Monday 14 November 2016

No running away from this one - Currently indoors is in and outdoors is out

Long run or short run?

Indoors or outdoors?

Mask or no mask?

Run or walk?

Downtown or countryside?

Questions of all hues from enthusiastic cyclists, runners and walkers have been doing the rounds over the last 3 weeks, as Diwali normally marks the start of the peak running, and cycling season.

Today Gurgaon had an air quality index of 177-unhealthy, RK Puram 798-hazardous,  Faridabad 309-hazardous, Noida 550-hazardous and ITO 223-unhealthy. Even a level of 135 at Palam is categorised as unhealthy for sensitive groups. As a contrast AQI of 54 at Rohtak was categorised as moderate and Nashik at 28 was good.

Lucknow at 523, Agra at 352, Jaipur at 165, Chandigarh at 148, and Patna at 318 round off the picture for the major urban monitoring centres across N India.

Central India is not a pretty picture either with a band of RED right through the urban agglomerations from West to East

But these levels are 50% better than a week earlier, in most places.  Runners said ”things are much better than earlier, lets do a short fast run’. Or let’s wear a mask.

It’ll be OK.

But is it?

We need to know a few things

1-    Understand the implications of each level of air quality


2-    Realise that this is not a normal situation. Schools have been closed by the Government, doctors have advised people not to walk outdoors unless absolutely essential. UNICEH and WHO are very concerned. Delhi has been crowned the most polluted city in the world.

3-    Air quality levels improved from levels of 1000 to 400/500 over the last week, much like a fire which reduces in temperature from 2000 Celsius to 500 Celsius. But it will burn you just the same.

4-    Masks - N95 and N99 (i.e. normally filtering 95% and 99% of PM 2.5 (i.e. particulate matter of 2.5 microns) with a valve are good for walking, when the air quality levels are moderate or at a stretch, marginally unhealthy at worst. They would be progressively less efficient at higher levels of AQI

5-    These respirator ‘dust’ masks are made for miners, construction workers and those in other industries where the environment has fine particulate matter.

6-    There are NO respirator masks made for running

7-    These masks are not and cannot be airtight like diving masks and there will be ingestion of some unfiltered air, no matter what; just like we do not use a splash proof watch, no matter how expensive, under water

8-While running over a 2-3 hour period, the heavy and quick air intake, reaches the deepest recesses of the lungs, and with more severe AQI, the fine 2.5 micron particles, do too.

9-    In the unhealthy AQI range and beyond, children should not be outdoors, even with a mask, as their lungs are even more susceptible to harm.

10-    AQI levels are generally lower during the warmer part of the day

So what can we do?

·     Exercise indoors and keep doors and windows closed.

·     Open the windows with the fan on, if and when the sun comes out and the air clearer, during the later part of the day.

·     Run on a treadmill

·     Do indoor freehand exercises

·     Focus on stretching and yoga

·     Check if the AQI in the mid /latter part of the day is OK and squeeze in a short outdoor run where possible

·     Drive out to the outskirts of your town where the air is fresher and run / cycle there

Meanwhile work towards photographing and reporting any burning of waste, polluting vehicles, big exposed dusty patches and muddy construction sites, while you try and reduce travel and start carpooling where possible.

See if there are some activities like adopting dusty areas and grassing and maintaining them, operationalising Dr MS Swaminathan’s ideas on converting crop stubble into animal feed, and other simple but disruptive actions under our company CSR  activities to make our environment better and breathable. Those of us in the media can spread the good positive stories, those of us in the bureaucracy can work towards enabling citizen groups, individuals and companies doing good, or wanting to do good.
Spread the word to other you know who are active, to be watchful and take care of themselves and as Trump may say - Let’s make the air around my country great again!!

Best Regards
Rahul Verghese

Tuesday 2 August 2016

What Running Shoes should I buy??


"The shoe maketh the man"
This is the time when every seasoned runner and every aspiring 5km runner, is asking the same questions:

what shoe do you wear?
what brand is good?
what model is good for me?

Few basics in the long term:
Running form and style is a critical area to focus on, which over time makes the running shoe less critical
Less and less is more, going as minimalist as possible over time, improves running form
Different running surfaces require different shoe types - road running, cross country and trail running
Different running objectives require a different shoe type - racing, long distance (where you ultimately possibly resort to heel striking when tired), short distance running.

and the side benefits of focusing on your running form are:
Lower chance of injury
More efficient running and therefore better stamina and speed
More enjoyment during each run

It is then, that the man maketh the shoe

In the short term:
Your shoe needs to make up for your perhaps imperfect running style (which by the way applies to perhaps 90% of us) AND NOT PERPETUATE IT.

The best guide to knowing what shoe is best for you in the short term is to have a look at the soles of your old running shoe and see which parts are the most worn out.
And then buy something that is more fortified in those areas.

would urge you to find out more about what is good for your feet -

Check out multiple brands, multiple styles once you are armed with some basic information about yourself and your feet.
DO NOT get totally swayed by what someone else finds comfortable to good for them, become even if you and I are the same weight and we run similar distances and speeds and have the same objectives, our running styles and the way we land may be different and therefore our shoe needs are different.

Definitely keep at least 2 running shoes in your cupboard and alternate them. Also, start noting down what makes you comfortable and over what terrain and over what distance etc etc, and gradually become more knowledgeable about your own needs and what works for you over time.

And then, go back to focusing on your running form over time - check out the mid strike, and your photographs of your foot landing when you review your running snaps. While running in a group, give feedback to your friend whom you run behind and by the side of, and get them to give you feedback too. That's what group running is about - having fun and learning a lot from each other.
Use your selfies well and also focus on the feet, not just the smiles.

And then if you register now before Aug 31st you will save 40% off the final price with the early bird rates, for your favorite distance - from 5km to 63.3km in the 9th edition of the Gurgaon running and living marathon and a half on 11th Dec 2016
click on…/gurgaon-marathon-and-a-half

And enjoy the ride with your new shoes

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Many reasons why Hill running makes you a better runner

#RunningHills can be challenging but they are good in the long run as they strengthen leg muscles and the cardio vascular system improving both speed and stamina.
Below are some of my learnings and a summary from an article in Runners World, summing up why hill running is great and what to focus on while running uphill and downhill.
Hill sessions, unlike gym strength training, gets the muscles in your hips, legs, ankles and feet to work while supporting your full body weight, just as they have to during normal running. In addition, on uphill sections your muscles contract more powerfully than usual because they are forced to overcome gravity to move you up the hill. The result is more power, which in turn leads to longer, faster running strides.
Those who run on hills have also been shown to be less likely to lose fitness when they take time off from training. And many scientists believe that hill training can improve the elasticity of muscles, tendons and ligaments, allowing these tissues to carry out more work with less effort and fatigue.

Going Up
It is the moment all runners dread. You turn the corner and right in front of you is a big, imposing hill. But don’t wince, focus. Shift gears both mentally and physically and prepare. Running hills well is all about rhythm; if you make the proper adjustments and maintain your cadence you’ll smile your way up. Here’s how:
As you start #runninguphill, shorten your stride and reduce the pace.
You are aiming for equal effort going up as well as down, not equal pace.
Your posture should be upright – don’t lean forward or back – your head, shoulders and back should form a straight line over the feet.
Keep your feet low to the ground.
If your breathing begins to quicken it means that you’re either going too fast, over-striding or bounding too far off the ground as you run.
Use a light, ankle-flicking push-off with each step, not an explosive motion, which will waste energy. If the hill is long or the gradient increases, keep shortening your stride to maintain a smooth and efficient breathing pattern. If the gradient decreases, extend your stride again. Try to maintain the same steady effort and breathing throughout.
Accelerate gradually into the downhill.

Coming Down
Sprinting down can cause muscle soreness later, or constantly braking fatigues the quadriceps muscles. Step lightly and don’t reach out with your feet. Slapping can be a sign of weak muscles in the shin area, in which case you need to strengthen them.

Follow these simple tips on your #downhillrun on Sept 25th in Shimla at the #RunningAndLiving 25K
Try to maintain an upright body posture, keeping your torso perpendicular to the horizontal.
Keep your feet close to the ground for maximum control, and land lightly.
As you increase your pace, emphasise quicker turnover rather than longer strides, though your strides can be slightly longer than normal.
The key to efficient downhill running is to stay in control. When you start, keep your stride slightly shortened and let your turnover increase. When you feel in control, gradually lengthen your stride.

We would love to see you soon and get faster and stronger in your runs as you train for, and enjoy some great views of

the mountains and history at Shimla, like no other, at the 8th #Shimla Running And Living 25k runs on Sep 25th.
To find out more and register today, click on
See you soon

Saturday 2 July 2016

Seven good reasons why trail running on rocky, uneven surfaces is good at this time of year

Our diet may be mostly rice, or mostly wheat or corn based, but it has much else to make it a balanced diet and also a tasty meal, every time.

Road running is more fun than treadmill running, but concrete roads for regular long runs can be tough on our bodies.
City running is interesting and convenient - just step out of home and run, but if you are in crowded locations or higher transport locations the dribble from your nose when wiped against the sleeve of your running tee, leaves a grey streak.
The same 5k around the block or the same spot for the long run sometimes leads to boredom.
Traffic can make your weekday run a bit of a hassle.

That's where it's good to throw in some trail running whenever you can, out in nature, and let your mind, body and soul (and sole for that matter) commune with nature.

1- Uneven surfaces mean varied foot strike lengths and landing points which means pressure points are randomly different rather than measured and in the same spots, leading to pressure builds given out road run foot strike. Many runners use trail running to recuperate from muscular injury because of gait/ running style over a long run, or just to ease into running after a marathon or a half marathon race.

2- Quicker eye and foot coordination which makes us more agile and better tuned to our environs as we jump over a few rocks, or step sideways to avoid a puddle. This keeps us focused on the road ahead and keeps our mind off speed and distance and other mechanical metrics.

3- The air is fresher and cleaner in this suburban or natural location and we fill our lungs with the same as we inhale deeply.

4- The twists and turns in the trails add to the thrill of the route, compared to straight and long roads.

5- Mind, Body and Soul commune with nature - making for a therapeutic experience.

6- While out on a trail go minimal - rid yourself of GPS, stop watches etc and just enjoy the run. Listen to the birds, spot the animals, look at the cloud formations, feel the breeze on your face - the way it was meant to be.

7- No headphones. Focus on the trail, the directions and the environment as you see the butterfly in front of you and hear the frogs croaking in the rain. And automatically start listening to yourself, in a more educated manner

Just go out and find yourself a trail and some friends to run with.
Enjoy your run.

Rahul Verghese

Monday 18 January 2016

Run with a smile and light up another

The Mumbai Marathon is always special for me. 2004 was my first marathon in India and 2016 my most recent with the numbers of marathon finishers climbing from 300 to 3400 - way to go!

This time around I was keen to finish in a better time than usual and was getting back into shape after the tough (hot and humid) Singapore Marathon in early December. I did a few semi long runs in between but the Delhi smog got the better of me and I did shorter but faster runs on my treadmill.

Two weeks before the run my warm up started :-) My stomach started running (and weakened me just as I contemplated my long run) and then a few days later my nose started running!!


Reached Mumbai and then my stomach decided to go for a long run again before my legs did and I lost my voice.. That's when I decided my goal - run with different pacing groups, meet old friends and make some new acquaintances along the 42.2k, and soak in the atmosphere.

On race day my camera was charged and so was I. I erased all the issues of weakness and hopeless preparedness and also focused on being sensible and listening to my body and going with the flow.

Met up with Guruchandran early on and we decided to run together and then through the darkness till Peddar road went on and off with the 4:30 pacing group. Met Jerry John at Peddar road - my IIM Batchmate - who is religously there at Prabhu Kunj every year. Took a blurred selfie with him in the darkness and carried on.

We got onto Worli sea face soon and the beginnings of the sea link as we saw the sun come out.

Then the 4-5km of the sea link where the 4:45 bus with Nikhil Shah caught up with us and we took some pics

Met Kiranmai from Hyderabad along the way and took more selfies.
By now I realised I was a lot weaker than what I wanted to be so early into the run so I added in some more walking breaks and as we passed the Half Marathon mark and started heading towards Dadar, the 5 hour bus caught up with us.

All along, the way it was greatly energising to be greeted by and yell out to acquaintances and friends and strangers from over the years and spur each other on with a smile and a shout. In the long Worli Loop I saw the 5:45 bus entering the loop which we were leaving and I jumped over the divider to take a click with Dinesh Laungani and his bus. and then Himanshu and his 5 hr bus caught up with us.

Then Guru and I were taking shorter but more frequent walking breaks as we kept working on the next target - that traffic light, or that billboard, or that bus stop, and we kept pushing each other on, as well as a few others who would join us from time to time.

Then back to Jerry on Peddar road - this time in the sun with a much sharper image.

And then by the time we reached Chowpati - we bumped into Devander from Bangalore and Nandita from Kolkatta and formed yet another group, this time to the finish line.


And we sprinted the last 200m to the finish line, big smiles, and better friends at the end of it.

And then rushed to Leopolds to hydrate :-) :-) of course only after some sensible ingestion of the sandwich and milk and a rub down at the Volini recovery tent. Was great to see and meet so many folks - a dentists delight as everyone was smiling and laughing with their teeth glistening :-)

Leopolds was as usual boisterous and loud with runners from all over the country celebrating there - all of us were 5 year olds again.

Cheers to that and Mumbai - see you next year again