A gruelling run that’s all about the fun

All winners here:  The route is a 11-km loop between the Mayor’s Bungalow and Worli Sea Face.

All winners here: The route is a 11-km loop between the Mayor’s Bungalow and Worli Sea Face.

Mumbai: This Sunday, a bunch of people will attempt to run for 12 straight hours, from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are all participants in the Mumbai Ultra, a non-commercial run that aims to raise awareness of the benefits of running and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. First organised in 2014, this year’s edition has 500 runners, supported by another 2,000 who will join them for shorter stints. The participants include 150 women and 100 armed forces and police personnel.

The run isn’t competitive, in the usual sense. “The focus is on the completion, not the distance,” says Naveen Hegde, one of the organisers. “Anyone who runs for the entire 12 hours is a winner.”

The route is a 11-km loop between the (erstwhile) Mayor’s Bungalow at Shivaji Park and Worli Sea Face, as it has been for the previous three. The event is gruelling, and the organisers are taking all precautions: 40 doctors and six ambulances, apart from other volunteers, are on duty. Mr. Hegde says, “After every loop, a check-up is done and a doctor takes a call on whether to allow the participant to run or to hold them back.” He says that there have been no serious injuries or incidents in previous years.

Pranav Mehta, who, with other members of the informal Shivaji Park Marathon Club, organised the first Mumbai Ultra in 2014, says they “wanted to tell everyone that running is not hard, it is possible to do it for 12 hours. The date is around Independence Day, to send the message to that running can free one from ailments and the need for medications.”

“This is not a regular kind of running event,” says Shibani Gharat, a journalist, who is running her fourth Mumbai Ultra. “It is a community-organised run, and with volunteers and family coming to cheer you, music and food: the atmosphere is just great.” Ritu Handa, who is doing the run for the first time, has been training hard for months, building up from 10-km runs to longer distances. “I have been running for three years now,” she says. “I have run for six hours straight on some weekends and am fairly confident that I will be able to clock in 12 hours.”

Indira Ghosh, has run the event before, but is volunteering as a support runner this year. As the day progresses, fatigue levels will rise, and the volunteers will help keep participants motivated. From her previous runs, she says, it’s “more of a mental challenge. We chat on the way, sometimes there is a little rain with a breeze and it is a beautiful experience.”

Ajit Pathak is a regular runner and previous participant. In 2015 he ran 65 km in the 12 hours. this year he’s aiming for 75 km. “I run for at least 21 km every weekend, and make sure my techniques are right. I have been avoiding sugar and junk food completely, and focus on eating freshly home-cooked meals with lots of greens.” This year, he has also been training 50 women for the event. Suju George, 65, is one of them. “I try and run for 8 to 10 kms every day. I have been training for 8 months now, and I also do yoga,” she says. “For the last 10 years, I have only been eating organic food. I don’t sprint but I run at my own pace with a little bit of brisk walking.”

One of the oldest participants, Sushi Shah, is 72, with sons in their forties. “I was inspired to take up running by my son and daughter-in-law, who are marathon runners. I go for a long walk every day to help me prepare for the run. I might not be able to complete the entire 12 hours but I will nevertheless, give it a go.”

And that is what the organisers are aiming for. Most of the runners have already done marathons, Mr. Hegde says, but that’s not the target here. “If there are 500 people completing 12 hours, why can’t anyone else run for just 12 minutes? Just get up from your sofa and run for two minutes and increase it by a minute each day. The idea is to inspire people.”

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2022 4:20:07 pm |