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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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Is there a good time to run?

Every runner has their own time preferences during the day for their training runs, but which time is ideal for running – morning, afternoon or evening?, asks Nandini Reddy

Have you felt that you run your best in the mornings? Or do you feel more energetic when you run in the evenings? Whether you are a newbie runner, running club member or elite marathon runner, you will have a personal preference for the time you run. One early morning runner said that running in the evening improved his timing? So does that mean there is actually a good time during the day to run? Are their scientific reasons for why we run better at a particular time?

One of the biggest scientific finding is that runner perform better when their body temperature is higher. Generally early mornings are the times of lowest body temperatures. So you need a longer warm up routine to read a good body temperature to have a good running performance. By evening, your natural body temperature is higher so many runners find themselves running better during the evenings. Also the lungs are at their best during the evenings thus you might be able to reach better times and run longer too.

If we consider the morning, afternoon and evening times, there are a few factors we can study in order to better understand how our body works at different times of day and what might be best suited for running.

Body Functions

Bodily functions are the worst early in the mornings. Muscles are stiff and body temperature is low. Also you haven’t eaten in 8-10 hours, so even the energy stores will be low. Mid-morning, after you have had a breakfast is technically a better time for your body because you are the most energetic at this time. Although for people who work this time might not work at all. But this time is best to try the more strenuous trail runs or hill runs. Also testosterone is highest during this time and its a vital hormone for muscle building. The afternoon times are when we are lowest on our vitality. The body functions go into a lull at this time making it a less preferred time to run. The lunch time runners might disagree though. By late afternoon your body temperature picks up and your muscles are most supple, making it the best time to run. Many runners have been known to achieve their personal bests during their evening runs.

Chances of Injury

The chances of injury are the highest when the body temperature is low. So early mornings needs a good warm up routine if you wish to avoid injury. Running cold is the worst thing any runner can do. This worsens your running performance and increases your chances of injury. Also when the body is feeling tired or low on energy don’t try to push and run. You will end up hurting yourself. Generally the highest injury times are early mornings and noon.

Psychological factors

While there may be a lot of science on the physical factors that you should consider while choosing the best time to run, sometimes the biggest determining factor will be your mind. If you have busy work days then you might find it easier to run in the early mornings. But many of us aren’t early risers so the evening might be a referred time to run. We may even want a mid day boost and running is the best way to boost your energy, so the lunchtime runners would argue that they prefer running at that time.

While physically you may be able to adapt to any time of the day, psychologically a time preference seems to dominate when we choose to run. If you have a regular choice then try a couple of days at an alternative time just to check how your performance is affected.

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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Too Much Too Soon

Our Guest Columnist, Tarun Walecha, shares his thoughts on staying injury free.

Running is the new golf as they say, and it certainly is as it has reached the corridors of corporate power today. But not before having made its impact on society, in general. The reason to this is simple, running isn’t all about power, or networking. It is far more than that, it touches you in many ways, be that your lifestyle, your ability to analyse and understand day to day situation, self-discipline, strong will and much more…so much more. One of the prime benefits which we start it all with, our fitness, that later becomes just a collateral. I’m carefully using the word collateral which by no measure means insignificant. There’s still more that running brings into ones life, new friends for one (and hoard of them, actually), lot’s running gear(mostly free 😊), a bit of travel for the events, not to miss the adulation (PBs et al) and the least preferred of them all….Injuries.

Is it all too much too soon?

Well, there can be a write up on each one of the issues, but we shall focus on injuries this time. Most of us who start running do not have a great history of sports. Well I said most, cause most often those with some sports background also fall in this category as they restart this regime after a fair amount of downtime. Those who restart this journey after a gap in the sporting activities, and for someone to start altogether fresh, running does expose us to certain amount of risk of injuries. Having said that, I can very confidently say that it’s not running that is the cause of the injuries though it does become the medium. It is like blaming a car for an accident and absolving or ignoring the role of the one who drives it. Let us understand what’s the reason for the injuries….and let’s understand when is it too much, too soon.

Roadblocks we encounter

One starts running with an aim of staying fit, and the limited available knowledge is a natural course of things to unfold. As we chart this journey, we encounter various roadblocks, inability to improve the speed, or cover longer distance, lack of disciplined routine and of course, a schedule to follow. While we seek these answers through various friends, runners, running coaches, online portals etc what we also start learning about is PBs, Podium finishes, and everything else that comes with it.  This is exactly where the “Too much Too soon” syndrome sets in. What started as a hobby, breaks through the realm of passion and before we realise it becomes an obsession. Suddenly learning takes a back seat, improving becomes the main criteria! Running for fitness seems basic, and getting a podium finish becomes the main driver. It’s this shift of focus that makes us ignore our limitations and push beyond the boundaries. Having said that what is life within the confines of limitations, and who would get better if one does not push the boundaries. But there’s a thin line there, a very thin line which only we can define for ourselves.

Misjudging your boundaries

There will always be a friend egging you to run faster, or a coach pushing you for a stiff target, and at times even a runner who silently is clocking better time than you but becomes the cynosure of your eyes and all you wanna do is get ahead of him/her. In a situation like this, more often than not, we misjudge ourselves, our training, our strength and our weakness. And even when we maintain our sanity, running as a regime does have its own wear and tear on our body. Our muscles are going to tire, our mind and body is going to get fatigued. But let’s not forget, no two individuals can be alike and this is a scientific fact. What we deal with is something similar, but beyond the biological or physical sphere. With a given physical and biological background, an individual still have too many variables to deal with, such as, a day job, daily routine, personal stress, amount of rest, one’s own willingness, mental strength and the list goes on. What we need to understand is that each one of these variables has a role to play for the way we perform. So, before we begin to compete with someone, we need to look within and know what’s good for us. It is this ignorance which leads to pushing the boundaries beyond the realm of reality and becomes the main reason for injuries.

Lessons Learnt

I started running about 8 years back with hardly any friends in running and bare minimum social media exposure. I consider this a blessing in disguise, cause the learning came in slow, but that slow did good to me. I won’t say I didn’t have my tryst with injuries, it’s a given as all the pounding is bound to show up some way or the other. Fortunately for me it has just been stress accumulation, incorrect or over training which lead to what one may define as pre-injury state. Each time it left a lesson behind, a sign to know if it was too much for me.

What we all need to understand is how to deal with it, but before that we must know, when to push further and when to back out. Only when you dive into a deep sea you will get pearls but where to dive and how to dive is the key. Of course, there’s a recourse through medical intervention, physiotherapy, proper guidance, etc. if one does fall into the trap or gets injured, but those we can deal in another article at another time. For now if I was to sum up my intent for this blog, I would say the following.

  1. Know your limits, make incremental changes and remember how Rome was built…😊.
  2. Understand your strength, and seek guidance when needed.
  3. Push your boundaries, but don’t be over ambitious.
  4. It’s important to understand your muscular anatomy and what it takes to run.
  5. Learn it the right way, correct form is the key to injury free and efficient running.
  6. Last but not the least, You are your own competitor, no one else.

Don’t let someone else becomes your bench mark… an inspiration, yes… a competitor, no. Learn to do this for yourself and not for others, let’s not fall in the trap and succumb to “Too Much Too Soon”.

GUEST COLUMNIST 

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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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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Calm your pre-race nerves

Being nervous ahead of a big race is perfectly normal, here are a few tips from Nandini Reddy to breath easy. 

You will be anxious before the big race. You want to give it your best and you want meet your performance goals. It is perfect fine to feel a bit queasy before the race. But don’t let the anxiety affect your performance. Here are a few things you can do to calm your nerves and run your best race.-

Follow a pre-race routine

Every runner like you is anxious to get to the starting line and race forward the moment the flag drops, but this can be a bit disconcerting to most people. So don’t get into the starting line frenzy if its not your scene. Do your stretches and warm yourself up for the race. Do not get into a panic by watching other runners, instead try to feed off the positive energy from runners around you.

Breathe

When you are stressed deep breathing can calm you down. If you are getting jittery then step back to an area that is less crowded, close your eyes and take in deep breaths. You can also follow the yoga technique of alternating your breathing between your nostrils. This will make your gut feel better.This will get your primed to focus on your race.

Plug those Ears

Sometimes its always better to cut out the white noise around you during a race. Plug in your favourite music and sink into your own space of calmness. A lot of runners dislike listening to music but for many it has a calming effect and helps them focus better. Music can also lift your mood and make the run more fun.

Visualize your goal

Fear of failure is what causes most of the anxiety. You need to visualise that you will reach the finish line and in the goal performance times you have set for yourself.  A good attitude will build confidence and you are more likely to finish the race.

You can’t control everything

There are factors you cannot control like the weather for example. If it rains on race day then it rains. There is nothing you can do about it so why should you stress. Other runners, weather patterns and even the course difficulty are not points that you can control so let it go and enjoy the race for what its worth. You certainly will feel more rewarded.

Remember that you trained to finish the race and not psych yourself out. Always remember that you can better your performance with every race.

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 run run… you better run!

One of the most popular and coveted marathon in the world is happening this weekend. Capt Seshadri talks about the Boston Marathon. 

There is only one marathon in the world that has ‘bandits’ participating. And no, not the Robin Hood or even the Gabbar Singh kind, but runner bandits. These were unregistered runners who were eager to participate but did not have a bib number. It was customary for them to be held back till the last of the starters had left the blocks and then unleashed unofficially. After a while, these bandits, like some of their folklore counterparts, became heroes among the spectators and the media. Such is the stuff of tales surrounding one of the oldest marathons in the world.

The Boston Marathon, to be held on April 16, has had a virtually unbroken run since its inception in 1897, even during the years of the great world wars. It probably took its origin following the tremendous success of the first marathon event in an Olympics, in the summer of 1986. In the early years, it was run on April 19, but was soon changed to the third Monday of April, celebrated as Patriots’ Day and now commonly referred to as ‘Marathon Monday’.

Humble Beginnings

What began as a local event, with just 15 participants on debut, has grown over time to receive recognition as one of the most prestigious marathons in the world. Every year, over 30,000 registered runners from across the globe, are cheered every bit of the way by around half a million spectators, that includes the ‘scream tunnel’, a more than a three quarter mile long unbroken chain of young ladies whose cheering can be heard for over a mile!

Can one possibly imagine thousands of athletes, some traveling halfway across the globe to run a gruelling 26 miles, only for the winner to be rewarded with an olive wreath? But, for over a century, the Boston Marathon was a purse-free event, until in 1986, professional athletes threatened to boycott the event unless a cash prize was instituted. Fortunately, corporates stepped in, and cash awards made their entry into the race.

It is one of the most difficult courses in marathon running, with the Newton Hills challenging even trained runners, and their apex culminating in Heartbreak Hill, reducing the most seasoned runners to near walking speed. With this being a physical and psychological breaking point, it presents a phenomenon that marathoners refer to as ‘hitting the wall’!

Women in Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon remained a male chauvinistic bastion until 1972, when women were officially permitted to participate. However, Roberta ‘Bobbi’ Gibb is acknowledged by race organisers as the first woman to have run the entire stretch of the marathon as early as in 1966. A year later, Kathy Switzer obtained a bib number and participated. Her run was marred by an ugly incident where a race official tried to tear off her race bib and prevent her from finishing. The gender equation rapidly changed since then; in 2015, around 46% of the participants were women. There is only one woman however, who owns the unique distinction of having run the Boston Marathon in two elements: earth and space. Astronaut supreme and record breaker for much of what happens in space – Sunita Williams. This amazing and tenacious lady ran the marathon, strapped by a harness to a treadmill aboard the International Space Station while the event was being run on earth!

Toughest Qualifying Standards

The event has stringent qualifying standards. Participants must be above 18 years of age and must have completed a marathon certified by a recognised body with international affiliations. There is also a pre-set qualifying time limit, depending on age. For many aspiring marathoners, to ‘BQ’, or qualify for Boston, is in itself a treasured achievement. However, to popularise the event and to honour charitable causes, around 20% of the participation has been thrown open to entrants from charities, sponsors, local running clubs, vendors and marketers, whose philanthropic endeavours garner close to $ 35 million in charity collections.

The Boston Marathon has thrown up many heroes. Foremost among them is Bob Hall whose request, in 1975, to participate in a wheelchair, was accepted, with the proviso that he would be recognised as a ‘finisher’ only if he completed in under 3 hours and 30 minutes, the time limit set for normal runners. The indefatigable Bob finished in 2 hours and 58 minutes. Thus was born the wheelchair division of the race; the event was soon to accommodate visually impaired runners as well.

In 2013, the event was marred by two explosions, around 180 metres yards apart, within the final 200 metres of the finish. Although many of the faster runners had completed the course, the fatality of three spectators and the injury caused to 264, forced the event to be called off, with many runners close to the midway mark. This deterred neither the organisers nor the participants, and the event continues to be a major draw among the fastest endurance runners of the world.

And, going back to the subject of bandits, Boston Marathon Director Dave McGillvray was himself once a teenage bandit!

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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Hip health for Runners

Pain-free and healthy hips are a requirement for a smooth running experience, says Nandini Reddy.

When you love to run you will also have to deal with injuries. While avoiding an injury might seem ideal, we sometimes need to deal with the fact that certain injuries need more attention. Any injury, even if its a minor pain should be dealt with immediately more so if it is related to the hip.

Most runners have dealt with ankle and knee injuries, ligament pulls and tears and muscle strains but unlike most of these injuries the hip is critical. So if you feel pain in your hip during or after a run, you need to seek medical advice. This is one pain that should never be ignored and certainly don’t self medicate.

Understanding the Pain

There are a variety of causes why your hip can get hurt. First identify the point of pain and what the pain feels like (sharp, dull, deep, etc). This will determine the cause of the pain as well and you can also avoid hurting yourself again. A doctor will eliminate the guesswork so it is always better to consult one if you find yourself in pain.

Remember that stretching and running with a warmed-up body is one of the most basic ways to avoid injuries. Minor hip injuries can be treated with rest but if you ignore the initial pain and continue to run then you risk complicating the damage from the injury. The most common hip pain comes from overuse – that means you run too much. The overuse of your muscles can cause a burning or rubbing sensation on the outside of your hips. This is the first sign for you to take a break. The inflammation will come down in about a week and if you use a cold compress on your hips and rest, you should be good to go.

Complex Hips Injuries

Now all injuries cannot be resolved with ice packs and rest periods. Another major injury is strength imbalance. This occurs because almost everyone has one leg slightly longer than the other. This makes one leg stronger than the other. While that is totally normal and probably how nature intended it, it doesn’t help when you run long distances. Weird running conditions on trail runs and old injuries can aggravate this condition. So avoid hill runs or running on slopes sideways if you have this issue. es. It can also be the result of an old injury or weird running conditions. Try not to run sideways across hills. That’s a bit strange in general, but it’s also hard on your hips. If you suspect strength imbalance get a professional to evaluate you. You might need to change your exercise differently to ensure that both legs are equally strong.

If you hear a clicking sound or feel a catch in your hips when you run, then you most likely have torn a cartilage.This is a serious injury that needs a professional opinion and adequate rest. If left unattended then it might even require surgery.

If you notice a pain inside your hip then its mostly likely due to a stress fracture. Running on roads and hard surfaces is a major cause for stress fractures. If you don’t get it looked at it can lead to limping because the pain can be intense. It needs the same attention any fracture is given that means 6-8 weeks of rest. Don’t attempt other forms of exercise unless recommended by your doctor and even then try and do them under supervision of a coach or physical therapist.

What can you do to ease the pain?

Never walk it off. That is ill advice for hip injuries and should never be followed. Good posture is an important aspect of running. Try and keep you shoulders square and your chin up and maintain a proper and comfortable stride. This will eliminate a host of reasons why you could get injured.

While you are in recovery you can consider swimming. It is an amazing exercise to prevent stress injuries and also helps strengthen your muscles without putting pressure on your bones. If you are injured then you must see a professional. This is the fastest way to get fit again.

Taking a few days off won’t make you a bad runner. But having to give up running because of an ignored injury is an unpleasant situation to put yourself in. Hips are vital for your running and you need to give them the respect they deserve.

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 long, live short?

Do long distance runners have a shorter life? Capt Seshadri attempts to explore this theory, based on research and experiments and from dialogues with doctors with experience in accompanying marathon runners in major events.

In the fall season of the year 490 BC, Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, ran a distance of 26 miles non-stop from Marathon to Athens, to announce the defeat of the Persians at the battle of Marathon, in which he himself had just fought. Having shouted out “nenikēkamen”, (we have won), he collapsed and died on the spot.

Centuries later, the death of Jim Fixx, author of “The complete book of running”, probably triggered the debate on the issue of health versus harm. Reports from across the world state that till date, 36 marathon runners have suffered a fate similar to that of the ancient Greek. The age range was between 18 and 70, thus averaging close to 44. Almost half of these deaths occurred either during the run or within 24 hours of the event. So, is there a connection between long distance running and heart attacks? The arguments for and against, both purportedly with solid data to back them, are conflicting but hardly convincing.

Heart + Running

It is a universally established fact that the cause of coronary failure is a build up of plaque in the arteries. So, does distance running help build up plaque, or prevent it? Argument # 1 suggests that extreme distance running can harm rather than protect the heart. This is based on a study of 8 runners over a period of 140 days, running a daily cross country stretch of 42 km, with a one day break each week. After the first 24 hours, the runners were subjected to tests to determine plaque build up. At the end of the race, it was found that their systolic blood pressure, (the number on the top) had decreased and the ‘good cholesterol’ was higher. However, having checked their previous medical records, for those with a history of heart issues, the plaque build up was higher. These findings seem to suggest that distance running is not necessarily protective but could even be harmful in the long run. Conflicting, or confusing?

Marathon runners of all ages around the globe, participate enthusiastically, quite often either ignoring or not being aware of previous cardiovascular deterioration. On the flip side, it would be silly to assume that all marathon runners are physically fit and are therefore immune to cardiac disease.

Understanding the heart

Argument # 2 takes a somewhat different pitch. It says: If we sampled 50 men running 3,510 marathons over the course of three decades, will their heart health suffer or improve? These were experienced runners, most of them with over a quarter of a century of training, with some even having run for half a century. The mix was eclectic, with some having commenced running from school days and others trying to work out the effects of sedentary lifestyles, smoking and indulging in junk food. On an average, they ran around 50 km a week. When these 50 were scanned, 30% had no sign of plaque, 40% had mild amounts and the remaining 20% were the worrisome lot.

The findings were quite chaotic to say the least. More marathons did not mean more plaque, as did less running not indicating any difference. This led to the conclusion that extreme running had little or no impact on heart disease, but reinforced the fact that a history of smoking and cholesterol led to greater plaque deposits even after years of running.

Added to this is a third dimension. According to recent studies, different versions of atherosclerosis, the technical name for plaque build up, could be benign or harmful, and could affect active and sedentary people, thus debunking both negative and positive schools of thought on distance running and heart disease. This ‘halfway home’ theory seems to suggest that long years of distance running neither improves nor deteriorates heart health. There is no clinching evidence to prove that running causes any direct changes in the heart. The conclusion would probably be that all kinds of running would help keep arteries clear of harmful matter. However, running does not provide immunity to those with a history of bad lifestyle, especially smoking and junk food. In the words of Dr Roberts, an experienced researcher, “You can’t just outrun your past”!

So, run to your heart’s content. Run for your lives.

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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