Cultivating calm, self-trust and confidence and developing these qualities requires grit and optimism. But it’s an eat-sleep-run-ultra-repeat for these four endurance athletes. Running is almost always a very positive experience for them, even when their body is wrecked and it’s tough to push on. But, I think that most runners have experienced what I call “going dark”—when your mind and aching body conspire against you to quit running. When you begin over analysing the race at this point, you search for justifications to drop out after the first few kilometres. But runners never quit, especially these Endurance runners.
Running on road and doing a half Marathon is itself a big accomplishment for some. Now imagine running on undefined, hilly terrain with much greater elevation and covering about 100 kms or more.
“When you run on the earth and with the earth, you can run forever.”– Raramuri proverb
"Until you face your fears, you don't move to the other side, where you find your power” was quoted by the 6 times Iron Man World Champion Mark Allen. He worked hard for years but always seemed to come up short. Then something changed. It wasn't until he turned his focus to something he had neglected for years - his mind - that he was finally able to win the most grueling race in the world. In his first win, struggling to stay with his rival Scott during the run, he tapped into a certain vision — that of a 110 year old Huichol Indian — to remove the negative thoughts in his head and untap the energy source and belief that carried him to victory. Allen didn't know this man in the image and only saw his picture in a magazine just few days before. The image clearly had a lasting effect on him.
To think that an image, so random yet powerful, could infuse energy into an athlete to such a degree as to change the outcome of the Ironman is remarkable. The mind, with all of its chatter, takes us on wild rides, in sports, at work and in life. If the chatter goes negative which it most often does, we go negative, and find ways for ourselves not to perform at our true potential. But if we can quiet the chatter and just focus on what we are doing in the moment, we open the door to our true potential, unhinged from the thought barriers that cloud our mind. That's when we enter the flow state.
I had the opportunity to interview 4 endurance athletes based in Mumbai and get to know how their mind and body function while running an Ultra race.
Priyanka Bhat says, “I train by myself in Mumbai. I schedule and create my training plan which includes 2 days in the gym for strength training and 4 days of running which includes Speed interval, Fartlek and long runs”.
Priyanka Bhatt, 34 working with Star Sports where she handles International Sales and revenue for the channel has completed 170 kms in 24 hours at the stadium run in Mumbai. She has even attempted the Khardungla Marathon which is the highest Ultra Marathon in the World. This race is only for the fittest and very experienced Runners because you need to cover a distance of 72 kms. The harsh conditions make this extremely tough as you run approximately 60 kms of the race at above 4000 m (14,000ft) Hence the number of participants to this race is restricted to a maximum of 150 Runners.
Bhat says, “I train by myself in Mumbai. I schedule and create my training plan which includes 2 days in the gym for strength training and 4 days of running which includes Speed interval, Fartlek and long runs”. Ultra-running is all about mental strength and not just physical.
When asked about why she runs such mileages, she says, “I run long distances to not only discover my own potential but to conquer myself when I reach the finish line. I have grown and been a better version of myself with every ultra-marathon”.
She will now be preparing for Ultra World Championships 2019 which will happen in France in Oct, 2019 and the Athletic Federation of India will select and send a team to represent India. It’s a proud moment for all of us. All the best!
Delton D'Souza says, "I feel more alive, connected and engaged when I’m with nature”.
Delton D’Souza who is a Cinematographer, director and adventurer and refuses to disclose his age has completed around three 50 kms ultra-trail races. When asked about his toughest race, he says, “The Vagamon Ultra Marathon has been the toughest for me. I did a 56 kms race in the hills and the views and trails itself give me a reason to run more Ultra races. I feel more alive, connected and engaged when I’m with nature”.
This year he will only be doing a 30 kms Solang Skyrunning race with an elevation of 1,730 etre. Don’t be fooled by the 30 kms, it is tougher than any 50 kms he has done so far. I couldn’t resist asking him more about this race and he says, “Skyrunning is an extreme sport of mountain running above an altitude of 2000 meters where the incline exceeds 30% and the climbing difficulty does not exceed Grade 2. The term was first coined by Italian mountaineer Marino Giacometti in the 90’s. Skyraces are the most popular mountain races in the world and are governed by the International Skyrunning Federation. The only peace that you’ll get in this race is the all-around views of the mountains. Lace-up, suit up and get training; mentally and physically because if you aren’t ready, this is the kind of race that’s waiting to eat you alive. Let’s see you run this race if you’re tough enough”. This takes place up North in Manali.
He has even cycled from Mumbai to Goa and is soon going to another one where he will be crossing one country to the other. Cheers to him!
It's the joy of discovering yourself is what keeps me going. It's liberating and it's a kind of meditation for me, says Nilendu Mukherjee
Nilendu Mukherjee has attempted his most challenging Ultra-trail race in the jungles of Croatia covering a distance of 170 kms in April this year. This may sound crazy to you but he calls himself only a recreational runner.
Nilendu Mukherjee, 49 is the Executive director of a Multinational Bank in Mumbai. On weekdays he runs in the city and on weekends he hits the nearby hills like Prabalmachi, Irshalgad, Tungareshwar, Rajmachi for trail running. He is also a part of Unived trail Runners Club and sometimes runs with them. But mostly he runs solo as he loves running alone.
When asked about what makes him get up at 3 am and run the trails, he says “Huh! It's the joy of discovering yourself is what keeps me going. It's liberating and it's a kind of meditation for me. I am a nature lover. I don’t believe in God but I believe in the forces of nature. So when I run in the trails, for me it's kind of worshipping the nature. And somehow, while running in trails, I came across animals but never been attacked by them. At the same time, you keep challenging yourself and see how much your body can take.
He will be again going for Malnad Ultra 110K in November and next January he would be doing the Hong Kong 100k along with couple other international trail races. Unfortunately, in all these international trail ultras, spots for recreational runners like him are limited and they have to wait for lottery results to get an entry.
Most of my training is mileage based and solo as its difficult to find people crazy enough to log in 80-100K running mileage week after week, says Rahul Kumar Singh
Rahul Kumar Singh started the “Unived Trail Runners Club” for the love of trail running and the have been exploring trails with other like-minded people. They head out to the mountains in the Sahyadri range at least once a month to run the trails and cherish that 'Wild & Free' feeling. Some of their favourite places to train are Tungareshwar Wildlife Reserve, Kalavantin and Irshalgad.
Singh is 38 years and APAC Risk Manager with a Global MNC.
When asked about how he trains for Ultra Marathons, he says, “Most of my training is mileage based and solo as its difficult to find people crazy enough to log in 80-100K running mileage week after week. Also due to work and family commitments, it gets difficult to stick to a strict plan so it gets even more difficult go by the plan and coordinate with other runners who are training for an ultra. Staying in a city, most of the mileage comes from the roads but i don't mind a quick 10k on a treadmill before end of the day to make sure that the gains are maintained during the training season. If i do make it to a group run in the city, it’s mostly with the Bombay Running Crew. I love the positive vibes and energy of this crew.
Since I prefer to race ultras on trail only, I head out of the city to train on hills for long hours at least once a month”.
The longest he has covered is an unbelievable 110 kms at the Malnad Ultra Marathon. The most challenging yet the most complete experience for him was the Vagamon Ultrail 90K. The terrain kept changing from Tea Estate to grazing lands, pine-forest, boulders, hillocks and some very steep hills to climb and descent from. This one took every bit of him to get to the finish line in over 15 hrs. Elevation gain was over 3300m. The camaraderie of the utrarunning community and a superb support from volunteers helped me to push through.
He further adds, “I have just recently relocated to Singapore. So the racing calendar for the rest of 2019 is still open. Hong Kong 100k is my next dream race but I might be able to get in only by Jan 2021. It is one of highly stacked races in the region when it comes to international elites in Trail Ultra running sport.”
Tanvi Kulkarni is a sales professional working with an insurance company and part of Bombay Running Crew.