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Running along The Border - Desert Race

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

2020 is a year full of surprises, so gripping with action at every twist and turn just like a 007 movie!

Early on, even before the Covid-19 was announced, I had put my finger on The Border 100, a desert race, a run into the unknown.

The next eight months of lockdown were a roller coaster rider, shifting gears all the time - Work From Home, Workouts at Home too. Honestly, the Covid has played havoc with the world, but personally it has come to me as a blessing. Quality of life, relationships and greater mental wellness too have been at the optimum.

All along, many virtual events were announced, but nothing could motivate me enough but the PaceMakers marathon that my coach Pani Sir, announced. The sheer joy to prepare for the real event got me going. I did my personal best of 4:06:25 putting in about 60% of my effort into the race. This race was a great morale booster, to keep the training on for the Border 100.

Just like Covid, nothing planned ahead actually works, 27th of September, I was diagnosed with a 'Foot Drop'. For those who have known me, I have been in and out of injuries, but this was a new one in my list.

Foot Drop is a result of damage of a nerve, spine or something to do with a brain. The next few weeks were nail biting moments, from one neurologist to another test, from brain scans to spine MRIs.

For an athlete, an injury can be demotivating, but I was in good hands, both doctors and friends who kept a close check on me.

Finally, after 10 days, I had a name to my injury, I was suffering from a Common Peroneal Nerve Palsy, causing acute foot drop. I had lost complete strength in my right foot and I was on high doses of medicines to start the recovery. Three weeks of no movement, no workouts and most importantly, no running, got me to a all time low. Border 100 wasn't in the horizon now.

It was on the third of November, six weeks since the injury, that I was allowed for my first walk. I was excited to lace up and get out but was exhausted after 20 min of walk. Oh yeah, it takes months and years to build endurance, but can be lost in just a few days.

Week 1 started will a super low mileage on walks with occasional runs.

Week 2 was more of weight training and getting some strength into those legs.

By the end of Week 3, I was definitely feeling exhausted, but was working out one day at a time.

Week 4 was a blessed one, with 60k run mileage and 10 hours of strength workout in the gym.

My hopes on getting to the start line of Border100 now seemed doable, still unsure of the finish line.

It was only in the second week of December, post a few night runs and many noon runs along with my strong team at DFIT Running, that I booked my tickets to Jaisalmer.

As a nutritional coach, good diet has always been my forte along with my mental strength.

As athletes, we all know, that getting to the start line of the race under training is any day better than being over trained. So, I decided to take a leap of faith.

A little about The Border. The run starts from the Golden City of Jaisalmer and ending at the battlefield of Longewala. The participants are exposed to the elements of nature, face to face while fighting their own demons mentally as is the case with any ultra, philosophically speaking. Also, a great opportunity for the runners to bring home their Personal Best times in either 100 mile or 100kms because the elevation gain is about 650mtrs and 250mtrs respectively; a pan flat course.

The race route is close to the Indo-Pak border. It passes through the famous dunes, vast landscapes, open spaces, long stretches of roads passing through the remote and tiny villages.

The man behind the Hell Race Vishwas Sindhu, is a young race director bringing to India the experience of what international Ultra races have to offer.

Temperatures varying from 30 - 5 degrees, with dry head winds and a 12 noon start make this extremely challenging. Well, life starts outside your comfort zone.

It was just few hours before the race, that I decide to run a 50K, owing to no crew to run in the dark. The wild animals and the solo night run seemed to be daunting. The day before, had driven along the 100 miler course to Longewala, what wilderness and the sand dunes and now I was running this course!

11 minutes, past noon on the 26th of Dec 2020, the whistles blew - My first desert race.

I had a simple plan, run between hydration stations, so an easy 10k X 5. During ultras I fuel the first part of the race on glycogens and second part on fats. But a 50K seemed good with only glycogen due to the extreme heat.

With the first two hours, getting me close to a 19k, I was on track, least did I know that the next 90 minutes would be the survival of the fittest.

Crazy head winds, the heat waves of the dessert and scorching sun just got me digging deep within. It was no longer, one hydration point to the other, but one kilometer after another.

It was at the 30k station that I met Vishwas and Amit. I was now extremely dehydrated, the part below my tongue was so dry that I could no longer take in my own saliva. I was advised to chew in a few oranges and quickly got a sip of coke and got going.

Each time I passed a village and saw a bunch of children clap and cheer, it smiled. If they could live this life every day, couldn't I just run this today?

By 4:30pm, the sudden drop in temperature, and 35k on my Garmin got my focus back to pushing.

A six hour finish seemed doable. It meant, I need to pass one man at a time, overtook 5 runners. Yeah, by now the women on the course had given up.

6:03:XX and a dreamy skyline finish

Congratulations to some crazy course records by Hemant and Udupa of 4:27:xx

It was a delight to interact with Sunil Handa and many more brave hearts at the post race party the next day.

Here are my reasons, why you must attempt this race

# Joy of running beyond 42.2, its testing every muscle in your body, especially your mind.

# Do you have a thirst for adventure? Want to experience the unknown?

# A well supported ultra race in the desert. Well stocked, runner friendly aid station

# Extremely encouraging group of volunteers lead by a man with a passion - Vishwas # Just like me, if you like to club travel with a race in different parts of the world. Jaisalmer has so much to offer, cuisine and culture

# A tribute to the Indian soldier of the the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 (December 4-7)

Foot Drop to the finish line - so many first time experiences,

Sometimes the harder you fall, the stronger you rise!

Border100 we have a deal - I am coming back!


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