The Sugar Masters of the World

Series: Season 1

“The Royal Icing Storyteller: Marta Torres”

Marta has earned a distinguished reputation in the Cake and Sugar Industry as one of the few Sugar Masters who create edible art on a canvas of cookies for dimensional piping with coloured royal icing. With decades of pushing the boundaries of creating versatile designs with Royal Icing, Marta is a true Maestro in this fascinating world of Royal Icing Artistry. Each of her unique 3D Cookie Masterpieces are created with the purpose telling a distinctive story. She is world renowned for her distinctive style of edible art and her  innovative approach to royal icing has transformed her cookies into miniature 3D Masterpieces.

With each new edible creation she infuses emotion into her eclectic cookie designs, which range from classic to whimsical and even fantastical.

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Marta Torres is an award winning Sugar Artist from Portugal and is the creative force behind The Cookie Lab by Marta Torres and Marta Torres – Royal Icing Cookie Art. Her expertise lies in creating amazing cookie decorations using dimensional piping with royal icing.

Marta found her passion for cookies by accident around 2013. She came from the banking and consulting industries and knew nothing about royal icing or cookies, but through desire and passion she taught herself anyway. After six months of practice she entered a contest and won! This changed her life.

Marta is now an international teacher of her own dimensional piping techniques with coloured royal icing. She has spent the last 7 ½ years teaching in a very impressive 32 countries to over 2,000 students. She is currently teaching as well on on-line platforms such as Zoom Livestream for over 1.300 students.

She is also frequently asked to judge cookie competitions for prestigious competitions all over the world, including Cake International where she is now an Official Judge. She has been featured in many international magazines, either with her work and interviews, National TV interviews, and even had a Portuguese publication release a special edition of just her work.

– DMAs Finalist on Cookie Artist of the Year 2022
– Global Sugar Hero Finalist 2021 – ACADA (Australia)
– Artist of the Year 2020 – Worldwide Excellences Edible Art (Italy)

– Finalist 2020 Cake Hero Award – ACADA Australia
– Winner 2016 EAGA Awards on “Most Inspirational Royal Icing Artist” (Hong Kong)
– Finalist at the 2015 Cake Masters Magazine Awards (AKA Cookie Oscars)(UK)
– Finalist Peoples Choice Awards 2017 (USA)
– Triple Finalist in Collaboration Category for 4 years in a row
– Cookier of the year Finalist 2014 (USA)

Marta is also gearing up for the Grand finale of the prestigious D’Licious Magazine Awards 2024 where she is finalist along with the World’s best Sugar Artists competing for the titles. She is a finalist for  two Top Notch categories, The “Cookie Artist Of The Year” and The ” Sugar Auteur”.

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We are truly lucky and honoured to have the Royal Icing Storyteller, Marta Torres with us today for this interview. She shares with her some untold and exclusive stories about her journey into this fantastical world of Royal Icing. Read on to get a VIP access to her world and gain insights into the various aspects of Royal Icing Artistry and how she is able to transform each cookie into a visual and sensory experience.

Ancy:

You are acclaimed and beloved around the world as a Royal Icing Maestro specially for your dimensional piping with coloured Royal Icing. How do people address you for making such unique and memorable 3D cookie designs in your characteristic style?

Marta:

The “Royal Icing Storyteller” who gives feelings to her characters, is something I hear very often when I publish my work. Some people thank me for the smile and happy moments they get when they see my work.

I do know that my dimensional piping with coloured Royal Icing is what I’m known for, it’s what make students look for my classes. Every piece is created with purpose, following the rules and techniques I developed myself, and of course, lots of details for a unique piece. I want pieces to tell a story and people appreciate it.

Besides, I often hear people saying that they don’t need to look for my name on a Cookie piece because they know it’s mine.  Without looking for it, somehow, I have created my own style.

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Ancy:

What is your defining technique and what is your approach to tackle each design idea? Do you have a project which is the closest to you heart?

Marta:

Whenever I’m creating a piece, I put my heart and passion into it. My main medium for creating my cookies is Royal Icing, my signature Dimensional Piping style with coloured Royal Icing is what characterises me and I’m recognised for.  Be it a cute figure or a more serious one, anatomy, perspective, the expression on figures, all the little details are essential for the balance and harmony of that piece.  I do have several pieces that I like but, recently, my piece for a Collaboration about Poverty vs Abundance was highly published around the world.

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Ancy:

Which of your designs on Royal Icing cookies are most popular designs and how do you ensure that they stand apart from other artists?

Marta:

Although within my dimensional piping style I create different figures, I guess what people enjoy the most are my cookie “kids”.  I give them personality and expression accordingly to the Story I want to tell. I love putting a smile on my followers face, I even ask them to complement the story that my cookies conveys, and this is a way to interact with them, a way to make them part of the story.Marta Torres 18 Marta Torres 19

Ancy:

One look at your Social medial handles and one can immediately understand that you are probably the most awarded and beloved Master Artist in the industry, winning awards and recognition for close to a decade . Tell us about some of your most favourite and memorable accolades and awards.

Marta:

Being nominated for prizes, or even winning them, are no doubt a highlight in our career. In 2015, shortly after starting decorating cookies I was a finalist for a very well-recognised Award which surprised me since I was new on this field, and completely self-taught (still am), but it felt good of course. 2016 I won the “Most Inspirational Royal Icing Artist” Award. Although I have other prizes that came after, this is probably the one that impacted me much so far due to the incredible comments on my work received from one of the judges, other than Mr. Eddie Spence.

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Ancy:

Who was you inspiration and what are the qualities of Sugar Artist that you admire.

Marta:

When I started, I saw on Facebook a painted cookie by the one and only Calli Hopper and I remember saying to myself that I want to make pretty cookies like that. I ended up making cookies but not painted like Calli.

Usually, when looking for the sugar art works around, we tend to look for designs that are eye catching, but probably, due to my judging activity and experience throughout the years, together my sensibility, I tend to look for the execution, more than the design. I do prefer a simple work with a perfect finish, where all the details were taken care of. I do prefer simplicity, balance, harmony, together with a prefect finish.

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Ancy:

Post-Covid pandemic lockdown has brought about significant change in most industries. What changes did you notice in the Cake and Sugar industry?

Marta:

Covid came and, definitely, changed the way things were done, but not always for the worst. As for the Cake and Cookie designers, this challenging time gave an extra opportunity to be more creative, not just in the conception and execution areas, but also the way things were delivered to the final recipient, either a client or a student.

There was a tremendous adaptation to the times we faced and, we are now less conservative and more open to accept things differently.

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Ancy:

What important insights caught your eye in the Sugar world during this time?

Marta:

Sugar world evolves with time, I see a more open mind, where artists like to try new things, and techniques, getting out of the conventional way.  The slowdown of Covid time, gave the artists the opportunity to try and develop things further.  We see common edible mediums being used and handled differently, as part of their trial and practice, that look like a new product, for instance wafer paper. We see, as well, a tremendous intent in recreating realistic things, from nature, to human features. Generally speaking, sugar art became more alive.

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Ancy:

How did you adapt your business to the new demand of this exciting phase for cake decorating! How do you prepare yourself in this ever-evolving world which demands innovation constantly?

Marta:

Being myself a teacher who is used to travel all the time around the world to teach my art, Covid was an impediment to do so.  But, in truth, shortly after the first confinement, I received a request to teach private classes on Skype, and I said to myself,  why not? Then I jumped into Zoom Classes and started teaching Groups. It worked very well, I planned and chose projects that could fit into this new reality and platform.  For me it’s essential being able to provide an individual guidance to my students, checking constantly on their work, and it’s possible no matter the distance between us.  It has been an amazing opportunity for teaching students from all over the world, sometimes 5 Continents in the same class. I’m still teaching Zoom and loving it, but in person classes are also back.  Changes are happening all the time, we need to be quick on their response, being creative and open-minded gives you preparation to face whatever challenge you may have to face.

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Ancy:

Please share some habits that have helped you continue making innovative designs and meet the challenges of long hours of edible art?

Marta:

When creating a piece, I do like to try different ways of making it, most of the time I envision the result pretended and know that the traditional way will not get me there so, trial and practice makes wonders.  Challenging ourselves is the only way to grow.

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Ancy:

Are you noticing recurrent themes and mediums in the sugar industry.?Which ones will last?

Marta:

Although Royal icing is my main medium, I do like to incorporate here and then a bit of other products, I’m really enthusiastic with the endless possibilities of Wafer Paper and Rice Paper, and we see it often on Sugar Art. These are going to last as the ways of working on it are becoming more and more interesting and sophisticated.

As far as Cakes and cookies are concerned  we see more and more often the increase of busts/faces and its realistic features. It’s becoming a trend and people are trying out difficult techniques in the pursuit of perfection.

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Ancy:

How do you choose you tools and ingredients for your business ?

Marta:

As my work relies in less ingredients, products and tools then the majority of cake decorators. For me and I guess for them, we all look for reliable products and tools that deliver what they promise, good in quality  and performance, a product that can be trusted.

Ancy:

Tell us about your favourite tool?

Marta:

My work relies on Royal Icing and piping tips/nozzles are essential for my work, they must be the best quality available in the market, since it’s the only way to accomplish a good result. Without tips, I can’t work.

Ancy:

How do you recharged from the longs hours that Sugar and Cake work demands. How do you de-stress and how much recovery time would you ideally like?

Marta:

Fortunately, I’m a person that doesn’t need to much time off, actually, it makes me nervous being without my piping bags for too long. Sometimes I do force myself to stop, recharge and go back.  At the end of the day, a bath or shower followed by a chatting moment with my husband, where usually I bring out all the ideas I have and he listens to it, it’s the best way to calm down.

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Ancy:

Some healthy habits or cake decorator to take care of their health as all work such long hours?

Marta:

I do start my day very early (5 am), which I prefer rather than staying up too late, unless the circumstances require differently, for instance when teaching abroad.  Exercise is essential prior to start my working day, it can be a walk/run or lifting weights at the gym, but my physical and mental health needs this. I get lots of energy, an open mind and, I feel more inspired, and my day runs smoother.  Even 30 minutes a day makes all the difference, grab your shoes and move. The benefits are endless.

Ancy:

With so many years into this artistic journey what according you are some habits that Cake/Sugar Artist must avoid at any cost?

Marta:

-Focusing on too much at a time

-Delay on creating System and processes

-Over-promising

-Not taking risks

-Failing to delegate

-Lack of being proactive

-Never taking time off

Ancy:

What would your advice be to new Cake?Sugar  decorators who are just starting out?

Marta:

When starting in this business, the lack of preparation can make us feel a bit lost.  Keep always in mind what’s your goal and, if necessary, ask for help, don’t panic. In order to improve your skills, you have so many incredible instructors out there, choose wisely, and learn as much as you can, and then practice more and more.

Challenge yourself, be part of competitions, being out of our comfort zone is the way to grow.

Don’t compare yourself to others, you are unique.

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Ancy:

Give us a sneak peak into your own goals for 2023 and what is your vision for your business

Marta:

Due to some personal matters, 2023 came a bit different than expected, nevertheless, I’m teaching, which I love, and I’m using my time as well to challenge myself on new techniques with royal icing and a couple of different mediums. I’m also developing a few tutorials for magazines and on-line learning platforms. Basically, I’m busy preparing my future next steps, based on Personal growth goals and Professional development goals.

Ancy:

Your work is admired around the world , share some advice for our readers and existing business owners

Marta:

Put all your love and passion on whatever you do, make sure that not only your business is ready for launch, but you are as well.

Keep focus on your business, be aware of new trends and get prepared for them, but above all, see what works for you, what makes you stand out from others and work to deliver the best.

Be the unique person you are and don’t compare yourself to others. This is a quote that have been with me for so many years now, and being myself really stubborn and focused on accomplishing things. Never give up on something that you can’t go out a day without thinking about (Winston Churchill)

Thanks to all for being with us on this journey with Marta Torres: The Royal Icing Storyteller

Marta’s  flair for highlighting the visual appearance of each her Magical 3D Cookies with her unique, intricate style of storytelling with her cookies makes her stand head and shoulders above many Sugar Artists of the world.

It almost seems like “homage” to each of her characters and their narratives.  This unique creative ability to captivate ones imagination, makes her a trailblazer in in the Cake and Sugar industry. Each one of her innovative designs can be hailed as a  “Magnum Opus” .

Interview by Ancy James

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Read other series:

The Sugar Masters of the World

Series: Season 1

The Queen of Lambeth/Royal Icing and Maestro of Enchanting Gingerbread Houses: Kathleen Lange

Kathleen’s  decades of commitment to her craft and her dedication and innovative approach to sugar as an artistic medium has helped her emerge and remain as a Pillar and a Luminary in the world of Royal icing and the Confectionary industry. By creating the cascading layers of detailed patterns using Royal Icing, over piped delicately over her cakes and Gingerbread houses, transforms her creations into eye-catching masterpieces. An age-old technique thrives even now in her masterpieces, truly in the hand of a Master Artist.

Kathleen’s artistic cakes show her full fledged passion and  a true maestros meticulous hand and eye for detail even as she infuses modern design elements  with an artistry that has a contemporary flair .

Her journey into the world of sugar artistry began with a  fascination for the style of cake decoration that originated in borough of London and her early dabbles with this art form propelled her into an enviable career in sugar artistry 43 years ago.

Kathleen started her teaching career at the age of 16, for Wilton Industries. Youngest instructor to have taught for Wilton in  total 21 years. Kathleen received numerous awards from Wilton; Hall of Fame and Imperial Club Awards; as a top instructor, teaching at the highest volume stores; teaching over 10,000 students as last recorded by Wilton, the year 2000.

Technical precision in showcasing the evolution of an age old technique in the hands of a master artist

She worked in area high end bakeries; consulting and training area bakery owners and employees; owned and operated her own high end wedding cake bakery & supply store in the 90’s. She has taught since the beginning of her career and is now highly regarded innovator and is internationally known for royal icing, foreign techniques and the revival of the Lambeth Method of English Overpiping; adding her own modernized flair.

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Testament to boundless creativity

Most recently, May 2016 Awarded one of the Top 10 International Artist by NY Cake & Baking Show, October 2017; Kathleen Coached Michelle Sohan and competed as Team Trinidad & Tobago in the Milan, Italy Cake Designers’ World Championship FIPGC 2017, winning “The Best Cake Taste in the World 2017” and placed 7th; competing against 19 other countries. In August 2020 Kathleen received the ICES (Int’l Cake Exploration Societe) Hall of Fame award.

Kathleen is an active member, instructor and demonstrator of the USA Division Representative & Int’l Excellence Team Cake Designer of (FIPGC) International Federation of Pastry Gelato & Chocolate – Italy

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“Cake decorating is the art that uses food coloring and frosting as paint, tips for the brushes and cake as the canvas.” Kathleen Lange 

We are truly lucky and honoured to Interview with a maestro who is the contemporary  “Queen of Lambeth techniques” loved and admired around the world. Despite the rush of the holiday season and year-end projects she took out time for our readers to speak candidly about everything from her Royal Icing journey and various milestones, trending sugar designs in the cake world, to practical coping techniques for business’ to thrive in this world Post-Pandemic. Read on to know more about some untold stories from her confectionary world where her exceptional skills in Royal Icing Lambeth technique and enchanting gingerbread houses has been captivating audiences for decades.

Here is Kathleen’s complete interview with our Staff Reporter Ancy James

With each answer you will get a glimpse of her creative journey where she has been weaving passion into every spoken brushstroke of inspiration with her Royal Icing Artistry.

Ancy:

What is the key highlight of you work and most prized design? What is the Niche that makes you a “Class Apart” from other Cake Artists.

Kathleen:

The key highlight of my work would be teaching.  I have enjoyed sharing my love of Lambeth Cake Decorating,  adding a more modernised, romantic flair to older design work. I would say my most prized design would be my Victorian Heart designs, using two different colours in heart cushion work. My first design was in 1985, red & white; no one had ever attempted two colors before. I have since redone the design with “C” Scrolls and pink & white heart cushion’s in 2015

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Ancy:

Who has been your biggest inspiration in the industry? What qualities in Cake Artists catches your attention!

Kathleen:

Eddie Spence MBA-Royal Icing King!  A true gentleman, amazing baker, turned artist.  He has stood the test of time and taught many of the famous royal Icing artist and has one of the longest legacies in his 90’s.  I look for someone who is true to the art, not about pushing their products, all about the actual teaching and love of the art just like my mentors did

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Ancy:

An Award/recognition  close to your heart and why?

Kathleen

This is a hard question, there area actually 2 awards very close to my heart. #1 The  ICES (Int’l Cake Exploration Societe)  Hall of Fame Award in August 2020, since I started teaching at age 16, I met two of my incredible instructors Betty Newman-May who trained me 4 years in Lambeth Style Cake Decorating & John McNamera who taught me the world of figure piping,  they were both ICES Hall of Fame members; incredible artist and instructors.  I felt Hall of Fame would be my ultimate achievement, caring, sharing and teaching as my instructors showed me their love of their students and the industry.  Unfortunately the award had to be given over the phone, due to Covid the convention had to be cancelled, they tried to honor me in 2021 with the award, unfortunately I had to miss the convention due to our move and not being able to find my tools to travel and teach.

#2  Most recently 2017, I had to honor of representing FIPGC (Federation of Int’l Pastry Gelato and Chocolate) Coaching and judging at the World Cake Competition, Milan Italy  as Team Trinidad & Tobago with my student and friend Michelle Sohan, winning Best Tasting Cake in the World. This was one of my highlights, due to the fact I  am very passionate about the taste of the cake, it is the most important part of the cake.  The cake can be the most gorgeous work of art, but if the cake taste terrible, you as a baker and artist have not done your job correctly.  My motto is good until the last crumb ?

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Ancy:

Your favourite products and Trends. Prediction of which ones will last? List 5 and mention the one which is most likely to survive

Kathleen:

 My favourite products are “A Royal Mix” Royal Icing pre-mix by More Than Cake, best no waste, fastest drying and best tasting royal icing.  I also love More Than Cakes Perfect Palate Powder Flavours, takes less flavouring, does not bake out of products and you can flavour anything you eat, drink or bake with as little as 1/16th teaspoon, very economical products.

Edible Icing images – Seems to be popular and staying popular due to logos and cookie designs

Isomalt- Popular and used for so many different applications

Cookies- Very popular, but remind me of cupcakes, a cycle and too much work for the amount of money you can charge. I think the excitement will die down.

Buttercream Cakes – Retro- popular now, it is a cycle like fondant

Fondant- still trending, but people area wanting more buttercream and whip cream.  Always a cycle, every 5-10 years

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Ancy:

Post covid pandemic what changes do you see in the cake world and in your business

Kathleen:

Since covid I have seen things slowly starting up again.  A handful of cake shows slowly started in 2022, some opted to start in 2023. All seem to have lower attendance in the US. The ICES Int’l Cake Exploration Societe had their last convention July 2022 after 46 years. The CookieCon Conventions seems to be growing, 2 per year in the US with attendance of 800 or more and their classes seem to be going strong.

Seems all classes are low in attendance, people seem to not be attending one on one classes, due to travel expenses and most seem to be still watching online courses.  I personally have had more people interested in attending classes, waiting for me to offer, but due to family responsibilities and relocating our residence in another state, I’m in the process of reorganizing my business I have not started back full time.  

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Ancy:

Pl share some insights about what caught you eye in the Sugar and Cake world during this time?

Kathleen:

The things that have caught my eye in the sugar world are the continued social media videos showing what they are calling Retro Cakes, Lambeth style in butter cream is what they are calling it…when basically it is basic bakery piping, not Lambeth at all. Not sure how basic bakery cake decorating designs became retro?  I’m seeing a lot less fondant designs, more interest in buttercream borders, flowers, natural designing with edible herbs, fruits, citrus and dried florals.  Cookies seem to be continuing their popularity. 

Ancy :

How you adapt your business to the new demand of this Dynamic and exciting phase for Cake Decorating and Sugar Artistry in the year 2023! How do you prepare yourself in an ever-changing world which demands innovation constantly?

Kathleen:

I have found throughout my 43 year career and business to always be adaptable.  Fortunately, I learned from the very beginning to be diversified in several areas of the business. In my career I have seen cycles of styles change and come back every 10 years.  I have prepared myself by offering other items in slow times and being able to teach has always been my “Niche”.  I work on perfecting my recipes and love designing dessert cake flavors, fillings and different icings.  I have been designing  and perfecting a few chocolate candy truffles, brittles and caramels along with a few pastries to market in our new area.  I found the changing of times gives me the opportunity to switch around and use other creative talents, which keep me from repetitive decorating.

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Ancy:

What is your advice to all existing business owners ?

Kathleen:

Be diversified in all areas of the art.  Most businesses are seasonal, make sure you can offer several different products and your product taste as good as it looks. 

Ancy:

For our new cake decorators who are just starting out in the industry ! What would you say to them ?  

Kathleen:

As I was told when I started, learn from everyone, each teacher has something different to offer and one on one learning is better than online.  Online learning you do not learn from others and online is not always the correct way of applying applications as they show.  Being a judge, I have found most mistakes on competitors cakes was bad advise on YouTube, tactic or wanna be teachers who are all self taught.  Be well informed and attend the bakery trade shows.

Ancy:

You own goals for 2023 and what is your vision for your business

Kathleen:

My goals are to finish reorganizing my business, starting up local classes and working at the Local Farmers Market, marketing my chocolates truffles and candies during the summer, working with a few exclusive venues in the area for high-end weddings.  Working toward opening a commercial bakery on our property to cut over head cost and also rent when not being used.

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Ancy:

The best business advise ever given to you

Kathleen:

Be diversified, never stop learning and competition is good

Ancy:

Bad habits that cake decorators must avoid.  

Kathleen:

The worst habit is not keeping organised, cleanliness of the bakery, touching cakes and food without gloves when assembling.

Ancy:

Pl share some ingredients that are mainstay in your business and what are the most dependable Sugar tools and ingredients according to you.

Kathleen:

This is so hard, I have a lot of products, depends on the types of cakes or designs I’m working on.  I would say a good tilting  turntable, torting knife/tool  metal angled spatulas, and good quality baking pans/products.  My favourite decorating tubes are PME.  I do not skimp on taste, I try to use the best, most economical quality ingredients;  real butter, cream and the best chocolates staying away from prepared mixes and make from scratch, depending on products.

Ancy:

Out of these which one is your favourite?

Kathleen:

PME Decorating tubes – I can make anything with tubes, icing and decorating parchment.

Ancy:

Which Sugar design Marvel of yours would you say is the most popular and asked for by your  customers?

Kathleen:

My most popular and sought after work are the Lambeth Designs.  When people tell me they love my designs, they say they love my romantic flair and my style of colours.

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Ancy:

Habits that have helped you continue making innovative designs and meet the challenges of Sugar work

Kathleen:

My habit that has helped me continue making innovative designs, is my love of the art and my romantic side.  I love adding a romantic, modernized flair to all my designs. I love Victorian architecture, jewellery, wedding gowns and flowers, all giving me creative inspiration.

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Ancy:

How do you recharged from the longs hours that sugar and cake work demands? How do you destress and how much recovery time would you ideally like between cake projects?

Kathleen:

When the demand is high, trying to get  as much rest as possible is key!  I try not to overbook for my well being.  I make time for me now, by gardening, reading a good book and enjoying the fresh air outdoors.  I guess in my area they call it Forest Bathing, since we live in a forest.  Enjoying nature, clears the mind.

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Ancy:

Some healthy habits or cake decorator to take care of their health as all work such long hours? 

Kathleen:

I have found over the years, if I do  not take care of myself I would have a low immune system.  I really concentrate on a healthily diet, drink a lot of water and take good vitamin’s. I have always stayed away from too much sugar and try to get plenty of rest.  I started going once a year to a Naturalpatihic Dr, after experiencing extreme tiredness, joint pain along with hormonal problems, he was able to run extra blood work and guided me to the proper vitamin’s my body was lacking, helped me tremendously. Once a month I go to Acupuncturist and a Chiropractor, all have helped me keep my optimal health. 

Ancy:

A final question before we end this interview  please share any significant vision that you have for your upcoming year and a few final words for our readers?

Kathleen:

My future plans are to build a commercial kitchen on our property, working exclusively with local resorts marketing wedding cakes, desserts and novelty candy items, continue teaching, writing a few books.  A big dream is to have vacation cabin rentals for visiting international students to enjoy classes and our beautiful state of Idaho, USA. The legacy I would want to leave is my love of the art through my work and eyes.  I would hope to have a few books showing my personal teaching techniques and recipes. My motto is to love the way I want to be loved, share the way I would want to be shared with and to teach the way and want to be taught.  “Keep Piping Alive!” and “It is all in the bag, just squeeze!”

Thanks to all for being with us on this journey with the modern day “Queen of Lambeth”, A Maestro who is a Class Apart in Royal Icing Artistry.

In addition to her prowess in the Royal Icing Lambeth technique, Kathleen Lange has earned acclaim for her enchanting gingerbread houses.It is testament to Lange’s ability to transform the simplicity of gingerbread into elaborate structures that delight the senses.

Kathleen is beloved within the Cake and Sugar Industry for her distinctive qualities and warm personality. Her commitment to sharing her expertise with aspiring sugar artists makes her  one of the most approachable Master Sugar Artists a much loved mentor to many aspiring Sugar artists around the world.  Her generous spirit in imparting her knowledge has fostered a community of sugar artists who continue to be inspired by her Artistic Sugar legacy

Interview by Ancy James

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Read other series:

The Sugar Masters of the World

Series: Season 1

Paul Joachim: A Pioneer in Sculpted Edible Chocolate Artistry

Paul Joachim is an internationally-acclaimed chocolatier, sculptor, speaker, and live performer. Paul has been reaching, transforming and inspiring audiences and Chocolate Connoisseurs through speaking, chocolate sculpting and tasting events. A prolific confectioner, often hailed as the “Chocolate Genius” who can easily be called a modern day “Willy Wonka” .

He is not only famous for his legendary chocolates tastings but also as a world renowned artist whose distinctive traits of pushing the boundaries in the field of Chocolate Art and innovation make him a force to reckon.

He has not only achieved mastery over his art medium with his relentless innovations over the decades. You would have seen this flamboyant Chocolatier, speed sculpting many a jaw dropping chocolate sculptures, “Live”, at exclusive private and corporate parties and public events around the globe.

With a career that spans 10 years, his pursuit of perfection and innovation has elevated the chocolate industry to new heights. From amazing likenesses of celebrity clients to vibrant and detailed icons, logos and architectural structures, Paul, sculpts them all in the highest quality edible chocolate. Attending his Chocolate hosting or speed sculpting sessions is like entering a fascinating world of a sensorial experience with chocolate that transcends the ordinary. The Chocolate Genius has been seen on shows such as CBS’ The Talk, Food Network, and Australia’s Today Show, and his clients have included Oreo, Universal Studios, the NBA, billionaires, and Fortune 500 brands. His wonderful legacy in creating a world of possibilities in the field of Cocoa innovative confections makes him stand apart as a trailblazing Master Chocolatier.

We are truly lucky and honoured to Interview the “Chocolate Genius” himself who despite having busy end-of-year calendar, took time for our readers to share some insights into his career and share with us some candid and exclusive untold stories from his Phenomenal Chocolate world and how decades of commitment to his craft helped him break ground and carve his ‘niche”. Here are some snippets from his interview with our Staff Reporter Ancy James, narrated in his own words.

Maestro unveiled: A Profound Dialogue with a Master Artist and his story of passion and Chocolate Artistry
Ancy:
Please share with our viewers a bit about you phenomenal career path and the milestones that have shaped you as the world’s most renowned chocolatier? How do see yourself reinvent yourself and your Business in the year 2024?
Paul:
“I’ve hosted virtual chocolate experiences for participants in over 35 countries including groups entirely from India,Ireland,Taiwan, and others. I am very proud the experiences resonate regardless of the culture of the participants. I’ve sculpted live with in-person chocolate experiences in Australia, Asia, Europe, Canada, South America, and the US.

I’ve been recognized as one of the top master chocolatiers in the world with audiences in every continent besides Antarctica. I’ve been on national TV shows all around the world including Today Show Australia, UK’s Wonderful World of Chocolate, CBS’ The Talk, Fox and Friends, multiple Food Network shows along with an assortment of other national TV appearances.

Starting in 2024, I will be Vice President of the non for- profit, Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund giving me further leverage to make an impact on our world, improving the lives of farmers which in-turn helps preserve the beauty of our world for all our children and future generations. Speaking at opening keynotes and hosting high-profile chocolate events allows me to get in front of influential global audiences to educate and inspire them through language, visual chocolate art and perspective shifting tastings.

My dedication for the rest of my career is to enrol, inspire, educate global audiences about the ‘why’ behind sustainability using chocolate as the ultimate case study. Chocolate connects with the widest audience possible and is the perfect medium to move the needle in preserving the beauty of our world. “

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Ancy:
Having achieved so much in your field what would you say are the key, inspiring qualities that you admire in an artist, especially edible art/ Chocolate art which makes them successful and relevant in an ever changing world?

Paul:
“There are so many talents across the world that inspire me on a daily basis. What inspires me the most is a huge leap in skillset from anyone. I’ve watched so many of us grow immensely through the years. Learning to allow
vulnerability to take over giving them new found abilities that didn’t previously exist. The dedication, the passion, the drive, and growth I witness is such an inspiration and drives my own work. “

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Ancy:

What do you feel is the ‘Niche’ quality of your work which keeps you so committed to your craft. Please share some
memorable and unforgettable chocolate experiences or memorable events?

Paul:
“We leverage the connective power of chocolate to engage, educate, and inspire our audience into action. Our work is about mindfulness, intention, education, and purpose. We often work directly with our clients to include their own mission and convey this through our chocolate experiences. For example, we did a chocolate experience in Detroit this year for Children’s Miracle Network to promote children’s mental health. The famous American football player
Barry Sanders was the surprise guest. Knowing this, I decided to tell the story of sports and its impact on mental and
physical health transitioning into the origin stories of the chocolate. The chocolate sculpture was a life-size girl playing football. Late when I addressed the audience, I asked the VIP audience of 225 if they played sports when they
were kids. I asked them to reflect on what impact it made on their mental and physical health. Interacting with them live and part of the benefit was being outdoors, breathing the fresh air and being among the trees. I transitioned that into asking the audience if they knew what wild foraged is. And I told a beautiful story of chocolate manufacturer, Felchlin, and their partnership with the indigenous Chimane’s that harvest cacao growing wild in the rainforest of
Bolivia. And that’s where the chocolate they are enjoying comes from. I also showed then first hand the raw cacao pods that I had brought with me, giving the audience the unique opportunity not just to see a cacao pod for the first
time, but to taste a raw bean right from the pod! Through the work we are doing at Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund our mmission is to preserve these incredible cacao varietals that represent the beauty of our world in all its
raw authentic flavor and experience. All of these unique, wonderful, and rare cacao varietals are in danger of going
extinct. This is not hyperbole. Talk to a cacao farmer and they will tell you that the struggle of climate change or other economic realities is real and directly affects their ability to harvest, sell, and produce cacao. So, to answer the question directly, the highlight of my work is creating human connections, engaging, educating, and inspiring through chocolate experiences. Our audience experiences the experience of sustainability.”

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Ancy:

How do you prepare yourself in an everchanging world which constantly demands innovation. Post covid pandemic what changes do you see in the chocolate world and in your business. How did you adapt your business to the new
demand of this new phase ?

Paul:
“Great question. It’s tough in any business big or small, especially a small business to continue to reinvent and innovate almost on the fly. I have set up an advisory board which helps to be proactive and future thinking. We discuss what business might look like in 6 months to a year. Then it’s up to me and my team to put things into place to adjust and react to these realities. I keep track of economic and industry news which greatly affects my business. Most of my client base is corporate with corporate moods and trends directly affecting my business. Post covid pandemic, in person chocolate experiences have kicked in.

It was a great time to reinvent our services. We went from one live event during covid, to a multitude of high-profile, exciting in person chocolate events since June. A few highlights include The Chocolate Genius headlining the Kid power Colorado annual fundraiser where I sculpted a life-size child on stage, speaking to the audience of
450 including a plated high end chocolate tasting.I had the honor of being opening keynote speaker at an invite only sustainability conference in Virginia with an audience of the most influential sustainability corporate executives in the world. This included a beautiful chocolate sculpture of a 4 foot jaguar and toucans plus a chocolate and wine tasting. Another was out in Vegas where I sculpted two celebrities and hosted 3 chocolate experiences over three days for a major hotel brand and luxury auto manufacturer. Including 1500 custom shaped chocolate takeaways.

We are still doing a surprising amount of virtual chocolate events as well. December 2023 we will have about the same amount of participants we have had in the past 2 years with over 20 virtual chocolate events each December that have included participants in over 35 countries.”

 

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Ancy:
Tell us about you personal favourite chocolate confections?

Paul:
“It feels amazing to purchase chocolate directly from cacao farmers I know personally around the world. The chocolate is simply the best quality with the sophistication of fine wine varieties. Chocolate from Rex at Puentespina Farms in the Philippines is simply one of the best chocolates I’ve ever had. The 70% dark chocolate color is light similar to the color of milk chocolate. The taste is floral, nutty, and fruity taking on the flavor of the local soil, the air, the plants, and trees of the Davao region. Chocolate at this level makes me pause and reflect on the rare beauty and uniqueness our world has to offer. ”

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Ancy:
Which chocolate events turn out to be most meaningful for you are a profession and remain the closest to your heart?

Paul:
“Being opening keynote speaker for an invite-only audience of the largest corporations in the world and their executives was an incredible honor. This opportunity means more to me than any award or formal recognition. The trust and acknowledgement from my client to have me as opening keynote speaks volumes about my commitment to
positive human connection and my growth as a sustainability educator through chocolate.”

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Ancy:
As an Artist you constantly put yourself and your work out in the world to be judged and admired. You must be used to always having the spotlight on you! How do you motivate yourself to continue being so “high functional” to create such innovative and challenging masterpieces each and every time.

Paul:
“It comes down to giving up labels, societal right and wrongs, good and bad – and discovering and being fully self-expressed through our authentic selves. This allows me to unleash abilities on levels not otherwise possible.
By giving up judgment, I allow the power of the universe to flow through me and generate my performance. I feel the
connective oneness between us all, and it provides me with an immense sense of purpose regardless of how I’m feeling externally or internally. When I’m in this space, I get myself into a flow state where time slows to a crawl, my skills become precise executing at lightning speed. It’s a practice of shifting  consciousness on the fly that connects at the highest levels without relying on language. Giving myself the focus and abilities needed to perform at the highest
levels.”

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Ancy:

What are the qualities that remain the mainstay of your business ? What efforts do you take to retain it ?Pl share with us some memorable visceral chocolate experiences that you offer to you clients in detail!?

Paul:
“I strive for perspective altering experiences. Providing my audience with a new possibility and relationship with chocolate and themselves. Everyone has such a strong, visceral relationship with chocolate. Even those that don’t care for chocolate have a strong response. I am able to offer a platform for altering the audiences relationship with
chocolate showing them new possibilities in life. Life isn’t fixed or static, there is a whole world of new possibilities yet to be discovered.

I achieve this by creating a safe space of mindfulness, discovery, and joy for the audience. I take all the senses into account – all aspects of taste, varying textures, visual senses, and even the audible experience of eating the chocolate. With my chocolate tastings I start with dark chocolate and end with the white. Which is the opposite of any tasting I’ve ever heard of.

This alone demonstrates there really are no ‘rules’ – only the rules that we develop through creating new possibilities. It’s a gorgeous balance and harmony of flavors, textures, visual simulation in each tasting that surprises and delights.

One of my personal favorites is a 35% FelchlinOpus Blanc white chocolate with dried tarragon, raw wildflower honey, black lava salt, and orange zest paired with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. First of all, the visual look at the chocolate provides a sense of intrigue with green of the tarragon, the medium size grain of black lava salt, the vibrance of the raw wildflower honey along with the fresh orange zest juxtaposed with the creamy off-white color of the chocolate. All of these ingredients have a beautiful origin story in itself. Each element flows beautifully with or without the wine. When the Sauvignon Blanc is added, the acidity of the wine balances perfectly with the sweetness and rich cacao butter creaminess of the white chocolate. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has an earthy background that is pulled out by the tarragon’s own earthiness and slight licorice profile. The black lava salt tells your brain you’re in the act of eating and helps create a richer, bolder flavor experience of each and every ingredient. The orange zest’s essential oils are released and coats your palate acting as a bridge for all the flavors simultaneously enhancing the citrus profile of the wine. This is the methodology I apply to all my chocolate recipes and pairings. Whether that be with wine, spirits, beer, or just the chocolate itself. ”

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Ancy:
How do you recharged from the longs hours that Chocolate and cake work demands?

Paul:
“One of my favorite things to do is to be out in the forest. Especially hiking or jogging through winding trails. Taking in the aroma of the trees, the leaves, and the soil. Feeling the impact of my feet on the sand alternating with the roots or hitting splashes of water. Hearing the rustle of leaves dancing in the breeze, or running with a majestic alligator swimming in sync with me along the river bank.
I’ve also been practicing “Hatha yoga” since the past few decades. Yoga practice provides me the physical and mental
balance along with strength and peace that I require I need to offset the stress of high-profile, high-stake chocolate events.”

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Ancy:
Tell us about some healthy habits that you have acquired that help you stay at the top of you professional game?

Paul:
“I recently became vegan to help with my personal health and the health of the world. I was vegetarian for 10 years
when I was younger and then incorporated meat back into my diet. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve dedicated myself to
revitalising our communities and our planet. Becoming vegan is a natural progression of this effort. Another important thing I do is recognise when my stress levels are high I actively pause and breathe and out. This diaphragmatic breathing technique helps me reset and get back to being present, focused, and effective. ”

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Ancy:
Your favourite sculpting tool?

Paul:
“When I sculpt I use a paring knife and one wooden clay tool as my go to’s. Anything else is optional. ”

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Ancy:
What is the best “Business advice” that you have ever been given?

Paul:
“Focus on what you are the most passionate about. Full-stop. Creating a business with authentic purpose will feed your soul and fill your pocket book at the same time. ”

Ancy:
With decades of being successful what advice would you give new sugar and Chocolate aspirants? Do share tips and
techniques you use to stay so highly motivated and creative.

Paul:
“Focus. Focus. Focus. Don’t try to do too many things. Get extremely good at very few things. Take your passion, your skill set and align that with consumer or corporate needs and trends. Look forward 6 months to a year to make
adjustments to these products and services so you’re not left with cash flow issues. If this isn’t your skill-set,
surround yourself with advisors that do have this knowledge. Corporate advisors, marketing, sales, accounting, brand development, etc. Be patient, be smart, be resilient, and be fierce in your approach with the utmost integrity. Find purpose in your business. When this isaccomplished, your business is no longer separate from who you are. It becomes an extension of your authentic self. You get up each day motivated to connect with others regardless of how you are feeling any given day. Take calculated risks and don’t hold back. Give yourself up to the process, be daring and bold in your own, authentic way. Don’t strive to be something you are not. Embrace and accept yourself just asis.

There is no perfection in reality.
There is only the practice of inquiry, observation, and acknowledgement. When we practice this space of compassion, the need for expectation dissolves into irrelevance. Self moves to the background and oneness takes over.

Nothing matters beyond the consciousness of singular oneness where intellect moves the background and the immense knowledge of the universe generates your life. This keeps me motivated regardless of how tired I am, how many negative thoughts come into play, how much my body hurts or if my mind is telling me a “no”. My practice of
vulnerability, letting go and reshifting my mindset into connective oneness and purpose fires me up and gets me past my perceived limitations. “

Ancy:
What according to you are some qualities that an Chocolate/Cake Artist must avoid at all costs?

Paul:
“Being caught up in jealousy of others, lack of innovation, lack of vulnerability, lack of patience, lack of purpose
and/or not honouring the connective power of chocolate/Cake to bring out the oneness in us all.”

Ancy:
Heartfelt thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and sharing you valuably insights. Last question of
the interview. Have you ever travelled to India?Would you like to ?

Paul:
“I have so many connections in India yet I haven’t visited up to this point. I’ve worked in-person with Rintu Rathod from Mumbai. She created India’s very first chocolate Ganesha along with being heavily involved in humanitarian work and sustainability. I’m totally enthralled and proud that we are part of each other’s journey’s in life. I partner with chocolatier Girija Tatke, also from Mumbai, to help create virtual kits for our Indian based participants. I’ve had the immense pleasure of teaching chocolate sculpting to Shobha Tallapaka, who lives in the US, and Harsiddhiba Jadeja Rana from Bhuj, India. In turn, my own personal growth has blossomed to new heights through their sharing and exchange of energy. The results of each and every one of these interactions has been nothing less than a miracle. I have countless fans from India and I appreciate and love you all. The Indian culture, the food, the values, and the people resonate with my soul with any trip to India would be like touching the essence of my authentic self. ”

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Thanks to all for being with us on this journey with The “Chocolate Genius” Paul also went on to tell us how he would like to be known as an individual that helped preserve the beauty of our world for ourselves and our children. Through inspiring and educating the world unforgettable chocolate experiences and allowing them to actively reconnect with their authentic selves, each other, and our earth. Each of his chocolate masterpieces are a culmination of a lifetime dedicated to the perfection of his craft. He is the undisputed enduring world icon in the sweet symphony of Chocolate Art. He not only has emerged an effortless chocolate maestro always bringing his A- game with each of his unique chocolate masterpiece but also has actively contributed to elevating the status of all Chocolatiers worldwide. As he continues to evolve and innovate through his craft his impact on the world of chocolates is defines to endure and that would always be his Legacy. Inspiring a collective and compassionate
appreciations for the art and science of chocolate making .
Interview by Ancy James

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Read other series:

The Incredible “Everyday Elite” Runners of India

Season 2: Episode 1 Everyday Elite: Deepak Chhillar

There are many Iconic runners who inspire so many of us to take sports seriously. As we kick-off Season 2 of our Incredible” Everyday Elite” runners of India, join us on a wonderful journey as we dive deeper into the stories that give us such profound insights. It is with great pride that we open our Second season with the iconic and charming runner, Deepak Chhillar. Having started his running journey and serious training under the capable Asian Champion Sunita Godara he calls himself a ‘lifestyle runner’ who enjoys running. He believes that age is just a number and anyone can unlock their athletic prowess with disciplined training and hard work.

“Running is the best gift that I have received because it has changed my lifestyle, and I feel great about it,” says Deepak Chhillar who works as a Business Manager in a pharmaceutical company in Delhi, live in Bahadurgarh, Haryana.

Founder of Bahadurgarh Runners Group (BRG). Although Deepak had been active in sports since his school and college days, his physical activities took a backseat as his professional life took over. Soon, amidst all responsibilities and professional commitments, his routine started getting monotonous, and that is when he decided to start running. Life has never been the same after he took the decision. It’s more than six years since he has started running and Deepak has never looked back. At the helm of the famous Bahadurgarh Runners group BRG, he is a much-beloved icon spreading awareness about fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Within his running group, he is known as a ‘Mentor de Fitness’ AKA ‘Pacer Baba’ mentoring newbies and helping them attempt maiden first half and full Marathons and guiding many others to break their personal records. As an Everyday Elite, he shows with each running challenge that with a calm state of mind one can guide the entire focus of the body to help achieve any desired goal. Always leading by example and shining a beacon light on Amazing bucket list runs you won’t hear him ever complain about the pain that was endured or the blistered feet.

His athletic journey can safely be coined as new paradigm for superior sports performance within the running community. Not only does this focussed mindset help him finish each run in the most extraordinary fashion but also he also gains acute insight into the areas that he would need to improve upon on his next running endevour. Above every other quality mentioned, Deepak exudes humility and his positive candour leaves an instant inspiring effect on any fellow runner. A hardworking and “All in” runner he is relentless and displays daily his lifelong dedication to perfecting his training. As an Everyday Elite he is acutely aware of the importance of building strong relationships with like-minded people and folks who have his back. His eyes would light up with enthusiasm and delight while talking about his many amazing running shenanigans. He says running has helped him become fitter both mentally as well as physically and says it keeps him more active and enthusiastic throughout the day. His social circle has also become bigger and better, and he finds himself among a passionate and athletic group.

      

  

Deepak has participated in many events across all over India, HMs, FMs, Ultra runs including two 12-hour Stadium runs and 24-hour marathons events under the prestigious Tuffman and NEB banners. With each marathon event, we can see the incredible determination in each step “As he eyes crossing the finish line in his own unique extraordinary fashion”. He has conquered various 100km runs including some high-profile marathon challenges like the 300km Hell Race Challenge 2020, and 200km Sher-Punjab Title 2020. The memorable Noida ultra 65km run and the triumphant 70km at the Trail-a-thon.
As an Everyday Elite has an inane sense of overcoming odds with just a little bit of shift in his mental self talk even when in the brink of losing. He is the face of many Marathon and Running challenges across the country especially the most popular 100 days  of running. Deepak agrees that these Challenges played an important role in turning him into a more disciplined runner. He was the Flag Marshal at  Vandematram Run on 26 January 2020  and the Torch bearer at the Faridabad Half Marathon 16 Feb 2020.

Deepak is also popular and much loved as a Pacer and Ambassador of various prestigious marathon events in not only New Delhi but cities all over the country. He is the face of many running event in myriad cities like Jaipur, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Bhatinda, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Gurgaon, Chandigarh, Mohali, Kota, Manesar, Gwalior, Bairach, Noida, Indirapuram, Dehradun, Lucknow. As an  Everyday Elite, he knows that not one day is an easy or rest day, each day has to be approached with a daily commitment to be the best version of his fit self. Most of the times these runs are easy for him and the finish lines just seems to gravitate into his hands easily, all thanks to his consistent training. However, that simplicity and ease in training does not make him change his approach to viewing each training day and each event as chance to perform his very best.While way too many athletes give up their goals after they fail a few times our “Everyday Elites” wins their battles each and every time in his mind much before they even land their first step on the track.Personal goals apart he feels that pacing at various events and helping achieve their personal best is hugely gratifying for him. He believes that even if one person is motivated to give the best of themselves in his pacing bus, it is enough satisfaction for him as a pacer. Till date, he says that he feels the most elated and satisfied after his pacing assignments. He feels that pacing is not just about finishing on time, he also acts as a live clock to help runners. He has been aptly named “Pacer Baba”
and is beloved within the running community.

   

An Everyday Athlete is not afraid to fail and Deepak understands that nothing will happen if one does not get out there and try again. With his pacing support, he leans in on this insight and
helps his fellow runners. He is aware that it is the blood and sweat that has made his determination and zeal shine through. He has always been aware of success that waiting for him at each of his finish lines. Right there, lies the true superpower that makes Deepak our incredible “Everyday Elite”. He famously quotes” Not everyone can run, and those who do, not everyone can pace. So if you are a PACER, THEN ZINDA HO TUM”

 

 

 

Running for Deepak is a complete package which includes a healthy lifestyle, disciplined routine, and confidence demeanour.” With his stress under control, he claims running has trained him to live a life free of procrastination and manage time better. Rather than calling himself a “Run Addict”, Deepak would prefer to say that running has now become a wonderful “Habit”. As a phenomenal athlete, Deepak’s prowess is a unique combination of fundamental soundness in running form, speed, power, and unquenchable competitive desire. Deepak not only clocks admirable
mileage weekly but his characteristic charm and personality has earned him the title of one of the most affable and approachable Mentors. His honesty, humility, and smiling countenance as he slays each of his running goals makes his legacy complete, a runners life, filled with hardwork, success, and limitless possibilities.

The Incredible “Everyday Elite” Runners of India

Everyday Elite: Sanjay Panghal

“There are legendary runners, and then there is Sanjay Panghal” #Panghal Xpress #pangale
We start off this years series on the Incredible “Everyday Elite” runners of India with the Phenomenal Running Icon Sanjay Panghal. Few can match the accolades, awards and championship titles amassed by him and his running group DXR in the last 5 years. No summary of his running trajectory can ever even come close to doing justice to his significant influence on the running game and in bringing in the glamour and panache connected to this “High Endurance Sport”.

An unparalleled and toptier runner, youthful and vibrant Sanjay Panghal is an IAF veteran, currently working as an Inspector in the Delhi Police. A devoted family man with three amazing kids and a lovely wife who has done as many spectacular runs with them as with his running buddies. Over his glittering marathon journey, Sanjay has time and time again achieved perfection in displaying his mastery over the sport by being outstanding, consistent, fast, and gutsy. Sanjay is known to reach exceptional physical peaks in training and in competition. He attributes the power of his mind and mental toughness in his success in achieving his running goals. As a top tier runner of the running fraternity, he believes in the philosophy of consistent training and planning. This has largely contributed to his winning mentality.

When Sanjay started running for his health, 5 years ago, he never imagined he would go on to become a trailblazing flag-bearer and much-beloved icon within the running community. His focus in the initial days of running for sport, was to be fit at age 46. He fondly remembers how keen he was at the Kabaddi and Volleyball tournaments during his stint with the Indian Air Force. However, at that time, it wasn’t easy for him to even get through the warmup without considerable physical effort and strain. He didn’t realize that what started out as a small run journey with a handful of his running buddies would have such a “life-altering” effect on his life path and, most importantly, make him fall in love with running as a sport. It all happened at the eventful time when he was posted at the Traffic unit with the Delhi Police and had little time to take care of his diet. This is when he consciously decided to take control of his health by starting a regular fitness routine. Even in his initial years as a runner, he would always stand out with his typical run style and form. He realised very early in his running attempts that when he set out to chase a running goal and would make consistent efforts daily, the hard work would help him realise his goals each day. He slowly embarked on a growth pattern of healthy habits and running soon became his passion. He boldly initiated consistent training and somehow was always keenly aware that his hardwork would reap him rewards. He started with small realistic goals and as his grit and willpower became stronger with running, he embarked on a remarkable journey where with each marathon he continued carving a niche for himself as a runner worth his mettle.

There has been no looking back since then for this prolific runner. His first trophy(1st Runners-up) was in an effortless 10K (#RunForRivers) at Mumbai, 5 years ago . He was in Mumbai for official work and decided, on a whim, to take part in the run. He finished with flying colours and returned with a well deserved podium and an unshakable confidence in his running prowess. The strength and accolades which followed this debut attempt was the confident jumpstart that his running journey required and the rest, like, they say, is history. Sanjay has emerged as a fiercely strong runner to reckon with, who has always been widely admired within the running community for his running legacy.

With a gold standard of quality and the depth of his concentration, he has triumphed in all the challenges that came his way in the last 5 years. Exhibiting a grit and determination to hone his killer instinct, he kept moving from one challenge to another and it was crystal clear that running was like a soothing elixir for him. He knew that every time he trained, he was advancing his own skill development which is essential for growth for any serious runner. Somewhere during this remarkable journey, his peers nicknamed him “Panghal Express” and it has continued till date. His gravity-defying leaps in skill and technique with each of his runs showed not just his competence and mastery over the sport but also made him an unstoppable runner to look out for. He exudes a towering but approachable personality and his guiding voice of excellence and good sense is “manna from heaven“ to all his fellow runners. With this attitude, he has grown leaps and bounds as a “ Frontrunner “ among  athletes and has more than 50 trophies/podiums that he has aquired during marathon journey. Some hallmark achievements however stand apart like the unimaginable Bronze podium at the World Highest Marathon, Ladakh Marathon 2022. With this achievement nobody could overlook his dimension of athletic excellence and influence on the sport.

 

 

Among his many jaw-dropping efforts at upping his running game was one such smashing performance at the Mt Abu Half Marathon 2019. Not only did he receive the top honours at this event, a first runners-up trophy but also turned the spotlight on himself as a “Titan” within the running community. Soon he approached almost folk-hero status and drew a Peter-Pan like admiration by cub runners and veterans alike. It became clear that joining Sanjay Panghal for any marathon, set the curve of excellence for any newbie runner wanting to prove his mettle. This same admirable ability to make tough spur of the moment decisions, in challenging runs, also saw him head the Delhi Police Cup Team which gave an outstanding performance by consecutively winning a Gold Podium at ADHM, back to back, 3 years in a row, 2018, 2019, 2022. He was at the helm, leading from the front of this award-winning team.

“Paying it forward “..“Action breeds action”

The time that Sanjay was embarking on his own running journey he simultaneously founded the running group DXR (Dwarka Xpress Runners) with his running buddy, Ajeet Yadav, another top tier, legendary runner. Being DXR leadership, Sanjay and Ajeet both knew from the onset that to keep running goals on track one needs to be part of a group where one can run together with others who show a similar growth mindset. Research has shown that runners who have group activities, recorded 78% higher active times that those who ran solo. They knew that the more plans runners made to meet up, they were more likely to show up for fitness activities and be consistent. Groups also pride the safety net cushion that helps one bounce back in the face of failure. The fear of failing is much less when working together in groups. These were key insights which led both of them to actively work towards building and strong army of DXR runners. This is the same strong running family that has been the catalyst in building a strong group of self supported runners.

Five years ago, they never thought that it would be the most game-changing decision that they would be taking. This talented and most humble duo has successfully made running the most sought after activity for any fitness enthusiast, in and around Delhi-NCR. Every group run meet that they plan in Dwarka New Delhi turns into a carnival of fun and admirable running feats of personal bests. The elements of pomp and colour at these events is a huge draw for runners who come from various parts of Delhi-NCR with their families to participate. With their characteristic wit and  fun-loving attitude they make pursuing running for a healthy lifestyle seem like an effortless activity. A clear win-win situation for all members , guaranteed.

 

Their unmatched contribution to the growth of this running group has helped to shape physical life and health of more than 3 5 0 + persons aged between 5 to 80 in just the Delhi – NCR region . Members who get placed in other parts of the world with each passing year and have had to move other cities, continue taking pride in being a part of the group. DXR loyalty is  evident in all members and you would see members donning the DXR Tee and Jacket at various National run events with great pride, some even claiming that it helps them achieve their personal  best on the running track. Team pride and selfless work for the running community are all hallmark traits of all DXR team members. DXR is thriving each day as a self supported running group because of the qualities that  are being passed on by the top leadership. Sanjay feels proud to acknowledge this as his biggest achievement that now the running group DXR has a somewhat legendary status within the  running community. Sanjay and Ajeet sure have a wonderful running family in the form of this vibrant group called DXR.

Sanjay, an enigmatic runner and a champion of his craft, is also deeply involved in Philanthropy. Other than making marathons accessible to all and keeping the morale of the self-supported group high by organising various events with minimal cost for members to participate, the group also spearheads various plogging runs to keep the Dwarka and Delhi-NCR area clean and green .This continued even during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. As the world around them changed drastically, Sanjay and Ajeet ,in their joint leadership capacity, turned the running group open as a platform to reach out and help communities in the Dwarka and Delhi-NCR regions to get the medical help that was required, especially covid related .The group also regularly conducts food drives to feed the needy homeless on the streets of Dwarka.

The group continues to thrive under their experienced leadership and the various events and challenges that are organised by them to keep all the members active and engaged with their fitness goals. Dwarka Xpress Runners celebrated their 5th year anniversary in 2022, October with great pomp and panache. In characteristic DXR style where a running event invariably transforms into a carnival of great strength and pomp. This event also saw the top leadership of DXR taking on the role of Race directors and the success that followed was understandable as it was an event organised by experienced runners for the benefit of the running community at very minimal costs.

Many young and seasoned runners are eager to share the track with Sanjay as he continues as a legendary ambassador, inspiring many to take on running a fitness sport. “The Panghal Express” is now the face of many premier national marathons events like HDOR, NDM, Super Sikh, Universal runners, Hindustan Marathon to name a few . The list is endless. He is a known figure in the “pacing” community for half and full marathons and many athletes around the country have finished many goal-oriented runs by joining his “pacing bus” It is a confidence he exudes not just in his own capability but also instilling the same in his followers. A newbie runner can just get goosebumps watching him run with his group in the wee-hours of the morning usually 5:30 am, pounding the tracks and working hard to finish his daily training.

There is no denying that, Sanjay sir as he is fondly addressed , is the pretty much the “God of running” for any newbie runner . When he comes down to the running track, he invariably commands that respect from everyone around him. Even after 5 years of running and achieving many accolades he reaches the running track with same humility, passion and enthusiasm as he had at the start of his running journey.

Another admirable quality of our “Everyday Elite” Sanjay is also how to stay aggressively focussed on his goals. Even while at the helm of a running group that is growing in leaps and bound every week you won’t see him lose focus of his own journey and individual goals. Not achieving one’s own goals because of lack of effort is just unacceptable to our “Everyday Elites” like Sanjay. Being top leadership of a vibrant and most popular running group in Delhi-NCR, Sanjay has had to deal with setbacks, other people’s opinion, his family commitments, unrest among team members,
Social media , pitfalls of fame, and many other related things. That, however, never takes his focus from why he embarked on this journey in the first place. He keeps his vision and stays true to his beliefs and never let anything from the outside world get inside his mind or head. That is the kind of mettle our “Everyday Elite” wear, just like an armour.

“The Goal is consecutive running , a certain mileage and remaining injury free”

As a prime example of “Everyday Elite” he understands that nothing will work unless he does and that there is no better time to start chasing your dreams than right now. It is clear to him that action breeds activity. He know if one takes initiative and trains consistently then one will surely succeed. He works endlessness with the community to show this in the most obvious way to his running group and his many fans. Being a front runner and visionary he knows that as he got closer to accomplishing his own goals through consistent effort, others too can replicate his run strategy and achieve the same success. It is this generosity in imparting knowledge, in a selfless, compassionate and humble manner, that makes our “Everyday Elite” stand head and shoulders above from other runners. This kind of need to push for consistency in his training in order to solidify his mettle as a strong runner, led Sanjay to embark on the unbelievable running streak journey. Redefining all the existing norms shown by other runners on run streaking, Sanjay demonstrated his own formula of streaking for assured success for any level of running athlete. He proudly claims that 8th of December, 2017 was his last day of rest from running. Once he started he didn’t want to stop. Not only is his contribution to making run streaking, running consecutive days for a set period, a recognisable sport, but he has also successfully put influence on “run streaking” in becoming an admirable and most sought after quality in any runner. Since then his weekly mileage is 100kms(approximately). Subsequently, he went on to accomplish more that 500 half marathons, an unbelievable feat and mind boggling achievement. It still remains a genuine
moment of human achievement within Indian running community.

Now its common place to see many athletes using this streaking technique in accomplishing their running goals and even train for any challenging upcoming marathon events. Sanjay seems to have chartered a roadmap on how an athlete can make oneself accountable to train towards one’s running goals.

Not only has our “Everyday Elite” completed tough runs through the harsh blazing sun, through heavy pouring rain, extreme cold temperatures and extremely high altitudes with poor oxygen levels but has gone to earn a folklore status and is considered unstoppable. Even at an unfortunately time when he was struck down with covid, he kept his minimum mileage from his indoor workout and was regular in sharing daily yoga and proper breathing exercises to his group members. He lowered his mileage and over time he regained his strength and was back soon being active. “Keep going no matter the circumstance” was his mainstay through this challenging time of his life.

Sanjay also is famous as the “Running Poet”, as his run posts usually are posted with typically candid and sublime, Urdu, prose and poetry. Many of his famous introspection runs, as he calls them, are runs after which he shares heartfelt poetry on relevant issues with some gravitas for his followers on strava, Facebook and Instagram. His posts are widely popular and and his poetry is as exceptional and awe-inspiring as his runs and has gained him huge following on social media. His engaged group of followers on Facebook ad Instagram are eagerly lapping up all his
sensational posts regularly.

It may seem to most that the path he has chosen for his run trajectory is out of most people’s comfort zone, Still, he wouldn’t stop. It is clear that running seems to be life itself for him. It would seem that he never lost sight of the impact of his potential streak journey and knew that it would be worth it. Some might say that he might be on a mission “to be the best”, and invariably all his fellow runners who accompany him, are also athletes who resonate a similar passion.He has been streaking now for 5 years and has shown that any goal is possible if one decides to be consistent. Giving up is never an option!

Showing the way and leading with example, Sanjay’s run workout schedule through the week is a very impressive one. A guaranteed game-changer for any runner to get faster and as well as last longer on the run track. He says it makes him feel invincible while following this routine. He is one of the few remarkable athletes who with their non-stop running streak have actually contributed to its popularity. His consistent and dedicated hardwork has brought it to the limelight and made it a mainstream phenomenon in running circles.

He may be busy accomplishing many firsts in his ultra-feats of running, but he always spares time to share tips and routines to novice runners. He believes that the biggest thing is not running consecutively but consecutively running with this mileage and remaining injury free through it all. In these five years he avoided and managed to give all fatigue/accidental injuries a miss. He attributes this to his“ Running Smart” routine. Smart running requires running with mind, Sanjay believes that body has limits not the mind. Most athletic elite are famously known to keep their training schedules as elusive as the holy grail but our “Everyday Elite” Sanjay has no qualms sharing with our readers his weekly run training schedule and he shares it with anyone with smarts to follow it.

His daily runs in a week are different everyday designed to keep challenging his body and ensuring a growth pattern for his fitness schedule. On Sundays there is long competitive run, where minimum 21K with good pace is done. Mondays is the special day he runs barefoot 10K which soothes the foot which have been subjected to Sunday gruelling. Tuesdays are carefully selected for a steady one hour Fasting 10K to give the body and soul some challenge in the form of hunger. Intermittent Fasting continues on Wednesday, with two small meals in 36 hours and a Chitchat/Buddy Run with peers to increase the endurance of body.Thursdays would see him doing a ‘Heart rate controlled’ 10K run which also focuses on aerobic running as well as landing style and breathing pattern. Fridays he keeps for speed workouts 10/12K Tempo/ Intervals/Slow Fast/ Progressive Runs, preparing for upcoming races.Saturdays are rest days where a 10K is just done with minimal efforts by mind and body. Apart from this 5 minutes pre-run exercise/workout and 20-30 minutes post run exercises are mandatory.

“Goal is to have the best running form” Advice for novice runners: “Compete with yourself.”
His advice to all cub runners to run to achieve fitness and compete with oneself and not with other athletes . He keeps emphasising the fact that to run with your body you have to run with the mind first. His advice is to focus on enjoying the running process and to reap its benefits to the maximum. Feeling pride, loyalty, and being humble, while showing grit are the key qualities he expects from newbie runner who joins to train with him and his running group. He understood from the onset the simple formula that is if one dedicates enough of themselves passionately then one could easily reach the top of one’s game. He makes any kind of run challenge seem possible. He shows that with definitive desire we can take action on that daily.

 

Our “Everyday Elite” Sanjay has shown that in order to receive success in running one will have to have to give something important in exchange. Loosely translated, It is one’s time, energy, and focus to running consistency with a goal-oriented focus. His own next run target is to qualify for Boston by performing at his top form at the Apollo New Delhi Marathon 2023.
Sanjay’s run journey seems to make us believe that when the journey gets tough, we have to keep pushing till the good parts start showing. Even today, he is acutely aware that there are better runners than him, and despite all his accolades, someone better would soon come along. Staying humble through these realisations is his hallmark trait. Top that with an unshakeable confidence in his ability, he is easily one of the most amiable and respected athletes within the running community.
Sanjay realises that ‘Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion’. This particular insight gave him the freedom to always try harder and dream a little bigger. He applies it in each and every aspect of his life, not just running. To overcome the barriers that most athletes create for themselves our “Everyday Elite” consciously leaves any fear and insecurity behind and has been creating a legacy of life lessons for the running community. Sanjay’s incredible runs and the challenges that he has embarked on are his legacy. A legacy of coming on the top through action and an unshakable belief in one’s capabilities.

 

 

The Incredible “Everyday Elite” runners of India

The Series: Part 2

The Wonderful Privilege of Running!

 How wonderful it is to run. Something so simple, the act of putting one foot in front of another, can bestow so much joy. Ask anyone who runs ! They feel only gratitude for all that they achieve, physically and mentally, as a runner.
Running seems to keep reminding them of the many amazing things our body can do and it helps them to appreciate their strength and challenge their limits to overcome weaknesses. Running is a privilege, and is still a niche among
athletes. Many still view it as a highly elusive sport. To help banish the hype behind something as basic as the
joy of running, brought about the concept for a series, on the incredible “Everyday Elite” runners of India. Stories of strength and resilience and a show of daily perseverance in face of adversity. Runners are somehow the best people to have in one’s life too. The qualities that define their running also shine a light on the incredible personalities they themselves are in their personal lives too. These athletes are aware that there may be a day when
they won’t be able to continue pursuing this high endurance sport. Everyday, that they feel strong as a runner, they celebrate it !

As you read the stories that outline their running journey you will notice surprisingly consistent similarities in their spirit. Tales that reveal that these athletes may be reaping the benefits from running but their real strength as a
runner lies beyond sheer talent and consistent training. We connected with some of the Incredible “Everyday Elite” runners of India and asked them to share their running stories of passion and achievement to understand their “Why”. Sit back and enjoy this easy pace journey as we shed light into their journey and reveal the totally relatable
and inspiring top personality traits that these “Everyday Elite’ thrive on.

Everyday Elite: Anoop Sharma

“Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is. You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them”

They say a runner’s grit often comes down to steely inner strength and unshakeable faith. Let us start with the remarkable story of our “Everyday Elite” Anoop Sharma. A Mechanical engineer turned entrepreneur for whom
running is an integral part of life just like breathing or eating. An accomplished runner worth his mettle, he
understands very well that through hard work and focusing on compartmentalising one’s fears, all runners can learn
to remain in the moment. It is his core strength as a runner and one of the reasons why he is an irreplaceable member of his running group.

This Delhi based 51-year old athlete is a father of 2 and recalls how his better half, Kiran, who he calls his pillar of strength, has been his anchor through the various ups and downs of his fitness journey.

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Though it was not always this way for him. Throughout his younger days he played competitive football and kept fit but a subsequent shaky entry into adulthood into busy corporate work culture saw him fall into the unhealthy
trap of bad habits like most professionals at a young age. Popping pills for headaches and acidity and to cope with daily stress had become a norm. It was during such time that his brother a runner, cyclist and shuttler, brought his
attention to his health situation and suggested he start a routine for fitness.On his behest he started running 2-3 kms at his local park and started a regular fitness routine. It was at one such session at the local
park that he had a chance meeting with some dynamic members of the running group Dwarka Xpress runners. At that point he didn’t realise this routine of daily training with a group would be the catalyst that his health required . He soon discovered his innate ability to get into zone while working out and soon his confidence in his ability gained momentum as he started showing up for tough training sessions. This was during the same time when he confidently
signed up to take on the challenging and prestigious Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Now he looks back in amazement as to how seamlessly he completed the half marathon with an impressive debut time. His enduring passion to achieve
his goal, advice from a strong running group and a supportive family had made him an overnight champion within the running community. Since then there has been no looking back for this talented “Everyday Elite”

 

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He has shown that one can become a true champion with training and deliberate practice especially in the
fun company of one’s running buddies. He is a prime example of how by giving one’s best effort each and every time we invariably make our fitness goals achievable. He, of course, manages all of this by staying humble and without ever forgetting the big picture.

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With more that 150 half marathons, 8 full marathons and 4 ultras in his running kitty, there has been no looking back for this iconic “Everyday Elite”. He also got an opportunity to test his superior running mettle as he went on the
historic run from Kashmir to India Gate , August 2022, as a part of the “The Great India Run 2.o”. This delegation was a part of the national “Ghar Ghar Tiranga campaign”. With this herculean challenge, done and dusted, he easily
cemented his place amongst elite group of young and fast-rising ultra runners in India, showing that he is a natural leader equipped with laser-sharp focus . His inane ability to bring out the best in both himself and many around him in his running community makes him an admirable and a beloved athlete. Now, he feels, running for him, is synonymous with breathing itself.

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The pandemic did stir up some ups and downs in his life just like so many of us across the board but with his acute sense of paying it forward and friendship of his buddies within his running group, kept him grounded and strong
throughout the lockdown period. His training buddies are now are his go-to people for any support in his life. He swears by these friendships and says that training with them keeps him strong enough to navigate any tough situation that life would throw at him . “ Everyday elite ” runners toil tirelessly to pay it forward by getting as many people to benefit from running and a fit lifestyle. Anoop too pursues this high endurance sport while having a profound effect on the people around him as he exudes his effortless athletic candour in his daily runs. He is actively involved in supporting the running community in Delhi. During the covid period, he was the point person for any covid related emergency in his running group. Natural leaders like him have an ability to bring out the best in both themselves and those around them especially in time of crisis.

These “Everyday Elite” do not boast of a dramatically different genetic makeup but inspiring daily routines that show that endurance, power and agility are attained over a period of time, always silently backed with consistent effort and
basic human kindness. Anoop is a pioneer in his group for inspiring daily routines. His mantra for all newbie runners is to place importance on warm up and cool down exercises before any running workout sessions. This he feels is extremely important to remain injury free. He feels that the “beat yesterday“ mentality is not sustainable
for new runners and that following proven training schedules in running groups are the best for long term benefits for runners. He also advise against comparing oneself with other runners and advises to focus on one’s own customised training plan suggested by a trusted mentor. Even as he daily trains and tries to inspire as many people to take up running as a fitness lifestyle, he himself is working on a new and improved training plan for himself. For the year 2023 he has his eyes on the challenging Tata Mumbai Marathon and the most daunting Khardungla
Marathon . With his favourite tagline being #followyourpassion we are looking forward to follow his running journey well into year 2023.

Everyday Elite

Smita Dixit

‘Rest, Restart, Focus as many times as you have to , just don’t quit’

How wonderful it is to run ! We have heard many runners say this!

Our next everyday elite , an Ayurvedic doctor by profession says that everytime she heads out the door, no matter the
distance or the time, she is immensely grateful for the opportunity to put one foot in front of the other. It is an
opportunity to be closer to her fitness goals. Running daily for fitness since 2016, this 49 year old, mother of
two, feels fortunate that something so simple like running brings so much joy to her. She feels it to be a privilege and and she cherishes each and every step she takes during her daily workout.

Her fitness journey started in Mumbai where as a working mom she had countless sources of stress, leaving her barely with 30 minutes of her time of the day to finish a small walk. However, when a fatal fall from the staircase confined her to the bed for a good 4-5 months, she knew she had to follow an aggressive approach to get back to her
fit life. With the bones of her legs put into place by metallic plates and screws she was fast losing all confidence of leading a normal life ever again but her strong mind did not allow her to wallow in this fear for long.

Smita was not ready to give up any time soon and holding fort under this stressful time she pushed herself to try and walk daily. After 8 months of daily struggle to get moving despite being dependent on an attendant for every menial job she didn’t lose hope to move on her own. She recalls this time as the most mentally-challenging and tough time. With half the battle won she knew she had to strengthen her weak legs. Switching on to a mental state of total focus, she continued walking more, despite being slow. Regardless of the pain and struggle, she stayed focussed on getting
stronger, not just better. She slowly learnt to be tuned into to her fit state of mind each and every day. Soon she was jogging at her local park and even met some top-tier athletes who inspired her to not let her passion for getting fit, wane even a little bit. She got inspired to take her running to the next level and started training for marathons.

The need to succeed physically came from within her and in 6 months itself she had successfully completed a 10km run and within 10 months a half marathon. She soon was thriving under the satisfaction of finishing marathons and the challenge of training for more runs was like a gift, a gift of a new lease of life.

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With a her enduring passion and grit to lead a normal life she kept her routine of running. By 2017, when her support plates were removed from her legs, she was already on her way to attempt and finish 3 marathons, two 12 hr ultra runs, a stadium relay run and various 10km and 21km runs. A prime example of courage and resilience Smita’s run journey is nothing short of enviable. With a desire to become a top-tier runner she received a surprising bonus of
winning her first podium female 12.5km at the BNP ultra-run at Sanjay Gandhi national park in Mumbai in year 2018. With many prestigious wins like a silver podium in 10km at th IDBI federal Mumbai marathon(age category) and another silver podium at the GSC spirit of sports 2020 event in Mumbai, Smita is truly an iconic runner to
follow in the running community.

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Till date she is willing to be coachable and thrives on regular challenges she takes on with her running group.
She feels that consistency and training is the key for anyone to take up running as a sport. Her passion for running keeps her grounded and even a new city couldn’t stop from the path she had chosen. She soon joined a vibrant running group and continues an enviable running training routine. She trains with the group before she leaves for work and never misses her LSD runs on Sunday. She continues to compete and knows that as long as she keeps running she will never lack resilience to bounce back from any setback. She believes consistency is the key to
achieving any running goal and now has her eyes set on taking on the Tata Mumbai marathon in January and the Khardungla challenge in September in the year 2023

Everyday Elite

Sohan Sharma

“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win”

As more a more people realise the fact that keeping physically fit can dramatically improve the quality of their life and make them live longer its safe to say that there are many takers for this ‘endorphin hit’ called running. They say, as runners, it is not about how far your legs can go, it is about how far your mind can take you. Although every runner starts their fitness journey for a variety of reasons, research clearly shows the reasons why people start running are vast and varied and most times as unique as the people themselves. Running as a sport has no remote
control. Each day requires an equal effort. After all plans fail, life gets in the way, things get hard but they all know the real secret is not giving up. Thats the magic pill. The never give up attitude. !

One such “Everyday Elite” is 52 year old Sohan Sharma, a legendary runner, who over a period of time has shown to the running community that being disciplined is the easiest way to stay motivated. This father of two grownup sons started running 5 years ago with his running group DXR . For Sohan, running is an obsession, an obsession to
do whatever it takes to be the best. His focussed concentration as he tackles any type of run has led him to achieve  many unbelievable milestones as a runner.

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His running buddies know that he has a tangible vision for all of his runs and is keen on growing his run trajectory with each year. In 2021 itself he ran an unbelievable consecutive 100 half marathons as a part of the virtual event
Hundred Days of Running. A much revered and irreplaceable member of his running group, he shows a vulnerability of taking on new challenges with his teammates, showing that one learns more from taking calculated risks.

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He is a proud daily runner and with his day starting at 5:45 am alongwith his morning gang. He is much respected
for his teamwork and consistency. Since the initial days of his joining the running group it was evident that he could
perform well under pressure and displayed an upward learning curve with each new run. He has a full time job, taking care of documentation of property at the Delhi registration authority, Janakpuri and believes that that after a
great run one can produce their best work and feel a heightened sense of concentration at work too. Many group members clamber to run the track with ‘Sohan sir ‘as they lovingly address him as he seems to show an effortless
way of working towards his running goals.

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Displaying humility and kindness with each of his runs, Sohan stands heads and shoulders above the league of runners in Delhi-NCR . He is a  crucial member of any important delegations to various marathons, The Ladakh
marathon, Morni Hill Marathon and various national level major runs of Delhi NCR like ADHM/ NDM/Super Sikh to name a few.

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Ultra running is his entire way of life now. He has championed as a strong runner as he believes that learning from failure or setbacks is all a part of setting goals and without it there is little room for evolving new abilities. It is
safe to say that as a runner he enjoys running outside his comfort zone, paving the path to some strong lasting
running habits. Using this ideology he approaches every new running challenge with great enthusiasm with his
running group. In 2023 too, his quest for perfection is going to make him a contender for a cracker of a performance at the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2023. From here he wishes continue to move forward towards his dream of qualifying for the Boston marathon.

Everyday Elite

D P S Rawat

“Passion is energy, Feel the power that comes from focussing on what excites you!”

To shed light on the mental dimension of an Everyday Elite we can safely say that their patience and perseverance is evident as we see them unapologetically show up for all level of athletic challenges. They have fine tuned their mind into compartmentalising their worries and aim focus on the task at hand. They would always be the ones to finish their cross lines having given their all. Such is the story of our next “Everyday Elite” D P S Rawat who believes that his love for running can be simply understood in one simple line “Life is a marathon run it”.

A retired ex-banker belonging to an army family started his running journey just as a hobby and proudly shares that running for sport is in his “Pahadi” blood. After retirement while his peers were taking on new work assignments he decided to be home to take care of his family, especially his wife. He found running to be that catalyst for him. He knew it was absolutely necessary to remain fit. Despite hardly finding spare time to run he knew that running gave him courage to make changes in his life and feel stronger. During his most vulnerable time, running helped him to
take a bit of control back in their own hands.

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Running 20 minutes a day might sound like a lot of exercise to some, or not much to others. However, it was clear to him that just about anyone can benefit from a daily 20 minute run. Such was the start of a wonderful journey of our
‘Everyday Elite’ D P S Rawat. In his initial days of running as he was a solo runner he went through the whole process of trial and error and ended up injuring himself in one such run. He was cautioned by the doctor against any running or exertion. Instead of losing hope, he like any ‘Everyday Elite’, developed a compulsive need to work on
their deficiencies and improve himself.

Determined to continue be fit he joined a wonderful running group and started regular runs. A chance suggestion, from a running group mentor Madan Godara, saw him sign up for a 5km in the senior citizen category at an upcoming marathon. He ended up returning home triumphantly with a podium
finish in the Hindustan marathon, his first glittering trophy!. This confidence led to more practice runs with this running group and he went on to many other running endeavours like successfully finishing the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in 2 hour 6 minutes. From here on he has become a firm believer in consistent training and his tag line became “life is marathon run it”.

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Picture : Honeysnapshots

 

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He gives all the credit of his running success and resilience to his buddies in his running group DXR. To his name he has an admirable 50+ podium finishes at various Delhi-NCR marathons in open and age category. As a runner he too faces various obstacles in his runs and many times his mind wants to give up. He has, however, always found strength in the sense of belonging in his running group. Emotional support from friends and family keeps him grounded as runner and he aspires to keep taking his performance to a higher level with each run.

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He feels that running is a complete exercise and with a mix of yoga and mobility drills he continues to feel fit and agile. On days he cannot complete his workout he feels as if he has missed out on something precious . This running
frenzy is now a full blown passion for this “everyday elite”. His goal for the next year is to keep competing in the big runs in Delhi-NCR region and keep beating his previous year’s timing. He has a clear vision for himself , he wishes to do some local runs and get competitive by acquiring atleast 12 podiums minimum. In the year 2023 he would be seen competing in the New Delhi Marathon in January and the acclaimed Super Sikh run in February.

The Incredible “Everyday Elite” runners of India

Series: The Incredible “Everyday Elite” runners of India.
Madan Godara

Everyday Elite: Madan Godara is running to inspire as many to make it their lifestyle!

It is always a privilege to be able to bring the legendary voices from across India and their inspirational tales of grit and determination. In this series, we connected with some iconic runners from across the country. They generously took out time to share with us their inspirational tales of courage and achievement.

We kick off the series with the one and only Madan Godara aka Haryana Roadways. He headlines many marathon events as brand Ambassador and “Mentor de fitness”. Fondly known as respected Godara Sahab or Madan Sir, he is much loved by the young brigade of runners who have had the good fortune of being groomed by him over the years.

What makes Madan Godara’s story special is not just the myriad accolades and podiums that have come his way, but the man himself. A retired army man turned entrepreneur discovered running by chance when at his place of business an overweight colleague proudly showed him his new shiny marathon medal. It piqued his interest and he asked himself the question ”Why not me ?” What followed was something astonishing and unthinkable.He attempted his first 10km at the next marathon event in his city and finished it in record time of 48 minutes. With this run he clearly made a record of sorts and soon became a force to reckon within the Indian running scene. Ever since there has been no looking back for this running icon. With his no excuses attitude, he proves his mettle year after year.

Now he says that running is synonymous with living life itself and his daily mandatory minimum 5km run is like “manna from heaven”. You can catchup with him at various national events where he would be busy winning podiums with his running group, Dwarka Xpress runners or you would find him at 4:30am on the running track mentoring young group of local runners. With official 100 half marathons under his belt, 15 full marathons, 100km night runs and various podiums this 57 years old Ultra runner has many unbeatable records to his name.

He recounts, however, that it is only when he took on the unbelievable XXX trail run in 2018, did he come face to face with his biggest running challenge yet. Three days of incessant running in the urban forest called the Aravali Bio Diversity Park in Delhi involving back to back long runs daily was not just challenging physically but also a tough mind game. Conquering this run, which was a  mix of soft and hardsurface with gradient steep stretches, was by far the most gut-wrenching but surprisingly satisfying running experience for him. Over the course of the next 3 days he relentlessly smashed his daily goals and in his own characteristic style  and came out a jubilant overall winner of this event.

He believes that everyone should adopt running as a lifestyle to keep fit and alert throughout the day. He knows that while all might not be able attempt a 10km on their first run but they should at least start running slowly and gradually increase mileage with correct running form with some consistency. His suggestion to any novice runner is not to go for speed and pace initially and focus on gaining muscle strength to remain injury free as an athlete.

He is avidly looking forward to the race season in the year 2023 and is a huge advocator of discipline and setting morning routines. He is currently training to try and best his time at the New Delhi Marathon 2023. With this next milestone he would be closer to his dream of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

If you are ever in New Delhi you can be sure to catch him at the starting line of plenty of other races in the future.
You can also follow him on his inspirational Facebook account https://www.facebook.com/madan.godara.169

While a New year offers possibility of 365 days stretching out in front of us , the end of the year especially the November month offers as much opportunity to fall into good habits. Hope these nuggets of inspiration coming to you in the month of November from our “Everyday Elite” series inspire you to finish the year on a high and achieve all your fitness goals.

Series: The Incredible “Everyday Elite” runners of India
Monika Kadian

Everyday elites train for many years and embrace disciplined routines and habits to take control of their health and achieve their fitness goals. Our everyday elites are accomplishing amazing things despite challenges like pandemic and physical limitations. There is something unique about each runners story but the universal pride that comes from crossing the finish line is one common factors in most of their stories.

“Everyday Elite” Monika Kadian, made her mark as a ultramarathoner by fighting illness and injury”

Our running icon for this series Monika’s story is one of extreme grit and determination. Mother of two and an iconic long distance runner with one of the most popular running groups in New Delhi, she is nothing short of a powerhouse of resilience. In a span of just a few years she went from barely managing running a few rounds of her local park to tackling ultramarathons across the nation. Any race less that distance seems too short for her now.

She runs with the spectacular family-oriented running group in Dwarka where she has been groomed to take on long distance running as lifestyle. She had struggled a lot with severe depression and now believes that running is her life saver. Running has not only help her shed a significant amount of weight but also helped her gain a positive outlook on life. She has managed to remain lean and fit with consistent running and no longer requires medicines to cope with the myriad issues that affected her health prior to her running journey. She singlehandedly with her dedication and hard work, has worked towards achieving her goals to stay fit . It is Monika 2.0 all the way.

With her unstoppable spirit she powered on to come on top of the 100 days of running challenge 2020 (HDOR) womens’ category, DXR. She won by covering an impressive distance of a whopping 2100kms in 100 days and it would be safe to say that with this feat she pretty much blew away her competition. By running an average of 21kms daily she proved that if she puts her mind to it she can achieve anything. She remembers that challenge as an unforgettable moment of triumph and satisfaction. She gives the credit to her running routine, an essential tool that helped her reinvent herself.

Taking on the challenge of each Ultra-run as a test of mental toughness she has grown from strength to strength with each passing year.

She has shown that with dedication one can steer one’s destiny and achieve any goal. She has made her mark in the running community by running unbelievable distances at various Stadium runs and Ultra-running events. She is now an inspirational runner to follow in the world of women’s running and has been setting the bar high with each of her spectacular runs. Now armed with her ultra-running super powers, she is leaner and mentally alert and she is all about taking on the next challenge. She has proved to be true superstar of running and definitely a name that no one should forget especially those who saw her valiantly overcome her battle with depression. A humble and extremely hardworking runner she gives all the credit of her success to her vibrant running group DXR . When not competing at various Ultra runs she is seen actively taking time to pay forward the gift of running to mentor young aspiring runners .

This year too she is gearing up to smash her own personal record at the upcoming Stadium run in New Delhi. She is gearing up to challenge her fitness levels by pushing her pain threshold as she feels that it is the only way she can continue to grow as a runner. She views running as a meditative process and she can’t imagine her life without its myriad benefits. Her motto is to keep doing better each time that and is looking forward to always better her athletic performance. Either which way we know that she will continue writing her very special ultra-running story, each and every time. You can follow her tales of grit on this Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/monika.kadian.718an

 

Next time you are thinking of skipping a run or miss a workout just keep these stories of grit and determination of these relentless ‘everyday elites” handy and ensure that your cup of motivation always keeps brimming to the hilt. These stories will surely get you excited to chase your own fitness goals.

“Everyday Elite”runners of India
Ritesh Udar

Each story of this series unfolds a different and unique running trajectory of an “Everyday Elite”. The readers get a VIP access to some awe-inspiring stories, an inside peek into some of  he biggest running challenges they have conquered and a very first look at their impressive upcoming year’s goals.

You may ask, why runners are so invested in the idea of challenging ourselves? Why do they do difficult things like long-distance running and embrace discomfort in order to grow? To find answers to these often asked questions we take a look at the sensational running journey of a young suave Pastry Chef from New Delhi. Having started running only 4 years ago, Ritesh Udar, our “Everyday elite” was trying to beat the monotony of his life and to increase his energy levels. His stint with the mad-mad world of ultra running, however, came during the covid lockdown period. The pandemic years seemed to have offered him a unique window of opportunity. With so much free time at his disposal Ritesh could not leave it at that. With running in his very DNA it wasn’t long before he started running long distance regularly. Months of disciplined training , deep determination, faith and encouragement from his running group saw him take his running trajectory to phenomenal heights.

Now running is an integral part of his life and the biggest takeaway for him is the importance of staying fit and active. He is a big advocate of being a part of any vibrant running groups and has completed unbelievable distances with his team mates. There has been no stopping him ever since and his iconic podium finishes at various long distance marathon events has earned him the name of the “golden boy” in his running group. He is determined to keep winning and he challenges himself to run longer distances each year and keeps relentlessly smashing his our personal records with each new run challenge.

He has run a total of 400 Half marathons, 15 full marathons , 15 ultra runs and a 24 hr stadium run till date. A truly superhuman feat, in such a short span of time, proving that he is an ultra marathoner extraordinaire, running unimaginable distances at unbelievable speeds.

He says however that the biggest achievement he felt was when he was asked to be a part to the dream team “The Great India Run” which ran continuously from Lal chowk, Kashmir to their final destination, Delhi. This run was organised to commemorate the occasion of the 75th Independece Day celebration in support of the “Har Ghar Tiranga campaign“ August 2022. Despite gruelling physical and psychological demands of this run, Ritesh powered on with his characteristic smile and triumphantly conquered each milestone with his teammates. The sheer magnitude of such a run would be a gut punch for any runner. Not for Ritesh. For him it was “pure ultra running”, an opportunity to again push his body beyond all limits and go beyond his pain barrier. The event went on to be an unmitigated success. This phenomenal performance has cemented his place among the top ultramarathoners of the country who thrive in challenging themselves to run further and longer.

Being the unstoppable elite runner that he is, instead of using the next few months for recovery we saw him head to Ladakh to take on the Khardungla Challenge (72km kms) which is the highest ultra marathon in the world. An event of this magnitude, set at a height of 17618 ft above sea level is an experience of a lifetime for any runner. Nothing is easy at this altitude let alone run a strong 72 km.

Unstoppable and on a high after achieving this once in a lifetime milestone he powered on to completed another awe-inspiring run, The Ladakh marathon(42kms), the very next day. Finishing two back to back tough ultra marathons in the most unbelievable time frames, surely leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind about Ritesh’s mental calibre as a legendary runner . His record breaking crazy attempts at unbelievable distances is a constant source of jaw dropping amazement and inspiration.

The numbers are stunning if you look at any marathon and his unbelievable finish times. Ritesh, of course, stays grounded and humble in his characteristic style and proudly basks in the attention that it brings him. As a runner he is determined to continue his running fervour and move forward boldly with confidence. Running is a time when he feels that there is magic in the air, his special time. He does not take his time for granted and keeps busy with training for his next running goal. He has set his goal is to try and Run a sub 3 hour full marathon in 2023. We are sure he would achieve his goal without blinking an eye considering his desire and willpower and deep love for the sport. You can follow this amazing everyday athlete on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ritesh.udar

We wanna make sure that our readers a just an inspirational story way from getting back on the track and towards a healthy lifestyle. So this hoping you manage to end the year on a high and do not let anything derail your life’s journey from the path of being fit and healthy.

Series: The Incredible “Everyday Elite” runners of India
Nandan Barua

As most of you are aware, runners are a special lot of individuals. They persevere relentlessly, thrive on pain and are passionate about beating their personal best records with each every marathon event that they compete in. Their consistency is inspiring and their sheer determination to cross the finish line makes running look like an effortless sport . Each kilometre that they have covered daily is as important to them as breathing itself.

Everyday Elite Nandan Barua is running to live his best life yet!

Champion runner and father of two, Nandan Barua, wrote his own personal fitness success story and highlighted it with his determination to never give up under any circumstance. Running for him is not just about amazing marathon runs, but about leading a healthy life, improving his fitness and feeling good inside his skin. For him it is all about keep his morale high, pushing himself out of his comfort zone and eventually winning the most difficult fight, the fight against oneself.

He is a Samsung electronics professional working in the corporate field for the last 20 years. He started his incredible running journey not in very ideal circumstances. A freak accident had confined him to full bed rest for a painful 2 months in 2013. An accomplished athlete playing football and track since his early college years this debilitating injury made him dig deep about his next course of action. With broken knees and spirit weakening with each day he knew at that point in his life that the only way he could bounce back into a meaningful existence, mind and body, would be too push himself towards a new goal. He pinned his hopes on running a half marathon as soon as his doctor gives him a go ahead. His body slowly recovered and the pain started ceasing and soon he started preparing himself mentally first for the big challenge that he had planned for himself. With Airtel Half Marathon dreams in his mind he slowly started training and struggled to push past his weakness, a little bit everyday. With a stubborn self belief and sheer hardwork, he powered ahead closer to his goal. When the event date arrived he successfully ran his half marathon and achieved his goal and gained an unwavering new sense of confidence in his physical capabilities and mental calibre.

He has shown that one can steer life from weakness to strength . With this new strong sense of achievement he went on to take on running daily as a lifestyle and has been running ever since. He knows now that whenever he needs motivation he just needs to look inside himself. Despite the difficult and uncertain times we currently live in, especially post- pandemic, Nandan lives his life knowing that this discipline is his lifeline to be fit. Now he truly believes that running is his therapy and advocates disciple and commitment to make seemingly impossible tasks become a reality.

On weekdays you would see him pounding the streets with some envious legwork in the wee hours of morning where he manages a cool 5-6 kms run without fail. He also is quite fond of his weekend runs with his fellow running group members, chit-chat long slow distance runs as they call it, especially on Sundays.

He believes the mantra that in 30 days one can create a habit, and this good habit can change the subsequent 30 years of ones life . Disciple is key he says, “Keep your mind strong and keep growing.” His advice to aspiring runners is admire all fellow runners but not try to copy them blindly. He says, “.. each runner is unique and inspiring in their own way ..so come what may, just don’t give up..”

With an envious and challenging goal of 2000 kms in year 2023 he is all set to test his tough at the Tata Mumbai marathon in January 2023. You can follow his inspirational journey on. His Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nandan.barua.58

These tales of the “Everyday elite” will take you on a journey of accomplishment and growth, new friendships, self – determination and the feeling of an overwhelming sense of joy that they must have felt on achieving the ultimate goal, crossing the finish line. Watch this space for more such inspiring tales.

Run with Mind not body!

Dwarka Xpress Runners the phenomenon that is rocking the Indian running community

DXR: “Naam to suna hi Hoga”

A few weeks ago at the Berlin marathon 2022 we saw history in the making, an inspiring performance by the greatest marathon runner of all time, Eliud Kipchoge finishing his marathon in record breaking time 2:01:09 shaving a full 30 seconds of his own marathon world record. Kipchoge, the 26.2 km goat , the marathon legend, gave a byte saying he had a feeling that he would do something momentous that day and “Oh boy “did he do it in style!.

Meanwhile approximately 5800 kms away from Berlin on the amicable streets of Dwarka, New Delhi, India , is a trailblazing group of elite runners resonating a similar spirit shown by Kipchoge in more ways than one. Each having an effortless smooth running form and not an ounce of wasted energy. Each believing that they would conquer the distance that they have set out to run on any given day.

Daily at 5am minimum 10 elite runners run with relaxed ease for two hrs as a part of the Vibrant running group DXR Dwarka Xpress runners (a 300 strong running group, 500+members including families).

Headlining this remarkable group is a duo of two legendary runners who need no introduction within the Indian running fraternity. At the helm the magical joint leadership of Sanjay Panghal (also know as the poet runner & Panghal Xpress)and the unstoppable endurance legend Ajeet Yadav. Both display daily that distance running is an easy and effortless feat and that anyone can run.

With ‘Run with the mind’ purpose these full-time Delhi Police cops initially started this small group in 2017 to keep themselves healthy and get their families and friends into a fun healthy lifestyle.

Even the Pandemic couldn’t stop the meticulous training runs of this strong group. During the period of Covid lockdowns they kept its members active by online sessions of physical activities. Some even few ran half marathons indoor. They were unstoppable as group.

Post covid they advised all runners to take any hint of illness, as a serious warning and encourage all to take regular health checkups. They made changes in training to include yoga and breathing exercises in it alongwith the Marathon training sessions.

Flanked on either side by other elite runners like Madan Godara(Haryana express)Dr Satish Sangwan(who has run every possible high altitude run in India) MP Jain, a Ladakh marathon veteran and Captain Satender Sangwan, who along with his unstoppable running and amazing wins at the national para games keep the group leadership vibrant. Supporting them in all their runs is also a brigade of elite young runners who eagerly participate and finish with record breaking timings as various marathon events across the country.

Each member of the group at some point has been groomed to run better by one or more of these fantastic athletes. It is a kind of selfless mentoring not many groups can boast off. The DXR elite share their wealth of experience with its members in their signature DXR style of sense of humour and light with.

DXR is a family running group so they have runners from age of 5 years to 85 years. They all participate in various events and win trophies for the team. The groups key ideology to keep the whole family fit is evident in the family run events that are planned by the group every now and then. From celebrating festivals with group runs to just a potluck luck of everyones favourite dishes after the run, there are many main innovative run ideas and themes that they share to bring the whole community running together .Dhoti- kurta/saree Run on Valentine day. Gol gappe, chhole bhature etc runs without taking any fees. Churma run, Chai pe charcha run are some examples.

Even after 5 years it is still a humble self-supported group with humble aesthetics and the maximum turnout is seen by members during fun family events. It surely is a display of pomp and show or as they call it “Dhamaal”.

These talented runners have managed to in such a short span of just 5 years make this run family grow to more than 300 families(500+ members). What started as a basic fitness group has lately produced some legendary runners who are podiums finishers at almost every possible Indian marathon and many extreme high altitude challenging runs like the Khardungle 72 kms challenge.

Talking about excellence in the field of running it is worth a mention that more than 10 runners are in century club of Half Marathons(100x21kms till date), 24 hrs running, 12Hrs running challenge and of course Ultra running(42km+).They are loved and admired for making so many members believe that one can take on this high endurance sport to stay fit. They are also a hugely popular group and an overwhelming favourite icon at every race at Delhi- NCR.The mere presence of DXR at any Delhi NCR event is nothing short of a talented display of timeless performance.

Even if we look at individual performances , Group member Ajay Kumar took DXR literally to the highest peak in Russia on July 2021 as he trekked and conquered this highest peak of the caucecous mountains which stands at 5642 feet above sea level.

He proudly adorned the peak with the national Indian flag and the DXR team flag. Few special DXR members Manish Aggarwal and Monika Kadian lost weight and showed that one could get healthy by regular running and are proud of their new lean healthy lifestyle. They are now fitness icons of their own accord now and an inspiration to many in DXR. They showed that with consistency and discipline all can achieve goals.

A few passionate runners even have tried the impossible feat, like Sanjay Panghal and Shashi Kant Sahu have been keeping a non-stop running streak since the early days of the group formation, running every single day. The unique quality that makes the leadership and each member want to be the best version of themselves in every which way is a true hallmark of the value of this running group.

5 years of DXR only shows an upward graph which is also synonymous with various milestones and setting the bar high for the entire running community. Including winning trophies by group members at every event be it at low oxygen level terrain of Ladakh FM, ADHM, National level Stadium Runs, All incline high altitude challenge Abu Run, Ultra Shivalik run, The toughest Tuffman Mashobra marathon and annual participation by the group in Hundred days of running(HDOR) just to name a few.

Apart from its many achievements and accolades galore Sanjay Panghal has a vision not just for running community but for society as a whole to have as many people adopt at least an hour of running/exercises to be fit and save on medical expenses.

Additionally, Leading from the front with an acute sense of giving back , Sanjay and Ajeet also ensure regular group plogging runs.

All the runners take out time to plog the whole Dwarka running track and area and end the event with planting some tree saplings. Sanjay and Ajeet both feel its their mission to inspire as many people to get into fitness through running.They truly believe that through running DXR will help its member achieve what they are truly capable of.

As they celebrate their 5th year anniversary DXR is set to have a “Dhamaal” of a show on 23rd Oct 2022 at Dwarka New Delhi. On this momentous occasion Sanjay Panghal and Ajeet Yadav take on the role of Race Directors of the momentous event . They plan to organise a self-supported grand marathon event in New Delhi in characteristic DXR style at a very nominal cost for maximum participation. From goodies like iconic celebration tees , filled goodie bags, customised medals and trophies for all age category winners they aim to make running and winning accessible to all.

Running is an high endurance sport which helps us examine ourselves and the world around us. Why we seek out pain and try to break our pain barrier in the unending search for our stronger selves is a question that can be only answered by these courageous folks who run for sport. The passion and sometimes mad fervour that drive individuals especially seen in this running group DXR make us want to seek out the scared little individual inside each of us who have an immense ability to endure but just does not know it yet . One thing is for sure , this sport is definitely not for the faint hearted and those who have reached the other side seem to be enjoying a piece of paradise and seem to want to share that experience with everyone.

Lifting weights for stronger bones! Running to save my life!

It all started in April 2014! I had just taken up retirement from my most sought after job as a Television Producer job after a 17 year stint. Working hard and thriving in a work environment where women were groomed to taken on large responsibilities, I had grown leaps and bounds each year and had the good fortune to produce award winning documentaries and prime time shows. The core team I worked with comprised of some of finest individuals that the Indian Television industry could boast of. It would be safe to say that I was quite content with my busy professional shenanigans. However change is inevitable and there was a phase where I knew I wanted to go solo. Having taken stock of our family’s mortgage, we were seemingly comfortable when it came to savings. I too was quite content with my life’s trajectory, professionally, at this point in life. My life could easily be the envy of any middle class girl of my generation in India. Yes, I had powered through and achieved a lot and thrived in an environment of opportunity at life and at work. I knew now, I wanted nothing else other than pursue my passion, Sugarcraft, as a business. This soft retirement and the glamour of being my own boss in a new business propelled me toward every right step that needed to be taken to start my own business. This was also a time when my husband and myself were still navigating through the chaotic world that all new parents deal with, working couple with a toddler in tow.

As I spent the next few months finishing a Diploma in Cakes and Confectionary(my dream) I was all set to lead the life, once again, that many could have only can dream of, especially if you knew my peer group. An early retirement from the corporate work culture and pursuing a business which is one’s passion, Wedding cakes, I was on a roll with not much to complain about. I spent the subsequent months working on the promotion of my business and taking on small orders from friends and family. Also during this time, all my culinary stars seemed to align in my favour and somehow all my favourite and top notch Cake artists seemed to travelling through New Delhi teaching their Craft. Yes, stuff like this happens. Only if you wish it as much as I did. Considering myself the luckiest girl in the world I signed up for all of these international pastry and sugar craft certifications even while my small business continued to thrive side by side. I was finally working on handcrafted Sugar wedding cakes and (my forte) gravity defying show-stopping Chandelier cakes. My social media accounts were buzzing with queries and my peers in my cake decorating work were connecting with me for collaborations. This time was my “Say yes to everything” time and I managed to make a small niche for myself as an aspiring new cake decorator in New Delhi ready to work on showstopper cake orders

As time went I started taking on bigger and more challenging cake orders. Gravity defying beach cake, 100000 customer number cake, even a three tier chandelier cake as a promotion for my alumni culinary institute to name a few. It was during this time that for a 30kg 6 piece cake structure delivery I realised that maybe I had pushed myself too much physically. The mental and physical stress of the cake order and the logistics took its toll. I delivered the order and headed home know that this pain I felt was not just fatigue and that something was majorly amiss. Even while the client was msging me ecstatic about the spectacular cake and how much it was loved, I was fast heading to my orthopaedic specialist. I had a similar incident many years ago a years in 2006 after another such stressful day at work. The Delhi Chief Ministers interview after my 8 hour morning shift in the studio. I remember so clearly that day because of lack of resources my camera person and myself were left to our own accord to haul the lighting equipment for the shoot back and forth. That strain of incident had put me flat on my back for straight 2 weeks with acute L4 L5 pain and I was out of action for over a month. The last time it took every ounce of mental energy to get back to normal life and live a pain free work life. We as humans never learn I guess. This time the doctors visit showed that my previous condition had worsened with the birth of my child and I had transitioned into the early stages of osteoporosis called Oestpenia. This time again I was flat on my back for two weeks and was on calcium and haemoglobin supplements for 6 months. My workaholism, bad eating habits and lack of exercise had finally taken a toll on my now 42 year old body. A wakeup call that I can have high power job and big dreams but unless I have my health I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed, let alone accomplish anything in life. The doctor had suggested to me to take supplements to replenish my system and mildly suggested I get active. I used to think that being busy meant being active and fit, clearly a mistake on my part. Did I ever think life would be like this for me. Not even in my wildest dreams. It was supposed to be smooth sailing and follow the usual trajectory after all I studied well, worked hard , acquired assets and had a lovely family. Life of course doesn’t always sync with one’s plan, I guess , at least for most of us.

As I headed back home from the doctor that day I remember seeing a new board of a CULT workout centre coming soon right opposite our place of residence. My husband suggested we both join the next week and try it out, our two bits as a family to stay active and fit. I was very apprehensive initially and usually felt totally out of place at this workout centre during the sessions. In two weeks somehow the first few classes gave me much relief and I started regularly reaching for the 6am class. The endorphins release helped me stay regular.

The daily routine was a mix of strength exercises with stretching and mobility and occasional lifting weights. I was feeling healthier that ever before. The 6ams continued for 3 months and I was already 4 kgs lighter and pain free. I even had a small gang of likeminded people who would workout with me at the class at 6am daily. In the fourth month of my continuous workouts my health checkup showed my calcium and haemoglobin parameters as normal and soon I became medicine free. I had lost a good 6 kgs in 6 months and felt fit as a horse. This time also saw me taking on new work responsibility and I joined with a culinary institute as a Chef Trainer where I continued for almost a year. Mentally I was buzzing ideas and super alert.

Soon I joined a group of runners. This was a popular, self supported group of runners called Dwarka Xpress runners(DXR) with two amazing Delhi cops at the helm. My run journey soon turned out to be the most fun roller coaster ride of my life. Regular running and every Sunday participating in marathons of various distances. When one starts investing in ones fitness and health then invariably we also meet like minded people who steer us closer towards our goals. Its when I joined the group I realised that we all shared the same passion to workout for minimum 1 hour daily and maintain a disease free life. I continued running as it helped me build my endurance level even more then just strength exercises at Cult. What followed was a routine workout schedule which looked like this, I used to run with my group of runners Dwarka Xpress runners at 5am and then head for a group strength class at 6am at Cult and then be home at 7am to send my daughter to school and by 9am I used to be on the Delhi metro at 9am , heading towards work as a Chef Trainer at my culinary institute. By the end of year of running with group regularly I had lost 12 kgs and was the fittest I had been my entire life at age 42

Hindustan marathon 2020

From not knowing how to do two pushups I am now running longer distances in marathons every month across the nation. It is a stark realisation that If I don’t challenge myself I won’t get stronger! People seem to be perplexed why I run so much and why I am so particular about my workouts. They don’t know what I know now, that my next day of healthy living depends on it! Literally this routine has saved me life. Now I have added so much value to the life I am living as I have health on my side.

I never have looked back and I try and never miss more than two days of exercise unless there is an an emergency. This was a new lease on life that I had received at age 42 and its my super power now.. Knowing how to take care of my health. I haven’t in 3 years visited the kind doctor who asked me to get active that doctor for an illness related visit( though I did bake an awesome showstopper cake for his daughter later). I know I may not have a such smooth sailing in another 10 years when my medical condition does catch up with me but till then I know there is no reason to live my best life yet.

Yes, there will be many times our well meaning plans would be waylaid and our life trajectory gets a little out of place. I too experienced a turning point with an unprecedented change of city with the family just before the pandemic hit in March 2020. In a new city and on an unclear lockdown, we as family continued coping with each crisis as it came our way. For me it was very clear, I will continue the one thing that has always worked for me, my workouts and running. I signed up for many marathon virtual events to keep myself fit and consistent. I became my own motivation, a solo runner. As the situation settled down, I continued this streak and started seeking out likeminded individuals in my city and people passionate about being fit, come what may. The result of this pursuit was the formation of a new fitness group in my new city in our very own own community. A few of us have embraced the daily 5ams and finish our run workouts well before our day even starts. The whole group meets regularly every weekend for group runs and dance workout sessions. Sometimes it just might be a family visit run /walk to a nearby lake or a city landmark but the key ideology of the group is to be continuously on the move. Some members call me their “superstar mentor” and “guru maa” but I know as a fact that formation of the group too works in accordance with own my goal to keep my future fit and healthy. This new role of paying it forward is maybe my own indirect way of showing gratitude to the running group where I was groomed to embrace running regularly as a lifestyle.. Call it what you may, It is hugely gratifying and is a big tick on my life’s mission.

Yes I am wiser now in the sense that I can see clearly the things that are out of my control and yes I accept those but I still wanna continue living my life with this optimistic mantra that I can really create a life where I can thrive and grow stronger, that I still have something in my control , my health. ‘Health is wealth’ is no longer just a cliche for me. I am a living proof of it. I have changed my life’s trajectory from hospital visits to now running marathons by making the biggest investment of all, Investing in myself and my health. Trust me when I say this! The only important question you need to ask ourself as you get older is , How are you going to invest in yourself in this coming year.?

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