MUMBAI ULTRA / SEE YOU AGAIN IN 2018

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Photo: Latha Venkatraman

By 4 PM on Sunday, August 13, 2017, Usha Soman had surprised herself with her performance at the Mumbai Ultra: 12 hour run.

She had completed a distance of 44 km covering four loops of 11 km each.

At 78, she was the oldest participant among the 500 runners who enrolled for the run.

Kamalaksha Rao, another septuagenarian, also surprised himself by running 60 km against his expectation of 50 km.

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The chaos of vehicles and the mix of rainy ambiance and blazing sun appeared daunting but the runners seemed enthusiastic notching up mileage.

“Heavy traffic was a bit of a downer but otherwise it was an amazing event,” said Chetan Pujary, who was attempting an event of this nature for the first time.

The 11 km loop that commenced from Shivaji Park in Mumbai and went on to Worli Sea Face and back offered a mix of roads buzzing with traffic and peaceful seafront. The occasional drizzle offered some respite to the runners, who were on their feet from 5 AM to 5 PM.

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Milling among the crowd of runners at the finish line was Lt Col Sundaresan Renganathan (Retd), who completed his 36th marathon at the Mumbai Ultra. His aim was to run 50 marathons at 50 locations over 50 weeks. His project ` Run with a Soldier, Run for a Soldier’ aimed at raising funds for the families of martyred soldiers. He started his endeavour on December 11, 2016.

Mumbai Ultra’s absolute flat route and great support lend some respite to Sundaresan, who has been travelling across the country and running on varying terrain including at the Kargil International Marathon.

At the event, volunteer and medical support came in for frequent mention by most runners Outrigger spoke to. Seventy two-year old Primla Hingorani, also known affectionately as Aunty 72, had turned up to volunteer for the event at 5 AM. At 5 PM, she was waiting at the finish line to welcome runners with medals.

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Among the many accomplished runners doing the loops were Satish Gujaran, Sunil Lahigude, Shibani Gharat and Preeti Lala. It was easy to spot Preeti Lala with her characteristic bandana.

Preeti had won the 12-hour Mumbai Stadium run held in June 2017. She had then notched up a distance of 89.2 km. Here she topped the distance by another four kilometres to end at 93 km.

“I was able to run quite strongly. The experience was awesome. Except for having to cope with the traffic everything else went smoothly. Fantastic support by many runner groups,” she wrote in later.

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At the finish line, there was a constant refrain one heard from runners: it was an awesome event with great volunteer support.

Most runners milling at the finish line said they would continue participating in this event next year too.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)

2017 MUMBAI ULTRA / THE MUCH LOVED RUN RETURNS

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From left: Milind Soman, Usha Soman and Naveen Hegde (Photo: Latha Venkatraman)

“I hope to be on my feet for 12 hours,” said 78-year-old Usha Soman.

The former professor of bio-chemistry and mother of model, actor and endurance athlete, Milind Soman, will be the oldest participant in the fourth edition of the Mumbai Ultra: a 12-hour run. She hopes to cover a distance of 40-45 kilometers. The youngest participant is 18-years-old. Apart from Usha Soman, three more persons in their seventies will be participating.

Unlike the previous editions when the event was held on Independence Day, August 15, this time the 12-hour run will be held on August 13, a Sunday. “Due to security reasons, the run date was decided as August 13 and not August 15,” Naveen Hegde, one of the organizers of the running event said at a press briefing in Mumbai on Tuesday (August 8, 2017).

Participants are expected to run loops of 11-12 kilometers starting from MGM Swimming Pool at Shivaji Park, from 5 AM till 5 PM.

“This is an iconic running event with a strict cap on the number of runners. This time there will be 500 runners,” said Milind, who earlier this year completed the Ultraman.

“It is quite a privilege for the city to have an ultra-running event in the heart of the city,” Milind said adding that he will be participating in it for the first time.

About 300-400 volunteers will be engaged in fulfilling various needs of the runners alongside 100 doctors and physiotherapists.

Col Gulshan Chaddha (Retd), Principal of Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, has been roped in as the race director.

Usha Soman’s foray into this running event can be traced back to a video clip of her running barefoot alongside her son Milind during his Ahmedabad-Mumbai run last year. The video went viral at that time prompting the septuagenarian to take up this challenge. She will mostly resort to walking, though not barefoot.

“It is all a mind game. Unless we try we won’t know what we are capable of,” she said.

The endurance event is aimed to act as a reminder to people about healthy living.

Endurance sport is not merely about sport. It’s a lifestyle, says Milind. One has to focus on food, sleep and other aspects. Later this year, Milind plans to run from Dimapur to Kohima. And next year he plans to attempt double Ironman.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)

 

DAY TWO / 2017 IFSC WORLD CUP, NAVI MUMBAI

Shauna clinches 2017 World Cup series and Navi Mumbai gold / Jongwon Chon strikes gold in men’s

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Photo and imaging: Shyam G Menon

Jongwon Chon of Korea and Shauna Coxsey of Great Britain triumphed in the men’s and women’s categories respectively at the final of the IFSC World Cup in Bouldering held in Navi Mumbai on Sunday.

For Shauna who has been leading by a wide margin in terms of aggregate points in the 2017 World Cup series, a place in the final at Navi Mumbai – the penultimate event in the series – was more than enough to ensure that her rivals won’t be able to catch up and deprive her of the title. She won the series and added another individual World Cup crown; all at Navi Mumbai. Last year in Navi Mumbai Shauna couldn’t secure a podium finish although she ended the 2016 World Cup series topping it in the women’s section.

In the men’s category, Rei Sugimoto of Japan placed second while Aleksei Rubtsov of Russia was third. In the women’s category, Miho Nonaka of Japan placed second, while Akiyo Noguchi, also of Japan, placed third. Following the competition results at Navi Mumbai, the overall lead in the men’s category is now with Jongwon Chon; he has 426 points. He is followed by Aleksei Rubtsov of Russia and Keita Watabe of Japan, both tied at 372. In the women’s section, Shauna Coxsey has 535 points in total, followed by Miho Nonaka of Japan (377) and Janja Garnbret of Slovenia (370). Janja was not present at Navi Mumbai.

In terms of national team ranking in bouldering, post Navi Mumbai, Japan has zoomed to 2118 points overall.  Great Britain (886) is second while Slovenia (855) is third.

Sunday’s final was a thrilling affair with the climbing routes designed by the route setters, stretching the athletes. Even the best of them had to think their way through some of the problems on the wall. Earlier in the day, the semi-final was held featuring 20 athletes each from the men’s and women’s categories, who had made it past Saturday’s qualifying round. Six from each category moved to the final. Officials familiar with the ongoing World Cup series said that a ninth place finish in Navi Mumbai would have been enough for Shauna Coxsey to clinch the series. But she not only made it to the last six; she went on to win the final denied her last year on the same stage.

Please find below a selection of photos from the final, the moments following it and the semi-final.

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Jongwon Chon of Korea (center), Rei Sugimoto of Japan (left) and Aleksei Rubtsov of Russia who secured gold, silver and bronze respectively in the men’s category at the 2017 IFSC World Cup in Bouldering at Navi Mumbai on Sunday (Photo: Shyam G Menon)
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Shauna Coxsey of Great Britain (center), Miho Nonaka (left) and Akiyo Noguchi of Japan who won gold, silver and bronze medals respectively in the women’s category at the 2017 IFSC World Cup in Bouldering at Navi Mumbai on Sunday (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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Shauna Coxsey of Great Britain who won gold in the women’s category at the 2017 IFSC World Cup in Bouldering at Navi Mumbai and in the process became the women’s champion of the current World Cup series, gets a hug from teammate Leah Crane (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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Jongwon Chon autographs for his fans (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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The real heroes of the final; the IFSC’s team of route setters. From left: Julien Gras, Percy Bishton, Manuel Hassler and Gen Hirashima (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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The finalists in the women’s category (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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The finalists in the men’s category (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

From the semi-final:

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(Text and photos by Shyam G Menon. He is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

DAY ONE / 2017 IFSC WORLD CUP, NAVI MUMBAI

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Photo and imaging: Shyam G Menon

Day one of the World Cup saw the qualifying rounds for men and women.

From the men’s category, the following athletes have made it to the semi-final:

Kokoro Fujii (Japan), Dmitrii Shrafutdinov (Russia), Tomoa Narasaki (Japan), Aleksei Rubtsov (Russia), Jan Hojer (Germany), Yoshiyuki Ogata (Japan), Meichi Narasaki (Japan), Jakob Schubert (Austria), Gholamali Bharatzadeh (Iran), Simon Unger (Germany), Jongwon Chon (Korea), Jernej Kruder (Slovenia), David Firnenburg Germany), Tsukuru Hori (Japan), Anze Peharc (Slovenia), Gregor Vezonik (Slovenia), Rei Sugimoto (Japan), Vadim Timonov (Russia), William Ridal (Great Britain) and Keita Watabe (Japan).

From the women’s category, the following athletes made it to the semi-final:

Shauna Coxsey (Great Britain), Katja Kadic (Slovenia), Miho Nonaka (Japan), Akiyo Noguchi (Japan), Ekatirina Kipriianova (Russia), Mei Kotake (Japan), Sol Sa (Korea), Monika Retschy (Germany), Michaela Tracy (Great Britain), Berit Schwaiger (Austria), Johanna Farber (Austria), Petra Klingler (Switzerland), Aya Onoe (Japan), Elnaz Rekabi (Iran), Alma Bestvater (Germany), Alannah Yip (Canada), Leah Crane (Great Britain), Hung Ying Lee (Taiwan), Julija Kruder (Slovenia) and Chloe Caulier (Belgium).

As in 2016, no Indian athlete made it to the semi-final.

The semi-finals will be held Sunday (June 25) morning and the finals, that evening.

This is the second time the World Cup in Bouldering is being held in Navi Mumbai. Last time – in May 2016 – Kokoro Fujii and Miho Nonaka had triumphed in the men’s and women’s categories respectively. The event held under the aegis of the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) is organized by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) and Girivihar, Mumbai’s oldest mountaineering club.

Please scroll down for photos from day one of the World Cup. Featured are photos from the qualifying rounds for men and women.

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(Text and photos by Shyam G Menon. He is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

102 ATHLETES REGISTER FOR 2017 IFSC WORLD CUP IN NAVI MUMBAI

Please scroll down for more reports and photos from the run up to the World Cup.

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(From left) Julien Gras, Manuel Hassler, Percy Bishton and Gen Herashima; the IFSC’s route setting team for the 2017 World Cup in Bouldering due at Navi Mumbai (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

As of June 19, the last date for athletes to register, a total of 102 climbers had registered to compete at the 2017 World Cup in Bouldering due at Navi Mumbai over June 24-25.

The countries represented include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Great Britain, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Nepal, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, Switzerland, Thailand and Taiwan.

The competition under the aegis of the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC), is organized by the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) and Girivihar, Mumbai’s oldest mountaineering club.

Bouldering is one of the three main disciplines under sport climbing, itself an offshoot of rock climbing. Bouldering is climbing simplified. Use of gear is kept to a minimum. The climber uses climbing shoes for his feet and chalk powder to keep his hands dry. At the competition, climbing is done on indoor bouldering walls. The climber’s fall from the wall is cushioned using crash pads. In bouldering, the height of the climb is modest but the moves can be extremely difficult.

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CIDCO Convention / Exhibition Center in Vashi, venue for the IFSC World Cup in Navi Mumbai (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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Another view of the competition venue in Vashi, Navi Mumbai (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

This is the second time the World Cup is taking place in Navi Mumbai.

As per the IFSC website, last year at Navi Mumbai, there were 38 participants in the women’s category and 42 in the men’s making for a total of 80 participants. In 2016, the Japanese had secured four of the six positions on the podium in Navi Mumbai with Kokoro Fujii and Miho Nonaka winning top honours in the men’s and women’s categories respectively. The IFSC World Cup is a series of competitions held at various locations worldwide, every year. It is similar to Formula One with winners announced for each World Cup and overall winners declared on the strength of points accumulated in a series.

By Sunday (June 18) evening, the route setters dispatched by the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) for this year’s event, were all in place. The team led by Manuel Hassler also includes Gen Hirashima, Percy Bishton and Julien Gras. Manuel and Gen were part of the route setting team in 2016. Julien is visiting India after a gap of 12 years. On his earlier trip this side exploring climbing destinations in India, he had climbed with Girivihar (for more on what route setters do at a competition please click on this link:  https://shyamgopan.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/the-puzzle-makers/).

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Work underway on climbing walls at the venue of the upcoming IFSC World Cup in Bouldering at Vashi, Navi Mumbai (Photo: Shyam G Menon).

Unlike in 2016 when a bouldering wall was imported for use in the competition, this time the competition is wholly on indigenously built climbing walls. The mix on stage in 2016 was one imported wall and one locally built wall; the latter performed handsomely. Addressing one of the points noted in competition feedback last year, the imported wall is set to be used as warm-up wall in the isolation space reserved for athletes. While the event venue remains the same, the total space used and the orientation of the same, has changed. Of the two identical large halls at the CIDCO Convention / Exhibition Center in Vashi, it is the hall closer to the main entrance that is being used this time. The space dividing the two halls is planned to be used as isolation making the competition lay-out more compact than it was in 2016, members of the organizing team said.

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Work in progress (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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Sunday (June 18) night; the first wall gets a coat of paint (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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Monday (June 19) night; one wall done and handed over to the route setters, the second wall receives its competition colours (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Although the monsoon has officially set in over Mumbai, the classic Indian monsoon that lashes the city with prolonged spells of heavy rain is yet to manifest. It is warm and humid. The occasional rain cools the ambiance. Everyone is hoping for good rains for its necessity exceeds World Cup. Given a significant portion of the Indian economy still depends on agriculture, the monsoon is life itself.

Sunday at the competition venue, reminded of the young country India is now, demographically. While work on the climbing wall continued within, in the enclosed vacant space just outside, a team of college students tested the single seat-race car they built for an upcoming Formula Student event overseas.

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Tuesday (June 20) evening; the warm-up wall for athletes – last year’s imported wall – being assembled. This is for use by athletes once they are in the isolation zone, which is the phase preceding competition (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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Tuesday (June 20) evening at the competition venue; another one of those daily brief spells of rain that has been the monsoon so far. (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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At the competition venue; Mangesh Takarkhede keeps track of work (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Rahul Patel, climber from Mumbai, has volunteered for the World Cup since June 12. Almost ten days later, by Wednesday, June 21, the number of volunteers at site had grown to a very modest number; climbers had reported from Bengaluru and Delhi to volunteer with more expected in a couple of days. Yet it is a far cry from 2016 when the general enthusiasm to dare the challenge of hosting a World Cup and make it happen, saw several people reach Navi Mumbai to pitch in and help. Something about moving away from pioneering an event to repeating it, robs a dash of zest from proceedings. On the other hand, there is the benefit of lessons learnt and progressive evolution of systems.

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Two familiar faces who turned up to volunteer on Wednesday (June 21): Kumar Gourav from Delhi and Madhu from Bengaluru (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

In 2016, problems around the imported wall – it arrived with a few components missing, requiring the technical team to put their heads together and innovate a solution – had eaten into the time earmarked for the route setters to complete their work. As a result, one of the unforgettable vignettes of this critical, bleak phase was the indefatigable Neerav Desai laboring round the clock to move concrete blocks and slabs. It was thus frenzied work on the wall even on the eve of competition. This time both the competition walls and the warm-up wall are already up. On Wednesday the route setters were busy putting up routes, while a team of climber-volunteers plastered the warm-up wall with holds of their choice.

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The walls’ rear with counter weights neatly in place (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Where innovation was demanded in 2016, to raise the imported wall to the height of the stage and then weigh its scaffolding down with concrete blocks and slabs for counter weight, this time around the walls’ rear appeared imagined in advance with counter weights and ratchets neatly in place. On Wednesday evening, as the volunteers and the wall-crew sat down to a richly deserved round of samosa and tea, Rahul said pointing to the two competition walls, “ they did a good job, aligning the faces and setting it up in time.”

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Light and sound gear arrived at site (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

On the other side of the hall, facing the two competition walls and some distance away from it, the raised platforms that will seat dignitaries and officials besides housing the console for the event’s broadcast technicians and their electronic hardware, was also up. On the first floor, shielded by large glass panes overlooking the arena, the event organizers’ office had begun humming with activity.  Sandeep Varadkar, a wealth of energy and indispensable for climbing events in Mumbai, was there, as was Sharad Chandra, among best known photographers of climbing in India. According to Mangesh Takarkhede, who has been busy managing things at site for the past few days, a meeting of all volunteers is scheduled for Friday (June 23), 2 PM.

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The raised platforms for dignitaries, officials and technical crew (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Thursday (June 22) afternoon; at long last we have a classic monsoon day. On a scale of one to ten, we were at about five on how the rains usually visit Mumbai. The downpour was strong but yet again, not of lengthy duration. Nevertheless it was sufficient to make the world grey, reduce the temperature and have the office going reach for their umbrellas while college going youngsters elected to get drenched. It was more or less pleasant at the competition venue too. Thursday marked the official commencement of air conditioning at site.

(Late night, at the time of writing, we have another round of rain.)

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At last, a classic monsoon day as the heavens open up June 22 afternoon. The view from a railway station not far from the competition venue (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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Trucks on the premises as more gear arrives (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

At the venue, the scene was one of even more gear unloaded. Lights were installed and tested. The giant digital screen was assembled. Closer to the venue’s entrance, signboards and publicity paraphernalia was readied. On the first floor, the organizers’ office was active. The backpacks piling up in one corner indicated the rising frequency of volunteers’ arrival. A portion  of the office now served as location for the live streaming crew’s console. All IFSC World Cups are streamed live on the internet. Through all this, on the arena floor, the route setters continued their work on the two competition walls. In an irony of sorts, while they got the walls earlier this year (barring some delay in getting some of the imported climbing holds), their work load is more than in 2016. Reason – the number of competitors has gone up to 102. It requires more climbing routes to be designed. It was a different story on the warm-up wall located to the rear of the main arena. With a plethora of holds put up, it attracted the attention of climber-volunteers reported at the venue. The temptation was too hard to resist. Many donned climbing shoes and had a go. As one enthusiast said gleefully, “ it isn’t always that you get to climb in air conditioned comfort in Mumbai.”

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The entrance to the venue (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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Signboards are readied (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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Equipment at site (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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The giant digital screen is installed (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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Like honey to bees, the warm-up wall attracts the attention of climber-volunteers at the venue (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Thursday evening was less than two days from competition’s start. Yet the ambiance at site was one of relative calm; there was no terrible anxiety or panic. Sandeep Varadkar, who is usually part of every competition’s core team and is among the busiest, was happy at the emergent lightness of being. Same time 2016, he, Vaibhav Mehta, Neerav Desai, Rohan Gawand – they were all breaking their heads over the faults in a climbing wall, freshly imported for that year’s world cup (that wall now serves as warm-up wall). Joining them, head in his hands, was the representative of the manufacturer, himself taken aback at the state of the wall. In several ensuing hours of innovation, fabrication, welding and hard labour, the wall was readied in time for the competition. “ This time, although we gathered urgency rather late, I am steadily completing the tasks on my list. Thanks to the lessons from last year, we anticipated problems better and planned accordingly.  Right now, I am actually helping to put up banners. Can you imagine that?” Sandeep said smiling. Further, a major difference from 2016 has been the level of outsourcing. Where climber volunteers ran around for most things earlier, this time, contractors and their crew are responsible for assigned portions of the work. “ Still, there will be some last minute running around. That’s bound to happen,” he said.

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At a World Cup once again; Sandeep Varadkar and Vivek Thakur (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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The event’s live streaming crew at their console in the organizing team’s office (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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The arena lights being tested before they are hoisted up (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

The drift to World Cup will officially start, tomorrow. Those into climbing or loving the sport have been requested to take the day off from work and volunteer at site. Technical teams and volunteer teams will meet. Athlete registrations will happen and the countdown will begin to another rendezvous with the IFSC World Cup.

 

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June 23: athletes at the warm-up wall (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Friday, June 23, eve of the World Cup: It was a day of meetings. It was also a day of last minute purchases, market visits for items overlooked. There were briefings for volunteers and competition judges, followed by athletes’ registration and a briefing for the various teams. Senior officials – from the side of the organizers and the participants – were at the venue. The warm-up wall attracted its share of athletes. Unlike in 2016 when most of the athletes turned up to register personally, this time, some of the athletes presented themselves at the registration desk while the rest were represented by their respective team managers.

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Mangesh, Dilip Lagu, President, Girivihar, Abhijit Burman aka Bong (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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The organizers’ office gets buzzing (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

 

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Volunteers at their briefing (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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IFSC’s Technical Director and the competition’s Chief of Jury hold a meeting with  their team members (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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President, Girivihar with senior officials of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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The team that oversaw athletes’ registration (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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The briefing for athletes and team managers (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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Athletes’ briefing (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

 

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Eve of World Cup; view of the venue floor from the organizers’ office (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

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Late evening, June 23, with much of the work at venue getting over, the space before the stage was cleared providing a better sense of layout.

Outside, blue lights cloaked the entrance to the venue.

The 2017 IFSC World Cup at Navi Mumbai begins today (June 24).

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai. For an earlier report on the 2017 World Cup including information on how the ongoing World Cup series has shaped up, please click on this link: https://shyamgopan.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/ifsc-world-cup-returns-to-navi-mumbai/)

2017 MUMBAI STADIUM RUN (12 HOURS & 24 HOURS)

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.)