Apoorva Chaudhary (Photo: Latha Venkatraman)

In October 2019, two years after she took up running in a dedicated fashion, Apoorva Chaudhary was among athletes representing India at the start line of the IAU 24-hour World Championships, in Albi, France. She covered a distance of 202.212 kilometers, at the event. The distance logged was a national best in the 24-hour run for women in India. The new record was less than a year after a previous national best of 176.8 kilometers, Apoorva set at the NEB 24-hour Stadium Run in New Delhi in December 2018. This is her story:

It was February 2020; the Delhi before COVID-19 locked down India. For runners, there was a major event imminent – the 2020 IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon. People had begun reaching the city from other parts of India for that.

Connaught Place and the café we were in, bustled with activity. Apoorva Chaudhary recalled her years at Navodaya Vidyalaya in Bijnor, roughly 150 kilometers away from Delhi. These schools were commenced by the central government in 1985-86 to bring quality education comparable to the best in a residential school system. It was meant mainly for students from rural areas. Alongside studies, Apoorva was into running a range of distances at the school – 800 meters, 1500 meters and 3000 meters. She also played basketball. She didn’t get into teams higher up in the pecking order because she never came first in school races. As she put it, “ I always ran slowly, finishing second or third. My father used to tell me that I wasn’t doing a good job of sticking to the person who was leading.’’ Still the routine of boarding school meant, she participated consistently in sports. That routine was silver lining, for Apoorva secretly disliked boarding school. She hailed from Bijnor and her home wasn’t far off; she couldn’t understand why she had to be in boarding. She took part in the 1500 meters and 3000 meters till she completed her tenth standard.

From Himalayan Crossing, July 2016; the others in the frame are Tserin Negi and Avinash Pratap Singh (Photo: courtesy Apoorva)

An eldest child, Apoorva had grown up with the belief that she would become a doctor. “ My grandfather always told me that I will become one,” she said. Her desire was to be an ophthalmologist. In India, the phase of education following matriculation is when professional orientation to studies creeps in. Those couple of years leading to entrance exams for professional courses are usually intense. After completing her twelfth at Bijnor, Apoorva attended coaching classes in Dehradun, chasing the ophthalmologist-dream. The natural outcome of a life dedicated to academics was that sports got completely side-lined. Then, a setback occurred. Apoorva didn’t make the cut in the entrance exam. With her hard work gone waste and chance to study medicine denied, she slipped into depression. For a brief period, she wondered whether she should make another attempt at clearing the exam. Then she gave up on that plan and opted instead for a B.Tech in biotechnology from Kurukshetra University.

Apoorva’s college days didn’t feature much sport. She occasionally played basketball and dabbled in yoga. More importantly, in these years, she developed serious asthma. Following her studies, Apoorva secured work at a company in Bengaluru. She shifted to the southern metro. Not long into this stint, she quit her job; she found it hard relating to experiments on animals, something the work required her to do. A period of volunteer work with NGOs ensued. During this time, following links she made in the film making fraternity, Apoorva said, she was called to act as body double in a film about Kavitha Kanaparthi. Founder of Globeracers, Kavitha organized foot races of ultramarathon distances under that brand. Kavitha was pregnant at that point in time and the film makers needed a body double for shooting some running scenes. Apoorva didn’t know what ultra-running was. During the shoot, she had to run on multiple occasions, at times notching up quite a distance. “ I don’t remember getting tired from those runs,” she said.

At the annual Adidas Runtastic Ambassador Meet, Berlin, September 2019 (Photo: courtesy Apoorva)

Her connection with Globeracers led to Apoorva volunteering for some of the events they organized. In February 2016, she volunteered for Run of Kutch. “ I enjoyed volunteering for the event. The work also entailed marking the route before the race,” she said. In that same year, she was called to volunteer for Himalayan Crossing, another race from the Globeracers stable. A ringside view to great challenges is often the best encouragement one can have to take the plunge oneself. “ I remember thinking about the insanity of the runners doing these ultra-long distances, little knowing that I myself would opt for such mileage in due course,” she said. Her foray into recreational running commenced after the second edition of Run of Kutch. Apoorva was into running and trekking. The latter activity picked up through personal trips to Dharamshala and Shimla and the visit to Spiti for Himalayan Crossing with Globeracers, peaked on a 2017 holiday in Ladakh that saw her ascent the popular trekking peak, Stok Kangri (20,187 feet). She had set out for Stok Kangri from Leh, alone and self-supported. Along the way, that altered a bit after she met a group from the army headed to the same peak. They in turn, planted in her head the idea of doing a Basic Mountaineering Course. She applied for the course offered by the state-owned mountaineering institute in Jammu & Kashmir and upon their seats for mountaineering being full, was offered a place in the skiing course. It should have been on her agenda for 2017 but then other things happened.

Sometime in 2017, she participated in an informal 15 km-run organized by Delhi Running Group, at Sanjay Park in New Delhi. For most people, their first major project in amateur running is the half marathon. Shortly after the run in Sanjay Park, Apoorva signed up for her first half marathon – part of Adidas Uprising, due in December that year. During her training runs Apoorva heard of runners finishing the half marathon in under-two hours. At Adidas Uprising, not only did Apoorva get her sub-two-hour finish, she emerged the overall winner among woman participants. The prize was a coupon worth Rs 10,000, using which she could buy Adidas products of her choice. She bought her most expensive pair of shoes till then, she said.

Apoorva and Kanan Jain sprinting towards the finish line at the IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon, February 2020 (Photo: courtesy Apoorva)

After the Adidas Uprising event, Apoorva signed up for the half marathon at the IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon of February 2018. She finished the race in 1:56:03. “ This was my second half marathon. At this event I met Kanan Jain. Later that year I was to volunteer for the Bhatti Lakes ultramarathon and Kanan was scheduled to try the 100 kilometer-run there. He asked me if I would be interested in attempting a 24-hour run,” she said. The 24-hour run that Kanan suggested was the one to be held by NEB Sports in December 2018 at New Delhi (Kanan Jain is a young ultramarathon runner. In the months to follow he would be part of the official team representing India at the 2019 IAU 24-hour World Championships held in Albi, France. He is now Apoorva’s coach drawing up her training schedules for ultramarathon races). Apoorva said she had no experience of distance running except the two half marathons she had completed. Kanan persisted; he pointed to her volunteering for ultramarathons and her interest in hiking. He asked her to consider the idea. She did. What she found difficult to overlook was how Kanan had pitched the whole thing. He had asked her if she would like to represent India in the discipline of running very long distances. That was a target too hard to ignore. Next day, she said “ yes’’ to the idea.

The ultramarathon embraces distances beyond the length of a marathon. A 24-hour run is one of the many forms of ultramarathon. It is typically held over a short loop. The runner, who covers the maximum distance during the stated period, is the winner. In India, Runners for Life is credited with commencing the 24-hour and 12-hour ultramarathons through their event, Bangalore Ultra. 2017, the year Apoorva commenced her recreational running was also coincidentally host to the last edition of the Bangalore Ultra, pioneer in that space in India. Apoorva’s first tryst with distances beyond the half marathon happened soon after that “ yes’’ to the idea of attempting a 24-hour run. In 2018, she and Kanan participated in the run from Gurugram (Gurgaon) to India Gate organized by Aashayein. At 29 kilometers, it was far from ultramarathon. But the journey had begun.

From the 24-hour stadium run in Delhi in 2018; others in the frame are Sunil Shetty, Shyamala Gopalan and Shibani Gharat (Photo: courtesy Apoorva)

The 24-hour run the duo targeted was scheduled for the end of the year. Apoorva had time to build up her mileage. “ If you have a goal, it is prudent to have pit stops before you reach the goal,” she said. To create a tiered progression towards the 24-hour run, she decided to do the 12-hour run offered as part of the 36-hour Stadium Run organized by NEB Sports in Bengaluru, in August 2018. To gain entry to this stadium run, Apoorva opted to first run a 50 kilometer-race at Mashobra Tuffman Shimla Ultra. As part of her training for this event, she had managed to do just one 50 kilometer-run. At the Tuffman event, she finished the race in 6:03:56 hours. “ This was my ticket to the 12-hour run in Bengaluru,” she said.

Unexpected twists in life had seen Apoorva resurrect her interest in running from school days and take to recreational running as an employed adult. Hers was a family of five; her father who is a farmer, her mother who is a homemaker and two younger brothers. Her parents were unaware of the changes afoot in the life of their daughter who had elected to work away from home. Nobody in Bijnor knew of Apoorva’s mission to participate in the 24 hour-run. Each time she visited Bijnor, the mission manifested in the form of unavoidable training runs. “ My father was not very happy with me venturing out to run,” she said. He had his reasons. There was the question of a woman’s safety; not many people ran regularly in Bijnor. If Apoorva was running for fitness, he felt a few days of exercise missed wouldn’t inflict significant damage. He was also unaware of the full dimensions of the journey Apoorva had set herself on and why she required to train diligently. Once during a visit home, Apoorva was admonished for stepping out for a run. Even if she had revealed her plans, till tangible results are produced, plans don’t hold water – that’s the Indian approach. Unfazed by the opposition, Apoorva proceeded with what she had to do. She would slip out of her home, walk some distance, change into running shoes and commence her run. “ I cannot afford to miss my runs,” she said. Over time, Apoorva apprised her mother about her passion for ultra-running. Eventually however, to circumvent the situation, for much of 2018, she kept her visits home to the bare minimum. Her determination paid off.

The day after the 24-hour stadium run in Delhi in 2018 (Photo: courtesy Apoorva)

At the 12-hour run in Bengaluru, Apoorva finished first among women and fifth overall, covering a distance of 99.76 kilometers. “ I had a target of 100 kilometers. I was completely overwhelmed by this experience. I hadn’t imagined that I would have the ability to do something like this,” she said. With this 12 hour-run, Apoorva’s circle of friends in running grew. Running groups wanted her to join them on their outings. It felt good. In the days following the 12-hour run, she increased her mileage as part of training for the upcoming 24-hour event in New Delhi. “ I knew that if I am opting for ultra-running, then I am opting for pain and challenge. One is always preparing for a worst case scenario in such long-distance races,” she said. However, there is more to preparing for an ultramarathon than just the mileage accumulated in training. Nutrition and hydration are important aspects. You have to know what foods your body can hold down and utilize while it is being pushed for endurance at the same time. There is no one size fits all; each runner’s preferred nutrition during a race is the outcome of trial and error. Then there is how you race; how you pace yourself when the distance to cover is huge. All this takes time. Experience counts. In December 2018, Apoorva stood at the start line of the 24-hour run with little understanding of fuelling plan or race strategy. “ Prior to the event, during my training, I had done two weeks of 100 kilometer-mileage and one week of 90 kilometers,” she said. It was modest mileage striking a balance between adequate training and saving yourself for a race. That may have addressed the running side of things. But as regards overall experience in the ultramarathon, she was very much on a learning curve.

The 24-hour stadium run in Delhi was tough. At the end of 12 hours, she had covered around 102.4 kilometers, which was more than what she managed in the 12 hour-run of August 2018. “ I was strong for the first 14 hours. Until about the 18th hour I was holding myself well but after that it became very tough. I was dehydrated, tired and nowhere near my target of 200 kilometers,” she said. She even began to doubt whether she would touch 100 miles (160 kilometers). She remembered ultra-runner Sunil Sharma intervening to help her. Vishal Adhav, another runner, started to pace her. “ He ran ahead of me and asked me to just follow his footsteps. For the last two hours of the race I kept doing that and got into a trance chasing the feet running ahead of me,” she said. Apoorva covered a distance of 176.8 km during that 24-hour period. It was a national best among women in India. But it was an effort that left her with questions. “ During breaks in the race I used to ask myself: why am I doing this?’’ she said. There was also a valuable lesson learnt. As part of her fuelling, she had tried yogurt. It suited her.

From the world championships in Albi, France, 2019 (Photo: courtesy Apoorva)

For all athletes, there is a point when effort pays off and fortunes change. At home in Bijnor, the morning newspaper bearing reports of the stadium run in Delhi told Apoorva’s parents the full story of what their daughter had been up to. The training runs started to make sense. Neighbours who read the newspaper, asked: isn’t that your daughter? The win in Delhi also made the Indian ultra-running community take note of Apoorva. She was selected for the IAU 24-hour World Championships, due at Albi, France, in October 2019. By the time she got to Albi, Apoorva was more knowledgeable of her nutrition, hydration needs and racing strategy. “ That was my strongest 24-hour run,” she said of her experience at Albi. Running alongside Apoorva were some of the world’s best ultra-runners, including US athlete, Camille Herron, who would set a new women’s world record of 270 kilometers at the event. At the end of 24 hours, Apoorva had covered a distance of 202.212 kilometers. It was a new national best for women. And it had come less than a year after the previous national best of 176.8 kilometers she set at the NEB 24-hour Stadium Run in New Delhi in December 2018.

Couple of days after meeting this blog at the café in Connaught Place, Apoorva filled in a gap in her progression to the ultramarathon. She ran her first marathon – the IDBI Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon, held on February 23, 2020. She finished seventh overall among women and second in her age group of 18-34 with a timing of 3:28:45. Having graduated to ultramarathon from the half marathon, the classic marathon was a case of going back and catching up on a rung in the ladder, she had missed. On March 24, India slipped into a nationwide lockdown triggered by COVID-19. For almost a month, Apoorva – she now works at the Gurugram office of PeopleStrong, a technology firm in the HR space – was confined to her apartment in Gurugram. She focused on strength training. She was scheduled to represent India at the IAU 24-hour Asia & Oceania Championships, slated to be held in Bengaluru over July 18-19, 2020. It therefore made sense to continue her training in whatever way she could. The Bengaluru event was subsequently called off due to COVID-19.

Training in Leisure Valley Park ahead of the world championships in Albi, France (Photo: Bounty Narula)

On May 25, Apoorva managed to travel to Bijnor, where her parents live. She resumed her running there, stepping out very early in the morning for her daily run. It is an hour when few people are out. It suits her for she generally likes to run alone and sometimes with one or two others. The morning run takes around two hours. With no races on the horizon, she does not need to train hard. Her parents are supportive. Nowadays on her return from training, her father asks her how the run was. He still worries for her safety but has his own emergent interest in fitness, which he blends into the solution. “ Today morning as I was returning home, he came cycling towards me. He wanted to make sure that I am alright. From tomorrow onwards, he says, he will be cycling alongside while I run. He says that will keep him fit too,’’ Apoorva said, mid-July. Asked if she had managed to answer that question of why she was running the ultramarathon (she had asked herself that during the 24-hour run in Delhi), Apoorva said, “ I think it has to do with wanting to get out of my comfort zone. If I don’t do that, I won’t get to know what I can do.’’ There was also another question begging an answer. Apoorva’s running had commenced in school. Despite running the 800 meters, 1500 meters and 3000 meters in that phase, she got nowhere. After a long hiatus and for no particular reason except curiosity, she took to recreational running in Bengaluru in 2017. By October 2019, she had set one national best and rewritten it. What was different about her journey in running, post 2017? “ I think Kanan gave me an engaging goal in that 24 hour-run and the prospect of representing India. I took it up but was at the same time under no pressure. I had nothing to lose,’’ she said.

(The authors, Latha Venkatraman and Shyam G Menon, are independent journalists based in Mumbai. This article is based on two rounds of conversation with Apoorva.)


This image was downloaded from the Facebook page of Psynyde Bikes and is being used here with prior permission.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has bolstered the case of cycling, worldwide. Amidst the requirement to stay healthy and also keep adequate physical distance, the good old bicycle has emerged a fine combination of encouraging fitness and observing pandemic related protocols. News reports in the recent past cited bicycle sales spiking in several countries. The bulk of the new interest was in practical bicycles for commuting purposes.

Pune based boutique manufacturer of bicycles, Psynyde Bikes, plans to introduce a model that packs into this slot. Aptly named “ cycletowork,’’ the commuter bicycle had been in the pipeline for the past one to one and a half years, Praveen Prabhakaran, founder of the company, said. The pandemic and the relevance of cycling it highlighted, has authored an opportunity to formally bring the model to the market. True to Psynyde’s value-for-money positioning, the commuter bicycle is slightly high end in components and looks but affordably priced for those specifications. “ We are hoping to price it at around Rs 25,000-26,000,’’ Praveen said.

The bike, which has been designed by Psynyde in India, has an aluminum frame and steel fork. The frame is a completely new design with geometry meant for commuting. “ Its new from ground up,’’ Praveen said. The bike employs Shimano Tourney derailleurs at the front and back. It has altogether 24 gears (8×3 set up). Where it makes a departure from other similar models in the Indian market is with regard to its crank. “ It has a hollow spindle crank,’’ Praveen said. The hollow spindle crank is a bit fatter in build than its brethren. This makes it stiff and thereby capable of better response when it comes to translating effort to movement. At the same time, because the component is hollow inside, it is light and does not affect the overall weight of the bicycle, Praveen said.

The company has around 100 numbers of the commuter model in stock. “ We have been getting enquiries,’’ Praveen said.

Psynyde is a home-grown company, founded by cycling enthusiasts. Its earlier models – Psynyde Furan (MTB) and Psynyde Oxygen (hybrid) – are known well in the Indian market. The company started as an outfit making custom-built bicycles and performance oriented bicycle components. It is now a young, small enterprise that sells a limited number of bicycles designed by it. For more on Psynyde please try these links:,,

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)         


This image was downloaded from the film’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

At the heart of elegance is simplicity.

When you have just one thing to say, things typically turn out well. When you have more than one thing to say, the game gets complicated. Not that simplicity loses its importance. Just that you have to analyze and delineate simplicity applicable across strands to link them all together.

The Little Traitor had its moments of doubt, when you thought it might derail and end up a mess. But it didn’t. Much of it thanks to the talent of a young actor called Ido Port supported magnificently by an equally competent cast led by Alfred Molina. This 2007 Israeli-American film, tells the story of Avi Leibowitz aka Proffy, whose family moved to Palestine after enduring the anti-Jew atrocities of World War II. The year is 1947. The region is controlled by the British and the modern nation of Israel is yet to be a reality.

For Proffy’s family, who have moved here with Israel in mind, the British presence is unacceptable. The youngster and his friends emulate the adults around them. They forge their own little conspiratorial circle, assume a cloak of secrecy and hatch plots designed to irritate the British and force them to leave. Life changes when Proffy is caught for being out during curfew by a British soldier, Sergeant Dunlop. The boy confronts the soldier with tenor molded by the adult world around him; he resonates defiance and anti-British sentiment. Dunlop though, proves to be the inquisitive self-critical sort with an appetite for learning. He seeks Proffy’s help to learn Hebrew and understand the writings of Judaism. For Proffy, it becomes opportunity to brush up on his English. Unknowingly the little boy finds in Dunlop, a person he can confide in and talk to comfortably, something his father, committed to Israel and cast on serious lines, has denied him. As his friendship with Sergeant Dunlop grows and he fails to report for his gang’s next mission, Proffy’s friends discover his proximity to the enemy soldier and brand him a traitor.

Into this simple story line, are added the strands of Proffy’s own growing up. Such layering in the narrative is made possible by the empathy Dunlop offers; it opens up room in the story for more than one of Proffy’s struggles. For a while, having enjoyed the simplicity of the film progressing on a single track – something you find in works from the Middle East and West Asia – you fear, it may end up a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Miraculously it doesn’t. Ido Port, his expression alternating between the puzzlement before questions; delight at the opportunity to know and the satisfaction of knowing, holds the narrative together with his portrayal of Proffy. The multiple strands blend and you end up with a heart-warming film. The movie is based on the novel, Panther in the Basement by Israeli author, Amos Oz.

The Little Traitor is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Try it.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)             


This image was downloaded from the Internet and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

Sometimes there is a wealth of meaning in coincidence.

Mid-July, 2020 as one of India’s biggest online AGMs (Annual General Meeting) got underway – the company in question also seeing it as opportunity to showcase its technological capability – I was watching a docuseries set in distant South America.

From my little apartment that has been address cast in stone since the nationwide lockdown began, I traversed the 7000 kilometer-length of the world’s longest mountain chain, taking in a multitude of fantastic ecosystems and the people in their midst. Watching Magical Andes, currently available on Netflix, was without doubt an uplifting experience.  In my early fifties and freelance journalist to boot, I am resigned to the fact that I won’t see the places I have marveled at in the pages of books and the videos of the Internet. My earnings season on Earth is over. What I have left still, is an imaginative mind. Like the Andean Condor, recently reported in The Guardian as capable of flying 100 miles without flapping its wings, a window to the world’s wild places with few people therein, is a high that is strong enough to keep me happy for a few days. It gives me something to dream about; a counterpoint to latch on to and stay afloat in world locked down by virus.

To be honest, the 2019 docuseries although lovingly shot and narrated, is not exceptional. It is an edited view that diplomatically evades the negatives of life. Let’s face it; the countries the Andes passes through have known their share of trouble. At the same time, the series doesn’t drip sugary, like a tourist brochure trying to attract visitors. Its idiom stays midway between brochure and documentary. It is a nice balance of abject wilderness; wine country, adventure sports, Martian landscape valued in space research and a variety of human characters happy to be alive and working in the Andean environment. It is more or less a place as it is; emphasis on geography’s power to shape life. I don’t know how the series may work on the tourist but it worked well for this journalist. Had it been too journalistic with life’s troubles spewing forth, maybe it wouldn’t let the bird in me escape lockdown’s gravity and fly.

On that same note, the reason this docuseries engaged me at this juncture in time was the journey outdoors – albeit on the Internet – it offered, just when tech companies have been promising a contact-less future authored by data, digitization and advanced telecom. Those last three have few complaints about the lockdown upon us. No thoughts of whether we miss being human. They have the capital and political patronage to make things happen their way. So what if humanity can’t move about? We have you in the cross hairs and everything will be home delivered as long as you pay for it.

Well Magical Andes was a case of home delivery for me. But the good thing about documentaries of this sort is that they help me stay true to my wiring – life is outdoors; not indoors. Not to mention – there is a difference between future trends as sought by you and trends rendered inevitable by the power of corporate capital. The first is a choice; the second is an imposition. The first celebrates freedom; the second doesn’t care if world is free or not. Series seen, I am already off on 7000 kilometer-journey in my head, riding imaginary bike bought with imaginary money. I nurse a small fear though: how long before them with capital control the space between my ears as well? How long before they kill my imagination?

Magical Andes; try it, if you haven’t already.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)