Pan-demonic Mawana

March 7, 2013

I was totally deluged in feel-good factor after finishing SCMM-13. Although my heart was jubilant but body was in a different state altogether. It seemed as if a demon has sucked all my energy. Some tough unavoidable long journeys immediately after the race made things even worse off.

After coming to my base location (Delhi) I tried to get ready for my next run which was Mawana Sugars Indian Open Marathon. I had registered for a full marathon. Preparation started with recovery walk adjactly after one week of SCMM. Next day I tried to go for a short run. I was able to do just over 2 miles in more than 22 minutes. I tried hard to regain my speed I lost at the 25km mark in SCMM but was never able to run below 9 minutes/mile till 9th Feb. One thing was pretty clear that I was not in a shape to run a full Marathon. So on advice of my ‘Gurudev’ Sandeep Srivastava I registered for a half. Although I was thinking about a sub 1:40 finish when I registered but later had no hopes and just aimed at finishing it without any expectations. I was not running much and running faster during those sporadic runs was out of question.

The D-day was approaching much faster almost inversely proportional to my running speed.  Even the valentine’s day passed without any run. In good old days, I was so much in love with soccer that I use to ensure playing soccer on that V-day. Rains in February even made the situation worse since I don’t run on treadmills.

Finally on 16th of Feb, day arrived for bib collection. With aim of collecting the bib early in the morning I reached Major DyanChand stadium at India Gate. There was a large space with number of stalls distributing bibs for different series. On a couple of them there were few big queues. I went to the stall where my chest number was supposedly available. I came to know that I have to initially deposit the fee and then only I can collect my bib. Those big queues were for depositing cash. With the kind of chaos in there, I was seeming almost impossible to deposit the money. Organizers were never expecting such a huge turnout because of their previous experiences. Somehow few new ad hoc money collection points were created but line crashers made the things even worse. Drizzling was icing on the cake in that open space. Collection of bib was another marathon in my half marathon. Somehow after a struggle of a little more than 2 hours I was able to get my Chest number- 3560.

The next morning I boarded a metro and reached catchment arena in time. There was a sea of people. All sort of people in all sort of attires. I even saw something I have never seen before- ‘a person in formals and aviators donning a bib number at the start line’. The moment arrived and the race started. The track was familiar but was full of people. Normally I am able to overtake crowd after 5kms of run but the case was different in this race. I was running a long distance almost after SCMM. During first 3 miles I was having all  sort of twisting and churning in my stomach but the situation ameliorated after 5 miles mark. I noticed that I was running at a decent pace- may be there was some diffusion of energy from those young tall boys on the track which I was able to capture. Somehow I was able to finish one loop comfortably and was going strong in the second loop. I thought about finishing the race in the time I target earlier- a sub 1:40 which seemed quite possible. This time I was running with GPS device so that I can take care about timings and distance. I arrived at Rajpath. I was able to see India gate which assured me that I will be able to do it. But later I realized that I am having a sort of mirage effect with India gate drifting farther and farther. Time was running short. I gathered all my energies and went for a sprint in the last 100 mtr (at least it seem so to me at that moment of time). I crossed the finish line and noticed my timing. My device was showing 1:39:53. So I was almost on the edge. It was a great feeling to achieve a target which I was not expecting. I later noticed from my running log that I was running at a pace of 5.38 minutes/mile near finish line.

Although I had good idea about my finish timing but still wanted to endorse it with official results. After a long gap of 15 days they were declared and I bettered my finish timings by 4 second.

Unlike SCMM or ADHM it was a different sort of run. I was dominated by youngsters and faster runners. People run this race for getting jobs also- so for some people it was a race for bread and butter. Considering the importance associated with the event the organizers should consider doing away with loop on loop track or else consider placing mats at all U-turns.

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Good Things Take Miles

January 22, 2013

I was standing taking support of a dustbin place nearby when a person asked me “Which part of your body is aching?” I smiled wryly and the smile answered his question- My whole body was in pain, where should I point out? This is how I define the experience of finishing a marathon: Pangs in your stomach and cramps in your leg muscles, all swill down when you cross that finish line and all that suffering is shrouded by joy of achieving the feat of crossing a long distance of more than 42 kilometers.

I call is a great learning experience because now I know what all phenomenon you feel inside when you go to such extremes. I read a lot about hitting the wall at around 30km after exhausting glycogen reserves and other problems faced by long distance runners but nothing comes closer to actually facing the phenomenon. This makes Marathon and a half Marathon a totally different game altogether.

I had run my first half marathon in September 2012. The plan that I followed for that was just to follow my instincts without looking at any clock or timing device and that worked well for me. So I used the same plan for my full marathon as well. This time my instincts were too animal and I was averaging less than 5 min/km for first 21 km. I had some water in between and one tetra-pack of energy during during that stretch.  After reaching midway I thought of slowing down and conserving my energy so that I could avoid ‘the wall phenomenon’ in the next half. I was feeling that my legs were getting heavier and there was some sort of churning that was going on inside my abdomen. So slowing down was partly conscious and partly subconscious. I tried to re-energize myself by drinking some more water and some energy drink but they were of no use. As distance was increasing my speed was getting slower. Finally at around 38 km mark my right leg almost jammed. I could feel what cramping during the run is all about. I almost felt that my dream of finishing a marathon is all over. I started walking instead of running and reached a medical station nearby. I had some spray in my hamstring and calves. I came out and tried to run and discovered that I was able to run again. But this time I was quite conservative about speeding up. I just wanted to finish the race. Elite runners from Africa passed by me but I was too enervated to get inspired by them and pick up pace. Slowly I crossed the 40 km mark. I could hear the music at and around the finish line. People were shouting you are almost done – just two km more. I was searching for my wife’s voice in the din thinking that it is something that can again put some energy in my already exhausted body but she was conspicuous by her absence. Somehow I crossed 1000 m, 500 m, 100 m and then put my feet on the mat placed at finish line. Seems like my wife also missed being present in the cheering arena near finish line as my phone started ringing as soon as I finished ‘THE MARATHON’. I was too exhausted to put my hands in pocket to pick up her call. I searched for a seating place in the shade and in the meantime I got 3 missed calls. Finally I found a place in the shade, relaxed a bit and harnessed some energy to call back. On that call she told me that it was almost 4 hours since the race started and thus she thought I would have finished it up as I was aiming at that timing. Well that was a morale booster as well as a warning signal (Think thousand times before telling your expected finish time to your wife).

There are many things that I need to take care of before running my next marathon and couple of them are as follows:

1)      Have at least 2 runs of around 25 to 30 km at your marathon pace. I did one but that was at a slower pace.

2)      It is always better to have a strategy for a marathon than to follow your instincts. You should keep a check on your pace and nutrient and water supply.

No matter how much you read but nothing matches the experience of actually running a marathon.  So decide, prepare and run one.

Experiences of My First Half Marathon

October 4, 2012

‘Behind every successfully man there is a woman’ – Saying seems hackneyed but when you achieve something and you look back, you see an army of people who made sacrifices for your success. There are some who contributes a little more than others and mostly they belong to fairer of the two sexes. I would thank my wife who stood by me and helped me in every possible way to achieve the feat of finishing a half marathon in sub 120 minutes.

 

The experience of finishing Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) was awesome undoubtedly. Warm-up for the half marathon started with a session in Max Hospital, Saket where marathon veterans like Sunita Godara and Tanvir Kazmi shared few of their experiences and important tips. All of were quite helpful. I ignored one of them and suffered. It was- ‘Reach the event venue at least 1 hour before the start of event‘. My figures would have been different if I had taken this advice seriously.

 

I had an inkling that certain roads will be closed but never imagined that whole area around Nehru Stadium (Event Venue) will be totally fortified. I reached near Nehru stadium at around 6:20 am and kept on looking for parking for next couple of minutes. Parking was conspicuous by its absence. At around 6:35, I parked my vehicle in a no-parking area at around 1 km from the stadium and rushed towards the venue. Count down for closing the doors of holding area was going on. When I entered it was in between 4 and 3. I had luck to enter the arena at around 7:55 am, almost 15 minutes after the start of the race.There was a huge crowd of runners in front of me which reminded me of traffic jams on Delhi ring road. I was not running at my natural speed due to congestion on the road.

 

Second advice that I neglected was ‘you should not try anything new on race day’. But this advice got a lower precedence over another one which goes down as- ‘If you miss first water station on the race day that is your first mistake’. So drink some water at each water point’. I normally do not drink water while running. I might be surviving long runs without water because I drink nearly 2 litres of it immediately after getting up in morning. That’s a kind of anomaly that works well for me.

 

On race day I stopped at almost each water point on the route till mid way and realized that I am not very comfortable in taking water during running. So on my way back, I skipped many and felt much better.

I finished a race comfortably clocking 1:49:45. Although I had no experience of such a long timed run but I targeted 1:40. My target is not yet achieved and this will keep me desperately looking forward to the next marathon.Nothing can replace once’s own experience, lessons from other’s experience can just speed up your learning process.

 

I never imagined that an activity like running can attract such huge crowd. It was an awesome crowd. People from all age group from different races- African, Asian, White, Brown- people from all walks of life and from around the globe. Flying ladies and gliding aged runners deserves a standing ovation and so do the ‘pacers’ in the event. I got introduced to this term ‘PACER’ very recently. That’s someone who helps other runners to finish the race in within a particular time. Scintillating musical performances by rock bands, cheerleaders, people standing besides road cheering for runners, superb arrangements for water and other refreshments and not to mention the glimpse of elite runners from different countries- These highlights will stay in my memory forever.