26.2 (II)

It was around July when registrations for SCMM started. Though I had no run days (because of injury) in June but at the same time I had done a 28k run on trails sometime back. So whether to register for a full in Jan or not was a decision taken in a dilemma. Mercury dropped with change in season, but I was still conservative about my pace because of fear of intensifying of pain around my heel. I always use to feel that race day has some magic that helps me (and many others) to bring out the best in me. I had a belief that I need not worry about picking up pace as ‘race day magic’ will be able to manage it.

With this faith I ran CRPF half marathon in October 2014 and managed to finish it in less than 1:45 but I never looked stronger during that run. I realized that ‘race magic’ works only if you have slogged and put in efforts. So I decided to push myself and prepare hard for forthcoming runs. That might have resulted in accentuation of my injury but I was fortunate that did not happen. Sound guidance of my coach Gagan also helped a lot. The gamble paid off in the end. I started pushing my limits during practice runs. I also discovered amazing training partner in Naveen. Both of us travailed in training and in the process both improved. Just a week before ADHM life took another U-turn as it become a bit too busy with a little time for running (training became out question). I had a nice run in ADHM and now the next big run was SCMM.

From a regular runner, I became a ‘Sunday only runner’. Almost on all sundays after ADHM, I did more than 25k except on two occasions (when I did 21k and a week before D-day did a 15k). But almost all my runs were at an easy pace. I referred my blog that I wrote after finishing my first marathon and realized that I should have done a longer run at race pace. So I did that two week before SCMM- a 20 miler in less than 2:45 on Gurgaon Faridabad Road that has some good elevations. Experts might say that it was not a wise decision to run so hard (and long) just a fortnight before race but that run helped me in developing the faith that 3:30 is not impossible and may be targeted. Even I miss it, I will still better my marathon timings.

On race day, there were no butterfly in the stomach and no pre-race anxiety. I reached a bit late and when I entered the holding area, entire lot of runners had gone. The CST building was illuminated with multi-colored lights and it was looking beautiful. I arrived at the start line and the r(f)un started. I was bit faster right from the beginning and the only technique that I used for pacing myself was nasal breathing and thus I used signals when I met fellow runner and did not talk. I achieved my PB for 30K (less than 2:30). It was then the actual marathon started. My left calf and right hamstring started cramping. I tried to stretch a bit on the road but that did not improve the situation much. I even lay down on the road divider and did ‘vrajrasana’ and quad stretch. I was worried but determined. Situation improved after 2-3 km and I again picked up. I am happy that I crossed the dreaded Pedar road stretch without walking. Kilometer marker changed to countdown banners and I finished stronger overtaking many half marathoners who were yet to finish. Just after crossing the finish line met fellow runners and became part of runner’s carnival. I got a message from fellow runners that I finished in 3:46 which was satisfactory timing considering all that yoga that I did en route.

Now the future runs will be to chase the wishlist- a 3:30 finish.





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A Run to Remember: Faridabad 10K

Injuries had troubled me in recent past because of which I have not raced since April, 2013 (LRG Night Marathon-10K). When most of runners around me were achieving their PBs under perfect running conditions in December 2013, I kept a reign on my speed and paced ADHM for 2:45 finish. I was feeling frustrated because of injury. So after ADHM, I tried everything that could help in healing my injury. Alternate hot/cold compression, pressing inner portion of my index and longest fingers (this really help in alleviating achilles pain-all thanks to Shiba Mehra for telling this technique), soaking my legs in warm water with rock salt mixed in it, icing and foam rolling religiously. I was not running much but concentrated on strengthening exercises. Three exercises that need special mention are as follows:

  1. Holding Glute Bridge (keeping hips squeezed)
  2. Wall Squats:Normal wall squat as well as wall squat with foam roller held between my knees.
  3. Planks:I was holding planks for more than 5 minutes during those days.

Finally, reached a stage where I could think of registering for a race. Faridabad Marathon (actually a 10K) was happening in February. It was a chip timed event so registered for it.

On race day, after reaching event venue, I realized that I probably made a wrong decision. Race was scheduled to start at 8:00 am but with presence of state’s CM and other leaders, it became more of a political event. Runners standing in the holding area were feeling stranded as race could start anytime. But alas! orations by local leaders kept on delaying that moment. That sounded like eternity. After an hour of political rendition finally race was flagged off.

One good thing about most of the ill-managed races in India is that they attract fastest of runners with whom amateurs like me can run. Runners sped like rocket. I went with the flow in first few minutes but later realized that I am going too fast so slowed down a bit. I also wanted to take a leak as standing in holding area on a cold February morning for an hour had made things worst. Race course was through a residential area and there were not many avenues. Some how after taking a decent lead from big crowd of runners found a place to attend to nature’s call. Ah!! That brought a different energy in me. Now I was almost flying, overtook few more runners and finally joined a pack that was running at a pace that was in my comfort zone. Those guys had a very smooth stride- nice leg lift, beautiful hip extension, soft forefoot landing. A treat for eyes to watch. I believe my form would have improved looking at theirs. Everything was going smooth till the time 10K route merged with that of 3K and 5k (another faux pas in that event). Now I was wading in a sea of runners,  moving in zig zag patterns to find my way. Finally crossed the finish line and was lucky enough to get some water (runners who come after some time struggled to do that). I hydrated myself and started stretching when one of the spectator asked me my timings. I was totally unaware about that as I was running without timing device trusting that chip will divulge these details after the run. Anyhow I asked him time at that moment. It was 9:54 am. Later I checked out from friend’s running app’s log that the race gun time was 9:15 am. That gave me an idea that my timing would be on lower side of 40 minutes.

Race results were out. Alas! my result was not there. Later I followed up with the technical partner providing timing support and got my timing. It was 00:38:12- my personal best for 10K.

Overall it was poorly organized event but given a chance, I would not mind participating in such ill-managed races as long I get a chance to run in company of fast runners (with whom I can keep pace ;) )

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Nose Breathing and Running

I use to breathe through nose during my morning runs till I got involved into timed distance running. Recently I read a book titled ‘The Hindu-Yogi Science of Breath’ by Yogi Ramacharaka in which a lot of stress was being given on breathing through nose. So I thought of getting back to my old way of breathing. But this time I was conscious about my breathing even when I was not running and that ensured I am breathing through nose most of the times.

I started this experiment with a 2 hr road run in hot and humid weather of Delhi on 31st June in which I managed 21.66 km and felt strong till the end. I pulled out couple of other runs in July, longest of which was a 28 km (27.45 km according my GPS) trail run for which I took around 2 hr 40 minutes. Weather throughout the month was quite challenging but still I managed 100+ km. I loved the new breathing technique so much that I have never eschewed it during entire month and even used it for a high intensity step up workout.

Although it slowed me a little bit (15-20 s/km) but I think that it has helped me to run longer without fatigue. Rather I feel energized even after long runs. I have started breathing deeper. Nasal track become so clear after the run and breathing become so effortless. I have become so use to this feeling that I start feeling obstructions in the breathing system if I skip workouts for two consecutive days. Another advantage of this experiment is that I have started snoring less (wife’s feedback)

I wonder if it is my over enthusiasm about this experiment that me making me feel good or is it all real. I would like to hear from other fellow runners.

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My first run as pacer for 2:45 finish


Pacers for 2:45 Bus: Sanjeev and Vikram

ADHM-2012 was my first half marathon during which I came to know about concept of bus as well as pacing. For those who are still not aware about these let me give you a brief introduction:

A pacer is normally an experienced runner who commits to finish a particular race within a stipulated time while motivating other runners to do the same. So runners who are aiming to finish within that time can join the pacer and this pack of runners running together is known as bus. Just like a normal bus- runners join and leave the bus at different intervals during a race. The driver of the bus (pacer) is given some identification so that runners can spot him/her easily. In my case, it was a flag mentioning ‘2:45′ bus.

Now the next question is

Why did I choose to pace when I could have bettered my own record? 

I was struggling since July from achilles tendon injury and thus was not sure if I should go for ADHM with full throttle. I got an offer to pace the 2:15 bus but I rejected that as I was thinking of improving my own timing in this superb cold weather. On 1 Dec I did an easy long 2 hr+ run in which I completed 22.5 km in 125 minutes. It was my longest run after the injury and i started having pain near ankle. I got the signal that I should avoid stretching my body at this point of time and thus opted for pacing. By that time 2:15 pacing slot was filled and the only option before me was to pace for 2:45 finish time. So I opted for becoming a 2:45 pace.

Deciding the pacing strategy

I had never tried running at this speed before so I was unsure if it is going to be a run-walk or will I be able to run continuously to achieve this finish time. Continuous travelling and busy schedule due to my job related assignments after 3rd Dec left me clueless regarding my pacing strategy. On 9th Dec, I tried running at an average speed of 7:40 minutes /sec and discovered that it is a pretty decent speed at which I can run continuously. So I decided to run continuously at this pace and adjust the spare 3 minutes for breaks. I did 2 more runs to get a feel of this pace and gained confidence.

Race Day and the execution of plans

With a huge crowd in the holding area, it is always difficult to catch hold of appropriate  pacers. Most of the runners who approached me in the holding area were first time runners. Majority of them entered the race even without preparation. There were some experienced runners also who were out of practice for some time. Gun time for the race was 7:40 am and I left the start line at around 8:00 am so that runners from behind can join me. With ‘bhag milkha’ song being played in the stadium and great athlete Milkha Singh ji flagging off the race, there was phenomenal energy in the atmosphere. I felt like I should run like a lion chasing a gazelle but somehow restrained myself. After some time I realized that i am running at a faster pace so slowed down a bit. Since it was beginning of the race and other runners were very fresh so they were able to run with me without any issue. When I slowed down a bit, there were few who overtook the bus to join it at a later stage while there were few who kept on running with me. There were many who asked me about the flag and pacing. There were many who were using me as a reference. There were some funny comments also depicting this. One of the runners said- “I am trying so hard to keep myself ahead of you- why do you keep coming again and again?” There were fewer persons who were running with me while there were many using me as a reference for 2:45 finish. There was a first time runner running with me right from the beginning whose maximum distance before this race was 11 km, I was happy to congratulate him after he passed 11k mark. Near 15k some of them were feeling that their legs were getting heavier so I took a short break and guided them for doing a couple of stretches. Few of them were not able to keep themselves with the bus while others joined in. After 17k I started shouting and encouraged runners to pick up speed. At around 19k mark I asked runners in my bus to speed up as I decided to slow down and encourage others to stop walking and start running and finish the line as quickly as possible. I kept on shouting and encouraging runner till 21 km point.

There was a huge jam near finish line. Although there were separate lanes for great Delhi run participants and half marathon finishers but many of the great Delhi run participants crashed their lanes and entered the other side choking way for half marathon finishers. Even at the finish line runners had stopped to get themselves clicked rather than making efforts for minimizing their timings. My sincere request to such runners is to avoid doing this in future so that people who are serious about their finish timing do not suffer.

I finished with a timing of 2:45:33 (33 more than expected). Splits for the race are depicted in the picture.

Split timings for run

For a person who had started running just one year ago in the same event, pacing was something that was unimaginable a few days ago.  It was an amazing experience undoubtedly to help other runners to better their timing/serve as a reference for finishing faster.

God, I pray to thee to make us all – ‘Citius Altius Fortius‘.

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The Unwanted Brake: Dreaded Achilles Tendinitis

Running often makes you feel high but sometimes saps life out of your body. You feel good may be because of  finishing a target distance, achieving a PR but on the other side you might afflict injuries that put a sudden break to your future plans. In an ideal situation we should limit our lows to zero but adrenalin rush often eclipses our wisdom and knowingly or unknowingly we get trapped in the vicious cycle of injuries.

Human treat their bodies like cars in some sense- Most of the time we tend to ignore subtle wear & tear till there is a complete break down. Marathon is a demanding sport and requires a scientific approach as well as a  proper plan. We often assume that if nothing untoward had happened to you in the past, nothing is going to bother you in future till you suffer from injury. I had tryst with my first running injury in July this year- Achilles Tendinitis.

Case History: I use to have a severe unbearable pain whenever something use to strike at a point just above my heel on the back side of my foot, which means I was having some issues with Achilles tendon. I decreased my pace in hot summers but increased my mileage. The increase in mileage was totally random. I started feeling a bit of pain whenever I pressed the inner side of my legs near shin bone. On 23th July, I decided to go for a faster 5km on a hard surface wearing my old torn shoes. Race was a complete catastrophe. I started having permanent pain near heel as well as on the inner side of leg near shin bone.  

First Reaction after Injury: I treated pain as just another pain that vanishes with a bit of rest but it did not subside even after taking rest for a week. So I visited Sports Injury Center in Sadurjung Hospital . Doctor advised me take complete rest for 4 weeks. Icing heel area 3-4 times a day was suggested. If icing is not feasible the cold packs available at chemist shops may be used.

Additional Steps: 

  1. Heel drop schedule was followed two times a day. For more information regarding heel drop kindly search on youtube. One video that I particularly found quite useful was : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_rKrzArO8E                                                     Word of Caution: The injured leg should not be used for coming up while doing heel drop.
  2. There is another good website that you may refer to: http://www.achillestendon.com
  3. Use of foam roller on calf muscles also helps in ameliorating the pain. This video might be helpful in explaining the phenomenon involved: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jkrNQmgCMOk

Warning: Do not start running as soon as you start feeling better. Initially try running on a softer surface like grass. Make sure that you take very small steps while starting running. Slowly increase the stride length and transition from soft to hard surface.

Make sure that your shoes are in good condition. Worn out shoes also is a possible reason for this injury.

Exercise for Achilles Tendon after run: Face the wall/tree/rigid surface. Now move one leg forward and try to push the wall. Do not lift the heel of leg that is away from wall. You will feel the stretch along your calf. Now change the leg and repeat the procedure.

Have injury free running.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Long back when I was merely 10 yr old, it all started with a kick. I was the goalkeeper and stopped the penalty shoot in a football match during our games period. My fellow team-mates lifted me up. The feeling of exuberance are till fresh in my mind- strong enough to give me goose bumps. And this was the splinter that ignited the passion for soccer in my mind.

I searched for a place where I could get a chance to play this heavenly game in my home town- Hisar. My search ended in Jat College football grounds where I got a chance to get training under a team of Coaches: Sh. Madan Singh Rathore, Sh. Ashwini Kumar, Sh. Jagdeep Sheoran, Sh. Shushil Lega, Sh. Vinay Kumar. I love this sport. To increase my stamina I started going for long runs during morning. In winters, when it was cold and foggy outside, running caused sweating and sweat use to evaporate. I felt excited to see vapours fuming out my body and that encouraged me to run even faster. I use to run hard to experience that phenomenon. I played football making sure that it never interfered with my studies. So whenever there were examinations, I skipped going to grounds and thus missed a couple of opportunities to play certain official sub junior championships. It was in yr 1995 that I played first state level tournament. In yr. 1996 when my classmates were enjoying preparatory leaves for class 10th board exams, I was playing state level tournament in Kurukshetra. My team secured first position in that tournament.Then in August 1996, our team repeated the feat in Pre-subroto cup. In September 1996, I represented Haryana in Subroto cup. Playing in Delhi’s Ambedkar Stadium against teams like Bengal and Nagaland was experience of lifetime. Somehow, due to excessive pressure of studies during my senior secondary days and certain other domestic engagements, I stopped going to ground regularly. But whenever I use to get chance, I made sure that I visit grounds. My craving for workout shifted from sweating in grounds to burning calories in morning jogs. I love the smell of green grass and watching the vast blue skies after getting totally enervated after a good morning work out and that still keeps me ticking.

I got admission into an engineering college, shifted to a new city and football again entered my life but the level of game was much lower than what was there at my home grounds. Besides that soccer games were not regular phenomenon in engineering college. So my focus shifted more to morning work-out. Chandigarh offers a lot of places where you can do that. But nothing beat the experience of watching sunrise on banks of Lake Sukhna while listening to Sitaar. Leisure valley was another very good location for work outs. In second year I met with a road accident and suffered medial meniscus tear in my left leg. Doctor advised me to take rest for sometime and avoid strenuous activities. Jogging was out of question for 3 months till I recovered. After 3 months first run that I did was a 10k run. I was last among 6 people who finished it but I was happy that I can at least run without any problem. Playing soccer was difficult with knee injury but still I managed to play for my college consecutively for 4 yr. I love soccer so much that on every valentine’s day -I use to make sure that I play football.

College got over. I joined job and was lucky enough to get a 5 month paid holiday whom my employers referred as training. It offered a chance to play different sports at a splendid location on the banks of lake Khadagwasla in Pune. My soul still clanged to soccer till the time my knee got injured again and left me limping. I took up squash-another sport that took my breath away. I use to play it all alone in the courts for hours. In few days, I became quite good at it. But the honeymoon period of training ended and I was placed in Pune city where there were no grounds or squash courts. Only badminton courts were available but it never appealed me that much. Thanks to hills of Pashan region- I ended up jogging in evening as well as in morning at that splendid beautiful location listening to the chirping of birds. There were occasional tryst with my first love (Soccer) when I played for my office and then again for west Zone of my department.

Times changed and I again decided to go back to college for post graduation. Got a chance to play soccer. For nearly one year I played without any complication till one day my knee started giving me trouble once again. I tried to play soccer after recovery but discovered that my body is not able to take it any more. Sadly I had to say good bye to my favourite sport.

The passion for soccer got metamorphized into passion for running under the pressure of knee injury. I shifted to a number of locations where I searched for locations for jogging. KBR Garden in Hyderabad, Shanti Stupa in Wardha, Mayawati ashram in Champawat and Lodi garden in New Delhi are few of beautiful discoveries I made in the pursuit of running.

My madness is shaping up in desire for running half marathon these days. Lets see what the future holds?

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Crash Boom Bang

After finishing Mawana half marathon in less than 100 minutes, I had a discussion with my running buddy- Sandeep Srivastava and he suggested me to focus on training and later go for a under 90 minutes half or for a 3:45 full marathon. So I decided to concentrate on training without paying much attention to the events being organized all around.

March had a perfect weather for running – neither too hot nor too cold and I logged more than 90 miles with an average pace of less than 9 miles per hour and a climb of more than 4000 ft. It was also a month when I could hear news about running events being organized all around. To resist participating in running events and concentrating on training is like saying no to your favorite food when hunger pangs are troubling you the most. Few of my other running buddies participated in a HM which I shunned with a heavy heart in order to concentrate on training. And then another event popped up – a night marathon to be organized in Gurgaon. I knew that I was not prepared enough to achieve my HM/FM targets. I saw that there was a 10k run in that event. I decided to take a break from long runs and go for a shorter faster midnight run. I took it as a training run and testing my body for faster runs in major events.

A week before the run I started concentrating more on stretching and went for short runs of 3-5 km. On 6th April which was the race day- I did 3 km in the morning along with good stretching. I finished my office came back home a bit early, had a short power nap of around 30 minutes and got ready for my first timed 10k. I made sure that I keep myself hydrated throughout the day and kept on having water at regular intervals.

When I reached near holding area, there were very few persons. I collected my bib and started observing fellow runners. Some were stretching while some were busy sipping energy gels or getting themselves clicked. Some of them were pestered by their children with all sort of demands. There was some delay in the start and the race started at 10:00pm instead of 9:30pm which was the scheduled time for start.

With all the training that I had done and through my previous running experience I was confident that I can run 10K with a decent speed so I decided to shun the timing device and follow my instincts by trying to run as fast as possible. I got a lead right in the beginning under the street light and then I entered a darker patch where nothing was visible which slowed me a bit. Certain things that were mentioned on the event website were present while others were missing. The race supposed to be on a moon lit night on traffic free gurgaon roads but moon was conspicuous by its absence and thank god there was traffic. Head-light of moving vehicles showed the way to runners on the otherwise darker roads. At around 2 km mark I met Rahul Verghese: Man who has played a catalytic role in popularizing long distance running in India especially NCR region. Never though that I’ll meet him first time on a run in this manner. I slowed down a bit, greeted him and had some chat with him. There were some runners who overtook me during this time. I bade good bye to Rahul and picked up the pace again. I overtook the runners shortly except for one white fellow who if I am not wrong was Shaun Mills. Running in evening was difficult in comparison to running in morning. I could feel some pain in my stomach but that eased out as the race progressed. There were water stations at regular intervals but I generally do not hydrate while running and thus did not took advantage of any of them. At around 5 km mark Arun Kumar (he was winner of 10K run) overtook me asking if there is anyone else ahead of me. At around 6 km there was a u-turn. At the u-turn I looked back and was not able to see anyone which meant that I was much ahead of other fellows. Neither I was able to see Arun. That is one disadvantage of night running- you are not able to see runner moving ahead of you, hook on to them to pick up your pace. So I kept running without trying to change my pace. Time passed by and I reached finish line where my wife hugged me and told me that I was second. I congratulated Arun who took just 37 minutes to finish 10k. I sat down and did a bit of stretching- gulped two three bottles of water, had some bananas. The organizers calculated my time and my wife told me that its 42 minutes.

Just like my first half and full marathon – a 10k become a memorable, unlogged run where I kept guessing my finish time at the finish line. I am still waiting for the timing certificate to make me believe – ‘Yesssss! I did it’.

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