Abbas Shaikh, Meenal Kotak, Chanchal Singh Kunwar and Preeti Lala took top honors at the recently concluded 12 hour and 24 hour-stadium run in Mumbai.

The top three in the men’s category in the 24 hour-run were Abbas Shaikh (176 km), Anil Gujjar (162 km) and Lallu Lal Meena (160.80 km). In the women’s category the top three finishers were Meenal Kotak (137.60 km), Mamta Jaiswal (127.20 km) and Sangeeta Shetty (126.80 km). The top three in the men’s category in the 12 hour-run were Chanchal Singh Kanwar (105.20 km), Sunil Handa (98 km) and Pinto Mandal (92 km). The top three in the women’s category in the same discipline were Preeti Lala (89.20 km), Smriti Kathait (83.60 km) and Indira Baikerikar (78 km).

The event also had a relay format, featuring teams.

We spoke to three of the podium finishers:

Abbas Shaikh: Overall the run went well but after it rained Sunday noon, I started to feel cold and developed fever. I had to take a break at the medical tent. I had a Crocin, slept for half an hour and then resumed running. I wasn’t feeling good; so had another Crocin and managed to complete the run. After the rain, humidity shot up – that was a challenge.

I may now attempt the 12 hour stadium run in Hyderabad.

(For more on Abbas please click on this link: https://shyamgopan.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/gold-runner/)

Meenal Kotak: It’s always a challenge to execute your plan at an alien location given the drastic change in heat and humidity. That was the case with Mumbai this 10th June. For someone used to the dry heat of Delhi, I stood at 6 PM at the starting point in Mumbai, in bright sunlight-kissed humid sea breeze. Let the clouds congregate and announce the arrival of monsoon in Mumbai – that was everybody’s wish! Though drenched in sweat from the very beginning, the first five to six hours were manageable. Night isn’t bad for ultras. The real challenge of Mumbai’s tropical climate dawned on us by next morning. The sun hit you hard the moment it appeared on the horizon. But, as ultra-runners, we need to carry on, be it run, jog or walk. The last half of the run was all about keeping body heat at bay by splashing cold water, staying energetic and hydrated, taking care of umpteen blisters on the feet, managing chaffing et al. What’s an ultra without taking home some memories worth cherishing! A few hours before the culmination of the run, it rained. What a way to bring solace to the battered soul! But, there was no time to rejoice, no looking back as the checkered flag was a few hours away. A tough 24 hours they were, but, then again, as always, it’s back to the battlefield in search of fresh adventure.

Running events organized by NEB Sports have been known to set high standards. The organizers left no stone unturned to pamper participants. Every mundane need of an ultra-runner was taken care of during this run, right from calorie-rich food to multiple choices in beverages to qualified doctors and physios. I haven’t seen any run better organized than this. Perhaps, their very own annual 12 hour / 24 hour / 48 hour Bengaluru Kanteerava Stadium run is better managed. Would I do this format of 400 meters stadium run again? I have successfully done a couple of looped events in stadiums. I believe running in virtually endless loops is more of a mind game than anything else. You need to be mentally tough to be able to endure the repeated onslaught of the rubberized synthetic track. I can’t live a life less ordinary and not come back to the same format! I would surely like to relive the moment again.

I was a gym freak and a treadmill fanatic till a friend challenged me to put my theories to practice by registering me for the 2013 ADHM. Till then, I had neither exceeded 10 km nor ventured into the open to run. The lure of outdoors and distance had me hooked immediately. A few more half marathons followed and the world was a different place. My first full marathon happened in 2014 in the sultry weather of Hyderabad. Thereafter, an injury put a brief hiatus to my ambitions but destiny follows adversity. Told by doctors to put a leash on my adrenaline-addiction, I decided to shed pace for distance. When the injury healed, I challenged myself in late 2014, on the 50 km circuit of the Bhatti mines in Delhi and earned a podium finish. While I was clueless on how to take my passion forward, a chance meeting with Arun Bhardwaj, made my vision clearer. He motivated me to leap forward into a different league — the big league. I haven’t looked back since. This arduous journey would never have stayed on-course without the tactical support of Alfredo Miranda, my Spanish coach who formulates my training plans. Now, the moment I get an opportunity, I motivate young individuals to pick up ultra-running.

As for what’s next – having run a full marathon in Antarctica in March 2016, I am well on course to run an ultra in all the continents of the world.

Chanchal Singh Kunwar: This was my first long distance run in a stadium. Unlike like other road or trail ultras, you could access aid stations after every two or three minutes. Also in other distance running events you are almost alone after more than 25 km, whereas here you meet almost every runner loop after loop, which boosts your morale and brings a little more fun. You cheer for them and they push you. It was fun running at the stadium.

I was running in the evening slot, 5 PM to 5 AM. We were expecting some rains, but the first two hours we ran under the sun and the rest ten hours in hot and humid conditions – it was really very bad. Till seven hours I was running as per my plan and thereafter ran in pain. I had an ankle injury which was hard on me. The last two hours were very painful, but still after some rest of five minutes between the hours, I kept running at a slow pace.

Except for the ankle pain, there was no other difficulty.

Would I do this again? Yes, maybe – 24 hours next time. Also I would want to test my endurance in the 36 hours and 48 hours challenge, but only after I am prepared for it. One step at a time; 24 hours could be next year. My next event is in August 2017 – the 111 km segment of La Ultra The High. That will be a big challenge and I hope I am able to do justice to the event

I started running in 2013. But till 2014 it was just one event a year (SCMM) and without any training and guidance it used to take months and months for recovery. I got seriously into running after I was down with dengue and typhoid in 2015 and wanted to improve my immune system. After I joined Navi Mumbai Runners (NMR) on Facebook, I came to know about ultra-distances but never had the courage to try it. Then I started following Inderpal Khalsa who is like Dronacharya to me. I read about his achievements and training plans and understood what the body is capable of. I started following his training plan and began getting benefits from it. Then that December, Breeze Sharma finished first at the Western Ghats Ultra and it was all over Facebook. I got tempted to test myself in long distance endurance events. My first ultra-run was on 11th June 2016 – the Runtastic 6hr Midnight Run in Thane. From there I have slowly reached 105 km in 12 hours. It came exactly a year after my first ultra-run. 

 For me the journey has just started.

Here are some photos from the event; these photos include those running as part of relay teams and those running to support others too:

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(Text: Latha Venkatraman / Photos: Shyam G Menon. They are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)


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