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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.)



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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.)



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:

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.)