Evans Chebet (this image was downloaded from the Facebook page of Boston Marathon and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)
Hellen Obiri (this image was downloaded from the Facebook page of Boston Marathon and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

It wasn’t Eliud Kipchoge’s best outing. But that didn’t stop Kenyan runners from dominating the elite category of the 2023 edition of the Boston Marathon.

Defending champion Evans Chebet won the men’s race while Hellen Obiri, both from Kenya, won the women’s race. World record holder and the race favourite, Kipchoge, started strong but fell back at the 20th mile and had to settle for sixth position.

Chebet won the men’s race in two hours five minutes and 54 seconds. Hellen Obiri covered the distance in 2:21:38. It was her first victory at a race that is part of the World Marathon Majors. She had made her debut in the marathon in 2022, at the New York City Marathon, where she finished sixth. The 2023 Boston Marathon was only her second such event.

“ I live for the moments where I get to challenge the Limits. It’s never guaranteed, it’s never easy. Today was a tough day for me. I pushed myself as hard as I could but sometimes, we must accept that today wasn’t the day to push the barrier to a greater height,” Kipchoge tweeted the day after the event. He holds the world record in the marathon with a timing of 2:01:09.

Over 30,000 runners participated in this year’s Boston Marathon, held on April 17, 2023.

Less than a week later on April 23, 2023, the year’s edition of the London Marathon was held. The World Marathon Major saw some dramatic performances by top athletes.

Renowned middle-distance runner, Sifan Hassan, posted a stunning victory in the women’s race in her first ever marathon despite suffering an injury in the early miles. She finished in 2:18:34. The top three women runners were bunched together till the final 150 meters or so, which was when Hassan accelerated to finish first in her debut marathon. The strong finish was classic Hassan.

Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya won the men’s race at the London Marathon in 2:01:25, setting a new course record and coming very close to Kipchoge’s world record. In 2022, at the Valencia Marathon, he had marked the fastest debut in a marathon becoming the third man in history to break two hours and two minutes.

The Abbott World Marathon Major circuit entails running six marathons – Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon, New York City Marathon, Berlin Marathon, London Marathon and Tokyo Marathon.

We spoke to a few Indian runners who participated in these two World Marathon Majors – the 2023 Boston Marathon and London Marathon.

B. J. Vikram (photo: courtesy Vikram)

Training for London Marathon, B J Vikram, a Bengaluru-based runner, was mindful of stepping up his mileage in the run up to the marathon. “I build my mileage gradually combining it with strength training,” he said, aware of the fact that increasing mileage suddenly often leads to injury. He is not new to sports. Vikram is a skater and has represented India in many championships.

Vikram commenced long-distance running about 10 years ago. He heard about Boston qualification from co-runners and obtained details about it. He qualified for Boston Marathon in 2019 but was able to run it in 2022 as the intervening years were lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and running events around the world were either cancelled or postponed or limited to elite runners.

He started his World Marathon Major journey with Boston Marathon and went on to do Berlin Marathon with a sub-three-hour finish in 2022.

“ Five weeks before London Marathon, I did a few long, fast runs. I also did time-based runs instead of mileage-based runs,” he said.

Weather is always an issue in international marathons. To cope with cold weather, Vikram resorted to taking ice baths. These also help with quick recovery after hard training runs. Vikram finished London Marathon in 2:57:28.

Karthik Anand (left) with Tilak Dutt and Suneel Kumar Koyi, both of who registered sub-three hours-finish at the 2023 Boston Marathon (photo: courtesy Karthik)

Bengaluru-based runner Karthik Anand completed the six-star World Marathon Major circuit way back in 2019.

He was repeating Boston Marathon to help his wife Deepti to complete the World Marathon Major circuit. She was on her fourth race in the World Marathon series at the 2023 Boston Marathon.

“ My training for Boston Marathon was quite good. I was clocking on an average 100 km every week during the four-month training period. I interspersed my training with long runs, tempo runs and intervals,” he said adding that he mainly followed a training schedule curated by his coach K.C. Kothandapani, who also ran the 2023 edition of the race.

Karthik’s run went off quite well until the 34th kilometre when he began to suffer hamstring cramps. “ For about 400 meters I had to walk before I could resume jogging,” he said. Karthik, usually a sub-three-hour finisher, completed the race in 3:04:32.

Subhojit Roy (photo: courtesy Subhojit)

For Subhojit Roy of Pune, the 2023 outing at Boston Marathon was his third time at the iconic marathon. “ I am not focused on the World Marathon Majors. If I get to complete the World Marathon Majors, it’s great,” he said.

In December 2022, Subhojit ran Valencia Marathon in 3:09:53. On February 26, 2023, he ran the New Delhi Marathon and secured a personal record of 3:06:47.

“ I took a week off after New Delhi Marathon and that left me with just six weeks of training for Boston Marathon,” he said. Subhojit was experiencing a left hip ache, which often surfaced after training runs. “ I was in a dilemma. If I train hard, I may risk worsening the injury,” he said. On the other hand, he couldn’t land at the start line of Boston Marathon without adequate training.

For Subhojit, the experience was worth it. “ This time around I handled the hills much better,” he said. Subhojit finished in 3:13:37, his best timing in his three outings at the Boston Marathon so far.

“ It was cold and damp. It was drizzling throughout and at the 28 km mark it poured quite heavily but I enjoyed the weather. My hip injury started to act up at around the 35th km. Nevertheless, I finished strong,” he said.

Subhojit trains under Nihal Ahamad Baig.

Vandana Arora (photo: courtesy Vandana)

Vandana Arora was the fastest women runner from among Indians at the 2023 edition of Boston Marathon. For the Bengaluru-based recreational runner, the 2023 Boston Marathon was her third marathon in this calendar year. She ran the Tata Mumbai Marathon in January this year just after recovering from COVID-19 infection in December 2022.

But a month later at the 2023 New Delhi Marathon, she secured a personal record, covering the distance in 3:24:28.

The 42-year-old recreational runner started her six-star World Marathon Major journey four years ago with the New York City Marathon.

Training under Bengaluru-based Coach Ashok Nath, she was clocking a weekly mileage of 110-115 km, sometimes running twice a day, in the run-up to the New Delhi Marathon. Thereafter, her weekly mileage was lowered. “Ash’s (Ashok Nath) training is uniquely crafted for the various segments of the Boston Marathon course. I did some of my runs at 11 AM because I was scheduled to run around that time at Boston,” Vandana said.

The second part of the training, according to her, was brain training. “ Ash told me that one is often tempted to run fast at the start of the race as the course is downwards. He asked me to restrict my pace for the first 10 kilometres,” Vandana said. She ran as per his plan and completed with a 4-minute improvement in her personal timing. She finished the marathon in 3:20:54.

Deepa Nayak (photo: courtesy Deepa)

Bengaluru-based Deepa Nayak did this year’s Boston Marathon and London Marathon, back-to-back. “Normally, I wouldn’t advise runners to do back-to-back marathons. But I decided to take on this challenge personally,” Deepa said. She is a personal trainer and coach at Asics Running Club and Runners 360.

Her interest in running commenced in 2011 when she took up jogging for health reasons. In a couple of years, the interest deepened and she joined training groups. She got serious about running and after having joined Reebok Running Squad in 2015, she decided to take up the ACE certification course.

She heard about Boston qualification even before she heard about Boston Marathon. “I then learnt about the World Marathon Majors. At the 2020 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon, I qualified for Boston Marathon,” she said. She registered for the 2020 Berlin Marathon but the race was not held because of COVID-19 pandemic. She did Berlin Marathon in 2022.

Having missed registering for the 2022 Boston Marathon 2022, Deepa had to get a Boston qualifying time afresh to register for the 2023 edition. She ran the 2022 Jaipur Marathon and qualified for Boston with a finish of 3:22:49.

Post Berlin Marathon, Deepa took a break before she started training for Boston Marathon and London Marathon. “I had good training for a month in November 2022,” she said. In December, Deepa lost her father to cardiac arrest. “I came back from my hometown in Siddapur but was emotionally drained to do any training,” she said. She ran the 2023 Tata Mumbai Marathon without any training. Her running continued to suffer in the weeks after TMM. But she focused on strength training and nutrition. A week before she was to leave for Boston, Deepa fell ill. On the day, she was to take her flight out, her friend was admitted to hospital with cardiac issues. “Are these signs that I should not do Boston Marathon? I wondered,” she said.

Finally, she found herself at the start line of Boston Marathon but with very little mileage training.

“At Boston, the first 34 km went off very well but the last eight km was tough because of rain and cold weather,” she said. She finished the run in 3:22:40.

“I started to focus on London Marathon only after I finished Boston. My plan was to give it my best shot but if I fail, I wouldn’t fault myself,” Deepa said. She finished the marathon in 3:23:21. “I was quite surprised with my timings at Boston and London.

Having done three marathons in 2023, Deepa plans to do shorter distance races this year. “I am in the process of completing my nutrition certification. I also want to focus on coaching,” she said.

Gitanjali Lenka (photo: courtesy Gitanjali)

The 2023 Boston Marathon was Gitanjali Lenka’s first World Marathon Major. The Thane-based runner has been a podium finisher at events in India. She was the fastest runner among Indian women at the 2022 Comrades Marathon.

Gitanjali had two months training for Boston Marathon, despite losing a few days to a viral infection.

“The weather was a challenging factor. On Monday morning (day of the race), it started raining. It was very cold. My hands were frozen and I found it difficult to take the gels out. The route was also quite challenging. The route from 24th km to 34th km was very tough. But crowd support and cheering were excellent and kept the runners going,” she said.

Gitanjali finished the marathon in a personal best timing of 3:36:25.

She is now headed to her second World Marathon Major – Berlin in September 2023. She has already commenced training for the marathon. She trains under Ashok Nath.

Ranjini Gupta (photo: courtesy Ranjini)

The 2023 London Marathon was Ranjini Gupta’s fifth World Marathon Major. The Berlin Marathon was her first marathon in the six-marathon circuit, followed by Chicago Marathon in 2017, Tokyo Marathon in 2018 and New York City Marathon in 2019.

Ranjini’s training for London Marathon was quite good. In November 2022, she ran the half marathon at the Ahmedabad Marathon and finished it in 1:45:28. “My timing gave me confidence. I commenced my training for London Marathon in December. I had good months of training up to March and I was able to do speed workouts and long runs of 30 km and 32 km,” she said.

At London Marathon, weather was an issue. “ The rain started just when our race was starting. My shoes were heavy as they were wet. Also, roads along the course were narrow. But I was able to hold on to a 5:14-5:15 per kilometre pace,” Ranjini said. She finished the marathon in 3:41:58. “ I went to London with a lot of apprehensions,” she said. Though not close to her personal best (3:28), she was happy with her finish.

“ I will plan my marathon training after my registration for the 2024 Boston Marathon goes through,” she said. Boston will be the last of her six World Marathon Majors.

Sunmbul Rahman (photo: courtesy Sunmbul)

Sunmbul Rahman did not have any target for the 2023 London Marathon as she was fasting for the holy month of Ramzan. Yet, she surprised herself with a personal record of 3:48:30.

The Kolkata-based runner was not into sports during her school days at La Martiniere. She went through the motions of life and many years later faced a personal tragedy when she lost her husband to cancer. With two small children and restaurant that wasn’t doing too well, Sunmbul found her life spinning out of control. Sometime in 2011, she decided to join a gym for physical fitness. Coincidentally, the gym was organizing a 5 km walk. “ I took part in the walk and I surprised myself with a win,” Sunmbul said. That walk and the podium finish were triggers that propelled her into running. Soon, she found herself running the marathon. “ I also got into mountain climbing and have done four 6000 meter-plus peaks,” she said.

London Marathon was her second World Marathon Major, the first one being Chicago in October 2022. “ London Marathon for me, was an experience. I was fasting for Ramzan until two days before race day. It was a tough run with pouring rain, cold weather and huge crowds all along the course. Because I had to jostle through the crowds, I actually ended up doing 43.3 km,” she said. Her timing has helped her to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

“ For now, I have put a pause on my mountaineering activity. I want to finish the World Marathon Majors first,” Sunmbul said. Given interest in mountaineering, she may also look at ultra running, especially on trails.

Bajrang Singh and Asha Singh (photo: courtesy Bajrang and Asha)

Asha Singh and Bajrang Singh, the runner couple from Lucknow, have been running varied distances, including ultra-running events. Asha also represented India in IAU 24-hour Asia and Oceania Championships held at Bengaluru in July 2022.

The husband-wife couple trained well for Boston Marathon. They landed in the city a few days ahead of the event. “ On Sunday, a day before the marathon, we checked out the route. Monday morning was cold, rainy and windy. We had to put on layers,” Bajrang Singh said. By the time they walked to the start line their shoes got drenched in the rain.

“ When we started our run, the course was very crowded and we had to juggle our way through the crowds. Boston Marathon course is a series of rolling hills. We wanted to run together but Asha had a hamstring problem and she had to slow down her pace,” Bajrang said.

After the 25th kilometre, Bajrang Singh decided to go ahead. “ I ran really fast in the last mile of the race,” he said. Bajrang Singh finished in 3:51:40 and Asha in 4:04:19. “ We are quite happy with our performance here,” he said. They are scheduled to run the 80 km Tuffman Shimla Ultra at Mashobra on June 24, 2023.

“ We plan to do the Berlin Marathon this year if we manage to get into it. If not, we may do the 72 km Khardung La Challenge in Ladakh,” Asha said. Currently in the U.S., they are due to come back to India in June. “ We are right now at Charlotte in North Carolina. The undulating terrain helps us to train for the Mashobra event,” he said.

Neelam Vaid (right) with her brother Tarun Gulati (Photo: courtesy Neelam)

Pune-based Neelam Vaid has been running seriously since 2013. An ENT surgeon, Neelam has been climbing mountains in the Himalaya over the past few years. Having done her first marathon in 2014, she decided to go ahead and try the World Marathon Majors.

Training for the 2023 London Marathon was tough for Neelam. “ The heat and pollution in Aundh, where I stay, was quite high making long runs quite a challenge,” she said. Her training was inadequate. “ I missed runs and I often never reached my target pace,” she said. She trains under Coach Atul Godbole.

But her run at London Marathon was “amazing”. “ Words can’t describe the experience of running the London Marathon. Weather was bad. It was pouring at the start. My shoes were wet and my hands froze. But the crowd support carries you through from the first kilometre to the last,” she said.

London Marathon, according to Neelam, has the best crowd support among the World Marathon Majors that she has competed in – Boston Marathon and Berlin Marathon (both in 2022). “ Parts of the course are narrow and get crowded but the vibe from runners and crowds keeps one going,” she said. Neelam finished the marathon in 3:58:20, a new personal best and within the Boston Marathon qualifying time.

“ This was a special run for me. My brother Tarun Gulati also ran the marathon. Together, we raised 6000 pounds for Alzheimer’s Research UK, against the target of 5000 pounds,” she said.

After a short break, she plans to resume training for the 2023 Chicago Marathon, due in October this year.

Ashish Agarwal (photo: courtesy Ashish)

Ashish Agarwal started running just about four years ago. The Nagpur-based tax lawyer led a largely undisciplined life leading to obesity. “ Some of my friends were into running. They asked me to start running. In August 2018, I enrolled for a 3 km run,” he said. In 2019, he ran a half marathon at the Pondicherry Marathon. The following year at Tata Mumbai Marathon, he did the full marathon.

The COVID-19 lockdown came as a boon as he could run in the morning and cycle in the evening. With running events resuming in 2022, Ashish was able to run the Jaipur Marathon. The benefits of working out during the lockdown period paid off as he was able to get a personal best timing of 3:38:25 at this marathon. In September 2022, he was able to do the Berlin Marathon.

He signed up for the 2023 London Marathon but three months prior to the event he met with an accident. “ Window shutters fell on my hands and I was required to go in for surgery. I stood at the start line of London Marathon without any practice,” Ashish, 41, said.

He finished the marathon in 4:01:47. “ This run was entirely a mental game. It turned out to be a good run. It was raining throughout. All along the route there were so many volunteers cheering,” he said. Qualifying for Boston is certainly on the cards, he said.

Kaustubh Radkar (photo: courtesy Kaustubh)

Way back in 2006 when India was just beginning its journey into recreational runner, Dr Kaustabh Radkar ran the New York City Marathon. In 2010, he once again ran the same marathon. A former national level swimmer, Kaustabh had, in the meanwhile, started his journey in the Ironman triathlon.

Even as he continued his foray into triathlon and running events, he decided to persist with his participation in the World Marathon Major circuit. After a long gap he ran the Berlin Marathon in 2017. Two years later, he ran the Chicago Marathon. When events resumed post-pandemic in 2022, he was able to do the London Marathon. Early March 2023, he did Tokyo Marathon.

“ At Boston, I just wanted to soak in the experience. It was raining and very cold but the crowds were out in full support,” Kaustabh said. He was due to do Texas Ironman five days later. “ My goal was to finish Boston Marathon comfortably as I had to do Ironman in less than a week,” he said. The Texas Ironman was his 34th Ironman triathlon.

With his run at the 2023 Boston Marathon, he earned his six-star World Marathon Major medal. By the end of that week, he had also finished his 34th Ironman.

Mukesh Yeole (photo: courtesy Mukesh)

Pune-based Mukesh Yeole commenced his six-star World Marathon Majors in 2017 when he ran the Berlin Marathon. A real estate developer, Mukesh started running in 2014 with a 10 km run.

Following the Berlin Marathon, he participated in the New York City Marathon in 2018. In 2019, he completed Tokyo Marathon and Chicago Marathon. In 2022, he did London Marathon.

At the 2023 edition of Boston Marathon Mukesh got his six-star World Marathon medal. The trains with Radstrong Coaching. Mukesh said that he enjoyed the Boston Marathon. “ It was a very nice environment in Boston, some rain, some wind. Support was very good,” Mukesh said. He completed the Boston Marathon in 4:16:31.

Having completed with the six World Marathon Majors, Mukesh now aims to do one international marathon every year.

A triathlete, Mukesh has enrolled for Tallinn 70.3 Ironman but is likely to skip it. “ I won’t be participating in this Ironman because of some urgent work,” he said.

Deepti Karthik (photo: courtesy Deepti)

The 2023 Boston Marathon was Deepti Karthik’s fourth World Marathon Major. In 2019, she had completed three World Marathon Majors – London Marathon, Chicago Marathon and New York City Marathon.

Following the years lost to the pandemic, Deepti was hoping to resume her running but an injury put paid to her plans. She enrolled for the 2023 Tata Mumbai Marathon and New Delhi Marathon 2023 but decided not to do these as she did not want to jeopardize the recovery. “ When I resumed my training, I had to start afresh but was able to do long runs,” she said.

Travelling to Boston one niggling worry remained, that of weather. Boston is known for fluctuations in weather. The 2018 Boston Marathon had challenging weather with temperatures dipping to the coldest in 30 years combined with rain and heavy winds. That year, Deepti’s husband Karthik Anand had participated in Boston Marathon.

“ We kept track of the weather. When we landed in Boston it was very hot. We did a short run. But by Saturday it cooled down and by night it started drizzling. We had registered for a 5 km-run held on Saturday. It went off well,” she said.

On the morning of race day, the drizzle continued. “ While I waited in the holding area, at around 11 AM, the rain ceased briefly and the sun came out. But along the course at around 18 to 25 km it started raining again. The route was challenging and I had to stick to a slow pace,” she said. Deepti finished the run in 4:30:55.

She is due to run the Berlin Marathon in September this year.

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

2022 GGR / WRAP-UP

Abhilash Tomy and Kirsten Neuschafer (this photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of 2022 GGR and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

An overview, till early May 2023, of the 2022 edition of a fantastic race

Like some who watch the David Lean classic ` Lawrence of Arabia’ finding the desert the film’s real hero, the actual hero of GGR is the sea – its known tendencies and its unpredictability. None, not even the world’s best sailors, are spared.

As of late April, of the 16 sailors who commenced the 2022 Golden Globe Race (GGR), only three were left in the main race category. Two stood pushed to the Chichester Class. The rest had retired. This included two major accidents – a case of a boat sinking in the Indian Ocean in November 2022 and another of a boat rolled and dismasted in the southern Atlantic Ocean in April 2023. Nothing captured the sea’s effect on a race and those tracking it, as well as this comment posted on GGR’s Facebook page after the world was informed of Kirsten Neuschafer being seven nautical miles from finish and without wind to push her on, “ All of us on the YouTube live chat are pointing hairdryers, leaf blowers out windows and waving towels and beach blankets towards coastal France!’’ By afternoon, April 28, the situation must have felt similar for Abhilash Tomy and his fans too. He was expected at Les Sables-d’Olonne that day but thanks to prevailing weather conditions, the ETA (Expected Time of Arrival) stood revised to late morning April 29.

Over four and a half years after a storm in the Indian Ocean left him badly injured, Abhilash Tomy finished second in the 2022 Golden Globe Race (GGR).  According to the event’s live tracker and Facebook page, he crossed the finish line at Les Sables-d’Olonne in France after completing the race’s mandated solo, non-stop circumnavigation of the planet, at 04:46 hours Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) on Saturday, April 29, 2023. The race was won by Kirsten Neuschafer of South Africa. Sailing in the Minnehaha, she reached Les Sables-d’Olonne at 19:44 UTC on April 27, 2023. The 2022 GGR had got underway on September 4, 2022.

Simon Curwen (this photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of 2022 GGR and is being used gere for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

The first among the 2022 GGR participants to reach Les Sables-d’Olonne after a full circumnavigation done, was Simon Curwen of United Kingdom. He had led the race by a considerable margin for much of the voyage before the need to repair his boat forced him to deviate to coastal Chile, relegating him to the Chichester Class (sailing with one stopover) of the race. With that he stopped being one of the contenders for a podium finish in the main GGR, which requires solo, non-stop sailing. However, Simon caught up with the competitors who had gone past him during that halt in Chile, overtook them and finished ahead of all in the early afternoon (10:38 UTC) of April 27, 2023.

By evening the same day, the winner of the 2022 GGR, Kirsten Neuschafer of South Africa, reached Les Sables-d’Olonne becoming in the process, the first woman to win a round-the-world race by the three great capes across the solo / crewed and solo / non-stop categories. She is also the first South African sailor to win such an event. Her voyage as part of the 2022 GGR was remarkable not just for the quality of sailing she showed but also the rescue of fellow GGR participant, Tapio Lehtinen. The rescue happened in November 2022. Lehtinen’s boat sank suddenly in the Indian Ocean forcing him to transfer to a lifeboat. Neuschafer was awarded the Rod Stephen Seamanship Trophy by the Cruising Club of America for the rescue. The intervention, also fetched her time-credit in the race, as compensation.

Two things set the GGR apart from other races involving circumnavigation of the planet. Given it has the flavour of a retro-sailing event, some aspects of technology and access to technology permitted for the race have been pegged back to what prevailed a few decades ago. Second, a non-stop voyage around the planet takes a massive toll on both sailor and boat. This is where Abhilash’s story becomes special. In 2013 he had become the first Indian to complete a solo, non-stop circumnavigation in a sailboat (INSV Mhadei) as part of the Indian Navy’s Sagar Parikrama project, conceived and overseen by the late Vice Admiral Manohar Awati. A few years later, in 2018, he had participated in that year’s GGR only to end up with serious injury to self and his boat (Thuriya) dismasted, following a severe storm in the southern Indian Ocean. But he fought his way out from that reversal of fortune; he underwent surgery and rehabilitation and eventually got back to flying and sailing, the activities that defined him as a naval aviator and one of the all-time greats of Indian sailing. He then signed up for the 2022 edition of the GGR and returned to the race with the Bayanat; the boat was named after his main sponsor for the voyage, a company from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) specializing in AI-powered geospatial intelligence.

This video posted by the 2022 GGR is from the segment spanning Cape Town to Hobart. Starting with the days around Tapio Lehtinen’s rescue, it provides a feel of what being at sea is. Also, Abhilash was under considerable stress in the portion of the race leading to the location of his 2018 accident in the southern Indian Ocean; a conversation with race organizers near Cape Town revealed this. By the time he got to the check point at Hobart, he was past that rendezvous, relieved and in a cheerful mood.

Now retired from the Indian Navy, Abhilash’s passage in the 2022 GGR wasn’t easy. Although he kept himself in the pack of race leaders, the position probably revealed little of what he was actually enduring. He knew the sea, the challenges pertaining to weather and maintaining the boat. But in 2022, there was a new ingredient in the mix – his mind, still living the memories of the September 2018 accident. It was clear to those tracking the 2022 race and reviewing videos posted from the periodic rendezvous with sailors at check points that Abhilash was battling anxiety in the portion of the GGR leading to the southern Indian Ocean, where in 2018, he had been battered by a storm. This was vindicated by his admission (in communications with the race organizers) of a peace finally found after he got past the site of the 2018 accident. Thereafter, it was a different Abhilash. His worries from that point on, seemed mostly about addressing the needs of his boat which kept developing a litany of complaints. But he responded creatively and found solutions for the problems without resorting to a stopover for repairs. He improvised with what he had aboard. This approach kept him alive in the main, competitive segment of the race featuring solo, non-stop circumnavigation. Amidst this struggle, he coped with his old injuries acting up as a consequence of long hours of work, steering and maintaining the boat. What reached Les Sables-d’Olonnes on April 29, should therefore be a package of Abhilash and Bayanat that captures single handed sailing over an extended period of time. Saturday (April 29, 2023) was the 236th day since commencement of the race. 

Abhilash and Bayanat (this photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of 2022 GGR and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

For a race of this dimension, the boat matters. During the 2018 GGR, Abhilash’s boat had been the Thuriya, a replica of the Suhaili, in which Sir Robin Knox-Johnston had completed the world’s first solo, non-stop circumnavigation and won the original Sunday Times Golden Globe Race of 1968-1969. The Suhaili was bult in Mumbai; Thuriya in Goa. To compete in the 2022 GGR, Abhilash bought a Rustler 36 type of yacht in France; it was then renamed Bayanat. The boat had been used in the 2018 GGR by Philippe Peche of France. As per information on Wikipedia, of the 16 sailors who commenced the 2022 GGR, four – including Abhilash – had boats of the Rustler 36 type. Kirsten Neuschafer’s Minnehaha is a Cape George Cutter (CG36) while Simon Curwen’s Clara and Michael Guggenberger’s Nuri are both Biscay 36. At the time of writing, Guggenberger (he is from Austria) was in third place with roughly 488 nautical miles left to finish. South Africa’s Jeremy Bagshaw sailing in the Olleanna (OE32 type of yacht) was second in Chichester Class and 1621 nautical miles away from Les Sables-d’Olonne.

In a video posted on the GGR Facebook page, Abhilash could be seen saying soon after his arrival at Les Sables-d’Olonne in France that this is the first time an Asian is securing a podium finish in a round-the world race of any format. “ It’s a big moment for me,’’ he said. Responding to a message from Admiral R. Hari Kumar, chief of the Indian Navy, congratulating him on his achievement, Abhilash recalled the support he had received from the senior officer when in 2018 he put in his resignation because he wished to attempt the GGR and was unsure he would be able to do that through the navy. The admiral was at that time, head of HR in the navy. “ He understood the importance of GGR and he pushed the boundaries of a lot of rules to make sure that I was here,’’ Abhilash said, adding that when he had the accident in the 2018 GGR (his boat, Thuriya, was dismasted and he suffered serious injury in a storm in the southern Indian Ocean), the admiral had been in the operations room directing the rescue.

“ I am happy to have completed the circle. The stigma of losing a boat…I didn’t want to, you know, once is an accident, twice is a habit! So, I really wanted to get Bayanat back and I can tell you, Bayanat got me back,’’ Abhilash said. Asked about the impact of his podium finish in India, Abhilash pointed out how small the number of yachts in all of India was. From that backdrop, if he could think of a circumnavigation race and complete it, it meant the youngsters of India can do a lot. Comparing the two solo, non-stop circumnavigations he has done so far, Abhilash said that the INSV Mhadei was a big boat, one that kept you safe as long as you made sure that nothing happened to it. It didn’t demand a lot. “ But a small boat with wind pilot and no GPS is a hundred times more difficult. But at the same time, I want to say that if that circumnavigation had not happened, I would not have dreamt of coming for GGR. So, they are important in their own places but a GGR is a hundred times tougher than what I did in 2013.’’

The Puffin adrift at sea following the rescue of Ian Herbert Jones (this photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of 2022 GGR and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

The second major mishap of the 2022 GGR happened on day 218 of the race (around April 10, 2023) in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the first report on the incident on the GGR website, Ian Herbert Jones of the United Kingdom and his boat Puffin, found themselves in ` extreme weather and confused seas.’’ Ian was unable to launch his drogue (a conical / funnel shaped-device towed behind a boat that is used to reduce speed and improve stability) to keep the boat stern to the waves and avoid being rolled. In the extreme conditions, he had been washed out of the cockpit twice. With communication, including via satellite phone, rendered erratic by the prevailing conditions, Ian had activated his Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). Things appear to have escalated fast.  A few hours later, the Puffin’s distress alert button was activated and with it the rescue coordination centre in Argentina was informed of the emergency at sea. Soon thereafter, a text message from the Puffin said that the boat had been rolled and dismasted, there was two feet of water within and its skipper, having injured his back was finding it “ hard to move.’’ Ian got the water ingress under control but by then, he had also gashed his head. On day 219 of the race, Ian was rescued by the Taiwanese fishing vessel Zi Da Wang.

Storms and freaky weather conditions aren’t the only things that trigger retirement in endurance races. In solo, non-stop sailing, the boat he / she is in, is every sailor’s floating house. It is what shields sailor from the elements. Its maintenance is a constant job. Equipment aboard may malfunction or break down. The hull may gather barnacles and slow down the boat’s progress in water. Monitoring, cleaning and repairing – it keeps going on. Depending on what is available and what isn’t, one may require to be creative on the repairs. The paradigm of a race, enhances the importance of these aspects. In solo sailing, all this has to be done by oneself. Limits reached on any of these fronts or quite simply the mind declining to sustain its appetite for such life, can lead to people pulling out.

A summary of the race would be incomplete without a picture of the finish. A circumnavigation is a hell of a lot of distance covered, long enough for people to be separated by vast margins at sea. Yet by the time, Abhilash and Kirsten Neuschafer entered the Atlantic for the second time in their long voyage (this time on the way back to Les Sables-d’Olonne), it was clear that a tight finish was on the cards. Around the equator, the lead separating the two had reduced considerably. At times, they seemed almost parallel to each other on the race’s live tracker. Eventually, Kirsten finished first, Abhilash placed second. For most observers, given a whole planet circumnavigated, both represent endurance sailing at its best.    

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai. This wrap-up is the extended version of two articles by the author published in Telegraph and Rediff.com)


Abhilash Tomy (this photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of GGR and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Abhilash Tomy has completed his voyage as part of the 2022 Golden Globe Race (GGR).

He and his boat Bayanat crossed the finish line at 04:46 hours Universal Time Coordinated (UTC), on Saturday, April 29, 2023 to place second in the race. The GGR entails a solo, non-stop circumnavigation of the planet.

In a video posted on the GGR Facebook page, Abhilash could be seen saying soon after his arrival at Les Sables-d’Olonne in France that this is the first time an Asian is securing a podium finish in a round-the-world race of any format. “ It’s a big moment for me,’’ Abhilash, a former officer with the Indian Navy, said. April 29 was the 236th day since the commencement of race on September 4, 2022. Responding to a message from Admiral R. Hari Kumar, chief of the Indian Navy, congratulating him on his achievement, Abhilash recalled the support he had received from the senior officer when in 2018 he put in his resignation because he wished to attempt the GGR and was unsure he would be able to do that through the navy. The admiral was at that time, head of HR in the navy. “ He understood the importance of GGR and he pushed the boundaries of a lot of rules to make sure that I was here,’’ Abhilash said, adding that when he had the accident in the 2018 GGR (his boat, Thuriya, was dismasted and he suffered serious injury in a storm in the southern Indian Ocean), the admiral had been in the operations room directing the rescue.

“ I am happy to have completed the circle. The stigma of losing a boat…I didn’t want to, you know, once is an accident, twice is a habit! So, I really wanted to get Bayanat back and I can tell you, Bayanat got me back,’’ Abhilash said. Asked about the impact of his podium finish in India, Abhilash pointed out how small the number of yachts in all of India was. From that backdrop, if he could think of a circumnavigation race and complete it, it meant the youngsters of India can do a lot. Comparing the two solo, non-stop circumnavigations he has done so far, Abhilash said that the INSV Mhadei (in which he did his first circumnavigation) was a big boat, one that kept you safe as long as you made sure that nothing happened to it. It didn’t demand a lot. “ But a small boat with wind pilot and no GPS is a hundred times more difficult. But at the same time, I want to say that if that circumnavigation had not happened, I would not have dreamt of coming for GGR. So, they are important in their own places but a GGR is a hundred times tougher than what I did in 2013.’’

The 2022 GGR was won by Kirsten Neuschafer of South Africa. She reached Les Sables-d’Olonne at 19:44 UTC on April 27, 2023 becoming the first woman and the first South African to win a round-the-world race. Kirsten, Abhilash and Michael Guggenberger of Austria (he is yet to finish) were the only sailors remaining in the event’s solo, non-stop category. The rest had retired or slipped to the race’s Chichester Class featuring one stopover. Simon Curwen of England, sailing in Chichester Class, was the first GGR participant to get back to Les Sables-d’Olonne with circumnavigation of the planet done. He arrived at 10:38 UTC on April 27.

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


Kirsten Neuschafer (this image was downloaded from the Facebook page of GGR and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Kirsten Neuschafer of South Africa has won the 2022 Golden Globe Race (GGR).

She reached the finishing line of the event at Les Sables-d’Olonne in France (from where the race entailing a solo, non-stop circumnavigation of the planet had commenced months ago), at 19:44 Universal Tine Coordinated (UTC) on April 27, 2023. In the process, she became the first woman to win a round-the-world race by the three great capes across the solo / crewed and solo / non-stop categories. She is also the first South African sailor to win such an event. Her voyage as part of the 2022 GGR included the rescue of fellow GGR participant, Tapio Lehtinen. The rescue happened in November 2022. Lehtinen’s boat had suddenly sunk in the Indian Ocean. Neuschafer was awarded the Rod Stephen Seamanship Trophy by the Cruising Club of America for the rescue.

The 2022 GGR had got underway on September 4, 2022. The first among the 2022 GGR participants to reach Les Sables-d’Olonne after a full circumnavigation done, was Simon Curwen of England. He had led the race by a considerable margin for much of the voyage before the need to repair his boat forced him to halt in Chile, relegating him to the Chichester Class (sailing with one stop) of the race. Simon nevertheless caught up with the competitors who had gone past him during the halt, overtook them and finished ahead of all at 10:38 UTC on April 27, 2023.

Checked at 17:55 hours Indian Standard Time (IST) on April 28, Abhilash Tomy of India was 78.8 nautical miles from the finish line. As per an update on the Facebook page of the event, he was expected in Les Sables-d’Olonne in the late morning of April 29. Abhilash is currently in second place.

As per information available on the GGR website, Kirsten Neuschafer (she has been ““sailing dinghies since her childhood) has been sailing since 2006, as a profession. From training people to sail to delivering sailboats, she has built a diverse set of skills and experiences, the website said in its profile on her. According to it, her longest single-handing prior to GGR was a delivery from Portugal to South Africa.

Please find below the link to a video shared by GGR celebrating the arrival of Kirsten and her boat Minnehaha in Les Sables-d’Olonne; solo, non-stop circumnavigation done. The song in the video – On the Minnehaha – has been written and performed by Lennie Gallant.

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


Joanna Zakrezewski; this photo was taken in July 2022 at the IAU 24-Hour Asia & Oceania Championships held in Bengaluru (Photo: Sunil Chainani)

British ultramarathon runner Joanna (Joasia) Zakrezewski has set a new world record for the 48-hour run.

She covered a distance of 411.458 kilometres in the stipulated time, at the 12th Taipei 48-hour Ultra Marathon on February 12, 2023.

She broke the previous record of 403.32 km set by Polish runner Patrycja Bereznowska.

Patrycja had set the record at Poland’s UltraPark Weekend 48-hour race on May 15, 2022.

Patrycja, running in Taipei this weekend, was able to cover a distance of 363.728 km during the 48 hour period.

In July 2022, Joanna was among participants at the IAU 24-Hour Asia & Oceania Championships held in Bengaluru.

At the event, she ran in the open category and placed first in the women’s segment.

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


Bharat Pannu; from 2022 RAAM (Photo: courtesy Bharat)

It was the tenth day of his participation in the 2022 edition of Race Across America (RAAM) and things were not going well for Bharat Pannu.

He had developed a mild fever and was feeling chilly during daytime. It wasn’t a sudden onset. A vague sluggishness had been threatening to derail plans since race commencement. It wasn’t the predicament Bharat Pannu deserved. Since 2017, the ultra-cyclist had been trying to participate in and complete the 4800 kilometers-long Race Across America (RAAM). He had done the needful diligently, including crewing for the participating team in 2018 so that he would understand what went into a successful completion of the iconic race. In 2019, with much preparation done, he reached the US for his shot at RAAM. Unfortunately, he suffered an accident while cycling in the US, ahead of RAAM. It left him with a broken collar bone. His plan to race had to be abandoned.

Late 2019, the first cases of what would eventually come to be called COVID-19 were reported. By early 2020, it was a full-blown pandemic, and the world was forced to shut down. Sport went into hibernation; sporting events dried up. The year’s RAAM was cancelled. However, a major development of the pandemic phase featuring people loving the active lifestyle trapped indoors, was the spurt in virtual formats of sport. In cycling, the use of trainers (the device replaces the rear wheel of the bike and allows it to be used as a stationary bicycle that can be pedaled indoors) was already a reality. High end trainers, computers and digital apps used in combination allowed races to be simulated. RAAM debuted a virtual race. Bharat who had been training for RAAM, grabbed the opportunity. Pedaling from an apartment in Pune and enduring the challenges of covering simulated ultra-long distance from a parked bike, Bharat achieved something remarkable – covering 4086 kilometers, he placed first in his age category and third overall in the competition.

The virtual RAAM was followed by attempts to set new records, cycling along India’s highway system called the Golden Quadrilateral and the popular high-altitude road linking Leh and Manali. In both instances, he made it to the Guinness Book of World Records. Beneath the record-breaking effort, there was a niggling worry. Bharat knew that his performance could have been better. In the happiness of podium finish in virtual RAAM and new Guinness records established, introspection got postponed. Correction happened in the 2021 edition of Ultra Spice, among prominent endurance races in India. “ I did this self-supported race and had a good time,’’ Bharat said, adding that the run up to the event and the actual race gave him space to rectify the shortcomings he had noticed in 2020.

By now he was feeling good and ready for another shot at RAAM. But COVID-19 was still out there haunting the world in repeated waves of infection. Overseas travel continued to be plagued by uncertainty and the requirement for extra care and quarantine. RAAM is a supported race; every cyclist has a crew. Anyone of them falling sick would suffice to upset plans; worse, if that happens in the US or during the race, it could mean much investment wasted. For participants from India, RAAM is a costly affair. “ In 2021, RAAM didn’t appear viable to me owing to the restrictions still in place,’’ Bharat said. So, he rolled over his eligibility to participate, to 2022. Following the decision to postpone his RAAM attempt; in October 2021, he cycled in nine days from the west of India to the east – from Koteshwar in Gujarat to Kibita in Arunachal Pradesh.

Within India, events in sport were slowly regaining tempo and normalcy. Bharat had his basket of events to choose from and stay busy. But there were other developments to cope with. An army officer, Bharat’s interest in endurance cycling and his competence in the sport, was noticed by the establishment. In July 2021, the aeronautical engineer aligned with the Indian Army’s aviation wing, was transferred from Bengaluru to Ahmednagar (a major base for the army’s armored corps) and put in charge of the Indian Army’s Cycling and Rugby teams. While that no doubt ensured a scenario in which, a person’s favorite sport became the stuff of his regular work, the new responsibilities – he was now overseeing the training and performance of whole teams – may have deprived Bharat of the level of attention he should have shown himself to be in good shape for RAAM. “ I got involved in so many things,’’ Bharat said. He made the best of what his predicament offered and reported to RAAM’s starting line in California in June 2022. There was no shortage of confidence, he and his crew were looking forward to a good outing, he said.

As its name denotes, RAAM entails a ride across the United States, spanning its east-west sprawl. In races, Bharat is known for his ability to fare strongly in the second half. When in the initial part of 2022 RAAM, Bharat trailed other participants, it didn’t bother him or his crew. It seemed to fit his style and known pattern of performance. On the fifth day however, it suddenly struck home that the team may find itself in trouble. Till Durango, the progress hadn’t been too bad; the lag was manageable. Then it began to get warm impacting Bharat’s progress. Decisions were taken and a sincere attempt made to improve progress. It yielded result. The rest of day five wasn’t bad. Day six too was good. “ At this point, I was only slightly short of the average speed required to complete the race within the stipulated cut-off period of 12 days,’’ Bharat said. The turnaround in fortunes was short-lived. Four days later, on day ten, that mild fever manifested and along with it, chills, and shivering.

Bharat Pannu; from 2022 RAAM (Photo: courtesy Bharat)

Bharat’s performance started to fall. His average speed began to decline. His crew got worried. It was clear that if Bharat didn’t rest adequately, he risked damaging his health. The team decided to exit the race. It was a tough decision to stomach. “ I didn’t have any saddle sores. My fingers were fine. My nutrition was perfect,’’ Bharat said. He thinks that the initial lag may have cost him dearly. Aside from requiring him to push later to make up for the lag, it also brought him to some of the portions of the course susceptible to bad weather, just when the conditions turned bad. He got hammered. “ I now understand that you must push from day one itself,’’ Bharat said.

Another reason for his disappointing exit from RAAM in 2022, could be the deficit in training. It wasn’t as good as it was for the races, he previously participated in. And yet, it isn’t all about likely deficit either. In the best of times, to be good in ultra-cycling and fit enough for RAAM, Bharat was training at least 20 hours a week. That is three to four hours daily atop regular office work. “ For the body, office time and sleep time became the only periods for recovery,’’ he said. So, was there an element of too much done over several years, also contributing to the outcome at 2022 RAAM? That’s a tricky slope to set cyclist’s drive, on. Bharat admitted that he had been physically active and challenging his limits for a long time. He maybe in need of a break. On the other hand, too long a break may make return to form, a longer haul. On the question of returning to RAAM, he said, the mind must decide on that subject. “ All said and done, it is a race that requires a fit mind above everything else,’’ Bharat said.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai. This article is based on a conversation had in October 2022. Its publication got delayed. Apologies for the delay.)     


Gopi T, winner among Indian elite men at the 2023 Tata Mumbai Marathon (Photo: Saurabh Bhattacharyaa)

On January 15, 2023, at Flora Fountain in Mumbai, the camera in my phone struggled to capture the elite marathon runners passing by. That was when I noticed a man with a good camera nearby, who too was clicking pictures. Upon my asking he said he was an amateur photographer. I enquired if he would be willing to share a photo or two with this blog. Saurabh Bhattacharyaa agreed. By day’s end, thanks to Saurabh, the blog had a photo of the overall winner of the 2023 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM), Hayle Lemi of Ethiopia, to publish alongside its main race report. However, a photo of the winner among Indian elite men, Gopi T, couldn’t be had. For its report based on a conversation with Gopi, the blog therefore went ahead with a post-race photo and a blurred image of the athlete in action, which was all my phone could manage. Saurabh though, appears not to have given up. On January 30, a fortnight after the race, he sent across a photo of Gopi that he had managed to locate in his collection. It came with the message, “ Found Gopi at last, in my folder.” A fine picture, we publish it herein, expressing alongside our gratitude to Saurabh. Thank you.

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


Kirsten Neuschafer (This image was downloaded from the Facebook page of the sailor and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Abhilash Tomy in second place but old injuries act up

The 2022 Golden Globe Race (GGR) took a twist recently with British sailor, Simon Curwen, who was leading, opting to enter the Chichester Class following damage to his boat’s windvane in the Pacific Ocean. With this, South Africa’s Kirsten Neuschafer has become the new race leader although she is still separated by a significant distance from Simon.

Indian sailor, Abhilash Tomy, currently in second place (after Simon Curwen shifted to Chichester Class) is not far from Kirsten. An update from January 27, 2023, available on the GGR website and which disclosed the setback suffered by Simon, mentioned that Kirsten and Abhilash are apart by just 50 miles. The race is still far from over; the participants have to cross Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America and sail up the Atlantic Ocean to Les Sables-d’Olonne in France to complete the solo, nonstop circumnavigation of the planet they set out to do.

The current edition of GGR had commenced in early September, 2022, from Les Sables-d’Olonne. It is a repeat of the original GGR of 1968-1969, in which Sir Robin Knox Johnston of the UK became the first person to do a solo, nonstop circumnavigation in a sail boat. Onboard technology levels in the 2022 GGR are pegged to near similar levels as prevailed during the first race decades ago. If the nonstop nature of the race is breached for some reason, then the participant can continue in the Chichester Class, named so after Sir Francis Chichester, who sailed solo around the world (from west to east) with one stop at Sydney, in 1966-1967.  On January 30, the GGR website while confirming Kirsten Neuschafer as the new race leader of 2022 GGR, informed that Simon Curwen would be heading to Chile for repairs. The news of his opting for Chichester Class has been posted on Simon’s Facebook page as well.

Since race commencement in September, there have been drop-outs due to damage to boats and one incident of a boat sinking. There were fifteen men and one woman as participants at the start of the race. As of January 31, 2023, three men and one woman remained in the main competition with three others continuing in Chichester Class. The lone case of a boat sinking – it occurred in the Indian Ocean – had seen the current race leader Kirsten Neuschafer and Abhilash Tomy move to the aid of the stricken sailor, Tapio Lehtinen. Kirsten effected the rescue, a feat that won her the Rod Stephen Seamanship Trophy from the Cruising Club of America.

Abhilash Tomy (This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of GGR and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Abhilash Tomy was a participant in the 2018 edition of GGR. That time, his boat was rolled over and dismasted in a storm in the southern Indian Ocean. Besides damage to the boat, the mishap left Abhilash with serious injuries to his back. He was eventually rescued in an effort that featured maritime assets from India, France and Australia. Later Abhilash had to undergo surgery and extensive rehabilitation following which, he worked his way back through walking, to sailing and flying planes. Since retired from the Indian Navy, he returned to the GGR as a participant in the 2022 edition. The initial phase of the 2022 race was tough for him as he had to deal with the mental trauma of sailing the seas leading to the region of his 2018 accident and get past the area. Unfortunately, while in the Indian Ocean, he suffered a fall on his back and his old injuries have started acting up under the rigors of solo, nonstop sailing.

When one is alone at sea, one has to do everything aboard the boat oneself and this entails long hours of staying awake and working. The GGR website said in its update of January 30 that Abhilash – he had a recent instance of steering by hand for 12 hours during a gale – has been enduring “ back pain and numb limbs.’’ He spoke to doctors who gave him exercises to regain control of his leg; the medical team has also advised him on pain treatment. He will be resting for some days before returning to his work. However, given he won’t be racing during this time and would be sailing under reduced sail with a view to keep the boat comfortable, it may temporarily make his progress slower and the route longer than that of Kirsten.

“ Abhilash is safe and does not require any assistance and is in complete control. He knows he must rest now, so the pains do not return again. GGR is closely monitoring the situation,’’ the event website said. Abhilash is the first Indian to sail solo and nonstop around the planet in a sail boat. He achieved it in 2012-2013 as part of the Indian Navy’s Sagar Parikrama project.

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


Chavi Yadav (Photo: courtesy Chavi)

Won a marathon but first love stays steeplechase

On the eve of the 2023 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM), Chavi Yadav was a runner in the shadow of better-known names in the Indian women’s elite category. She had never run the marathon before. The race in Mumbai was to be her first. Hours later, she rewrote expectations. TMM had a new winner in the category of Indian elite women and it was Chavi.   

The Railways athlete was not new to racing. Chavi, 30, has been running since her senior school days, participating over the years in 800 metres, 1500 metres, 3000 metre steeplechase and 5K and 10K events. Her specialization is in the steeplechase. She has also been active in cross country races. Ahead of TMM, she had won in the 10-kilometre category at the National Cross Country Championships held at Kaziranga, Assam, over January 7 and 8, 2023. She covered the distance in 35:05 minutes. A week later she was at the start line of the Mumbai Marathon along with other Indian elite runners. “ My coach Sandeep Pundir asked me to train for the marathon. There was no targeted time to finish in,” she said. Chavi surprised everybody with a fine victory, covering the distance of 42.2 km in two hours, 50 minutes and35 seconds. Notwithstanding her win at TMM, her commitment to the steeplechase remains unwavering. “ At the moment I do not have any plan to train and run marathons. I want to focus on steeplechase and try to qualify for the Asian Games,” she said. She indicated that she may get back to the marathon after the 2024 Olympics. “ Right now, I don’t want to mess up my training for the steeplechase. Marathon entails a much longer time to recovery,” she said. Coming up is a trip to Bathurst, Australia, the venue of the World Athletics Cross Country Championships 2023, where Chavi will be representing India in the 10 km discipline. The event is slated to be held on February 19, 2023.

Man Singh (right), Gopi T (centre), Kalidas Hirave (left). This photo was downloaded from the Twitter handle of Tata Mumbai Marathon and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

A debut to remember

For Man Singh, it was the first marathon he was participating in. Hailing from Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand, until the 2023 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM) he had been a regular in the 5000m, 10,000m and the half marathon. In the half marathon, he had been podium finisher before at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) and at a couple of editions of TMM. At the 2016 ADHM, he had completed the half marathon in 1:04:40. Attached to the Army Sports Institute in Pune, some months before the 2023 TMM, his coach M. D. Yunus suggested that he try his hands at the marathon with a view to eventually attempt qualifying for the upcoming Asian Games. Accordingly, two to three months before the event in Mumbai, Man Singh commenced his training for the marathon in Ooty. The hill station in Tamil Nadu (it is also a well-known military base) is a popular training ground for the country’s elite distance runners. Man Singh knew that he would be heading for warm, sultry weather in Mumbai, an aspect often cited about the Mumbai marathon besides it’s not so easy course. But a surprise was in the making. The cold wave that hit north India in January 2023 along with its impact on Mumbai, rendered local weather conditions quite hospitable for running in the otherwise warm and humid coastal metropolis. On race day in Maharashtra’s capital, Man Singh found the weather very supportive. “ On the whole I felt good,’’ he said about his first marathon. He admitted to finding the second half of the race, which took him to domain beyond the half marathon that he was used to, challenging. But he hung on as best as he could behind the race leader among Indian elites, Gopi. T. He completed the race 17 seconds behind fellow army runner Gopi, to place second among Indian elite athletes in the men’s category with a timing of 2:16:58. An outing five days later – this time a half marathon in Dhaka in Bangladesh – would prove tad disappointing for Man Singh who was yet to recover fully from his 42K-run at Mumbai. But that hasn’t dimmed his desire to try qualifying for the Asian Games. “ I hope to participate in the New Delhi Marathon in February,’’ Man Singh said.      

Kalidas Hirave (Photo: courtesy Kalidas)

A bit short of his PB but good enough for third place

Pune-based Kalidas Hirave is a recent entrant to the marathon. He started as a middle-distance runner and then progressed to the 10,000 metres, half marathon and the marathon. “ The 2023 Tata Mumbai Marathon was my third marathon,” he said. In February 2022, he ran his debut marathon at the New Delhi Marathon and finished with a timing of 2:18:12, a personal best to date. In the same year, he ran the Pune International Marathon to finish with a timing of 2:22:21. Kalidas, an employee of Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), said his training in the run up to the Tata Mumbai Marathon had been quite good with a fair combination of mileage training and core workout. “ I trained with a target of two hours, 15 minutes as time to finish. On race day, I ran well until the 30th kilometre and stayed within the Indian elite group. After that I started to suffer cramps and had to slow down. The last 12 kilometres were quite tough and I managed to cover them by jogging,” he said. Kalidas finished in third position among Indian elite men, with a timing of 2:19:54. He now plans to run the New Delhi Marathon, scheduled for February 26, 2023, in an attempt to qualify for the Asian Games. “ I plan to resume my training from next week,” he said on January 22, a week after the 2023 TMM. Unlike the typical lot of Indian elite runners, hailing from the defence forces with careers focused on the sport and training in groups of competent runners, Kalidas trains independently under his coach.

Nihal Ahamad Baig (Photo: courtesy Nihal)

A second place with a new personal best for Nihal Baig

Pune-based Nihal Ahamad Baig had to decide whether he wanted to train properly and attempt the Ageas Federal Life Insurance New Delhi Marathon scheduled for February 26, 2023 or go ahead and take a chance at the 2023 edition of the Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM), which was returning after a gap of two years. A winner at the 2022 Goa Ironman held in mid-November, Nihal was in recovery phase for the rest of November. “ I decided to go ahead and do TMM as a training run. Also, the atmosphere is so great in Mumbai,’’ he said. At the time he decided on running the TMM he had four weeks left to train. “ I trained with Manoj Yadav. I had a target of two hours, 35 minutes to finish in,” he said. On race day, he felt good and went along with Manoj, steadily overtaking many runners along the way. “ At 17-18 kilometres, we caught up with Nanjundappa who was in second place at that time. The three of us ran together until the 35th kilometre. Just ahead of the Peddar Road stretch, which is an uphill, I picked up pace. Nanjundappa followed me but Manoj started to lag behind. During the climb I could feel the tightness in my legs and had to slow down my pace,’’ Nihal said. At this point Nanjundappa overtook him and went ahead. Nihal continued to keep his pace down during the downhill stretch of Peddar Road too. But soon after that he started to push again. “ I could see Nanjundappa ahead of me but I was not able to get to him. Also, towards the last 2-3 kilometres the large number of 10K runners forced me to dodge through the lot, to get to the finish line. I may have lost at least 30-40 seconds doing that,’’ Nihal said. Nanjundappa went on to win the amateur men’s category of the marathon. Nihal finished second with a timing of 2:28:17, a personal best by three minutes. Manoj Yadav finished third. “ I am quite satisfied with my performance,’’ Nihal said adding that the pleasant weather helped him maintain a comfortable pace. “ Thankfully, the hamstring tightness and knee pain which I felt during the race eased after a couple of recovery runs post TMM,’’ he said. Nihal now has his eye on the New Delhi Marathon, which has a flat course and usually sports pleasant weather.

The team from Run Meghalaya (Photo: courtesy the team)

Meghalaya runners dedicate their participation at TMM to the memory of Daphika Pakyntein

For several years now, Run Meghalaya has sent a team to participate in the annual Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM). This year was no different. Fourteen runners arrived; half of them earned podium finishes, including Darishisha Iangjuh who placed third overall among women marathon runners in the open category and first in her age group. Others with podium finishes in the marathon included Marvin Kharkongor (third in 25-29 years, male), Tlanding Wahlang (first in 40-44 years, male), Jomsingstar Ramsiej (second in 35-39 years, male), Bandasharai Marwein (third in 25-29 years, female), Snora Lyngkhoi (third in 50-54 years, female) and Kmoin Wahlang (first in 70 years and above, female). According to Darishisha and Shaikupar Kharshing, who spoke to this blog, much of the training they did in the months of pandemic was on trails. By way of events in the run up to 2023 TMM, all they had to participate in, were a half marathon and a 10K towards the end of 2022. Both these events were held in Meghalaya. Notwithstanding such limitations, almost all the members of the team showed improved performance at Sunday’s TMM. Compared to their previous outings at TMM, the time they took to cover the course had shrunk. On behalf of the whole team, Darishisha and Shaikupar expressed their gratitude to Dr Kyrshan Lynrah who had consistently supported the team’s participation at the event in Mumbai. The Run Meghalaya team has dedicated their participation at 2023 TMM to the memory of their late team member Daphika Pakyntein. January 15, the day of the 2023 Mumbai marathon, marked the first anniversary of her demise.

Savio D’ Souza (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

A day of reward after more than two years of momentum and motivation, sustained

For coach Savio D’Souza, the 2023 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM) was a good experience. Notwithstanding COVID-19 impacting the preceding years, his group had done its best to stay connected to running. “ Aside from a few months lost to lockdown, we had continued our regular training,’’ he said. As the pandemic swept through Mumbai, runners from the group, including Savio, were not spared. The important thing for those affected so, was to return to running gradually. “ We were confident that we would be able to resume running. We were also cautious in our approach,’’ he said underscoring the gradual progress to form that was resorted to. For two years – 2021 and 2022 – TMM wasn’t held citing COVID-19. To keep his runners motivated, Savio’s group held competitions exclusive to group members. There were friendly competitions spanning 10K, 15K, the half marathon and the marathon. In 2021 and 2022, around the usual date of TMM, the group held races to mark the occasion, Savio said. When TMM finally returned, it did so with an unexpected bonus. The weather on race day, January 15, 2023, was superb. It was cool for most of the hours of the race. “ It was the best weather the event has had to date,’’ Savio said. Coupled with these weather conditions, the efforts made by the group to sustain their motivation and interest in running during the years lost to pandemic, appears to have paid off. “ Our runners fared well. Many of them registered their personal best at 2023 TMM,’’ Savio said, adding that the team of runners from Ladakh he had been associated with for long, also did well.    

Jigmet Dolma (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Ladakh’s running team: Jigmet Dolma places fourth among elite Indian women; Disket Dolma, Tashi Ladol, Stanzin Chondol get age category podium places

“ Between the fifteenth kilometre and the twenty first, I became slow. I tried to regain my pace thereafter but couldn’t,’’ Jigmet Dolma said. A familiar face among top Indian women runners at the annual Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM) she had finished third in the elite category for Indian women in 2019. On January 15, at the 2023 edition of the event, she placed fourth (TMM wasn’t held in 2021 and 2022 due to COVID-19). Her result sheet reinforces her assessment. Of the four splits for which time was provided, the first was the fastest. After that, there was a slowing with average pace in the final two splits staying steady. In comparison, Chavi Yadav who won the race for Indian elite women, showed a near steady pace all through. But what the splits told seemed only one half of Jigmet’s run on Sunday. She completed the marathon in 3:03:31, which was faster than her timing at some of the previous editions of TMM (in 2019, when she placed third, she had clocked 3:10:43; in 2016, when she finished third in the open category her timing was 3:27:50) and not very far from her personal best of 3:01, set at the New Delhi Marathon in 2019.  In 2020, when she ended up fifth among elite Indian women at TMM, her timing was 3:05:09 . For the 2023 TMM, Jigmet’s journey to Mumbai had followed the regular path taken by the team of runners Ladakh sends annually to competitions in the plains. After the 2020 TMM, running had tapered globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By then a special police officer in Ladakh, Jigmet, after a few months of work, was allowed to devote time for her training in long distance running (fellow Ladakhi runner and another familiar face at TMM, Tsetan Dolkar was also now a special police officer). According to Jigmet, she kept her running alive during the pandemic months. Return to competitions commenced with the 2022 edition of the Ladakh Marathon. “ My timing wasn’t good but I finished first all the same,’’ she said. A week later, she ran a 10K at an event in Kargil. Then with the running team from Ladakh, she embarked on the annual journey to events in the plains; their first halt was the 2022 Vedanta Half Marathon, where she finished second in the open category for women. Next stop was the Tata Steel 25K in Kolkata. Compared to previous years at these events, Jigmet showed improved performance. Her participation at the 2023 TMM followed this. In 2023, the Ladakh team in Mumbai was made up of 11 runners and their coach. Of the 11, three runners secured podium finishes in their age category. They were Disket Dolma (3:23:34), who finished first in the 18-24 years age category for women; Tashi Ladol (1:25:22), who finished second in the half marathon in the 18-24 years age category for women and Stanzin Chondol (1:26:14), who finished third in the half marathon in the 18-24 years age category for women. Tsetan Dolkar (3:10:25) placed sixth in the elite category for Indian women.

The team of runners from Ladakh who were in Mumbai for the 2023 TMM (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

From Mumbai, the team will proceed to Delhi for the 2023 New Delhi Marathon. Although running may still be a young sport in Ladakh, the concept of a running team pioneered by Rimo Expeditions and its annual pilgrimage to events in the plains, has opened up possibilities and new ideas. One such case was that of Namgyal Lhamo. A friend of Jigmet from their school days and inspired by the latter, Namgyal ran her first marathon in 2014 in Ladakh. According to the team’s coach and manager, Tsering Stobgias, a few kilometers from the finish, Namgyal suffered an injury. She stomached the pain, held herself together and finished in second place. The injury later turned out to be a fracture. She rested for seven to eight months, healed and returned to running. “ The thing about Namgyal was that she always completed the marathon but wasn’t one of the fastest. Jigmet and Tsetan would be first and second and usually separated by a modest margin. Namgyal would come in after them but the gap from the leaders to her, was sizeable. Her strength was endurance,’’ Stobgias said. This has prompted an experiment in the team – Namgyal has been slowly foraying into the world of ultramarathons. In 2022, she was the winner among women at the year’s Khardung La Challenge, the popular ultramarathon in Ladakh. She covered the 72 kilometre-distance in eight hours, 27 minutes and 39 seconds. A marathon runner finishing first among women in the Khardung La Challenge was not new. Tsetan Dolkar had done so earlier but she elected to stick with the marathon. Namgyal on the other hand, wished to try more of the ultramarathon. Traveling with the team to the events of the plains, she then participated in a 50K trail ultramarathon at the Jumping Gorilla Mountain Trail Run Championship in Pune in January 2023 and placed second. Trail running was a new experience for her and it left her challenged. Although she admitted to finding greater comfort in running on roads, Namgyal returns to Ladakh with both the ultramarathon and trail running on her mind. She wants to see how well she can train for the ultramarathon and also adapt to the demands of trail running. Meanwhile, support for Ladakh’s running team has shifted from Rimo Expeditions (they organize the annual Ladakh Marathon and the Khardung La Challenge) to the Ladakh administration. “ We supported the team for almost ten years. Now the union territory administration takes care of it. The current sports secretary, Ravinder Kumar, has been very supportive. The athletes are hoping that the arrangement continues,’’ Chewang Motup, who owns Rimo Expeditions, said.      

Sabhajeet Yadav (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

For Sabhajeet Yadav, chilly Mumbai adds joy to yet another win

For many years now Sabhajeet Yadav, a farmer from Dabhiya village in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, has been running marathons across the country and earning podium finish. The prize money that he earned from these races helped him to augment his family’s income mostly coming from agriculture. In some of the earlier editions of the Mumbai Marathon, Sabhajeet had slept the night before the event at CSMT, the city’s main railway station, so as not to be late for the marathon, which commenced nearby. It was an approach and attitude that stunned many, particularly because he almost always bagged a podium finish. But all that has now changed. Bhasker Desai, a runner friend, started supporting him in signing up for races and purchasing running shoes. Bhasker continues to support him. Meanwhile, Sabhajeet’s second son, Rohit Yadav, who was in those years of Sabhajeet’s struggle an upcoming athlete in the javelin throw, has since excelled at his sport and come to represent India at international championships. He trains with the Sports Authority of India. Rohit Yadav now works with the Railways. None of that has however dimmed the inspiration Sabhajeet offers as an individual. This year, New Vasantashram Hotel, a boarding hotel near CSMT, decided to host Sabhajeet. At the 2023 edition of Tata Mumbai Marathon, Sabhajeet was the winner in his age category of 65-69 years with a timing of 3:23:29. After the race, a beaming Sabhajeet pointed out that the unexpected cool weather was a major factor in his performance. He was all praise for that quirk of nature, which brought winter back to a city that has seen its share of cool weather diminish steadily over the years. “ I really enjoyed this year’s TMM,’’ Sabhajeet said.

K. C. Kothandapani (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Back to setting the pace; cautiously

For a long time now, the Mumbai’s annual city marathon has signified the finale of a year of training and running for Bengaluru-based PaceMakers. The group anchored by coach K. C. Kothandapani typically moves through a variety of events, the progression culminating in TMM. They had a fine outing at this year’s Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM) with Nanjundappa. M emerging winner in the open category for men, covering the distance in two hours, 27 minutes and 41 seconds. Additionally, there were improvements in timing reported by others and quite a few debutants in the marathon doing well, Kothandapani said. This was his eleventh appearance at the event and the weather was among the finest he had experienced in Mumbai. A couple of years earlier in the world of running, things had been much different, Kothandapani recalled. In the wake of pandemic and lockdown, events around running came to a standstill. “ The more committed among our runners kept their running alive in whatever fashion they could,’’ the coach said. Later, when lockdown eased and the fight against the pandemic continued without resort to lockdown, PaceMakers and a couple of outfits it was close to, organized runs spanning 10K, 21K and 42K at places adequately away from Bengaluru city. It was a cautious return to running. Asked how athletes’ brush with COVID-19 had affected their performance, Kothandapani said that it appeared to vary from person to person. While many bounced back, there are a few still struggling. Sometimes it has also been a case of infection not formally diagnosed but sensed as tiredness, recovered from with rest and later suspected to be COVID-19 because there is a struggle to reach earlier levels of running. The pandemic added a new dimension to Kothandapani’s coaching. During lockdown, training via Zoom sessions set in as a practice. These sessions were devoted to strength training using body weight. Although humanity has since learnt to cope with COVID-19, the online training sessions – including those by Kothandapani – continue. Amidst this, the situation with regard to events changed in 2022. “ There were many events that year,’’ Kothandapani said. In some cases, multiple editions of the same event occurred in 2022 as means to compensate for editions lost to pandemic. Notwithstanding the sudden explosion of events, the approach in his group has been to return to the sport and to one’s earlier form, cautiously, Kothandapani said.

Vaijayanti Ingawale (Photo: courtesy Vaijayanti)

Ankle injury does not deter Vaijayanti Ingawale

A paediatrician, Vaijayanti Ingawale stopped running during the lockdown induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Her fitness routine was restricted to workouts at home. She commenced her practice runs sometime in 2021 when things began to ease on the COVID-19 front. “ I enrolled for a 12-hour run at the Mumbai stadium run held in August 2021. I did very little running and mostly walked through the 12 hours,” she said. Later that year, she signed up for full marathon at the Goa River Marathon and completed it in 4:48:15. But thereafter, she ended up with an ankle and foot injury and had to go slow on training. Attempting a 60 km-race at the Ooty Ultra in March 2022, Vaijayanti aggravated her injury. “ I went to a doctor who advised me to go off running for three months,” she said. In August 2022, she signed up for a half marathon at Silvassa but decided to complete it with a combination of run and walk. Vaijayanti took the decision to sign up for the Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM) quite late; only just before the registrations closed. “ I had one month to train properly for the run,” she said. Her husband Deepak and son Ameya, a Thane-based ophthalmologist, also signed up for TMM 2023. “ We decided to take it easy. We started the run well and up until the 30th kilometre, I was comfortable. After that, I started to feel the ankle pain. For the last eight kilometres or so, I had to go slow,” she said. Vaijayanti finished in 5:24:50 hours to win in her age group of 65-69 years. “ My recovery has been good after the marathon,” she said adding that the unexpectedly chilly weather contributed to some very good performances all around.

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


Gopi T; after Sunday’s race (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

In colloquial Malayalam, the term `adipoli’ is used to denote a fantastic experience.

“ Today’s race was adipoli. There is the joy of participating in the Tata Mumbai Marathon after a break of a few years. Then there is the happiness of having earned a podium finish,’’ Gopi T, winner among Indian elite men at the 2023 Tata Mumbai Marathon (TMM), said.

He covered the distance in a provisional time of two hours, 16 minutes and 41 seconds.

For the Indian Army runner, the outing of Sunday, January 15, was a comeback to good performance after a couple of years of no competitions owing to both the COVID-19 pandemic and a knee surgery.

Hopeful and motivated by the race result, Gopi was nevertheless realistic in his assessment. “ The weather was really good. One drawback – and it is personal – was that I felt some inadequacy in me given I was returning to competition after almost three years. There was lack of confidence in how things would end up. But with this podium finish, I feel happy and I can look forward to preparing for the Asian Games and other events ahead. The outcome at 2023 TMM will be a source of motivation,’’ he said.

According to him, the weather was kind. Cool weather prevailed for at least 30 kilometres. Towards the last bit, it began getting warm. “ But certainly, compared to the weather conditions I have experienced before at the Mumbai Marathon, this was much better. Like I said, the main negatives I felt revolved around my own rustiness and lack of confidence from not having competed in the preceding three years. There were mild cramps and that kept worrying me. Still, the way things evolved, I felt on the final stretch that the course record may be within reach.  The pacers were there till 32 kilometres. Had I been able to sustain the pace for the remaining portion, the outcome could have been even better. In retrospect, my inability to do so was a shortcoming,’’ Gopi said. The TMM course record for Indian men, of 2:15:48, is held by Nitendra Singh Rawat.

On Sunday, the initial pace in the race featuring elite Indian male athletes, was quite strong. Gopi said that till 32 kilometres he was doing a pace, which should have eventually given a total time of 2:13 to less than 2:15. In the last 10 kilometres, after the pacers left, things changed. “ I became slow. There was also that hill at around 35 kilometres; it added to the slowing down,’’ Gopi said. The impact of the early pace manifested as some tiredness in the later stages. According to him, if there was one more person around, he may have succeeded in maintaining the momentum longer. Further when training, he was targeting a slightly gentler time and the long runs done in training were not very long. In contrast, during the race, the strong pace lasted 32 kilometres and a great result would have been possible only if the same was sustained for the entire 42 kilometres. “ I will have to address my training. While preparing for Mumbai, my longest training run was 36 kilometres. Based on how the race played out, I will need to change that to at least 40. With such changes, I should be able to improve,’’ Gopi said.

For the near future, he is looking at two events. One is the New Delhi Marathon in February and the other is the Seoul Marathon in March. “ My goal is to do one of these. Seoul is my first choice,’’ he said. It was at Seoul in March 2019 that Gopi achieved his personal best of 2:13:39, which is also the closest any Indian runner has come to the longstanding national record of 2:12:00 set by the late Shivnath Singh in May 1978 in Jalandhar.  

Gopi T; from 2023 TMM (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Alongside, the qualifying mark for the Olympic Games has also been becoming more and more challenging for Indian marathoners. The selection parameters for the last Olympic Games were stiff. For the next Games in Paris (2024), the qualification time for the men’s marathon is tighter still at 2:08:10. However, one does not have to be wholly fixated on the qualifying time. “ If one can match the current national record and produce performances in the range of 2:11, 2:12 or 2:13, it will reflect in one’s ranking. In addition to eligibility by meeting the qualifying time, ranking is also considered. One can qualify that way. So, my main target now is the longstanding national record. Qualify for the Asian Games with a national record – that is the wish. The best place to try that would be Seoul,’’ Gopi said.

Indian marathon runners have been chasing Shivnath Singh’s national record for many years. Asked how achievable it seemed, Gopi said that the national record appears a realistic goal. Viewed from the perspective of speed, the Mumbai Marathon route is a tough one. As are the usual weather conditions. On a course that is friendlier to sustained pace with weather to match, it should be possible to strive for the national record. Also, unlike his preparation for Mumbai, which spanned around 35 days, there is about 40-45 days available for Seoul. The national record was definitely a formidable challenge some years ago. “ Then I touched 2:13 in Seoul and it drew closer. A lot of change is required, many changes in training. Training partners are few. Maybe training at the national camp under one of the coaches will prove effective. Maybe one needs to train abroad. But going abroad makes sense only as a group as otherwise, the athlete ends up doing everything oneself. So perhaps, working as a focused group in India is the viable option,’’ Gopi said.

The winner’s medal at 2023 TMM is a big motivation for him. Earlier at the 2022 Indira Marathon in Allahabad, his performance had been disappointing. That was his first outing since pandemic and surgery. “ I ran it with the intent of finishing, not competing. There were several deficits in performance, which I noticed there. Now with this podium finish, I am very hopeful. It proved that I could make a comeback after knee surgery. There was much pain, many adjustments and a lot of strengthening along the way. The win at TMM has given me fresh motivation,’’ Gopi said.  

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