From the training camp (Photo: courtesy Sunil Chainani)

A first ever training camp for national level ultra-runners wrapped up over the weekend in Bengaluru with the hope that athletes would follow up on what they learnt.

The week-long camp featured a broad-based approach to training, incorporating aspects related to techniques of running, strengthening, nutrition and physiotherapy, all of it to help address issues associated with running ultra-distances, Sunil Chainani, member, Ultra Running Committee of Athletics Federation of India (AFI), said.

“ We had a basic program that was common for all runners with strength training and one-on-one sessions with the running coach, nutritionist and the sports doctor,” Sunil, an ultra-runner and former national-level squash player, said. He was the main organizer and co-ordinator of the camp.

US based-coach, Anthony Kunkel, nutritionist Keertana and sports doctor Dr Sitaraman were an integral part of the camp. The camp found support from the top recreational runners of Bengaluru. With ultra-running picking up in recent times, a camp of this nature was the need of the hour. Indian athletes are now representing the country in international ultra-distance events.

Coach Anthony ran with the trainees, suggested modifications and changes in techniques based on one-on-one sessions with them, Sunil said. The focus was on individualised approach to training, nutrition and physiotherapy. A foot scan for each athlete was also carried out at Dr Sitaraman’s clinic to make an assessment of the kind of shoes to wear for races.

From the camp (Photo: courtesy Sunil Chainani)

“ The camp included runners selected to represent the country at international championships,’’ Gunjan Khurana said. The Surat-based runner will be representing India at the 2019 IAU 100 kilometer Asia Oceania Championships to be held on November 23, 2019 at Aqaba, Jordan.

Gunjan was the fastest runner among women from India at the 2019 Comrades Marathon (uphill version) in South Africa. She had completed the ultra-marathon in nine hours, 47 minutes and 42 seconds. Now 36, she started running five years ago. In 2017, she participated in the 100 kilometer-Summit Saputara run in Surat; she ran this race again in 2018.

“ The training camp was an eye-opener for me. We did a lot of running. The focus was on finding a balance between running, strength training and other aspects,’’ she said. Apart from all this there were heat sessions too wherein runners had to wear layers of clothing and run, Pranaya Mohanty, 29, said. He will be representing India in the 2019 IAU 24-hour World Championships to be held at Albi, France during October 26-27. Pranaya was earlier part of the Indian team at the 2018 IAU 24-hour Asia and Oceania Championships held at Taipei but as a stand-by member. This year, he is part of the team as a runner.

“ We had different types of training sessions – speed and slow runs, stride workout – apart from individual sessions with the coach, nutritionist and the sports doctor. We also had a running session at Nandi Hills on one of the days,’’ he said. The Bengaluru-based runner was focussed on cycling before he seriously got into running in 2018. At the 24-hour stadium run in Bengaluru in 2018, he logged 186.55 kilometers securing second position. In December 2018, Pranaya outdid himself at the 24-hour stadium ultra in New Delhi covering a distance of 206.8 kilometers.

“ The point we learnt at the camp was how to ensure a right combination of running and strength training. It is important to train smart and not merely hard,’’ Apoorva Chaudhary said. Gurgaon-based Apoorva’s foray into running was as recent as 2017. “ In December 2015, I met Kavitha Kanaparthi in Bengaluru during the making of a film on her and thereby, got to know of Globeracers. In February 2016, I volunteered for Run of Kutch. In August 2016, I again volunteered for the Himalayan Crossing,’’ she said.

From the camp (Photo: courtesy Sunil Chainani)

Apoorva, now 28, started running short distances of three and five kilometres. Her first half marathon was in December 2017 when she participated in Adidas Uprising in Delhi. She ended up on the podium with a timing of 1:59:12. Sometime in early 2018, she met Kanan Jain, a young ultra-runner, who is also part of the national squad for the 2019 IAU 24-hour World Championships. “ He is very young and was already into ultra-running. He urged me to attempt an ultra-running event. I was flabbergasted at his suggestion. I was still figuring things out about running and not yet aware of many concepts about the sport,’’ Apoorva said.

She ran the 50k Tuffman Mashobra in June 2018, covering the distance in 6:03:56 hours. Two months later at the 12-hour Bengaluru stadium run, she topped the podium clocking a distance of 99.76 kilometers. In December of the same year, at the 24-hour stadium ultra in Delhi, she created a national record with a distance of 176.8 kilometers. Apoorva is now part of the team representing India at the 24-hour World Championships in France in October 2019.

The just ended training camp did not include trail ultra-runners as the 2019 Trail World Championships is already over. Also, trail runners will require a different approach to training, Sunil said. “ A training camp for ultra-runners is essential but the real test is how well the athletes follow up on the training advice and how it translates into performance at the international arena,” he added.

(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)

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