Breaking Barriers In Marathon Running

“I lack the words to describe how I feel. It was really hard, but I was truly prepared to run my own race.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

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Yesterday was a great day for the long-distance running community. For those unable to fathom our excitement, a new world record was set at the Berlin Marathon. Imagine stepping on a treadmill, setting it to 13 mph, and running at that pace for over two hours. Or let’s use the analogy given by BBC Sports – imagine running 100 mts in 17.2 seconds; or if that’s feels slow, try it and repeat for 420 times without a pause. That’s just what Eliud Kipchoge accomplished at Berlin yesterday – setting a new world record by completing the marathon distance of 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometers) with a timing of 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds.

The first time a marathon was run as an official race, was at the London Olympics in 1908, where American Johnny Hayes emerged victorious with a timing of 2:55:18. Of course, a lot has changed since then in terms of training and technology. Four years ago, Dennis Kimetto from Kenya had created a new record of 2:02:57 in Berlin. Fellow Kenyan Kipchoge broke this record on Sunday by 78 seconds – recorded to be the largest single improvement in a world record marathon timing in over fifty years. Australian Derek Clayton had knocked down 2 minutes 37 seconds way back in 1967.

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Reductions in marathon timings over the years.

Kipchoge, 33, has competed in eleven marathons, out of which he has won ten and finished second in one. He has won both, the Berlin and London marathons three times each, and holds course records at both places. His split times astonished viewers and runners, both amateur and elite, the world over. Kipchoge’s average speed on Sunday was 13 mph, an average pace of 2.52 mins/km for each kilometer of the 42.195 km race, or every 400 mts in 68.8 seconds. He clocked the first 10 kms in world record pace, as led by three pacers from the start.

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With pacers, early on in the race.

Shortly after the halfway mark, all three pacers dropped out, leaving Kipchoge to run the remaining 21 kms alone. Rather than struggling or falling off the pace, he defied the odds and rather sped up, covering 30 kms of the race in 1:26:45, which is the fastest time ever recorded for that distance. He ran the first half of the race in 1 hour, 1 minute, 6 seconds, and went 30 seconds quicker in the second half. He ran from the 40k mark to the finish in 6 minutes, 8 seconds – the fastest known in any major marathon, without any obvious sprint. His overall pace was 4 minutes, 37 seconds per mile – for 26.2 miles. Jon Mulkeen from the IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federations) pointed out, “imagine running 200m reps in 34.60 seconds, and repeating that for 211 times with no rest in between”. That’s what Eliud Kipchoge did in Berlin yesterday.

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His splits up to the halfway mark

Long-distance runners might remember the “Breaking 2 Project” of Nike last year – an unofficial race to break the sub-2 hour marathon, on a track at Monza. Kipchoge had created a world record of 2:00:25 at the time, guided by a team of pacers. The race did not qualify as an official time, and was seen as more of a project. Kipchoge, however, did show his frightening potential as a long-distance runner, which manifested itself as he obliterated the competition on Berlin’s streets on Sunday. “I believed he was capable of smashing the World Record. He delivered in outstanding fashion and rewrote history”, said Paula Radcliffe – former record holder of the women’s marathon. Roger Robinson from Runners’ World added, “I have watched great runners for seventy years, from Emil Zapotek to Haile Gebrselassie, and not since Abebe Bikila in 1964 have I witnessed a world marathon record set with such focused mastery”. “I felt very confident. I am grateful to those who worked with me”, Kipchoge said after the race. Impeccable pacing and the focus of a Zen master have sealed Eliud Kipchoge’s place as the greatest marathoner of all time.

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“The lesson of running is to train well, and then have full faith in your training and show the proof in the race.”

 

 

 

Sources:

~www.bbc.com

~www.edition.cnn.com

~www.runnersworld.com

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On Reflections – Inner and Outer

When your mind appears grubby and you can’t seem to think clearly, a little introspection helps. And insights present themselves from the unlikeliest of places. A friend from my book club  – a fellow bibliophile and runner – jotted down these lines a few hours ago, and I thought of sharing them here.

“I thought over daily

I didn’t get a clue…

Did scratch my head

And massaged my forehead too!

 

Everything was hazy,

Could not see the picture clearly

Even after a futile hand run over chin and neck

Even after getting into the depths of my grey matter, if any…

 

Every day I bathed in hot water

Every day I dressed up in my room

The mirror inside the bathroom was always steamy

The mirror in the bedroom was crystal clear

 

Suddenly it struck me!

 

I took a bath in cold water

I saw the mirror – no steam!

I poured more cold water on my head

The mirror was mirroring clearly

 

When the head is hot, I don’t see anything

When it turns cold, everything is perfect

Yes! I got the idea

 

You can’t blame the mirror

It just reflected your mind

Keep your head cool

The picture, big or small, will be as clear as it can be.”

~An Offshoot by S. Natarajan

 

Sassy Spoon – Food Photography

When friends visit from out of town, it’s a wonderful time for catching up. And food can never be far from the occasion. The day was spent meeting an old friend over lunch. (I had to create a ragtag prompt in advance yesterday, since I was scheduled to be out the entire time today.) The restaurant chosen to feast at was a place called Sassy Spoon, which serves mixed cuisines – Mediterranean, European, Asian. I had heard good reviews of the place that is known for its decor, food presentation, and courteous staff. Sharing a few pictures to feast your eyes on.

We started off with the beverages – a Fizzy Meloni – muddled fresh watermelon, with basil, lime and fizz, and Very Berry Khata comprising mulberries, orange, pomegranate and grape with kala khatta (jamun/jambolan syrup).

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Starters comprised garlic bread with cheese.

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From here we proceeded to the main course – grilled chicken in their house soaked BBQ sauce, grilled veggies and mashed potatoes.

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This was followed by dessert – a signature dessert titled “Seven textured hazelnut and chocolate”, comprising numerous layers of brownies, chocolate chips, mousse, and both solidified and dripping chocolate.

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All in all, a very enjoyable meal in one of the sassiest places around. The decor and ambiance are fabulous, with the rustic lighting adding a homely touch. Having visited during lunch hours, the place was packed, but never noisy.

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The sedate lighting.
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The wall covered with these trunk prints, providing a very old school vibe.
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A close-up of the wall featured above. See that palm print? It signifies a door that leads to the restroom. But the door is so ingeniously hidden in the wall.

The Light From Within

“They say beauty comes from a spirit that has weathered many hardships in life, and somehow continues with resilience. Grace can be found in a soul who ages softly, even amid the tempest. 

I think the loveliest by far is the one whose gentle heart bears a hundred scars from caring, yet still finds a way to pick up the lamp, one more time, to light the way for love.”

~Susan Frybort

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Can You Read This?

“Literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy.”

~Barack Obama

Today is International Literacy Day. It is a joy to read, and even more so to connect with fellow bibliophiles. The picture below is a collage made by marathoner, author and founder of our book club here, Lt. Cdr. Bijay Nair (Retd.). What started off as a bunch of runners who came together to share their common love for reading and discussing books, snowballed into a full-fledged book club which attracted even non-runners/athletes who attended and loved the book meets. We don’t discuss just running or exercise related books, though running was what brought us together. Founder Nair prepared this collage of some of our many meet-ups, as a reminder of the value books play in our lives. In a twist to Joseph Addison’s words, Nair quotes – “Reading is to the mind what running is to the body”. And we have been blessed to find like-minded souls from the runner-reader tribe. “A child without education is like a bird without wings” , goes a Tibetan proverb. Education is a gift no one can take from you – perfectly highlighted on a day that pays tribute to the importance of literacy. Pick up a book today, and be grateful that you can read it.

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Image copyrighted by DYRT

A Brewing Obsession

Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love” , goes a Turkish proverb. Coffee is one of my favorite beverages, consumed in different forms on the basis of where I am, what I’m doing, my mood at that particular time, if I’m eating anything along with it, or consuming it by itself. My friends and family know this too and frequently pick up coffee for me from their travels. Presently, I alternate between three types of coffee that were gifted to me at different times, from different places. Being the only coffee drinker at home, my stash is never-ending, for the time being at least.

The first variety is a Lebanese coffee a friend travelling from Lebanon had presented some months ago. (Those following this site since a while might remember the blog-post I had put up at the time.) Lebanese coffee, known as kahweh, is black, strong, and takes a while getting used to. The Arabic word for coffee, qahwa, is a shortened version of the phrase “qahwat al-bun” which means “wine of the bean” . It is also referred to as Turkish coffee, and is identical to the coffee available in the neighboring countries of the Middle East. It is derived from the Arabica bean, known as the Brazilian bean. Lebanon does not grow coffee beans; its coffee is imported from Nicaragua, Brazil and Sumatra. Coffee is served in Lebanon throughout the day, and is a sign of welcome when guests visit home. Lebanese coffee is usually prepared with a teaspoon of ground coffee, half a teaspoon of sugar, and a pinch of cardamom with a cup of water. The particular coffee grinds my friend had picked up were a blend of coffee and cardamom.

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The coffee is traditionally served in tiny cups. He got me the cups as well as the pot, along with the coffee.

The second type of coffee I have here is Dormans Coffee, brought by a friend visiting from Nairobi. Dormans is a premiere coffee trading company based in Kenya. The coffee is grown organically, processed, and blended, and is derived from pure Kenya Arabica beans – harvested from cooperative farms across east Africa. I didn’t take a picture of the pack, but it came as a box comprising individual sachets of 2 grams each. (Something like the image below.) Again, a very strong coffee – I had to use one sachet for a large mug to dilute it.

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The third variation of coffee available at home is Coorgi Coffee, picked up by a friend visiting the rural district of Coorg or Kodagu in the state of Karnataka in South India. The coffee is grown in high altitudes, having originated among the Chandagiri hills of Chikmagalur district. Coorgi coffee is said to be one of the best “mild coffees” in the world, on account of being grown in the shade – resulting in a coffee with a low acidic content, and carrying with it a tropical full-bodied taste and aroma. The mountainous region of Coorg blends both Arabica and Robusta beans, grown in the shades of the Rose Wood, Wild Fig and Jackfruit trees. The person who brought me this, sourced it from one of the coffee grinding mills itself. So, they packed and sealed freshly ground roasted coffee. Again, I didn’t click a picture – there was not much to document; having been procured from the source, the pack did not have any branding yet. It looked something like the image here.

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I usually drink my coffee black. The Dormans variety is an instant mix, so if I’m in a rush I make it with milk occasionally. The Coorgi coffee is relatively mild and tastes good when prepared with milk and chilled. But the grind needs time to brew. The Lebanese variant takes the longest time to prepare, since traditionally brewed coffee in Lebanon is made by boiling the coffee with water three times – till the sediment settles at the bottom of the pot, and brown froth is visible on the top. I drink this one hot and black due to the coffee-cardamom blend.

Any more coffee lovers here? The weekend is near. Time to prepare a brew and settle down with a good book. 🙂

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Blogging Anniversary

This blog-site completes a year today. Woohoo!! Those of you who have been following this site for a while, would be aware that Curious Cat was the outcome of an accident I had last year. For the uninitiated, I suffered from nerve damage and was bedridden for a couple of months – the entire right leg being paralyzed from hip to foot. Being a marathoner and dancer, staying put was more difficult than the actual injury. Books, movies, art and craft, online courses came to the rescue. I did a couple of random courses on Coursera, and began learning Russian on Duolingo. Along with painting, paper quilling and various other home-made crafts, I was aching to create something more. There was too much information input and not as much energy output. I decided to start a blog to write about things I was doing – thoughts on books I read, experiences on races I had run and dance shows I had performed at; just idle ramblings on whatever came to mind.

Curious Cat was named after my pet cats, who are always interested in what’s going on. And having spent much time with all my pets during the recovery period, I noticed how snoopy cats can be – in contrast to the indifference they are usually known for. This blog was not intended to be read by anyone; just a means of putting my thoughts into words. The settings were initially set to private because I didn’t think anyone would want to read any of it. Unlike a travel blog which would interest travellers, or a fitness site that would bring in exercise enthusiasts, or cookery or book blogs which cater to specific reader groups, I have varied interests. I love all of those things and write about all of them, and much more, and that was where the dilemma lay – in finding like-minded people who also share varied interests. About two months after I started Curious Cat, two friends found out about it from a casual conversation and wanted to read. So I had to change the private settings to public. Within a few days, a large number of “followers” cropped up. I had no idea what they were “following” because my “about” section clearly mentions my ramblings, without offering anything specific to follow.

The initial write-ups centered around book reviews and art work since I was reading a lot and crafting some thing or the other at the time. I’m not from a writing background professionally and didn’t know what to write on, besides the topics that randomly came to mind. When I turned the settings public, I also chanced upon The Daily Post and the word-of-the-day they offered bloggers to write on. November and December were spent diligently writing to every word – I didn’t miss a day! I learnt new words, and expanded and expressed on the ones I knew. It was a great initiative for newbie writers, offering them a base from where to grow. Sadly, The Daily Post discontinued this endeavor within a few months of me finding out about them. But I did connect with some like-minded people through the daily prompts, and realized there were many like me who benefited tremendously as non-writers turned somewhat writers, who wanted to continue writing daily. Stephanie from Curious Steph was instrumental in bringing us all together, and in June this year we formed the Ragtag Community – seven of us from around the globe, working in different time zones to fix a word each day for bloggers to write on. The team presently comprises Sgeoil, Margaret from Pyrenees to Pennines, Tracy from Reflections of an Untidy Mind, Mary from Cactus Haiku, Gizzylaw from Talkin’ to Myself, and of course, Steph and me. The ragtaggers recently completed three months and are growing by leaps and bounds with fellow bloggers dropping in daily to share stories, poems, photographs, or just about anything related to their interpretation of the daily prompts. Each of us has our day to fix the prompt, and Margaret has given us today’s word – energy. (For those who would like to participate.)

About two months ago, some reader friends mentioned they found it difficult to navigate Curious Cat for book reviews and literature related articles. So I started Tomes and Tales – a purely literary venture for fellow bookworms. I love reading and there’s always lots to say and share about books and authors. So at the moment, I manage three blog-sites.

At current count, Curious Cat has 211 followers. I still don’t know what everyone’s following since this was never intended to be a technical blog. But I’m glad to have you all here. The stats show I published 389 articles in the last one year, and the blogging community has played a huge role in inspiring me to write more and connect with fellow readers, athletes, musicians and a plethora of individuals with varying interests. It is rightly said, good things can come out of the bad too. The accident and its aftermath was a horrible time for someone accustomed to moving about, but if not for that forced sedentary lifestyle I might never have ventured into the blogging sphere and met so many lovely people out here. Even a year later with all my energy returned, and easing into races and dance shows step by step, I still try keep up with writing almost every day. It has been great connecting with you all. Keep reading and sharing. 🙂

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The Capoeira Family

My Capoeira school celebrated its anniversary over the weekend. Cordão de Ouro was founded by Mestre Suassuna on 1st September 1967, along with Mestre Brasilia. Suassuna taught regional capoeira, while Brasilia meted out teaching in angola capoeira.  Hence the name, Cordão de Ouro which means “cord of the world” – all different styles under the same roof. Mestre Brasilia later formed his own group, São Bento Grande.

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An archived photo from the sixties with Suassuna’s first students in Itabuna, Bahia.

Cordão de Ouro was the birthplace of many prominent names in capoeira – Flávio Tucano, Biriba, Marcelo Caveirinha, Urubú Malandro, Espirro Mirim, Xavier, Lúcifer, Torinho, Pial, Cangurú, Sarará, Zé Antônio, Ponciano, Bolinha, Geraldinho, Cicero, Ze Carlos, Penteado. Suassuna believed in recycling and creation, was never satisfied, and laboured to up the ante of his game. His creative and restless mind led to the development of the miudinho sequences. The new generation of capoeiristas continued and added to his legacy. Boca Rica, Mintirinha, Saroba, Coruja, Chicote, Chiclete, Kino, Pintado, Lú Pimenta, Barata, Esquilo, Romualdo are considered agents of a new and rich game.

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Reinaldo Ramos Suassuna

Originally started in São Paulo, Cordão de Ouro presently has numerous branches in Brazil and abroad – the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia. The many different groups of capoeiristas all belong to one large worldwide family – representing Mestre Suassuna’s sport and culture, and the work done by him and his supporters. Speed, agility, resilience, creativity, music, and not forgetting one’s roots are what Suassuna teaches, and dedicated capoeiristas labour to stay true to the philosophy of the Master and his group.

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With Monitora Alegria from Israel.

Rasmalai – Weekend Kitchen Experiments

The weekend was busy, and a few spare moments of wanting to create something led to some sequacious cooking from readily available ingredients. Rasmalai is a dessert which finds it’s origins in the Indian subcontinent. Also known as “rossomolai” due to it’s genesis in the state of West Bengal in India, derived from the words “rosh” meaning “juice” and “molai” meaning “cream”. It can be described as a rich cheesecake without crust. It was invented by Krishna Chandra Das – a confectioner, entrepreneur, businessman, and cultural icon in the early 20th century Bengal.

The preparation consists of a mixture of curd and cream, kneaded with milk and butter, and shaped into small dough balls which are then flattened into discs. I made bite-sized discs; you can make them as small or large as you want. These discs are subsequently immersed into boiling water, the utensil is partially covered, and the discs continue to boil along with the water, for about ten minutes on medium heat. A point to be noted here is that the discs swell in water, so place them at a fair distance from each other. I had dipped them too close, and an attempt to shift them while they were inside resulted in some of them cracking and crumbling.

A sugar syrup is prepared simultaneously as the water boils. I used 200 grams of sugar with 200 ml of water, suitable for about 200 grams of the dough I had started with in the beginning. Once the sugar dissolves, the discs are transferred from the water into the sugar syrup, and left to soak for about five minutes. Make sure the syrup isn’t too thick, or the discs won’t soak in the milk from the steps that follow. Transfer them gently with a huge spoon, as they are quite delicate and can crumble easily. There is an alternate method of boiling the discs directly in sugar syrup, but I didn’t want them overly sweetened with all the extra syrup soaked in, so I preferred the method of cooking in boiling water and then soaking in the syrup for a little while.

In addition to the water and sugar syrup, about half a liter of milk is boiled simultaneously as well, with sugar, finely chopped almonds and pistachios, and ground cardamon and a few strands of saffron. Stir constantly till the milk thickens, the sugar dissolves and all the ingredients are mixed properly. The discs that are removed from the sugar syrup are placed in a bowl (or two, depending on how many you have), and the milk mix (called the “ras“) is poured on top of the discs (the “malai“). This can be served warm or chilled.

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The dough balls flattened into discs. My quantity of about 200 grams of dough gave me thirteen bite-sized discs.
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Immersed into boiling water. Make sure to place the discs apart from each other, since they swell in the water and crack open if you attempt to move them while they’re in.
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The milk mixture or the “ras”.
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The discs removed from the sugar syrup. Be gentle while transferring them into a bowl or they can crack open.
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The “ras” poured on top of the “malai”. The discs gradually soak in the milk-mix, so leave them in for a while before rushing to devour them.

A yummy Sunday treat that is almost melt-in-the-mouth. You can regulate the sugar content in the syrup and the milk mixture, to avoid making it too sweet. I preferred adding more nuts and seasoning for stronger flavors.

Happy weekend all! 🙂