Satish Gujaran is known as the “Comrades King of India”. Right from 2010, the first year that the Indian contingent started the annual Comrades ritual (the world’s largest ultra marathon), to the last edition in 2014, Satish has not missed any Comrades in between to make it 5 out of 5. That takes Satish to the half-way mark towards the much coveted Comrades “Green Number”, an honor given to 10 times Comrades finisher. Satish talks about his experience of running at the Mumbai 12 Hours Run, organized by the Shivaji Park Marathon Club on Aug 15th, 2014.
When I was training for my 5th Comrades in the month of March,2014, I happened to meet Naveen Hegde and Pranav Mehta while running. They discussed with me about organising an ultra marathon in heart of Mumbai. I attended one of the planning meetings for this event, and shared my inputs. I knew the event was going to be very useful for the runners who were going to attempt their first ultra marathon due to the following reasons:
1. The main motive behind the event was to encourage running and tell the world that even an ordinary person also can run / walk for 12 hours, as in the case of various pilgrimages where people do walk for many days. Naveen and Pranav being runners knew what runners want, and they wanted to give best of treatment for every individual runner who runs this event. I could see they were doing it from the heart.
2. There was no fee involved for this event. As all of us know running is becoming an expensive sport. Entry fees for the races are becoming expensive. In that scenario it is difficult to think of organising a full day event without taking any entry fees.
3. There was no cut off time or distance for the race, the only thing was one has to be on the road for 12hours running or walking. This was an ideal platform for a first time ultra-marathoner. They could run on their own pace, there is no pressure to complete so many kilometres, no competition. They even included runners who were not registered for 12 hours run but wanted to run along with the 12 hours runners as and when they feel like during the day and achieve their personal best.
This was a very healthy trend the passionate people at the Shivaji Park Marathon Club (SPMC) started. I feel we should involve more corporates to organise such running events in India to promote running.
Since two years I was suffering with glutes and hamstring injury so I decided to take a break for few months from running to nurse my injury this year after coming back from my 2014 Comrades run. The only reason I wanted to run in this event was to promote this event by helping newcomers to stay on their feet for 12 hours and do their personal best.
Indian Independence Day, 15th of August. What a day to organise a 12 hours run , no doubt it was an historic event because it was really a mammoth task to organise an ultra marathon in the heart of Mumbai.
We were supposed to report at 4:30 am. After the national anthem the run flagged off at 5 am from Mayors bungalow. It was a loop of 6 km from Shivaji Park Mayors bungalow till Mela (Worli sea face).
At the start there were about 120 runners. Rain showered on us and welcoming the runners as we started. We were hoping that we would get good weather till the end, but it was not the case. I could see each runners had their own strategy, few of them running in groups, they were walking for few kilometres and running for some time. Whenever I met anyone on the way, I just told them to enjoy the run and to take it easy because they have to be on the road for the whole day. In an ultra marathon, apart from the fitness one has to have strong will power, after all, it’s a mind game. I could see each runners wanted to take this opportunity to do their personal best and stay for 12 hours on the road.
I stay at Mulund in Mumbai. In my area we have running club called Club Marathon, most of the time I train with them. They had the highest number of runners participating in this race. I was training with them for this event since few weeks. I made them to do lots of walking with running in the training and shared few tips about ultra running. For an ultra marathoner one should also learn how to walk fast and of course mind place an important role too. I could see Club Marathon guys stick together till the end and all of them could finish the run without any injury, credit of course goes to their coach Sanjay Shinde.
As the day breaks in, I could see now the runners are getting used to their pace and they are enjoying the hospitality provided by the volunteers. There were three water stops loaded with all runners’ favourite stuffs and managed mostly by runners, there were many physios on each water stops ready to help the runners. It was around 10 am when runners started experiencing the humid weather. And later on it was becoming little tougher for few of the runners to carry on but the supporting staff at the water stops were very good. They were giving ice cold sponges, almost a bath you can say, to the runners passing by and the physio’s did a marvelous job too.
Runners had many options to eat and few runner families also came with many eatables and helping the runners on the road. At the finish line they kept a few ice slabs where runners could just relax and chill, and bath and change their clothes in between the run so that they will feel fresh and nice to start their run all over again. Because of these facilities there were no incident of any kind of serious injury to the runners. Runners were really pampered and taken care by the adorable volunteers.
Runners also got to run and chat with India’s some of the well-known ultra marathon runners while running, which was the highlight of this race. It was really heart warming to see first time runners were enduring the grueling run. As we coming close to finishing the 12 hours, we could see many runners came to support, there was big buzz on the road, people running with Indian flag and chanting Vande Mataram that boosted the tired runners.
Each loop initially was 12 km, and it was compulsory to do weight check and check our blood pressure. Almost all my loops the BP was showing 80 – 160 and few loops a little lower. For the last one hour, the organisers shortened the distance from 6 km loop to 3 km loop. Towards the end we could see the runners holding the Indian flag and running and chanting Vande Mataram and finishing the 12 hours run. Each and every runner who finished the 12 hours run given a finishers medal and a certificate with their name printed on it.
That was a really memorable run for all the runners who ran/walk for 12 hours. This will give lots of confidence for their future runs and encourage more runners to do this in future. Most important lesson for beginners was that one should train for such events well in advance and gradually build up the endurance to enjoy injury free running.