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Not Another Brick in The Wall

Ever imagined what it would be like to run along the Great Wall of China, well you can says Capt Seshadri.

“Unless you have climbed to the top of the Wall, you cannot say you are a man” – old Chinese saying.

The Great Wall of China is reportedly the only man made structure that is visible to the naked eye from the moon, although it is probably now under intense competition as one of the oldest structures in the world, from the new, mammoth constructions in the Middle East.

Competition is not new to this Wall, having been originally constructed to keep out invaders and raiders. The latest in competition, however, though unwarlike and healthy, is the Great Wall Marathon that is traditionally held on the third Saturday of May, falling on the 19th of this year. Having taken its origin in 1999, with a few hundred runners, this extremely challenging course has, over the years, transformed from a full and half marathon, a 10k and 5 k event, to a combination of the latter two to an 8.5 km ‘fun run’.   

The run isn’t all about fun however, with the participants having to negotiate 5,164 stone steps, several steep ascents and descents and, owing to the old age of the structure, stumble over loose stones and rubble. This portion makes for a virtual addition of 6.4 km to the 42 km course. In fact, there is a stretch where people actually crawl up the steps. Now, every marathon has a phase, generally around the 32nd km or so when the runner literally ‘hits the wall’ of endurance. Here, it may be taken as a little more than literal.

The ‘runnable’ portion of the Great Wall Marathon essentially traverses the Simatai section of the Wall and crosses the Huangya or Yellow Cliff pass. Such is the height and the location, that the best respite for the runners is possibly the breathtaking scenery along the route. But the view is not the only aspect of the marathon that will take one’s breath away. Loose gravel and crumbling steps are compounded by sections overgrown with wild foliage. In sectors where the Wall is not traversable, the course drops to trails alongside. The challenges are many and varied and make extreme physical demands on the participants. The steps, the upward slopes and downward gradients, are typically suited for those athletes who regularly do interval training.    

Every marathon, in its present avatar, to encourage amateur participants and reward completion rather than winning, usually has the final batch timed in at 6 hours. The Great Wall Marathon however, sets a time of 10 hours for completion; such is the difficult nature of the course. On an average, the finisher of 4 hours for a regular marathon will require around 6 hours to finish here. This has not been the least bit of a deterrent to over 2,500 participants from over 50 countries. No wonder then, that the men’s record for this run is 3:25:13 and for the women it is 4:12:42. Henrik Brandt, a Danish runner, who has competed in every edition for the past 18 years says: “Some years they’ve almost killed me; but since this was the first marathon I ever ran, I fell in love with it.”

Of the 1,200 runners entered for Saturday the 19th, around 450 will start the marathon and half-marathon. The rest will run the shorter distance for fun.

All and all, it’s just another brick in the Wall. Or, is it, really?  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Leadership Lessons from a Marathon

Marathon’s do more than just test your endurance, they give you valuable leadership lessons writes Nandini Reddy

Everyone takes to marathon running for different reasons. Some do it for health purposes, some for passion and some for the challenge they offer. But if you pay closer attention you will realise that it offers you important leadership lessons that you can apply back to your team and business.

Here are the five leadership lessons every marathon teaches you

Determination to execute an idea

Your decision to run a marathon most of the time happens out of the blue. Many runners start from zero at the beginning of a year and end up cracking goal timings by the year end marathon. This achievement usually has relentless training and a methodical plan. In a professional context this applies to executing projects and ideas. Methodical planning, goal-setting and time management are qualities you learn on the running track and can be applied to your work. Focus on the plan and commitment to achieving goals can also be replicated in a work situation.

Step wise approach

When you start training, you begin with a run walk combination and then slowly progress to running short distances then running for a longer time and then finally to running a fully marathon. This step wise approach helps you reach the ambitious goal of completing the distance of 42kms. This same logic applies to teamwork on projects in the office which requires a step-by-step approach to measure progress.

Encouraging others

When you trying to finish such a competitive and high endurance event, encouragement goes a long way. During marathons shouts of encouragement from spectators along the way and even fellow runners can boost your energy when you are struggling along the course and help you cross the finish line. In a corporate environment people spend more time pulling each other down rather than encouraging each other. Only when we mutually encourage each other’s progress can we build a positive work environment.

Avoiding Burnout

Runners know the importance of rest and recovery in between their rigorous training sessions. Injury can lead to frustration. Similarly, in a work situation if we need to achieve our goals for a project you cannot over stress your team and expect high quality work. You need recovery breaks that energise the team and as a runner you will understand the importance of these breaks.

Achieve and Repeat

Its never enough to run a single marathon. Every time you cross the finish line you will be itching to run the next. Marathoners hardly ever say that they never want to run another marathon. Even as they are receiving their medals for completing a marathon, their mind is already planning for the next one. This attitude is important at work and that sort of motivation keeps the creative juices of your team flowing and always ready to take on challenges at work.

Finally, if runners didn’t have fun they would never run. The same applies to your work, if you and your team have fun on the job you are less likely to have attrition and will achieve better results on each project.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Run for Fame or Fun

Capt Seshadri looks at the Santa Barbara International Marathon that can bring you closer to your Boston dreams.

Are you a keen runner? Do you want to qualify for the Boston Marathon? Want your family to enjoy a scenic vacation? And join them after the run? Here’s a simple solution to all these. Just run the Santa Barbara International Marathon.

Beginnings

It was as early as in 1965. Marathons outside of the Olympics were virtually unknown. In Santa Barbara, a picturesque town in California, a group of distance runners created a marathon that was to continue for nearly two decades, till 1984. The debut event saw 27 runners start the race, that began at the University of California Santa Barbara and concluded at the Santa Barbara College. Only seventeen crossed the finish line. The event slowly gained some popularity, and with the start and finish both being shifted to the College, the maximum number of participants in the first series, in the year 1977, rose to 354. Those days, there were no aid stations and no traffic regulations to make the course exclusive to the runners, who had to vie with vehicular traffic on the roads. Over time, the event died a natural death till it was revived by the untiring efforts of a runner couple.

Racing with the Race Directors

Rusty and June Snow, co-directors of the Santa Barbara Marathon, actually moved base from the East Coast to bring this event to Santa Barbara. It took a few years of persuasion and cajoling, but the couple finally brought it off in 2009, on December 6, to be precise. There was both the usual marathon and even a relay event, with close to 2,000 runners participating in both events. After this rebirth, there was no looking back for this dedicated couple who even collected the leftover water bottles and snack bars and donated them to the Santa Barbara Foodbank. The discarded clothing was given to Unity Shoppe.

The thoughtfulness of the race directors was key to making the event a tremendous success, year after year. In 2011, a sum of $ 5,000 was donated to the Community Environment Council, from the simple expedient of allocating $1 from the entry fee of each participant. Commented Rusty: “We need to be thoughtful and protect that place we live and run. One reason people come to run the marathon is to experience the beauty of the region. We want to protect that for years to come, for our runners and for our community.”

The Route Plan

The Santa Barbara International Marathon takes the runners through some of the most scenic routes on any marathon trail in the world. Beginning in Goleta, the route winds through the town and towards the outskirts of the University town of Isla Vista. As the runners close in towards Santa Barbara, they are met with a fairly steep incline. But after they have puffed their way up the hill, they come face to face with the majestic view of the endless Pacific Ocean as they now run down the slopes and onto the finish line at the Santa Barbara City College Stadium.      

The time is early May, on Mothers’ Day weekend, the best season for running or even for leisure activity in this part of the world. Spoil yourself with choices from the full course, the half marathon, or even run the two-person relay. And as the organisers say: “Run with, or for your mother!” Finish your run, relax and head for ocean activities, or hike, bike or chase history. Or celebrate your finish at the post race Wine & Music Festival at the Solvang Park.  

Run the Santa Barbara Marathon. Run for fame, or just run for fun.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Nutrition Comments (0) |

Summer Foods for Runners

Summer is the time for runners to indulge in food, thus making it the best season for runners, writes Nandini Reddy

Hot and humid weather is always a big deterrent for runners. As the sun bears down, there is one
aspect that runners do love about the summer – the ability to indulge in summer foods. Getting
dehydrated and exhausted in the summer is easy. We get the freshest fruits and vegetables to
indulge in every summer and these help in lowering the core temperature and refuelling our bodies.
Refreshing the body doesn’t need electrolyte drinks, tabs, powders and pricey bottled drinks during
the summers because of the availability of fresh foods in abundance.
Sweat doesn’t just remove water from the body but also essentials nutrients. So, it is important to
eat the right kind of foods in the summer. Generally hot weather tends to kill appetite and its very
important to ensure that you get adequate nutrition. Even if don’t feel like indulging in a heavy meal
of protein and carbs, you should include the below foods.

Fruits
Summer brings a whole host fruits – watermelons, mangoes, strawberries and plums. Watermelon is
the best fruit for ensuring that you hydrate and regain your nutrients. Lycopene content in the fruit
helps in preventing sun damage to the skin cell. Plums help in improving the immune system and
prevents summer diseases. For runners it’s a great fruit for ensuring a healthy gut. While mangoes
need to be consumed in moderation, this fruit is rich in selenium and iron, thus making it a very
important addition to a runner’s diet.

Vegetables
The vegetables with high water content such as cucumber, zucchini and all the gourds, make for
great summer foods. The foods are good for digestion, replenish lost nutrients and helps in purifying
the blood. All the vegetables have a cooling effect on the body and help reduce the core
temperature. Leafy vegetables like Spinach and Amaranth are good to fight off the ill effects of
summer.

Smoothies
The berries in the summer are perfect for summer smoothies. You can combine strawberry with
yogurt or almond milk to create a nutritious smoothie that makes for a great post-run drink. The
popular mango lassi is also a perfect drink to beat the summer heat. Dark chocolate is also a great
addition to your smoothies. This is the best food to quell hunger pangs and it packs a whole lot of
nutrition.

Seasonal fruits and vegetables are the best as they provide the right nutrition that you need to
rehydrate and fuel your body for your running training during the summer.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Scenic Marathon – Pembrokeshire

Amid the Coastal Trail Marathon’s, Pembrokeshire is one of the most scenic marathon’s of the UK, that will flag off this Sunday, writes Nandini Reddy.

Pembrokeshire boosts of being the only coastal National Park in Britain. With its jagged cliffs, sandy bays, coastal villages and coves, it promises to offer spectacular views. The course is challenging as well with an undulating terrain that takes one over grassy paths, beach trails and a jagged coastal route. Here you can choose to run a variety of distances ranging from a 10k to a half marathon to a full marathon and then an ultra (55k). This marathon is listed as one of the top 10 ultra marathons in the world. here are some scary climbs on this undulating run, but some epic descents too, and the glorious views of the ocean are guaranteed to take your mind off your jelly legs.

While the finish line is at Little Haven for all, the start lines are staggered along the course. The start times are generally not published and participants are generally given a start window. This is because the route can be a bit narrow at certain points and in order to prevent a bottle neck they use a chipped start, giving preference to elite runners first. The other fun aspect of this run is that you can run with dog. You will be asked to start later than the rest of the group but you are allowed to bring along with dog for the run. The only expectation is that the animal is well-behaved and is on a lead the whole time.

Trail runs like these are not similar to the city marathons because the opportunity to see people or meet support staff will happen only every few kms. Only the 10k participants have one water station which will provide water in cups. The other distances will have to carry their own water containers. The water stations are few and far between but are comprehensive as they provide carbohydrate and salt replenishment options along with spots to refill your water containers. But food at these stations is limited hence participants would need to carry their own.

There is also listed cut off times for participants. Cut offs are along the route; there are no ‘Finish Line’ cut offs. There is also an event prescribed safety kit that you are expected to carry. All participants are notified ahead about the same and it includes mobile phone, cash, first aid, cap, windproof jacket, whistle, foil blanket, head torch, etc. If the runner wants to retire early from the race, they would be allowed to do so at any Checkpoint.

The event does promise an after-party in Little Haven for all the participants, so there is something to look forward to after the run. This is one marathon that is defined as ‘epic’ by runners across the world and is one of the best ultra trail marathons you can experience. Its all happening on April 28 and if you missed it this year there is always next year for which you can start getting prepped.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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The hottest London Marathon

Nandini Reddy takes a look at one of the most anticipated marathon’s in the world, the Virgin London Marathon 2018.

Whenever we think London Marathon we think rain, but this year the rains decided to visit Boston and the sun will be out in full force this Sunday for the 38th Virgin London Marathon 2018. While that has become the talking point of the marathon this year the marathon is attracting its share of elite runners and celebrities. The marathon is also famous for the number of runners who turn up in the zaniest of costumes.

Here are a few things you need to remember when you run the famed London Marathon this year

  • There will always be a queue for toilets so be prepared
  • Find your place in the starting corrals because it will take at least a mile before its free running as the crowd spreads out
  • You will be running with gorillas and Batman, so get ready to have them whiz past you
  • If you like seeing the sights then you can look out for The Big Ben, Isle of Dogs, Canary Wharf and Surrey Quays to name a few
  • Crowds will cheer you on through the way; absorb that energy
  • Don’t be too surprised if you hear someone yell you name, its on your BIB and people are just calling out encouragements
  • As you near the finish line, the crowds will get louder and more boisterous. It can be annoying or encouraging, depending on how you view it

The Heat

Weathermen are saying that the temperate is expected to spike to 24C. Thus far the record of high temperature has been 22C. This unreasonably warm weather might play spoilsport for all the runners who want to run in costume. For the regular runner, remember to dress wisely. Also not over exerting themselves keeping in mind the warm weather would be a good idea. While there is an expected short spell of rain, experts feel that this will slow the race down because it might make the running surface slick.

The Elites

More than 40,000 people will be lining up to run the London Marathon this year. Among the elites, we have Sir Mo Farah back in action this year and is looking to best his time of 2:08:21 that he set in 2014. Last year’s winner Daniel Wanjiru might not be deterred by the temperatures and will be looking to repeat last year’s success. The Kenyan, Mary Keitany is back again to defend her title against fierce competition from Ethiopian runner Tirnuesh Dibaba who lost out by mere seconds in 2017. Gladys Cherono, a fan favourite at the Berlin Marathon will be running the London Marathon for the first time this year.

Running for a Cause

Like all big marathons, London attracts a host of people supporting causes. The big charities have a host of celebrities running for them. But there are many interesting smaller stories like a Norfolk teacher running to raise funds for a hospital that saved her son and the father running a bear costume to raise funds for his daughter’s treatment. The most exciting one that many will be watching for is Simon Kindleyside, who will be running his first London Marathon with an exo-skeleton suit instead of a wheelchair. Simon is determined to complete the course, so that he can show that being paralysed shouldn’t stop anyone from achieving their marathon dreams.

There might be changes in personal best timings if the heat becomes too unbearable but if runners remember to hydrate and aim finish the course, they should be better off.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Summer Running

As the temperature rises, its important for runners to learn to stay cool so that they can keep running during the hot summer months, writes Nandini Reddy.

Summer is a great time to run but it can also be a huge challenge. Sweating and hydration are the key factors most runners need to watch out for. Dehydration is a danger that runners in tropical climates need to watch out for. Walking in the sun might seem like a challenge if you live in coastal cities because the humidity spikes during the summer months. But if you do want to keep running and not loose your running grove then here are a few tips to help you run during summer.

Water, Water and more Water

You have to up your fluid intake during the summer months. You need to hydrate before you run, carry a bottle while you run and then hydrate again after you finish your run. The sweating might need you to replenish your body with electrolytes post the run. If you don’t like carrying water bottles then you can chart a circuitous route and keep a couple of bottles at different points.

Early mornings are best

This is the coolest time during summer. Even the evenings can be stuffy so the morning is the best time to run. Since the sun rises early, becoming a morning runner will not interfere with the rest of your day. You can also enjoy the outdoors without having to fight off the ill effects of heat.

Run in the shade

If you can find a path that is shaded with trees or near a water source, it would make for a great running course as a trail will be less hotter. If you can avoid running on a road you should because asphalt heats up fast. Find a park or a trail, or if you live near a beach then its the best place to run.

Wear thinner clothes

Cotton might seem better for the summer, but it won’t help while you run. Breathable synthetic athletic wear is a better choice to keep you cool while you run. Choose light colours and not dark ones that will absorb more heat. Reflective colours are the best as they will keep you cooler.

Cool Down well

After you finish you run, try to cool down with water and ice. You can also consider cooling your body before you start the run because it will help you improve your running performance. If you cool down before you run during summer, it takes longer for your core temperature to rise and thus helps in improving your running performance.

Sunscreen & Hats

Remember to wear hats and put on the sunscreen because it won’t make much sense to enjoy a run and not worry about sun damage. You can burnt if you are not careful and if you cover your head, you will feel less fatigued. Use visor hats that are made from breathable mesh rather than skull caps that will make you feel hotter.

You do not have to stay indoors just because its summer. If you choose the right time, right gear and drink water, summer can be a very enjoyable month for running.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Training Comments (0) |

Common Mistakes New Marathoners Make

New marathoners (and sometimes even experienced ones) make these common mistakes while training for the big race, writes Nandini Reddy

Training for the big race requires dedication and consistency. Training hard and keeping the checklist on target is the way most new marathoners approach race day. But sometimes small mistakes can tumble plans for reaching goal timing or even the finish line. Check if you are making these errors that might be hampering your running.

Understand running intensity

You need to work in easy days and hard days into your training schedule. The easy days are supposed to be easy runs with slow pace and comfortable timing. You do not have to push your body on all days to achieve goal times. Consider this – on an easy day you can run a 5km training run in 45 mins as opposed to a harder training day where you run a 5km training run in 30 mins. This sort of training will help your body more than pushing unnecessary limits.

Assess your Race pace

You need to be aware of your pace before your race day. Following a race pace is very important and that is what will help you through your course. Race day excitement tends to make runners run a faster pace than they are used to and if you are unaware of what pace is right for you then you will end up tiring yourself out mid race or even cramping.

Don’t wear anything new

Every new race today gives you a T-shirt. It is a great souvenir to have to remember the race by but isn’t the best clothing to wear for race day. Using a well-worn T-shirt is more comfortable than experiencing burns because of rubbing from the new T-shirt. The same goes for shoes and socks. Shoes should never be new for a race and socks also should be ones you have run in paired with the same shoes you are running in for training.

Don’t start fast

With the loud excitement at the starting corral and announcers screaming out instructions, it is natural to have your adrenaline pumping before the start of the race. Letting this excitement create a situation where you race ahead the moment the flag drops might result in disaster. First clear away from the crowds and find  your pace. It is okay to let runners pass you in the first few minutes because you are not going to win the battle of the marathon by racing the first few kilometres.

No plan for race day

You need a pre-race plan. Most half marathoners fail their course because they don’t have a pre-race plan. They do not plan their ride to and from the course or don’t check ahead for parking zones. It is important that you arrive early enough to find a parking space and have time to find your corral. Setting up the race clothing and equipment the night before is a good idea. Use the bathroom, hydrate and get in-line early so that you are not rushing and stressing yourself out.

If these details can be ironed out then you do not have to worry about completing the race. In fact you will be all set to finish the race in goal time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Taming the Beast

Marathoner, Tarun Walecha, takes another look at the grit, determination and madness it takes to finish marathons.

All that can go wrong at a marathon which I didn’t know about…

A year before when I wrote the prelude to this blog, I had thought to myself that I have learnt all I needed to, made my set of mistakes, even wrote a blog about the same which was well appreciated, and now it would be my year of redemption. As it turns out, I was certainly being overly ambitious.

Having finished five full marathons so far, somehow, I still feel I’m yet to run my first. Last week I was at the starting line again, but this time I was better equipped, better trained, (at least, I thought so) and little bit more confident for sure. I say a little bit because this time I was aiming higher and didn’t want to be complacent. I had ticked all the boxes from the learning last year, be that diet, training schedule, staying injury free and included newer aspects like on course nutrition, flexibility etc.

Unlike last time where I was aiming to finish the run on a moderate pace, this time I was greedy. I had trained harder and had all the reasons to back myself, one of my longest run on Dec 31 which came after 6 days of consecutive half marathon runs under my initiative, ‘Share and Care’ was comfortable and surprisingly speedy. The 28K run on Trail-A-Thon, which I ran a controlled pace but yet was my fastest so far on the course too. I believed that the glory beckoned me and nothing could go wrong, so so I thought.

 

The race day twists and turns…

On the morning of February 25, a 4:30 start meant I didn’t have much time to sleep the night before. I therefore took it easy the previous day in anticipation and was up at 2:30 am without feeling sleep deprived. As I walked toward the stadium from the parking lot, my mind was only filled with positive thoughts and trust in myself, just a hint of anxiety, nothing nerve wrecking. After a quick chat-up with everyone around, handshakes and wishes exchanged; it was going as per the familiar course. So much that an unannounced staggered start didn’t flutter me a bit, and at 4:35 we trotted across the timing mat.

As I started off, I had the plan distinctively clear in my mind, pace chart, nutrition chart, hydration – all ticking off in my mind. Normally, I run as per my effort and only check later how am I doing and it wasn’t going to be any different this time as well. Moving along I felt comfortable, staying focused on myself I could sense I’m doing well. At 10K mark when I checked, I was 1 min 32 sec ahead of my target time. I felt good as there were no signs of over exertion, stride was good and breathing was in control. I decided to hold on to the effort till my next target. As expected at 20K I was 3 min and 40 sec ahead, which was invigorating as I felt no sign of fatigue or mental exhaustion. When I turned around for my second loop, I didn’t want to let go and wanted to seize the advantage. Trotting along, at 30K mark I was doing well, heart rate in check, pace was descent and now I was 4 min and 9 sec ahead of scheduled time.

Quickly running through calculations in back of my mind like always, I ascertained that even if I was to run the rest of the race at 6:00 min pace I would be home with a Sub 4 finish, and I was immensely thrilled with that outcome.

But the best laid plans always come to naught…

As I reached the 32k mark, I started feeling sluggish. My pace had dropped to 5:55. Going back to my calculations, and accommodating for tiring body I told myself to stick to sub 6 pace. As I moved along I felt my stride getting shorter and every KM mark I could see the pace sliding down. At 38K mark when my Garmin showed 6:19 lap pace with a total time 3:34:53, my mind quickly computed that my desired calculation of Sub 4 wasn’t possible now. With 4.2KM of minimum distance to be run, I would have had to really push myself against the odds. Suddenly the hamstring niggle which surfaced slightly earlier filled my legs with lead and my left leg refused to move. I decided to give it a break and stretch a little before moving on, but as luck would have, I found it tough to get back in rhythm. Was it my body which was breaking, or did my mind gave up on me, I’m yet to figure that out. Slowly I watched each runner whom I had left behind passing by, some acknowledged and egged me but I could only cheer them back and asked to them to move on. This was my battle, and I had to fight it on my terms. I hopped along for next 4k, and somehow gathered strength to run for the last half a km to keep my head high. Timing clock at the finishers gate showed that I was nearly 11 min over 4 hrs as I crossed over and moved towards the holding area. Friends, other finishers, each one of them welcomed me with high fives, hugs and smiles, but somehow I in my heart carried a shade of disappointment.

Will I ever understand how to conquer it?

The race was over, I did fairly well as per many, timing wasn’t that bad either, but what left me unhappy was those last 4 kilometer. I wasn’t supposed to struggle, I was there to run. So what went wrong, that is my biggest mystery. Did I not train enough, or did I give up on myself too soon? In the days to come, pondering over each of the issue, I tried to pinpoint at various probabilities, and evaluated them against myself.

  1. Inadequate training: Going by my training year before where I struggled with niggles now and then, I induced more strength workout in my schedule. One of the reason my hamstring started jarring could yet be due to relatively lesser strength training.
  2. Aggressive target: From my target last year to finish a moderate paced FM to running an aggressive Sub 4, might sound a big leap but my training runs backed me up and somewhere I was hopeful of cracking it.
  3. Over-Nutrition on the course : I had planned to take gels in a tapering pattern of 9k, 8k, 8k, 7k, 7k considering the higher needs as one tires out. Energy boost after first one lured me to change it to 7k from second gel onward. At 30K I did feel nauseated and over fed, so much that I couldn’t have my fifth gel.
  4. Lack of salt intake: Gel at shorter intervals meant lesser time in between, and the first causality of time management was salt caps which I didn’t have after my first 2, and in all had only 3.
  5. Less water consumption: Though my earlier experiences had alarmed me about this, having trained in pleasant weather failed me on understanding my body’s water requirement on the race day.
  6. Rise in temperature: It was an odd situation, adding to the above point, the entire training was done in winters with running the race in spring. The week before the race saw a sudden rise in temperature which showed the damage it can do to your hydro-logical balance.
  7. Running faster than the plan: Since I’ve always run by the effort, on the race day I landed up running a shade faster than the planned pace, was it my undoing? Can’t say yet as my heart rate remained in the control zone and barely touched Zone 5.
  8. Lack of focus: That’s something that may not be the root cause , but can certainly be a reason to deflate the overall effort. To be in ‘the zone’ for 42 km, is something that still has a long way to go, perhaps.
  9. Lack of flexibility: This was another aspect which I targeted after last year’s debacle, worked extensively and consciously, but the awareness only highlighted gray areas; certainly more work needed.
  10. Lack of guidance /knowledge: How much is enough??? I certainly can never judge.

Mind over body…

While this can be your strength, but can work against you as well. For everything that you may cover, this could be a blanket loss. If I did not falter on any of the above, then it has to be this. Was this the reason that I stumbled? Did that one look at my watch at 38K which showed 3:34:53 blow it up? One little back hand calculation and I knew I had practically lost my chance for a Sub 4, and suddenly it didn’t matter anymore.

The mystery that I wished to unravel this time, to decode what it takes to run a marathon, still remains a mystery. After 34 Half marathons, many more equivalent distance runs and 5 attempts at FM, I still have to know what it takes. Lest I forget, I need to reiterate to myself, it is not just two half marathons, it is not just another long run. I don’t know what it is yet, but I will soon.

The beast still stares at me, with a little smirk on its face, but I know we are friendlier now and it’s just a matter of time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

An architect by profession, Tarun Walecha enjoys amateur photography, travelling and is a sports enthusiast. He has been a sportsperson all his life and discovered running at the age of 40 and has since become his fitness mantra. In his 7 year running career he has completed 30 Half Marathons, 4 Full Marathon, and 5 Trail/Ultra Runs. He is also a Pinkathon ambassador and has founded the running group, RunXtreme.

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