Running tips for winter

A how-to-guide on keeping your spirits up and about when it gets dark and cold.


The alarm goes off at the usual 6 ‘o’ clock. You peer out of the quilt and steal a glance at the window. Still dark outside. You hit snooze and lay deliberating within the warm cocoon. Should the training session be postponed for later?! The mobile phone buzzes again, shaking you out of the slumber. The goal list, pinned to the night stand, shines out. Resolute, you jump out of bed. Weak or cold, no more.


A seasoned runner would realise the importance of training in winters. Getting up and out on the track early in the morning is an absolute imperative. Not only can one put in their best effort with a thoroughly rested body but, also it jump starts the metabolism for the day. Calorie burnout is higher than usual as the body fights to maintain a stable core temperature. However, stepping into the cold and damp morning air straight out of bed is not advisable. Dedicating a few minutes to vigorous exercises, such as jumping jacks, that can be done within the house may be useful to warm up the system. The importance of reflective wear and blinkers in keeping out of harm’s way, while it’s still dark, cannot be understated. On the way back, a gradual cool down is key to avoid a sudden drop in body temperature. Additional clothing may be utilised to keep warm even post workout.


Clothing is another important aspect that must be paid attention to. India’s wide geographical expanse harbors a variety of climatic conditions throughout seasons. Temperature down south may not be as freezing as in the valleys of Himachal. Hence, a single rule of thumb cannot be applied while choosing running wear. Typically, a combination of 2-3 layers works well. The base layer should wick moisture and trap body heat close to the skin aiding thermoregulation. The mid layer should be thermoregulating as well. The outer layer should fulfill the dual purpose of being wind and water repellant along with being breathable. The primary layer for bottom should be thermoregulating and, wind and water repellant. An extra pair of shorts may be worn over the core layer to provide additional warmth. The Hypawarm collection by Wildcraft provides good options to choose from this season.


Tested the Wildcraft’s Hypawarm collection in sub zero temperatures on Pindari Ultra Trail Run: Click here for a short video of the run. 

When you draft your training schedule this winter, it is important to bear in mind that consistency and gradual increase in load are key to the success of any plan. The adversities and challenges tackled on the track or trail will only make you stronger. While the one’s who weren’t brave enough to give up the comfort of their beds are rusty in the spring, you’d surely find acing races and personal goals a cake walk!

This article also appeared on on 7th December, 2015.



Running in the sky: La Ultra – The High

A newbie in ultra-running narrates his account of an attempt to take on the cruellest ultra marathon


Photo by: Priyanka Oberai

I felt like a lone star drifting in an infinite space. There were vistas of milky way to behold – way brighter than my headlamp – and its rays kept fading away in the unfathomable black of the asphalt.

I could have been dreaming, but for the GPS strapped to my wrist. Six kilometres still to go, for the first cut-off. The greatest difficulty at the world’s cruelest ultramarathon, La Ultra – The High, is not about the altitude or the distance. Those may be secondary. The primary hurdle is just making it to the start line.

For me, the road to this start, was a journey of nine months and several hundred running-kilometres long. From having never run a race at all, to making past a 76km qualifier, it took fifty days of gruelling preparation. Running half marathons, marathons and 80km runs became second nature. I even moved base to Nainital, to gain exposure of running at a high altitude. All was well until a month from the event. I felt a piercing pain on my right knee, which made me limp, and gradually brought me to a halt during one of the practice runs. Diagnosed with Iliotibial Band Syndrome (commonly known as ITBS), I felt devastated for a moment. However, too stubborn to give up, I committed to a crash-and-burn strategy.

The first few days in Leh were spent acclimatising to the sudden altitude gain. On the fifth day, I decided to sprint to the Shanti Stupa (14000 feet). Standing atop a hill, towering 1000 feet over the Leh city, the Stupa is a colossal structure built by the Japanese as a symbol of peace. It took me six minutes to climb 500 odd stairs leading up to the monument and another 25 minutes to regain my breath. With shaky legs, I returned to my homestay and slipped under the covers. It soon dawned upon me, that ITBS was too trivial an issue, compared to the monstrous altitude that I had to battle.

I committed the remaining days to practice runs, trail walks and acclimatisation hikes up to 5000m (above MSL) to enhance the production of red blood cells. This was imperative, in order to adapt to the thin Himalayan air.

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At the start line.

At 8 PM, on a starlit night of August, the race commenced. In a sea of blinkers and headlamps, we paced upstream, like a shoal of salmons heading home. The first leg of the race was a 63km arduous climb, going from 11,000 feet to 17,000 feet to Khardung La. Khardung La is known as the erstwhile highest motorable pass in the world.

But, you can’t take your own sweet time to get there. The race director mandates 9 hours, 18 hours and 24 hours to reach the 48km mark, 78km mark and the 111km finish line respectively. Similarly, one needs to finish the 222km and 333km category in 48 hours and 72 hours respectively, to earn the ‘Finisher’ title. The cut-offs add to the challenge as participants struggle to keep a steady pace. The onslaught of sub-zero temperatures, thin air, high altitude and sleep deprivation brings the bravest of the running gladiators to knees.


Photo by: Priyanka Oberai

I was running strong in the third position (in the 111km category) making the first cut-off in eight hours. After refreshing myself with a quick nap and a cup of tea, I decided to take on the steepest section of the remaining 15km to K-Top. The sun was slowly rising over the jagged Himalayan peaks, and so were my spirits. I took out a pair of hiking poles and started on my way.

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Using Hiking Poles for the 15 KM Section leading to K-Top

The pass seemed well in sight all along the way. The never-ending road though, that kept on climbing one bend after another, wouldn’t let me reach to the top. The beautiful scenery of snow-capped peaks, streams and pastures below, was quite unfair in the treatment it meted out to its beholder. Beaten to the bone physically, I let my mind do the walking. Loosely strung on walking poles, I made it to the 60km mark. The doctor noticed something strange with my trot and ordered auscultation. His judgement was confirmed within no time. The stethoscope informed about the fluid accumulation in my lungs. Diagnosed with High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (or HAPO) I made past the second cut-off on four wheels, with an oxygen mask strapped to my face.

‘It’s over’, called out another fallen friend. The finality of the two words rang like a brazen slap across the face. I guess, this is what the race is about. There are no two ways to describe it.
Cruel. Or rather, the cruelest.

About the Race

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Participants 2015. The author is seated on the left (chairs).

La Ultra – The High is an ultramarathon conducted in the Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir (India). Accepting participants in three categories (111km, 222km and 333km), the race climbs over three of the highest motorable passes in the world, reaching a maximum altitude of 17,000 feet. In its sixth edition this year, only 7 of the 15 participants could finish the race within time, braving snow blizzards and temperatures between -10 to 40 degree celsius.

This year, the race also witnessed its first Indian finisher – Parwez Malik. He was the winner in the 111km category as well. Penbin Chen (China) was the sole finisher in the 222km category and Sean Maley (UK) finished first in the 333km race.


This article was originally published on RedBull (dot) Com on 21st September, 2015.

5 Lesser Known Attractions of Nainital

There is more to Nainital than the Mall road, the big overcrowded lake, Punjabi restaurants and shopping for ‘Made in Delhi’ exotica. In fact, here is a list of 5 places in Nainital, that will add some fun to the most ordinary of trips.

1.  St. Joseph’s Boat Clubkayak


The St. Joseph’s College Boat Club is housed on the shore opposite to the mall road. If your stay extends longer than a week, you can learn Kayaking here for Rs.25 a year (yes twenty five, no typo there 😀 )


2. Garud Talgarud

Part of the Saattal network of seven lakes, Garud Tal lies within a christian missionary estate. The pristine water and the serenity of the hills around, make this place an ideal destination for a small picnic.


3. Khurpa Talkhurpa

Merely a stone’s throw away from Nainital, Khurpatal is one of those places where you won’t find a trace of tourists. A must visit if you require some ‘alone time’. Avoid swimming though, its rumored that the lake has whirlpools.


4. Kilbury Bird SanctuaryIMG_20150618_084408_757


Located on the outskirts of Nainital, the Kilbury Bird Sanctuary is the perfect place for spotting rare Himalayan birds of the wild, in their natural habitat.


5. Nainital Mountaineering Club


For adventure sports enthusiasts, the NTMC office situated at Barapatthar (Nainital) offers activities such as Rock Climbing on artificial wall as well as natural rocks, Rappelling, River Crossing and Caving.


These hidden nooks of the beautiful lake city, will surely enrich your weekend getaway. Let me know how you found them, once you’ve visited 🙂


Get On That Plane Already

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I keep coming across this poster on the internet, ‘If traveling were free, you’d never see me again.’ Truth be told, it’s a big fat lie – a lot of people out there are telling themselves every time they ditch their dreams for over time at office.

This is how I used to be through the three years at college, and for the two years after…until, it finally dawned upon me, what it really takes to get out there and travel – WILL – Rock strong will. That’s all you need.

And then, there were two other issues, I had to deal with. Emotions and Finances.

As an aspiring traveler, my emotional concerns were mostly related to meeting my parent’s ‘expectations’. Eventually I realised that, people who really love you, will understand and respect your decisions. So, after a mild opposition my parents understood and accepted that travelling is what I really NEED to do.


My bed in Darjeeling. Believe it or not, its a counter in a bar that serves Chang (rice beer)

Next in line, were the finances. I had less than $80 cash in hand or bank, cumulatively, as I embarked on my first trip solo. And, believe me you – I made through 6 Indian states in over 20 days, with that sum of money. The point I am making here is, prioritise right and budget accordingly. For myself, travel and climbing are the top most priorities, then comes food and, lodging is last. I spread my expenses in order. Living within means is imperative.

Not every traveler makes a living out of travel writing.

I decided to do anything that lets me travel, is legal and, is within my personal ethical boundaries. I started as a freelancer, writing academic content (sustaining on less than $200 a month, most of the time). The plan was, to eventually build a marketable skill that requires less man hours and pays more. Almost 24 months into the exercise, I now manage operations for a Singaporean setup from a laptop – sitting on the porch of my home, nestled in the Himalayas.

It all boils down to being passionate about your dreams, consistent efforts, keeping no regrets, taking risks and living in the moment. Everything does work out.

Get on that plane, bus, boat, road, whatever, already!




P.S. There’s a common misconception, that travel isn’t ‘safe’, ‘impossible’ or ‘isn’t meant for’ females. Check out these girls, who are living life queen size.

Toolika Rani (

Charukesi (