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Vol. 1, Issue 4
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Welcome to the fourth edition of The Perfect Form.
 
As the Indian running season tapers, most of you must be back to your drawing board, determining your running goals for training and the new season. While you are at it, might we suggest another running goal? If there’s a woman in your life you love – your mother, a friend, or a cousin – encourage her to run.
 
This issue is dedicated to all the wonderful women runners in India who are taking back the streets. No matter what your experience level and timing – what matters is that you are a runner.
 
In the ultrarunning world, there’s a term ‘Getting chicked’, when a male runners gets overtaken by a female runner. We ask, why should ‘getting chicked’ be a derogatory term? We all know wonderful women runners in India who put in just as much effort into training as their male peers. To make the running scene in India more vibrant and diverse, here’s hoping that we all ‘get chicked’! Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!

ON THE TRAIL

with
Rekha Sudarshan
 
She is a familiar presence on the Chennai runners as one of the most enthusiastic running evangelists on the block. As a childbirth educator, lactation specialist and the founding member of the running group, The Dream Runners, Rekha wears many hats successfully. The Dream Runners Half Marathon has become one of Chennai’s flagship events, and Rekha herself is known to run for many woman-centric causes.
 
We speak to this beloved member of the Indian running community on the benefits of running - especially for women - nutrition, training, and on the importance of giving every woman in India the confidence to give themselves the wings to fly.
 
Could you walk us through the milestones of your running journey?        
 
Miles to go before I sleep!
 
I started running in 2008. My initial target was running 5K thrice a week. Then, I slowly graduated to running 10K and that seemed like a big achievement then! In 2008-9, running wasn’t as popular as now, and so official marathons were just a wish.
 
My first official run was a full marathon in 2012. An overnight decision taken to convert the 21K BIB to 42K and thus, I started my marathon journey.
 
I do only 3 full marathons a year, but I relish and enjoy each one of them.

My weekly schedule consists of 1 long run of 18K on Sundays, and two more days of tempo runs and track/hill runs.
 
You have been very successful in rallying a community under the banner of the Dream Runners. As a founding member, how did the idea take root and how has the community evolved since inception?
 

Dream Runners was founded by a gentleman, Mr.Srinivasan. I, in addition to many of the senior members of the group, owe our running to him. He sowed the seed of road running into our mind, and once we hit the road, there was no looking back. Naysayers were plenty, who dissuaded us from hitting the tar, but we stuck to our interest and the fun time began.
 
As a founding member of Dream Runners I am mighty proud of how far we have come as a group. We were just a bunch of 5-6 people way back in 2008, and gradually more people started trickling in - not just by themselves but with their families. Now, we have mushroomed in many neighborhoods across the city and the numbers are only multiplying.  It is a gratifying experience to see hundreds of families getting healthy under the banner of Dream Runners.
 
Our focus right from the beginning was very simple – Let’s get Chennai Healthy by Running.
 
Could you enumerate the physical benefits of running for women? Especially after the milestone of 30?
 
The 30’s and afterwards come with their own list of woes! Fear of reduced mobility, cosmetic issues, and the basal metabolism slowing down - the list just gets bigger by the day.
 
The benefits of running for this age group are manifold:
 
1. Indian Women top the list in vitamin D deficiency and what better way to get the mild sunlight to do its beauty treatment on us than running in the mornings?
 
2. Running strengthens the joints and does not tear them up and with proper guidance on strength and conditioning, running is one good way to keep our joints healthy. This will pave way to a better bone strength for us. Osteoarthiritis and osteoporosis can be kept at bay.
 
3. The hormonal changes that take place during our every month menstrual cycle can be combated very well with running and the endorphins that it helps release.

4. Every woman wants to be thin, and what better way than running to achieve healthy weight loss?
 
5. Running helps produce a less potent form of estrogen, and this helps in reducing the risk of developing breast and uterine cancer.
 
6. Running also helps in reducing the risk of late onset diabetes in women.
 
7. The blood circulation that running stimulates helps in having healthy skin.
 
The psychological benefits of running are enormous, too. Especially in India, where women have to juggle responsibilities at work and at home, their own fitness ends up falling low on the list of priorities. Depression and other mental illnesses are on the rise in India, with women being the majority of sufferers. How can we channel the running movement to encourage women to take time for them and to use running as a way to alleviate anxiety and stress?
 
Women are their own bottle - neck. We have multiple roles to play but the axe always falls on our exercise time. There should be an attitude shift. I have said this in many forums “healthy families revolve around healthy women”.
 
If every woman understands this, then she can weave exercise into her daily routine. No better or simpler form of exercise than running.
 
If we as evangelists promote the benefits of running, at an age when many women are scared of losing their marbles, they would slowly cling onto this recreational form of exercise. Once they like it, they would love it, and then there would be no looking back.
 
Weight loss is cited as one of the top reasons why people take up running. We just launched a weight loss supplement - Minus, and we are trying to raise the awareness of losing weight in a healthy way with regular exercise and a proper diet – as opposed to crash diets which are counterproductive for health. There’s also the issue of negative body perceptions amongst women and the peer pressure of fads like ‘size zero’. What do you think needs to be done to educate women that a healthy body and a healthy mind should be the aim – not just reckless weight loss?
 
Health is different from Fitness. Health is when all the organs and the body as a whole is performing well. Fitness is the ability of the body to perform a physical activity. It’s ideal to have both. But health should not be at the cost of fitness.
 
Many women are confused between the two. An unrealistic expectation from themselves due to lot of outside factors pushes them to opt for the so-called cosmetic “norm”- to be thin.
 
To be thin at the cost of health is a blunder. If women can understand the difference between the two and work towards leading a healthy lifestyle by integrating exercise, healthy eating, good sleep hours, and some time in non-doing or meditation – then they have cracked the formula for a healthy life.
 
Women’s participation in races, though on the rise, is still not on par with their male peers. There are a lot of unique social factors in India that contribute towards this. How can we, collectively as a community, help lower the social inhibitions that women face when it comes to taking up running?
 
As a city dweller I have no complaints, and I am just a representative of a wider community. Compared to few years back when we started running, the environment is more conducive for women runners. The battle is in their mind and that once won, the puzzle is in place. As a community, if we can support them and give them the confidence that running is possible, the rest they will make it fall in place for them. For many women, running is still a “man” activity. If we can break that gendered thinking, then many roads will become more vibrant and colorful.
 
Infrastructure also plays a part here – badly lit roads, street harassment, lack of public toilets hamper female runners. What can we practically do to highlight these infrastructural challenges and work towards a solution?
 
It’s my dream and of many, to have running trails in each city or town which are amidst nature with water fountains. We would also love to have roads with proper toilet facilities, which are devoid of traffic and to be used only by cyclists and runners. Many cities in the US and Australia have them. However, this is a continent vs. a country, so this remains a dream.

But, if we as a running community put our heads and hearts together, this dream can become a reality.
 
At Unived Sports, we often tell athletes that a nutrition regimen is incomplete without the incorporation of proper supplementation of calcium, vitamin D3 and Coenzyme Q10. Can you tell us why supplementation is especially important for female runners?
 
A healthy food platter offers the essential nutrients. However, for better sports performance, fat burning and optimal health supplementation is essential. Recovery for a runner depends on the supplementation she takes, in addition to the exercises she does. Essential macro and micronutrients have to be included in every women runner’s meal plan to achieve long lasting injury free tenure with running.
 
You are a Childbirth Educator, a Lactation Consultant, and a mother. Can you tell us about the benefits of running for mothers – physical and psychological? Also, has running had an impact on the overall fitness of your family?
 
Pregnancy is a time when a women’s body goes through physiological and morphological changes. It is to be remembered that these changes persist for four to six weeks postpartum. Physical exercises can be resumed but this varies from one woman to another - these should be gradual. Lactation gets affected when there is too much aerobic activity, leading to lactic acid secretion which can inhibit milk production. Keeping all this mind, running is an excellent way to bounce back to normalcy but should be under trained hands and should be taken one day at a time.
 
Tell us about the process of organizing The Dream Runners Half Marathon 2014. What challenges did you face for the maiden edition? What’s in store for us for the 2015 edition?
 
Dream Runners is a group of professionals, homemakers, students and families with a common passion for running.  We operate through a trust, where every single issue is brain-stormed, the best is taken out and delivered.  Our systems and processes are in place and we operate on a very professional level. Our main motto in organizing DRHM is to give a quality event to all the participants and we are proud to say that the post event testimonials from the runners only highlight the same.
 
Every year, we work on a cause and the proceedings of the event are donated generously to the same. 2012 was our maiden edition. 2013 was dedicated to organ donation, and 2014 to the ‘Fight against Depression’ and this 2015’s run is for prosthetic legs.
 
Like any event that is organized, there are minor hiccups, but we take time to dwell on the feedbacks and correct them the following year.
 
Every DRHM edition teaches us something new, but overall it is a gratifying experience to give back to the society, which we all so happily consume from.
 
You have also been a pacer. Studies suggest that women make better pacers than men. Do you agree? If yes, what do you think are the contributing factors?
 
I have been a pacer only once in December 2014, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. The feeling of bringing back a group of happy people to the finish line, to see them relive their dream of completing an official run, and to play a part in pushing them beyond their comfort zone is definitely a gratifying experience. Women’s patience and mental strength comes into play and these could be the contributing factors for research studies skewed in our direction.

Could you tell us about your own nutrition regimen and nutritional philosophy?
 
I believe in healthy eating. In the past decade, I have been through all kinds of “diets” and only ended up tired and exhausted. I feel healthy and fit now, and I owe it the combination of exercise, good rest and a good nutrition plan.
 
I have cut down on carbohydrates but have not deleted them form my list. Proteins form a big part of my meal plan. Proteins from natural sources are given importance. Vegetables and fruits are plenty on my daily list, and so is hydration.
 
Sweets are my weakness, but over the past two years, I have happily transcended them. I indulge in dry fruits and nuts when I have the craving. I do indulge in some ice-creams and chocolates and Indian sweets, but very rarely. I do take my multivitamins and my antioxidants daily.
 
My Nutrition Philosophy is very simple - at any point in time, my body should feel light and good, and I should feel healthy and good about myself.
 
What are you training for this year and what is your long term running dream?
 
I run 3 full marathons in a year and I train for them. I do strength and conditioning three days a week, alternate between tempo runs, interval training, sand running and hill running the other three days. Sundays are our long runs.
 
As a group, Dream Runners are very diligent in our training schedule, and our disciplined approach has awarded us many podium finishes. Training as a group helps, as we motivate each other.
 
My long term running dream is to keep running as long as possible, and not to let age and age related issues come in the way of my passion.
 
Any message for the Indian running community – especially women runners?
 
My request to all runners - men and women is - get the women in your life, especially those who are apprehensive about running, to run. Nothing can be more gratifying than to see this message percolating into each family and there by the community.
 
Remember - “Happy Healthy Families revolve around Happy Healthy Women”.
 
And I sign off with that message to the running Community.
 
Let’s make a difference and make India a healthy country .
THE TRAIL MAKERS

Running for a Cause – Roshni Rai
 

Away from the world of competitive running and ‘comparathons’, one runner’s incredible journey is being propelled by a cause. Her cause represents the cause of an entire community as they fight to reclaim their identity in their own country. Roshni Rai has become an emblem for the pride of the Gorkha community.
 
All across India, North East Indians often face racism in their own motherland. Mainland Indians often look at the distinct physical features of people from the North East and mistake them for foreigners, or worse, they are subjected to insensitive racial slurs. 
 
One of these communities is the Gorkha community, which has been fighting for their national identity as Indians to be rightfully recognized. The Gorkhas are a Nepali speaking population whose nationality is Indian. The Gorkha regiments of the Indian army are known for their valor and devotion towards the country; yet, because of widespread ignorance, Gorkhas are often misidentified as being of Nepali or Chinese origin.
 
One runner is trying to reclaim the Gorkha identity, and her feet are doing all the talking. We talk to Comrades finisher and Mumbai-based runner, Roshni Rai about the ‘Run with Roshni’ cause, and her quest to educate Indians about the diversity of their own country.
 
You are the public face for a wonderful cause that is trying to raise awareness about Gorkha identity. How did the idea germinate of using running to spread awareness of such an important issue? 
 
I did the Landmark Forum in 2011 to get a breakthrough in my career. The Landmark Forum is a three day course and on the first day itself, I realized that I had an inferiority complex about my identity. One exercise was going on, in which the Landmark Leader was asking us about our linguistic skills. The 300 participants started sharing that they knew Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and other commonly recognized Indian languages. I wanted to shout out that I knew Nepali, but something was stopping me. With some courage, I shouted, “I know Nepali” and all 300 heads turned towards me- to my surprise, I felt awkward.
 
Till that moment, I used to consider myself a very confident girl, who was born and brought up in the small village of Pedong in Darjeeling. I had come to this city and made my career as an independent woman. I started wondering why I was hesitant to introduce myself as a Nepali Girl.
 
Different conversations were going on with the leader in Landmark Forum, and I realized that as soon I revealed that I was Nepali, I was asked questions like ‘are you from Nepal?’ Or many times, I have heard my colleagues saying, ‘my building’s Gorkha’. The term ‘Gorkha’ has become synonymous with a security guard. These things used to make me feel that I was being treated like a foreigner in my own motherland. Hence, I was hesitating in disclosing my own identity.
 
After Landmark Forum, I did the Landmark Advance course and the Landmark Self Expression and Leadership Program (SELP), which is a three months course. In SELP, we had to take a project, which should be our self-expression and it should benefit our community. By then, I had run many marathons and I had understood that my true self-expression was running.  I also understood by then that people were asking me question like ‘Are you from Nepali?’ or using the statement like, ‘my building’s Gorkha’ because there was not much awareness about Nepali-speaking Indians or about the Gorkha Community. So, I thought of doing something to bring awareness about Nepali-speaking Indians through running. That's how we started the project, ‘Run with Roshni’, through which we are now supporting runners from Darjeeling to run marathons in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai since 2012. While running marathons, we wear a t-shirt with the slogan, ‘WE ARE GORKHAS AND PROUD TO BE INDIAN. JAI GORKHA, JAI HIND.’
 
Before India’s Independence, one-third of the Kingdom of Nepal spreading from the borders of Assam to Garhwal now in India was ceded to British India under the Treaty of Sugauli. Hence, our ancestors became Indian. Many are not aware of this and we have to keep on explaining our history, and how Nepali speaking people are also Indian.
 
In 1950, India and Nepal signed a treaty by virtue of which both the countries allowed free entry and settling of their citizens on either soil. This treaty served to aggravate the identity crisis situation of the Gorkhas of Indian origin, for they were seen as Nepali citizens residing on Indian soil.
 
Nepali is a recognized language under the Constitution of India and it is one of the languages mentioned in Indian currency.  While I’m being interviewed, I have been asked my many reporters to show them which one is the Nepali inscription that is printed on the Indian currency notes.
 
Prejudice from fellow Indians often stems from ignorance and stereotypes depicted in popular culture (like Bollywood films), and it must be very hard to deal with such attitudes. How do you approach this prejudice and the mislabeling of your identity?
 
I got lots of breakthrough after doing the Landmark forum. Before I did the Landmark Forum, I personally confronted people in Mumbai, who passed derogatory comments on my looks. In retrospect, I understand that they were passing such comments out of their own ignorance. Now, if I have the time, I go to such and educate them on how I am also Indian.
 
Once, at Kanjurmarg Station, one man looked at me, and said to two of his friends, “Dekh, Chinese item aa rahi hai!” (Look, A Chinese item is coming)
 
I confronted him by asking, “Whom are you referring to as a ‘Chinese item’?”
 
He replied,” Yahan se dafa ho jao!” (You and get lost from here).                  
 
At the top of my voice, I shouted at him, “dhikkar hai tere jaisa indian paar, jo apne desh basi ko nahi pahechanta.” (Shame on Indian like you, can’t even recognize a fellow Indian). 
 
I told him,”I am from Darjeeling and I have represented India in four international marathons. I am an advocate by profession and I can get you arrested for passing such racial comments”.
 
His friend apologized on his behalf, and by then, a crowd had surrounded us. I could hear them murmuring, agreeing with me. I was happy to have educated someone that day.
 
Now, I go to many schools and colleges to share my experiences of running marathons and about ‘Run with Roshni’. Before starting my presentation, I ask students, ‘can you guess where I am from?’ Many of them say China. Only a few say North East India. 
 
Through running and sharing, I am bringing awareness that how Nepali speaking people are Indians. And now I am going to publish a book. I hope it will help me to reach out to more people and help to bring awareness.
 
You are originally from Darjeeling. What has the reaction in Darjeeling and of fellow Gorkha citizens been towards the ‘Run with Roshni’ initiative?
 
Initially in 2011, when I conducted seminars to share the vision of ‘Run with Roshni’, people were little skeptical. I conducted seminars in Kalimpong and Pedong, and the attendance was good. Overall, the support has been great. Darjeeling is demanding separation from West Bengal by creating a separate state of Gorkhaland. Demand for the same started prior to Independence.
 
During 1980s, more than 2000 people died for the cause of Gorkhaland but the mainstream media did not cover any story. When we ran marathons with slogan in our t shirt- ‘WE ARE GORKHAS AND PROUD TO BE INDIAN. JAI GORKHA JAI HIND’- we got media mentions in more than 15 national newspapers like TOI, DNA, Midday, Hindustan Times, Telegraph etc.  For this particular initiative reason, I was awarded the Kalimpong Ratna Award 2013 by the Kalimpong press club.
 
A lot of prejudice stems from the fact that people just aren’t exposed to more national diversity. How do you think we can promote diversity in our organizations to fight prejudice?
 
I think cultural exchange initiatives should be promoted. More students from big cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore should be encouraged to visit North East states. I am associated with an NGO that conducts a Kalimpong Village Discovery Tour. It is not a profit making operation. It is run under Mondo Challenge Kalimpong, a non-profit social organization, which is working in three major areas- educational, Economic and social development in the region.
 
On the 1st May, 2015, we are organizing the Kalimpong Half Marathon, and after that we are offering the village discovery tour to the runners coming from outside Darjeeling,. The contribution goes directly to the villages, as well as to the village & school development activities conducted by Mondo Challenge Kalimpong.
 
Motto of the Mondo Challenge is “PEOPLE WORKING WITH PEOPLE FOR SUCCESSFUL DEVELOPMENT”.
 
One group’s fight for their Indian identity should be every Indian’s fight – apart from public causes like yours, how else can we educate fellow Indians about the diversity of India and its people? How can we encourage them to join in the endeavor to end discrimination? How can we all help?
 
You have given this opportunity of sharing my story in your monthly magazine. It’s a great way for me to reach out to more people.
 
More and more people are now joining in the ‘Run with Roshni’ movement. Runesh Tamang and Kamal Thapa ran 1600K in January to let India know that "Gorkhali are indians too". What is your dream for the future of this movement?
 
I am very proud of Runesh and Kamal. Yes, they participated in "I love my Tiranga Relay 2015' from Mumbai to Delhi. I want to encourage all the youths in Darjeeling to participate in Marathons and get the world class runners. The vision of ‘Run with Roshni’ is to see Gorkha runners representing India in the Olympic Marathon. Once that happens, we wouldn’t need to keep on explaining how Nepali speaking people are Indians.
 
Your ultimate running dream?
 
To run 100K with my husband ;-)
 
Your message to the running community in India? Anything you would like to say, in particular, to fellow women runners in India?
 
Run to enjoy. Don’t make it an obsession. For women who are yet to start running, I would like to say that there is no scarcity of time to run. All of us can spare half an hour time every day for running, which can create magic in our lives.
IN CONVERSATION
with
Andrea Reismoen Stadler
Photo by Knotinfocus
 
We got the opportunity to chat with Ecuadorian athlete Andrea Reismoen Stadler on various aspects of training smart, proper cross-training, and the importance of scientific nutrition. Andrea has been living in Mumbai for the past 7 years, but her running career spans 12 years, when she started competing in triathlons. Her personal best for the HM stands at 1.36, which she achieved at the ADHM, and 3.39 for the FM at the SCMM. Her career highlights include a 100K race in Leh Ladakh, completing a 70.3K cycling race in 5.17 in Ecuador, and finishing the 7-day high altitude Gigathlon in Switzerland. Andrea is easily of the friendliest and the most dedicated athletes on the block, and a huge inspiration to us folks at Unived Sports. She is currently training for the Half Ironman in Ecuador in August this year. 
 
Watch Video
SOUL SPEAK
with
Parul Sheth
Now, let’s meet the incredible runner, architect, mother and author of The Running Soul, as she takes us through the journey of transforming her blog into a full-fledged book, her musings and approach towards running, and how we can all use running to help life blossom to its full potential.

Photo by Marathonphotos.com

Congratulations on the book coming out and on your SCMM 42K. Could you relive your SCMM 2015 for us? When do you start training in the year specifically with SCMM in mind?

This SCMM was an amazing experience as I got my PB - I worked hard for it all year round. The minute I crossed the finish line last year with 4.09, I knew that was my target for SCMM 2015. It has been a long hard year, and all my training and races were planned with this being my marquee race.
 
During this race I met some inspiring runners on the way. 2 runners from Delhi, who had finished with me- Akshay was one, Otmar from Germany on his 99th marathon, and Rajesh from Bangalore, on his 28th, who encouraged me and told me I was going strong and bang on pace.
 
All was going well until 32K, when we all know, that the marathon really begins. I plugged in my iPod. I struggled up the Peddar road incline and walked 20 steps. I gave into my weakness, but then I ran on. I fought the last 6K and my friend Mulraj paced me to a strong finish.
 
You have a successful running blog – when did you first think of taking the leap from a blog to a book? How did you go about envisioning what you wanted the book to be?
 
I had always wanted to write a book- I just never knew on what. So, last year around August 2014 on a training run, suddenly the entire format of the book flashed in my head, and that gave me the kick start I needed for the book. I had material from the last 5 years from the running blog therunningsoul.com , as well as another one which in I write on life and other things. So with that, I began to weave my story. This book is a combination of chunks of the blog, as well as a lot of new stuff.
 
This book represents the end of a phase in my life. The race of SCMM 2014 taught me a lot, and I wanted this book to come out before this SCMM, so that I could move on to a new place. So, I set myself the seemingly impossible deadline of 4 months. With a lot of help of my friends, everything fell in place and I had my book launch on 16th January, just 2 days before the race.

The book is deeply personal. Was the process of reliving memories and events cathartic? How did you deal with this emotional process, while still making sure that you were meeting your writing goals?
 
The flow of the book was organic. I had the whole manuscript ready in a month, and went through several edits. I had some friends and family reading it and reviewing it, as I was unsure. Based on their inputs, I would add and subtract from it. The final manuscript was in my hand in the first week of December. It was a lot of work, and painful too. I was writing of a time from my life which was very difficult.  But, this was a story I wanted to share- I want to give courage and hope to others who are in an abyss. If we have the courage, we can all rise above our situations. If I can do it, anyone can.
 
As an author, I never really thought that book was perfect, but I had to meet my deadlines, so I just went with the flow. Sometimes, we are our harshest critics, and tend to lose perspective of the larger picture. That is when having friends becomes important, so that they can knock some sense into your head!
 
6) Your family, of course, is a big part of your running journey and this book. Did they have a lot of input into The Running Soul? How do they feel about you now being a published author?
 
My family has been my biggest strength all through- for my running, for my writing, and for my career. Particularly when I was writing the book, they were patient and understood the times when I have needed my space, and when I wasn’t there for my kids sometimes. Even my kids were as excited as me for the book. Yes, my kids, and a couple of my friends have been a great bouncing board, and I would get different suggestions from each one. So, I am proud to say that this book is an assimilation of all our work!
 
The Running Soul occupies a unique space among other running books – it’s accessible and speaks to the everyday runners. What do you wish for your readers to take away from this book?
 
Thanks, that is quite a compliment. This book is written to show all of us, runners or anyone, that each mountain makes you stronger. All we have to do is take small steps in the right direction and with hard work we will reach our peak. We should not get intimidated by the long road- just keep our head up high and move on. One step in front of the other. In life, in work, and otherwise. And, SMILE!

Running is now widely acknowledged as being therapeutic, and you are a great example of this. How have you channelled the psychological benefits of running into other areas of your life?
 
Once I saw the joy of having new things in life, and the pleasure that a non-career goal can bring you, I have taken on several new projects. I did things that I had always wanted to do- but never gave them the required time and effort. Now, I learn the piano and read English classics, along with work and running. All these are time consuming but they feed my soul. They are important to me, so I try my best to fit them all in my daily schedule. The more I ran, the better I felt. The better I felt, the more I wanted. I think it is all about making that initial breakthrough.
 
In the past, you have participated in the more challenging events like the Satara Hill Marathon. How do you train for such events while juggling a full time career and responsibilities at home?
 
Yes, any sort of training requires juggling. However, time management has now become a part of our blood stream along with multi tasking and smart phones. I usually train early in the morning, before the kids’ school time. If I do need to travel for work, then my shoes go with me. I try not to miss my workouts. Sometimes it requires a fair bit of planning – and I need to keep my priorities in focus at all times. Training like this requires support from everyone. My kids too, have learnt to become independent, as have the people at home.
 
Any runners – Indian and international- that you look up to?
                                                                                                                       
We have so much to learn from each other. We all have our stories and coping mechanisms. So, each runner inspires another. In particular, there is Abbas, a goldsmith who runs ultramarathons and trains with us- he has a 12 hour job and runs in the remaining time! Amongst the elites, of course number one is Savio D’Souza, the man responsible for creating the love for marathons for so many of us. Also, the struggle of Wilson Kipsang, as he showed us how he created a whole new life for himself. Chrissie Wellington is a triathlete- I learnt a lot about the importance of endurance, and the real meaning of success from reading her book.
 
What does your 2015 running calendar look like? What are you running goals for this year? Any international events on the horizon?
 
 This year, I want to run faster half marathons, and eventually, make my full marathon better. So, proper training will start from June. I will just run a bit now, focus on cross training, and stay in shape so that I can push the bar up when I need to. Also, I am now doing some research on which international event I want to participate in. That will most likely be in 2016.
 
For those who are afraid to take their first steps towards running – any words of encouragement?
 
Just like anything new we start, I would tell them to start slowly. However, be regular and enjoy the runs. As you run longer, it will become easier. So, just hang in there when it seems really hard, because when you are able to push that mental barrier back, you will emerge a winner on the other side and be able to take on new challenges. The more you effort put into anything, the more satisfying is the achievement. Do remember that the runners you now see running with ease all began like you in the same place!

BOOK REVIEW

The Running Soul: My Journey from Darkness to Light by Parul Sheth


 
Have you ever “bonked” or ‘hit the wall’? If you are a runner, you probably have. It’s the feeling that every runner dreads – of suddenly feeling like you are out of breath and out of will. It’s the crushing sensation in the pit of your stomach that you are not just physically, but mentally depleted. And then, sometimes, it’s in these moments that your spirit fights through the darkness, to find the last glimmer of light. Your body digs deep into the reservoir of your mind to find the courage to run again. You pull through, haltingly at first, but getting more confident with every stride. You rise again. Sometimes, it is in these darkest recesses that you discover your own strength. Running is funny like that – so is life.
 
The Running Soul – My Journey from Darkness to Light is Mumbai-based architect Parul Sheth’s first book on personal loss and reclaiming her life- with help from family, her personal courage, and of course, running. With 4 marathons and 14 half marathons under her belt, Parul is a well-known presence in the Indian running community. Even if you are familiar with her story, the book will still hit you hard in certain places.  Without revealing too much, let’s just say that ‘The Running Soul’ is a poignant reminder of how quickly life can change, how little we can actually take for granted, and how important it is to live every moment like it’s our last.
 
While the physical benefits of running are extolled regularly, we often forget how therapeutic running is for mental health.  For so many of us, running is the only time when we are truly alone, to switch off and to reconnect with our body and our mind. Parul describes how running jolted her out of the despair and how it gave her the audacity to believe in herself again when all seemed lost. 
 
It is important to mention that The Running Soul is more than a book on running and life. This book underlines how difficult life is for single parents in India, especially single mothers. One of the biggest takeaways from the book is the importance of an empathetic and dependable support structure for women who are navigating the maze of domestic responsibilities and careers. Women receive social cues all their life that someone else’s needs always comes first, and too often, women run out of the resources to take care of their own physical and mental wellbeing. The Running Soul tells us how crucial it is that women take time out for themselves – a time when they are not mothers, partners, and sisters – so they can focus on their own wellness and dreams.
 
If you are a regular runner, we recommend that you take an evening off and settle in with The Running Soul. It’s an emotionally rich, painfully honest and rewarding read. As Parul chronicles her life transition, one run at a time, you will vicariously relive the triumphs and tribulations of your own running journey. It will remind you of the joy of your first 21K finish, and the agony of missing your PB by a few seconds.
 
In a time when we are inundated with training advice and jargon, The Running Soul is a refreshing, non-technical read for runners of all experience levels to enjoy. Gift it to someone who has just started their own running journey. We all remember how difficult those first 100 meters are when you are just starting out. We all remember how tempting it is to quit running because it feels too hard, your legs feel too weak, and your body feels too breathless. This book will help a beginner hold on when they are close to giving up.  Better still, pass it along to someone you love who doesn’t run, with an inscription about how running has changed your life- and how it might change theirs. We can’t think of a better book to get them started on their own beautiful journey. 
WOMEN ATHLETES & BONE HEALTH

By Dr Jasmine R Shah
Our bones don’t just hold up not our bodies, but our entire lives. Whether it’s dancing your heart out at a wedding, crossing a frozen Himalayan lake, or training for a personal best, we owe life’s important moments to our bones - which is why good bone health should be a high priority for every one of us. However, this is especially true of athletes.
 
We don’t just mean elite athletes. Whatever you sport of choice, if you are physically active on a regular basis, or if you train for competitive events, you need to pay attention to your bone health. 
With every kilometer you run or every kick you aim at the net, your body is under high impact. Who takes the brunt of this high impact? That’s right – your bones. Your bones are also the body’s feedback mechanism to let you know that you need to be careful. The word ‘stress’ in the term ‘stress factures’ is of significance here- these fractures, which are among the most common sports-related injuries are your body’s way of saying ‘enough!’
 
In general, women are more susceptible to osteoporosis and bone disease than men, but this risk is higher in women athletes given the high impact of endurance activities. Additionally, bone density in women is directly linked to levels of the hormone Oestrogen and the menstrual cycle.  At different times in the month, hormone levels in menstruating women fluctuate, which has an impact on bone density. The risk of stress fractures and osteoporosis is higher in older women athletes because of lower levels of Oestrogen. When high-impact sport and exercise is factored into this equation, it becomes evident that women athletes need to be particularly mindful of their bone health.

A landmark US study of female navy recruits showed that supplementation with vitamin D and calcium decreased the incidence of stress fractures by 20%. Calcium and vitamin D3 are crucial to facilitating the uptake of other nutrients by the bones, thus, having a direct role in improving bone density.
 
When it comes to supplementation, finding the right one is key. Most mainstream calcium supplements are derived from inorganic calcium sources like calcium carbonate and calcium citrate, which have a very low utilization rate by the body (around 10%). There are now calcium supplements available in the Indian market sourced from algae - an organic source - with a high utilization rate of around 80%. These supplements are also additionally fortified with vitamin D3 and vitamin K2-7. Vitamin K2-7 activates the bone protein, Osteocalcin, which helps nutrients bind to bones and increases bone density. Vitamin D3 is key to effective calcium absorption by the bones.
 
Along with supplementation, women athletes (especially veteran athletes) should ensure that they get a bone density test done. Bone density is the amount of mineral matter present per sq.cm of bones, and in clinical medicine, bone density is used as an indicator of osteoporosis risk and stress fractures. It is recommended that women athletes also incorporate weight lifting into their training regimen. Evidence suggests that weight lifting improves bone density and wards off the risk of osteoporosis, especially in post-menopausal women. Weight lifting exercises focused on the hip and spine area like hip adduction, hip flexion and hip extensions are recommended.
 
There also exists a strong link between low body fat/low BMI and osteoporosis risk as low BMI impacts the menstrual cycle, and thus, also affects bone density. Women athletes need to make sure that their caloric intake is commensurate with the intensity of their training and their recommended daily intake. Leafy greens, almonds and soy milk are some examples of excellent food sources of calcium.
 
It is also advisable for serious recreational athletes to get a biomechanical analysis of their form to identify injury-prone areas and areas of high impact. Making adjustments in your form today could be the answer to preventing an injury tomorrow.
 
Your bones help you soar to the highs of your life, and take life’s falls for you (quite literally!). Giving back to your bones is one of the biggest investments you can make towards your training and ensuring that you have a long, injury-free career. Start today – trust me, you will feel it in your bones. 

 

 
Dr. Jasmine R Shah (MBBS) is a practicing family physician in Mumbai. She started her running journey under the guidance of Savio D’Souza four years ago. Dr. Shah has 4 half marathons under her belt and successfully attempted her first full marathon this year with a sub-5 timing. 

 RRUNN™ IN ACTION
Auroville Marathon - A Surrender to Running
 

Since its inception in 2008, runners have been coming back to Auroville, Pondicherry for a marathon like no other. The running tribe at Auroville has grown be sheer word of mouth, from a few hundered in the first year to about 3500 this year. In the time of frenzied competition at events, the dazzle of goodie bags and the peer pressure of setting PBs, Auroville is a breath of fresh air with its ‘back to the roots’ approach towards running. Auroville is not a competitive event. The only reward on offer is the unbeatable experience of running in one of the most serene trails in India, driven by nothing but the joy and romance of running.  This year, the Unived Sports team had the chance to experience the magic of Auroville first hand – with two of our team members running their first half marathon at the event. 

 

It is often said that every marathon imbibes the unique character of its venue, and this surely holds true in this instance. Auroville is renowned for its international commune and the values of harmony, togetherness, and community living. The radiant Matrimandir at the heart of the Aurobindo Ashram is a beaming emblem of these values. Once a year, the Auroville Marathon becomes a way for the local community to share these values with runners from India and abroad.

 

At Auroville, the race is between the runner and famed trail trickling its way through the forest – a trail so narrow in places, that only one person can run at a time. This is a unique experience for runners who are used to the jostle and impatience of getting ahead of each other during competitive races in cities. The dirt trail is uneven and challenging, but also unparalleled in the communion that it offers with nature. Running at Auroville is truly primal running.

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THE RRUNN CALENDAR
We started 2015 with our best foot forward, and we are excited that our stride continues unbroken. We are proud to fuel the following events in March. 
 
 28th March, 2015 - Himalayan Rush, Nepal
 
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