see a runner pair on wheelchairs doing the 12 hrs event along with us.  The camaraderie was wonderful with the runners, volunteers, policemen, kids and even people on the street cheering and giving high fives.

The arrangements were fabulous with plenty of water stations and even physiotherapists and medical aid stations well taken care of.  Post every loop we underwent a weight and BP check and were allowed to resume only once everything was fine.  We were pampered to the core- Bananas, Boiled Potatoes, Salted Groundnuts, Wafers, Idli, Dosa, Dates, Jaggery, Rock Salt, Watermelon on Ice. You name it they had it.  Of course there was Enerzal and Water and even Red Bull to take care of our Hydration needs.  Basically we had a ball eating and drinking our way throughout.

As decided, post 3 loops we took a break gorging on yummy idli-chutney for breakfast.  Rejuvenated we started on our fourth loop and finished strong after which we changed into fresh clothes.  .  Unfortunately, Sachin had started getting niggling knee pain and we decided to go easy, walking more than running.  After our fifth loop we had a quick lunch of khichdi and watermelon on ice.  Energized once again we started on our sixth loop.  We completed the loop edging each other on while cracking jokes.

While coming back I joined another runner Sunil in running ahead.  I was happy to see Sachin join us soon after.  However he was advised to wait for 10 minutes and Sunil and I went ahead and did our seventh loop together.  I managed to surprise my waiting hubby and daughter when we ran towards the end and then turned back again for our eighth and final loop as we had about another half hour till 5 pm.  We ended up running

together along with his wife for some distance.  On spying Sachin, I returned back walking with him.  As always Sachin and I finished our last loop strong running together.  We had managed to achieve our goal- completing about 75km smiling and having a good time throughout.

Today when I recall my running journey so far, it brings a smile to my face.  I am as proud of my first 4km run as I am of my first Ultra run.  I truly believe that with commitment and proper training anyone can do it.  All it takes is that all important First Step.

WRITTEN BY ULTRA MARATHONER  MANASI SAMUDRA

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