Jigmet Dolma and Tsetan Dolker (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Jigmet Dolma and Tsetan Dolkar (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Nawang Tsering ushered me into the room I had been in before.

An open window to the east gifted ample sunshine. On the bed was a magazine on running. What had changed was a corner of the room. It seemed to have metamorphosed into a shrine of sorts – a runners’ shrine. The last time I was here, trophies from the Goa River Marathon (GRM) were placed on a shelf in the corner. Now, above the shelf was a line of finisher’s medals from both GRM and the just concluded Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM). A couple of medals that couldn’t be accommodated in this corner were hung at the next corner; sunshine-window in the middle. So far, it had been a fine outing for the team of young runners from Ladakh spending winter running in the warmer regions of the country. The medals and trophies marked their journey.

At the 2016 SCMM, Jigmet Dolma and Tsetan Dolkar finished third and fourth respectively, in the open category of the full marathon for women. They were apart by just two seconds at the finish. Jigmet finished in 3:27:46; Tsetan in 3:27:48. Sonam Choskit was placed 14th in the same discipline and category with a timing of 4:10:06. In the half marathon segment of SCMM, Tsering Dolkar (1:44:30), Diskit Dolma (1:47:35) and Stanzin Chondol (1:53:29) were placed 11th, 13th and 16th respectively in the open category for woman participants. Nawang (1:24:37) finished 23rd in the open category of the half marathon for men. Three of these runners had been at SCMM before. Jigmet was ranked second in the open category in 2015. But that year her timing was 3:45:21. At the 2016 SCMM, she was eighteen minutes faster. Tsetan last ran the full marathon at SCMM, in 2014. She was placed 26th in the open category completing the run in 4:15 (timing provided by Tsetan). That would mean, in 2016, she knocked off 48 minutes in her timing. Sonam ran the full marathon in 2015 in 4:44 (timing provided by Sonam). A year later, she had cut the timing by 34 minutes. “ They have improved well,’’ Skalzang Lhundup, the team manager said.

The improvement is not just between last year and now. On December 13, 2015, the team had participated in GRM securing six podium finishes, the first time many of them were doing so outside of Ladakh. All six podium finishers from GRM have improved their time at SCMM. Tsetan’s gain stands out.  From GRM to SCMM, both events separated by just over a month, she cut her timing in the full marathon by 38 minutes. Still, in terms of timing, there is a long way to go for this young team. On the Internet, the Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS) has a page on Ladakh’s Rigzen Angmo. According to it, in November 1995, when she won the Bangkok marathon, her timing was 2:51:14. Her personal best, reported in February 1996, is listed as 2:45:42. Both these timings are considerably faster than the open category winner of the women’s full marathon at the 2016 SCMM (for more on Rigzen Angmo please click on this link:

The team (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

The team (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

For the past few months, Savio D’Souza, veteran marathoner and well known coach in Mumbai, had been overseeing this young team’s training (incidentally, Savio finished first in the 60-65 age category of the 2016 SCMM’s half marathon for men with a timing of 1:36:42). He was in Leh in September 2015, around the time of the Ladakh Marathon, to meet the runners and impart training tips. Besides this team of youngsters, the Indian Army’s Ladakh Scouts regiment had a clutch of runners participating in SCMM’s full marathon. Skalzang could remember the names of the Ladakh Scouts personnel at SCMM. The event’s website provided the following rank and timing: Padma Namgail (3:03:34; 8th out of 1126 finishers in the open category for men), Stanzin Norboo (3:05:42; 11 / 1126), Rigzin Norbu (3:12:51; 27 / 1126), Tsering Gyatso (3:19:05; 39 / 1126), Tsering Stobgais (3:12:02; 24 / 1126), Tsering Tondup (3:12:50; 26 / 1126), Tashi Paldan (3:16:57; 36 / 1126) and Fayaz Ali (3:36:57; 71 / 1126).

On January 24, Nawang Tsering and Stanzin Chondol will return to Leh for their board exams. The rest of the team hoped to stay on in Mumbai and participate in the Thane marathon before returning to Leh by late February. It will still be winter in Ladakh when they reach. “ We can continue doing our strengthening exercises, maybe manage a short run in the evening in February,’’ Jigmet said. Anything closer to regular running – regular as perceived by those used to cold and snow – that would have to wait at least till mid-March. The youngsters hoped that in 2016-17, the team will add more events to the itinerary, to visit and run at. This team of Ladakhi youngsters was assembled and supported on its trip by Rimo Expeditions. The company organizes the annual Ladakh Marathon.

(The author Shyam G Menon is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai. For more on the running team and the Ladakh Marathon please visit the following two links: &


Sabhajeet Yadav (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Sabhajeet Yadav (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

On the evening of January 15th, a person of medium height, athletic build and younger in appearance than his 60 years on the planet, got off a long distance train at Mumbai’s Kurla Terminus.

Hailing from a village in eastern Uttar Pradesh, he spent the night with village brethren staying in Sakinaka, a north Mumbai suburb. Next morning he made his way to South Mumbai where he collected his bib for the 2016 Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM). The following morning – early morning to be precise – SCMM’s full marathon was scheduled to commence from Azad Maidan near South Mumbai’s CST railway station. He had a title to defend and zero appetite for any potential vagaries in transport, should he attempt reaching the marathon venue from Sakinaka in the early hours of 17th. He asked around at the bib collection centre if there was some means to stay overnight at the venue or be accommodated close by. He was told there were no such arrangements for his category of runner. He returned to Sakinaka, picked up what he required and by evening, arrived at CST.

Sabhajeet Yadav then did what he had done before on some of his visits to Mumbai for SCMM – he slept at the railway station. On the night of 16th, as he spread out a bed sheet on the station floor he wasn’t the only runner doing so at CST. “ There were others,’’ he said. Most of them were like Sabhajeet, outstation runners finding hotel rooms an expensive proposition. Unlike those attempting sleep on its premises, a busy railway station never goes to sleep. “ I barely managed to sleep an hour. You are disturbed by people moving here and there. The police also kept waking us up,’’ he said. Early morning on the 17th, it was from CST that Sabhajeet reported for the SCMM full marathon. Three hours, 22 minutes and 30 seconds after he started his full marathon run, the farmer from Dabhiya finished first in his age category for a fifth time at SCMM (for more on Sabhajeet please click on this link: He didn’t know right then that he had won. That was told him later in the afternoon by Bhasker Desai, the Mumbai-based businessman and runner who has helped Sabhajeet with event selection, registration and other details, for some years now.

Morning of January 19th; we were back at the cafeteria in Kurla Terminus. Sabhajeet’s return ticket on the Chhapra Express wasn’t confirmed yet and there were those passenger lists to check on the platform. But a chat on running couldn’t wait. Three cups of tea and a small snack quickly had, marked the minutes ticking by. “ This time the run went off smoothly. It was a very good run. I did not feel the distance at all. Only thing is I have been running a lot in the last few months. Perhaps if I had rested some more in between, my timing would have been better,’’ Sabhajeet said. As yet, his personal best was 3:15:38 at the 2014 Bengaluru (Bangalore) Marathon. All the same he was on the lookout for a couple of more races to run before the running calendar tapers off into the dead heat of the Indian summer. Then there was this brochure he was curious about – the Endurathon 54, due in February in Dadra & Nager Haveli. Sabhajeet had never run beyond a full marathon distance and 54 km was outside the marathon limit but not terribly so. It was eating his curiosity.

With a train to catch and a ticket to confirm before that, conversation had to be kept short. He rushed off to the platform while we rushed off for platform tickets. Minutes later, he phoned, “ S1, seat number 41.’’ It was a window seat; we found him there, in a crowded train with four people seated on most of the lower berths. “ I told the ticket examiner that I had come to Mumbai to run the marathon. He immediately marked me this seat,’’ Sabhajeet said. Some more conversation and then we took leave; until next time.

(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai.)