Garhwal Run 2019 – Road to LA Ultra 111 kms

Guest post by:- Dr. Anupam Das
About The Runner:
Mohd Rizwan, 32 Years, Male.
Works at Tabono Sports (Which Organized Millenium City Marathon, Gurugram, Lucknow City Half Marathon, Lucknow).
He is a passionate runner and cyclist, started running in 2015. Around 2015 he was diagnosed with high blood pressure and spinal pain along with being overweight at 90kgs. He realized that it was high time to make fitness a priority and used it as a trigger. He has since then competed in many long distance runs and this is the story of his first steps towards being an Ultra Marathoner.

At a Check post

Garhwal Run 2019- Road to LA Ultra 111 km Dehradoon to Dhanaulti 74 km
“The only impossible journey is the one you never begin” – Tony Robbins
People know me less as a runner more of a person organizing endurance run events.
I realised this when people in my circle started to ask me recently, “When did you start running?” some of my friends were enjoying also “Ohh! You became an ultramarathoner, now.” This was after I did 50 km from ‘Dehradun to Dhanaulti’ in The Garhwal Run 2019.
Garhwal Runs is a qualifying run for ultra runners who desire to take part in 111 km category at La Ultra – The High. Those looking at qualifying for La Ultra – The High 2019 has to cover the 74 Km distance in 11 hrs. Though the overall event cut-off is 12 hrs.
The Garhwal run puts the runner through his endurance capability, testing his/her ascent throughout the distance, running through lush green forests and countryside of Himalayan foothills. Till the finishing point, Dhanaulti at the TOP, the runner travels through the villages of Kokriyal, Dubhra, Sakalana, and Daulagiri.
Total elevation gained by the runner on the race route is 7300 feet.
Yes, I was DNF at 74km run at “ Garhwal Run”, qualifier for La-Ultra, but I did attempt this tough challenge, because deep inside me there is a runner, who started way back in 2015 with 1 km difficult walk, to be followed by 200m walk runs, to be guided by an elderly person in a local park at Lucknow. Which later translated to a couple of 21km half marathons and a 12-hour stadium run in December 2016.
Being associated with Ultra Man Abhishek Mishra in organizing endurance runs during the running season, I get less chance to find time for run during the busy running season.
I targeted 74km Garhwal Run, Dehradun to Dhanaulti, which is a qualifier for the La Ultra. Being associated with runners in the last couple of years, I knew very few runners target this tough challenge.
“The only impossible journey is the one you never begin” – Tony Robbins. Not exactly the quote, but similar thoughts in mind, I registered for the event on the last day.
The time of the event suited me, as it was just after the 4th edition LCHM, so it was a break for me from my busy schedule.

During the run

I told deep inside me there is a runner, we runner’s take a break from routine by running only.
We reached Dehradun after almost 16 hours of exhausting travel road, by the evening of the 8th Feb 2019, & checked in a hotel, to sleep at about 12 O’Clock at night. It was a challenge for me to wake up at 5am in the morning after the daylong exhaustion.
I depended completely on the alarm to wake me up.
Though alarm God did not ditch me, & woke me up at 5AM, my calculation went little wrong. I had planned to check out while going out. Check out process took a little longer than expected, as the staff at reception took longer than expected to complete the formalities.
This was my first mistake as the flag off was to be at exactly 6:00AM. Though I reached just 1 minute before flag off, I missed vital warm-up & stretching before the Herculean Task ahead. When I look back, I feel, I should have started warm up and stretching while my friend Arpit was completing the formalities of check out at the hotel.
There were approximately 25-30 runners with me who were there at the flag off of 33km & 74 km event.
I started to run in pitch dark with my headlights on, it was very cold as it rained continuously for the last two days and there was snowfall above, our destination Dhanaulti.
The initial 5km was to some extent flat with fewer elevations, I was running the pace of 6.30-6.40 min per km. I was tempted to run little faster, but as I had heard from other runners, that always conserve energy while you are on ultra, I restricted my pace to complete 5km in 33 minutes approx.. I thought I will conserve my energy as suggested to run faster after 21km, which one of my friends told that there will be 26km downhill. Throughout this first 21km I kept thinking the easier part is ahead, let me conserve my energy, by running easy now, which I will make up in 26 kms ahead.
In a way to conserving my energy, I ignored the proper assessment of the cut-offs. The official cut off at 21km was 3 hours 15 minutes and the cut off at 47km was 7 hours.
At 19th km, as I was running through the narrow hilly curved route, all of a sudden I heard the sound of, some stones & sand falling from my right side, the side which had the hills. It was my first encounter with landslides in life. It took me a fraction of a second to realize what it is.
I had to decide quickly, either I run forward very fast to avoid getting hit by the stones, or I moved to the left side of the road to fall several hundred meters below to the precipes of the hills there was nothing on that side except steep downhill.
I escaped the stones, but only to realize that I had developed little uneasiness behind the back of my right knee, which gradually kept increasing.
I finished first 21kms at 2 hours 55 minutes. I now realize that I could have finished this distance easily at 2 hours 40 minutes with 15 minutes more in my hand to reach the next cut off more easily, without stressing my body.
I reached 21km well within cut off, took refreshments & hydration support to start again within 1 to 2 minutes of reaching.
Post 21kms, I was eagerly waiting for the downhill part of the route as was described by one of my fellow runners. But actually, the route was little uphill to be followed by little downhill, which continued as I advanced.
The wait for my uninterrupted downhill track continued till 30km and I was getting impatient. At this point, I saw some villagers, who were enjoying the cozy comfort of sunrays with bonfire light around them. I paused for a moment and asked one of them, “ Ye batao bhaiya, ye chadai kab khatam hogi, aur dhal kad suru hoga” (Please tell me, When will the uphill route finish & downhill start?).
His answer was not at all encouraging for me.
I now came to know that the route is a mix of uphill and downhill throughout.
All that I could get was a mix of downhill and plain route of 4 to 5kms, which I could get only after 43km to up to 47kms, the finishing point of second cut off.
After crossing the villagers, though their reply broke my heart, I continued to advance on the tough hilly track to conquer the remaining distance.
The uneasiness at the back of the right knee has by now converted into a full-fledged pain. I applied pain reliever spray in the 33rd km, the finishing point of the 33km category.
By this time 4 to 5 runners had finished their 33km run and I could see they were relaxed by their teammates with supports and aides from the ambulance.
I thought I have Miles to Go before I can avail these luxuries.
Continued to run again to reach at 40km, by which time the pain had become severe. I stopped to take help from my support van. I discussed with them about the pain and told I would not be able to continue anymore.
Luckily I had Ultra Runner Nitin Pandey with us, who immediately came to my rescue & started stretching my legs.
As Nitin was stretching my legs, I saw a runner carrying a bag with two water bottles, running and cheering a fellow runner Mr Kartik.
I exclaimed to the well-built runner, “Sir’ are you from the Army?”
I could not believe a person can run with weights in this hilly terrain. But I could very well see, he was carrying two water bottles and a bag in his back and cheering runner Kartik.
The well-built runner told, “Yes, I am from Army”. Whatever difficult my condition was at that moment, I felt a sense of deep respect from inside me for this person as well as to our army brothers.

L.L Meena is a major runner. He has represented India at World 100k & Asia 24hrs where India won bronze

It was later when I quitted the race, I came to know he is one of the fastest Ultra Runners of India “Mr. L L Meena”
I was comforted by the stretching, but the pain was persisting. I started to run again, now with Mr L L Meena & Mr Kartik. I discussed with them about the pain, to which Kartik suggested, that I could take a pain killer.
I have not thought about this option until this time. Luckily the medical ambulance van of the route support team was crossing us at that moment. We stopped them and got a pain killer tablet and they applied pain killer gel to the area again.
This relieved my pain a little, but by this time both my fellow runners had crossed me and gone ahead.
I did not feel comfortable being alone at this stage with pain and exhaustion overpowering my will power. I needed some support, even if it is psychological; having a fellow runner by my side.
I started to walk-run faster as much as I could and I met them again at 42nd km.
But the pain was not allowing me to run properly, I had 30 minutes to cover 5km to reach the 2nd cut off at 47km. I told L L Meena & Kartik to go ahead, as I would not be able to run at the pace of 6min per km now. I felt horrible.
At this moment Nitin Pandey reached again with the support van. He got down from the van and tried to motivate me by saying that he would be running with me to help me to complete in time.
Nitin said, “ It’s either a ‘Do’ or ‘Die’ situation.“ To relieve me of the weight I was carrying, he took off my jacket, spectacles and kept running with me.
I started to run again with him with my all energy left. The condition of my body and the tough terrain was not in my favor to cover the remaining 5km in those 30 minutes to reach 47th km within the cut off 7 hours. But I do not know how I gathered my energy and ran as fast as I could.
“Your watch might not be giving right time, his one might be correct” – Nitin told me when I was 200 meters from the cut off line of 47kms, when I told him it is already 7 hours.
These were his words of motivation for me as he wanted me to give a last try and not leave any chance of technical fault to put water to all my efforts.
I ran like as if my life is at stake, with all the pain in my right leg.
It was approximately 1 minute over the cut off finally and I was disqualified officially.
I still wanted to test my limits, I tried to complete the target and started again to reach 74km mark, but I had to give up at 50th KM as my pain had become too severe to continue anymore.
In covering the highest distance of my life, 50 km in this tough yet beautiful hilly terrain I took 7 hours 49 minutes and gained an elevation of 4,723.6 meters.
I decided, I will come back again to conquer soon, as “I have begun the journey already, it’s not going to be impossible anymore”.
– Mohd Rizwan’s Story as Narrated by Dr Anupam Das.

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4 Responses

  1. Dr Anupam Das says:

    Congratulations Rizwan.
    I am sure you will conquer Dhanaulti in your next attempt.

  2. Oh that’s a great write up, I didn’t know Garhwal had a run too. I have visited this area and it’s quite treacherous though it;s very beautiful too. But high altitude and continuous uphill climb can be very difficult.

    • Manas Mukul says:

      Thanks Anshu. I regularly participate in long distance run. These days almost every terrain in India has a run or two… Try participating for experience. We are organizing one in hrishikesh this weekend. Interested?

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