Orthodontist and wildlife enthusiast Dr Arun Nayak is all set to take up the massive 71km Khardungla Challenge this September to raise funds for the welfare of stray dogs. The route comprises running up 32 km to KhardungLa pass from Khardung village followed by a quad-busting 39 km down to Leh. An avid runner since 2009, he takes time to chat about his training routine, running gear and fitness tips in the concluding chapter of his interview with FirstRun.

What do you love the most about running?
I love running because it needs nothing more than shoes if done for simply keeping fit. One can run in every season and make lots of news friends, especially through the numerous running groups these days. In the buildup months to the Mumbai marathon, it’s such a joy to simply be at Marine Drive on a Sunday morning and soak in the atmosphere of fitness, positivity, revelry and camaraderie.

What are some of your favorite places to run in Mumbai?
Not surprisingly, the hilly areas of Mumbai are my favorite places. Other than the joy of greeting fellow runners crossing by me, I find the flat surfaces of Marine Drive and Worli Sea Face boring. I enjoy run-ning up to Teen Batti, Malabar Hills, and Kemps corner. In fact, one of my training long runs to simulate the Khardungla uphill was 16 repeats of the steep up and down 2kms from Priyadarshini Park to Malabar hill and back.

What other forms of training supplement your running schedule?
I am not a gym person; in fact, I have made numerous donations to gyms in form of subscriptions. I do most of my core strengthening exercises in the form of basic freehand floor exercises. At times, I use rubber straps to enhance resistance. I have also ordered for a training mask that simulates high altitude conditions, and plan to use them on a couple of short runs. This is my main focus in the month ahead.

With a demanding professional life, how do you ensure that your nutrition intake matches your daily requirements?
I don’t count my calories and enjoy almost every kind of food in moderation. I generally eat light, regular meals peppered with an occasional binge. I have maintained my weight for the past 4 years, so I guess I have been managing my nutrition pretty well. I do take Vitamin B and Calcium supplements daily for the past many years!

At the Oxfam TrailWalker event (Image: Flashbulbzz)
At the Oxfam TrailWalker event (Image: Flashbulbz)

What do you keep in mind while choosing your running gear?
I primarily look at comfort. For years I have been running in the Adidas Marathon 10 series of shoes. Only this year, I tried the Merrel all out fuse minimal shoes. It fitted like a glove and I have already clocked at least 400 kms in the last 4 months. For Khardungla, I have selected trainingmask.com upper compression tights and Ekiden lower compression 3/4ths, along with the Ekiden cold running jersey and running shorts. I will be using a trekking head torch and a balaclava to fight the cold. I have never used GPS systems or heart rate monitors, but I love photography and might use the GoPro to record my run and training. I don’t even listen to music while running. I go by the sound of my breath: it helps me main-tain rhythm!

Finally, what would be your words of advice to beginners who’re attempting to take on the trails?
I am only a small step ahead of beginners in the field and my limited advice would be to start slow, enjoy the trails, listen to your body and feet, and gradually pump up the mileage. At times, you may feel beat and exhausted, and unable to go the distance you planned. Don’t kill yourself for it. Exhaustion is some-times your body’s way of preventing injuries. Besides, there will always be a run coming up tomorrow!

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