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: https://shyamgopan.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/the-spectator/).
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: https://shyamgopan.wordpress.com/2015/12/28/sunshine-running/ & https://shyamgopan.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/ladakhs-running-team/.)