Sunday, September 25, 2011


Training, bonding with great people, having great laughs, tiring workout, pep talks for the last six months all culminated and came together on 24th September 2011, when 10 individuals were ready to run the Akron Marathon. We took a pledge for children who are as deserving as you and me for an education who simply did not have the money for it. We ran for ASHA FOR EDUCATION.

Five thirty in the morning, we were pumped, excited, nervous and rearing to go. The support was phenomenal, team spirit was literally tangible and hearts racing. At seven we were off and for me it was a journey of a life time-The run that has changed me forever.
With all the training I actually almost cruised until mile 10 keeping a constant pace and I felt fit and healthy. Mile 11,12,13 my muscles started to complain and tire.
Mile 15 came and it was getting tough. My body was saying STOPPPPPPPPP, AND WALK, but my mind just did not allow for it. All that I was thinking was “Don’t be a baby, this is only six hours that you have been training for, for the last six months and this is only six hour of your life. Just keep going”.
I was fighting with myself and I had to dig deep into myself to come out of this slump. My mind was taking me back home, to family, to my dogs and I was becoming emotional at times. Any slow or classical music that played on my iPod made it worse and tears rolled down.
I stopped at mile 18 for two minutes and walked because I realized I could walk faster than my jog!. My muscle went on strike and I hit the “wall” (I think). I ate some energy gel and started again at a better pace. I was struggling till mile 21 and would walk every now and then for a minute or so.  

At this point I think your body shuts down its pain receptors and even though I was tired I felt like my legs were moving on their own, almost automatically! I think I ran continuously until mile 24 and then had to walk because there were two steep hills at the very end (what vicarious pleasure Akron gets in this, I don’t know). I look in front and all I thought was “really, you gotta be kidding me”. I walked the hills and  “sprinted” (fast jog) the rest.
I could see the light at the end of the dark dark tunnel; I could see the finish line. Emotions were at its peak, people were cheering, loud music, jubilation and I looked at the time and I had finished in 4hrs 50 min!!!! I could not believe it. That was my first out of body experience; I just could not believe it.

And then,,,,,,,,,,,,,, reality really really bites! I stopped at the finish line, shook hands with someone and collected my medal and then I just could not move. My muscles cramped up, my legs felt like lead that weighed a ton. I felt pain. I had to stretch it out and it did get better in a couple of hours.

We pledged to ASHA FOR EDUCATION, in return I have “learned” allot from this experience and the last six months has “taught” me more about discipline, hard work and the will I thought I never had than ever before.
After a day, it did sink in and I did feel the “runners high”. Will I do this again, HELL YA!


Friday, September 23, 2011

Pep Talk before the race

Hi Team,

The entire team has come a long way starting with the preparations, the grueling training sessions and all the runs you guys have undertaken over the past few weeks.

I hope you realize that you have trained yourselves hard, pushing your mental and physical abilities to the limit, all for a cause so big and required that it REALLY does make a huge difference in the World that we all live in today.

You don’t have to prove your mettle to any one rather it is you who has to be convinced in order to inspire and show people around that you are ready for this.

I would like to be the first to tell you all-I BELIEVE YOU ARE READY!

Remember that you have already run well over a dozen marathons by now already, so don’t even have any doubts that this is going to be any different from all the rest.

Wish you all the very best for the run. I hope you all cross the finish line tomorrow, Triumphant, Joyful and with a sense of Accomplishment.

I will be rooting for you guys all the way from India- GO TEAM ASHA!!!!!


Himanshu Rapur

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Challenge to Team Asha by a Doctor

Cleveland Asha marathon team has been issued an open challenge by Dr Ranjit Tamaskar(Willoughby, OH) to raise $1000 from today till race day  @ Akron Marathon 2011 (, and he will match (make a donation of equal amount) EVERY penny we raise to the D-day. So if you know and are proud to have any one of the following Forrest Gumps as friends: Anshuman Chandrachud, Aparna Chitharanjan, Amith Chordia, Partha Pratim Deb, Lavanya Venkataraman,Ram Palakodety, NOW is the time to loosen those purse strings, rather than waiting for the run to be over. It is an open donation-doubling machine. Every donation is Tax deductible. Personal webpages of runners and donation links are here:  . You can support us from any part of the globe.

Our painful knees and sore ankles need u :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

More Mental Than Physical

True or False ?

- You can't walk during marathons at all.
Not true. In fact walk/run is a proven technique to stay injury-free.

- You need a strong core.
Very true - read Aparna's post.

- Humans are not made for long distance running.
Very funny. Don't believe it. It's a scare tactic.

- Marathon is more mental than physical.
Amen! Couldn't be truer. (More about this in a minute)

- To run a marathon, you should start young or should've been a runner your whole life.
Nope. Not true.

I could go on and on. But a simple google search of "Marathon Myths" will surely quench your thirst and quell your doubts.

In this post, I want to share my experience about the "more mental than physical" aspect.

I recently ran the 10-mile Muddy Paws trail race - my very first official race. The idea at first seemed daunting. But I have a confession - I had a LOT of fun. And I know why.
The preparation for the race itself started almost a week ahead and my check list looked something like this.

The week before ...
1. Put in all my scheduled runs throughout the week.
2. Proper diet of course (less fiber and more carbs as the week progresses).
3. Laundry. Funny as it may sound, you don't want to be stuck with whatever you can get your hands on on the race day. You gotta wear what's comfortable.

The night before ...
4. iPod. Fully charged and with the right playlist. Songs that keep you pumped.
5. Fuel Belt - Water, gatorade and GU energy gels.
6. My lucky hat
7. Directions to the race location & gas in the car
8. Inform your friends / loved ones (in case of emergency).

On race day ...
9. Breakfast of the champions.
10. A nice, long warm-up.

After the race ...
11. A longer cool-down.
12. Chocolate milk - to replenish (and celebrate!).

Its like a strategy game and you are getting ready for battle. All you need to outwit the enemy is the right attitude. And with so much thought and preparation before the race, there is no way in hell your attitude is not that of a winner. And of course it goes without saying ... attitude decides altitude. Or even distance for that matter.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Curious Case of the CORE!

“Guys, we have to work on our core” was a constant statement every week from the time we decided to venture on this heroic journey.
The core muscles to me just meant “abs” and I always associated it with either sports stars or a Hrithik Roshan/Brad Pit Greek God looking super star.
All of us have “core” muscles that are hidden deep in layers of fascia aka fat. Without these muscles we would not be able to stand, sit, walk or even just hold our body erect. These muscles are the drones of our body working nonstop without us realizing it.
So, in the last two weeks we muster the courage to actually test our core with the dreaded PLANK. We wanted to go 1 minute and I thought “ya, shouldn’t be too hard.” That was literally the longest 1 minute of my life. If you think time flies, do the plank for a minute! (this was after the usual practice run, in my defense.)
My arms and legs shaking, I said all the Gods names that I knew off and demanded a countdown from 50 seconds just to know at which second I can drop. Then came the side plank that was the real killer. We did 30 seconds on each side and I felt all my insides being crushed and squeezed from all sides. At that point I thought running was the easy part.
To my surprise the next day I felt fine and infact a little stronger maybe (could just be my imagination after building my abs for a day!). The interesting part about the core is that, since we constantly use those muscle groups the recovery rate is very quick and they respond and adapt to high workloads quickly. I don’t mean that I will  get  “6 pack abs” or even a 2 pack, but my core will get stronger and hopefully make the long distance running easier. 
Last week I pushed the limit by going 1.5 minutes on the plank and 45 seconds on the side plank. Now I truly  feel the difference (not see) from when I started and I hope my theories on the core muscles are actually true!
Today we ran close to 14 miles, which was tough no doubt but I believe my core did not let me down and it made the run a little bit easier and even a little enjoyable.
I now have a new found respect for the core muscles and maybe, just maybe I can join the group of “stars”  someday!. Well, or maybe I should stop dreaming, keep running and hold the dreaded plank longer and longer and longer. For now, 1.5 minutes for me is HUGE!
-          Aparna Chitharanjan 

Monday, August 1, 2011

11 AM 13 miler

Date: 07/31/2011

Time: 16:00 hrs.

State of Mind : Crazy

Disclaimer: Some of the content might seem exaggerated and I would probably blame it on the state I am in right now. However, I assure you that I have tried my best to write sanely.

I had slept well after a long time. 8 hours to be precise. As the 10 AM sunlight streamed into my room, I asked myself if it’s worth running at this time of the day. The temperature was hovering over the mid-eighties + the humidity factor. A two week break to the west coast had softened me and I was at a state where a sloth could give me a run for my money. With too much on my mind for the past few weeks, I needed some time for myself alone. There was also the euphoria of catching the elusive little mouse (blame the labs at Case) today morning, which had made itself comfortable in my house for the past one week.

I decided to run. The intention was to run for about 10 miles. Armed with only a half-liter water bottle in my hand, no phone and no iPod (a grave mistake) and a 11 AM start, I soon got into my groove, running at a breakneck speed. I had the satisfaction of overtaking a family of snails after trailing them for almost 30 minutes. Giving them a triumphant smirk, I continued on my way. Running for me, after a point of time puts me in a trance. 45 minutes into the run on the beautiful North Park road, I could only hear the sound of my feet hitting the road and my wheezy breathing. Everything else seemed to just melt into the background.

I soon ran out of water and I realized with a shock I had run almost 6.5 miles. The way back was going to be long and I was out of fluids. I hate carrying a water belt and there were no places close where I could buy one. A little worried, I turned back. It was now really hot and I regretted coming so far. Somehow, I ran for a couple more miles and then suddenly came face to face with a person watering his plants. It must have been the heat, but a crazy idea came to my mind. It was about 1 PM. I gathered courage and asked him, if he could just spray some water over me. He burst out laughing and to my surprise, without even asking me again, he simply sprayed water over me. A couple of people in passing cars cheered us. I felt much better and filling up my bottle at his house, I ploughed on. The good feeling did not last long though and I barely could drag my feet along. Luckily, someone had advised me to carry money before the run and I will be ever grateful for that reminder. I saw a Walgreens in the distance. With renewed vigor I pushed forward, bought a snicker bar and a Gatorade and finished them both before I could even reach the exit.

I was about 3 miles from my place when I started feeling a twinge in my knee. A coughing fit made me stop completely and I walked the rest of the way finishing a total distance of 13 miles in approx. 3 hours and 10 minutes. A whopping time taken, but result achieved.

Why am I doing all this? Take out a minute from your time and please do go through this.

Although, every part of my body is aching, I am feeling a strange sense of satisfaction. I completed a half marathon today in just a little over 3 hours, right in the middle of the day. I just can't wait for my next weekend run of 15 miles. Bring it on!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


So, as I reach the finish line (of what was the most grueling task I have ever faced), my adrenaline and endorphins pumping I felt the “runners high”. The feeling is so good that it was worth the effort.
Five minutes into the run, I was to myself “It’s not too late to turn back, I am not yet deep into the trail”. As the run progressed I found an internal balanced, my muscles and mind were in sync and I felt like a well oiled machine!    
Until mile 6 or 7 I was doing fine, then running is just a mental game. Mental stamina and strength is as important as training hard for a marathon. Running is a mental game and we are all INSANE!
Anyways, so soon after the run you feel like on cloud nine and the sense of accomplishment is like no other. But, all you need is a good nap and then you come crashing down to earth. With all the euphoria, I did not bother to stretch and crashed (literally) when I got home.
I have never felt my legs so stiff before and I could not lift them more than an inch from the bed without pain. Climbing steps, getting in and out of the shower, putting on clothes etc were just painful.
I thought that trail runs are a one time thing and no more marathon for me. Walking was a task and now I sympathise with older people walking slowly cause their muscles are weak.
But, our body is the most amenable, accommodating and adaptable creation and all it needs is good rest and ALLOT of stretching. Day two after muddy paws, with great effort and stretching I was able to run 3 miles at a very very very slow pace. I hope in a week’s time we are back on track and on our way!
My fellow runners, don’t lose hope with sore muscles. It always gets betterJ
------Aparna Chittaranjan

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Muddy Paws, July 22.

So one day during our training Aparna musters courage and puts forth the question to Sohani and myself: Should we do the Muddy Paws 10 Mile trail run. As usual, I was non-committal, but the women I was practising with were over-the-top keen on doing it.  How tough is it? Are we ready? Who'll drive us there?----there was only one answer: 'We'll manage'. And we did! Sohani drove us there.

We woke up @4.30 am and gave each other wake-up calls @4.45 am, (honestly none of us were confident of waking up, so I atleast did not get much sleep), and were ready to leave by 5.30 am. We followed the GPS religiously and, as it happens when GPS defeats instinct, started looping around Shaker Sq for the first 10 mins. Finally we found Van-Aiken, the smile returned on Sohani's face, the music was turned up and we were on our way! DCH style.

We reach the venue, greeted by some chilly morning drizzle (romantic eh) and make our registrations. Ram, another Team Asha member, joined us (positively hyper as ever :) ). We pick up our bibs (with time-keeping technology), pin them and look at each other. That's when Aparna says 'waapas chaley?' (she's the most deceptively strong person I've met, lol)

With 2-3 mins to the race, we are taken down a hill to line up in a huge human caterpillar. On your marks, get set, go!

The race started in a beautiful valley over-looking awesomely dense and copius green cover. Five minutes into the race, the green cover was on us. Thickets, bushes, canopies and Nature. It had rained the previous night so it was a slippery track. We all stood our balance and kept on going. One very important thing in long distance running is 'U NEVER STOP', if u do, your muscles 'lock' in on u, your mind refuses to push forward, and u give up. Now this was a hilly, slippery trail. With people of all age groups (literally). And because the track was narrow, the human train would stop at times and then continue. Bummer! With my first stop I could literally feel myself beginning to say 'this is so tough, why aren't u sleeping on a Saturday!'

And the race went on, in fact it just refused to get over. One hill would lead to another, wooden steps, slippery bridges, slush, slush, more slush. It wasn't a test of stamina alone, it was a test of mental strength (what a cliche!), flexibility in identifying and handling challenges, resource management, improvisation, and at times, lending a helping hand.

I could go on, but the race finally ended. Sohani and myself (the weaker breed) stopped at 5 miles, while Aparna and Ram completed 10 miles. It took Team Asha a little over 2 hrs. The sun played best friend and hid from us the entire run. By 11 am, we were done, rejuvenated with Muscle Milk, bananas, and some of us, water-melon. Our way back was full of energetic car-singing, and perfect celebration of personal achievement, except for a small road mishap.Nonetheless, all of us had an awesome time, and went home super proud, earning ourselves 5 hrs of good sleep.

p.s. Cannot end this write-up without thanking Punit Shah for his car and Anuj.Rohan for being great dosts.