SRT Ultra – 53KM

Race report SRT Ultra: December 2019
RACE CATEGORY: 53km
ELEVATION GAIN: 2300m+
Major Attraction: Had to cross three forts Sinhagad, Rajgad and Torna.

 

Race Flag-Off:

The race started with a huge jaighosh(acclamation) of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj which filled us with enthusiasm and fervor. The top contenders disappeared from my sight in the initial 500m itself and I slowly started coming into the rhythm. My friend, Santhosh had advised me to let go others and run the first half easily. I sticked to the plan.

Climb of Sinhagad: Initial 2.5 km stretch was a tar road which worked as a warm-up for the upcoming challenge, the mighty Sinhagad. In next 2.5 kms we were going to gain 700m of elevation. It was still dark so we had to watch out every step with extra care. This initial climb is very tricky, you are full of energy and excitement, so you want to go as fast as you can which works against you. By the time you reach top, you loose half of your energy and almost all the excitement. Hence I was walking meticulously, neither going too fast nor slowing down too much. By this time I had no idea, how many people were ahead of me. I just kept climbing with smaller steps and reached on the top, where the volunteers along with many regular trekkers were applauding and cheering the runners. I could not stop myself from running here and made few fast steps towards the first aid station which was just 500 m away. At the aid station I filled my water bottle had few dates and started the run again. Few other runners also joined me and it became a pack of 5 runners.

Sinhagad Trails and second Aid station: Next 10 kms were going to be filled with beautiful trails, climbs, slippery downhills along with dangerous passes where you could place only one foot at a time. Many a times it happened that the pack moved ahead and I lagged behind but without panicking, I sticked to the plan. After almost 7 km of running, the downhill started and we started to pick some pace. By this time 2 runners from 25 km category had crossed us. Now the trails had ended and we were running in plain fields which soon led us to the tar road. I took some lead from the pack and reached the second aid station at 15km mark. Before reaching the aid station I over took one more runner from 53km category. At the aid station, the volunteers told me that 6 runner were ahead of me. I took my time to fill water, eat dates, lick a little salt and stretch a bit. Before I could start again, 3 runners came and went.

Sinhagad Fort view from SRT Ultra

Reaching foothills of Rajgad: After stretching, I too started and soon overtook all three. Next 10 km stretch was a pure road run till the half way mark, 25th km. After a while I saw one guy, some 500 m ahead of me. He was from the 25 km category. At 20th km mark I caught up with him and we ran together for some time. I came to know that he was a national level athlete and had amazing 5k, 10k and 21k timings, which I could only dream of achieving some day. But that was long back, now a days he gives training and it was his first ever hill run. He gave me few advice for the remaining distance, post which I continued towards the next aid station. I was wearing my trail running shoes which made it a little difficult to run on the tar road, but I had no other option. 

Soon I reached the half km mark, my watch showed 2 hrs and 45 mins which was 20 mins faster than my previous year’s time, when I participated in 25 km category. So it was a confidence booster for me. The good thing was, I was feeling fresh and confident. Again I took my time and stretched a bit, refilled my bottles, filled dates in my pocket, took the Red Bull I had placed in my drop bag and started the run again.

Till this point, I sticked to my hydration plan as well, I drank a little water in every 30mins along with a sip of rice water(maandh). Had a little salt at aid stations, few dates and a bite of chocolate.

Climb of Rajgad: From this aid station started the ascent of Rajgad fort. By this time the sun had come up and was doing what it does best. Running uphill was not an option, it was only fast climbing with short steps. I was at the 5th position and couldn’t see anyone following me, I thought I had gained a good lead. The last part of the never ending climb had railings and it was a very narrow path which was already covered by the trekkers and it was getting difficult to move fast there. Finally I climbed last few stairs and volunteers started cheering along with other people who were gathered there. I poured some cold water on my head, filled my water bottle and continued. 

The wrong turn: From this point, I tried to further increase the lead but a wrong turn was waiting for me. At a junction, instead of taking left, which was going down, I took right, which was going up towards a peak. After reaching at the top I realized that I have come wrong and I was not alone in this, Nupur, who had caught up with me, had also taken the wrong path. This costed us 10-15 min and a lot of energy. Without wasting any other minute we came down from the other way and started running towards a mandatory check point. Marked our chips and started running again. 

Trail to Torna: Nupur and I ran together for a while until the plain trail started. I took the lead here and started running alone. Through out this patch, I took water from many unknown people, few gave me chikki to eat and I even took salt to prevent cramps. Until I reached the next aid station at 33rd km at the Rajgad’s foot, I kept having dates, chocolate and sip of water and Red Bull alternatively at regular intervals. After a 2 mins break at the aid station I started towards the mighty Torna.

Sinhagad Fort view during SRT Ultra 53 KM

Game of cramps: Post 34th km, a funny thing started happening, I started getting cramps in my right thigh. I didn’t know what to do, and still had 18 km to go, so I took a sip of Red Bull and to my surprise in next km the cramp went away. So, it became a thing and I started waiting for the cramp, once I had it again, I continued with it for 500 m, had a sip of Red Bull and continued until I got the cramp again. But soon, this game got over as my Red Bull lasted only till 41st kilometre.

Climb of Torna: The actual climb of Torna started at 38th kilometre and it was brutal. While climbing, many people couldn’t believe that we had started our race from the base of Sinhagad Fort. They couldn’t digest the fact that people are running 53 kilometre run here. One person got so shocked after hearing that I am a software engineer that he told many other that see engineers are running a race.

 

Climbing Torna during SRT Ultra
Climbing Torna

 I remember one thing vividly and I will remember it always, while climbing one of the hardest patches along the route I groaned in pain “are saala kya hai yeee” and the guy standing at the top replied “ye Torna hai bhai Torna” in a tone that suggested that it will break your body and it surely did.

By the time I reached at the top of the last fort, I had run out of my precious Red Bull and chocolates and I didn’t have anything to cure the ever increasing cramps which, by the way, had attacked my other leg too and had spread in calves as well. Only good thing was, it was complete down hill from here till the finish line but it was not at all a reason to be happy, because the downhill was tricky too. Stairs were big, which reached up-to the knees, small rocks were there and to make things even worse, mud made it too slippery to even walk fast.

After suffering for another 2 km I reached the last aid station at around 43rd km. Filled my bottles with electrolyte and water, took few dates and few slices of orange and started the battle with the technical downhill which ended at 48th km and the last patch of tar road started.

Coming down from Torna during SRT Ultra
Coming down from Torna

The mind game: I had made a target of seven and half hours to finish the race and I had exactly 35 minutes in hand. The target looked simple but with every step I was losing energy and motivation to continue. To make things even worse, at 49th kilometre I asked one volunteer, that how many kilometres were remaining and he replied, 7 kilometre. I was like whattttttt are you sure it is not four kilometres, but he was so confident that I started doubting my watch and realized that 7:30 hours is not possible. After walking and running for around 500 m I saw one more volunteer sitting at a turn and asked him to confirm whether it is 7 kilometres or 4 kilometre. He too, confidently said, it is around six and half kilometre. It was like the last nail in the coffin and I lost all my confidence and motivation to run, I started walking and cursing my watch that it showed be wrong data. After covering another 1 kilometre I saw one of the organizers himself and he gave me a hug and asked how I was doing, instead of answering him I asked him, is it around 5 kilometres from here. He smiled and said, no buddy, its around 3 kilometres only. His words worked as elixir for me, I quickly checked my watch and I still had 18 minutes to cover those 3 kilometres. I gathered all my leftover energy, convinced myself that it’s only a pace of 6, I can do this and started running. 

The last km: In the last kilometre, few village children joined me and started asking me so many questions but I couldn’t answer any of them. Meanwhile I saw few participants, who had finished earlier, coming from the opposite side and asked them pointing finger at them “bhai please Sahi Sahi batana Kitna bacha hai”. He, being a runner, said 850m. No matter how tired you are, you’ll always get pumped up in the last km, I too got that adrenaline rush, which increased my pace and I crossed the finish line running as hard as I could and finished at 4th place (Yeah, I had crossed the 4th runner at around 35th km) before 7 hrs and 30 mins.

The pain was finally over, I stretched properly, drank a gallon of water, one Red Bull and took rest. This finish and this whole race experience was as a confidence booster for me, I felt relieved and satisfied. Months of preparation had finally given results.

Post finish medal

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VAGAMON Ultra

Before beginning the post I would like to thanks a very humble soul, Alwyn, for giving us a ride in his car throughout our stay in Vagamon. It made our journey very very comfortable.

Ultra runs are fascinating, they take us through the paths that are less traveled and places that are less explored. Every Ultra Running event has something different to offer.
Vagamon Ultra too offered us a completely different experience in terms of route, scenery, views, miseries, pain, cramps and few good pics too. Not only the race but the night before the race was unforgiving. We had put our tent along with many others and we were welcomed with heavy winds and chilling temperature. It is advisable to get proper sleep before the event but Pawan Devta (Lord of wind) made sure that we don’t get it. We battled with the wind and cold throughout the night. In our group, YOgendra (Yogi) and Santhosh were doing 90k, so they had to leave early. And we kids, who were doing 60k “only” could sleep for another one hour.

Soon the time came and we all lined up to start our longest run to date. To get the feel of the starting line, just imagine yourself standing in Shimla or any other hill station in the morning, wearing shorts and a t-shirt with the fast blowing wind taking the tour of your whole body. The only refreshing thing was the sun that was rising slowly and making the sky colorful and beautiful beyond imagination.
Generally, I run without any company but this time Jagdish and I had decided to run the whole race together. Many of my previous company’s friends and I started in a group, cheering each other and taking video. Within 2kms group scattered and Jagdish and I started running together behind six runners. Because of the cold winds, it took our body around 5 kilometers to get warmed up. After which we started running freely without forcing ourselves.

Starting Point of Vagamon Ultra
Race Flag-off

Right from the beginning, the view of tea estate was beautiful, the smell of morning along with the tea leaves was refreshing. We had already made a strategy that we’ll be taking a break at every aid station, not very long though, to hydrate ourselves and we followed it till the end (only thing is, in the end, it had become more of a necessity than strategy).

Tea Estate of Vagamon

It didn’t take us long to leave the tea estate and enter into the farmlands with lakes and fields covered with lush green grass and before we knew we were climbing a high mountain to reach “The Suicide Point”. 

Lake
Lake View

To give us the proper feel of it, the route was kept pretty near to the deep valley. I realized, that many suicide lovers would have changed their minds after seeing the view from there but the cruel wind would have pushed them anyway. Yes, the wind was this heavy and we had to hold our bibs with one hand while running past that stretch. 

Suicide Point

Apart from this dangerous yet beautiful place we ran through the rocky path, climbed a few boulders crawled through some slippery downhills, found our way through high bushes and avoided few dogs as well. Soon we were running behind only one runner and while maintaining a good pace we entered the pine tree forest. 

Pine Forest during Vagamon Ultra
Pine Forest

Like every other event here also, we met our beloved guruji, Yogi. We took a selfie and his blessings and continued till the first rest area cum food zone at 24km mark.

With Yogi
With Yogi

While we were busy gulping food, 4 runners came and went before we could finish our lavish breakfast. Intimidated by the fact that we will have to run fast to cover up for the lost time here in the rest area, we quickly finished our food and started running. First-person we overtook was a Naval Officer who was full of energy and Josh, he gave both of us a nickname, “Nike Warriors”, as we both were wearing Nike shoes.

It was a continuous uphill which was getting steeper and more difficult with every passing meter. After a few kilometers, we left the tar road and started climbing the mud road full of small rocks, which led us to the trekking area with more and more uphills. We knew that soon this elevation will end and while going down we can cover the lost time. After reaching the top we had a few hundred meters of flat course followed by the much-needed downhill. As we started to run down we began to realize that this downhill is not at all runnable, it was covered by tall grass and the ditches inside it were not visible, we had to take every step very meticulously to avoid a fall. All our plans were flushed down by the grueling downhill. Tallgrass was not the only problem though, to add on to this, it was slippery too which made this course even more dangerous. By the time we reached the bottom of that hill our legs were burning and knees faced the maximum punishment.

We were chasing the 7:30 hrs timeline to finish our run so we had no time to rest hence we continued without taking too many breaks.

Now our next milestone was to reach the rest area at 43rd km mark. Which was still 12 km away and as we were dragging ourselves towards it, we came across an aid station that was managed by three enthusiasts, and it wasn’t a part of official aid stations provided by organizers. They gave us omlete and a special drink made of ginger, lemon and chia seeds. It was refreshing and felt like an elixir. We thanked them and started running again.

Now both of us started to feel heaviness in our legs and we could sense that it is the starting phase of cramps. Jagdish being an experienced person in dealing with cramps didn’t bother much about it but I was getting a little worried. We took lemon water that we were carrying in our hydration packs and continued, but eventually, cramps got our legs and with very little energy left in our body we somehow reached the 43rd km aid station. With each other’s consent and by putting our egos aside we increased our finishing time from 7:30 hours to 8 hours as it was getting more and more difficult to even walk. At this aid station, Jagdish looked surprisingly motivated and ready to run and I was like..let me sleep here for ages. Fortunately, people at this aid station were playing some Punjabi songs which were energy booster. They also provided us some black coffee along with eggs and other stuff to eat, which gave us a little spark of energy.

We checked the time and we had some 1 hour and 45 minutes to finish within 8 hours. Hence started the quest to finish the last section of the run in a challenging time.
We battled with our cramps and motivated each other, to push a little bit more. The funny part was, we were getting cramps alternatively, whenever Jagdish felt even a little bit better, I slowed him down. Whenever I started to run comfortably, I could see Jagdish struggling. It felt as if the cramps are playing with our legs. It started with calf, moved to hamstring, held my thigh and within a minute I was jammed and could not even move. Somehow we continued and stopped only at aid stations, keeping our time in mind. At every aid station, we could see that we were only 7-10 minutes behind the 3rd runner so we were continuously pushing ourselves to get him but couldn’t do it till the end.

When we reached the second last aid station, we had close to 55 mins to finish the last 9 kilometers. Again, Jagdish motivated me and we started our run, with a few ups and downs we reached the last aid station. Now we had 27 minutes to finish the last 5 kilometers. It felt like an impossible task. The guy at the aid station said it is mostly gradual downhill from here on. We both looked at each other, like the heroes do in movies before they go to fight the villain, ate a banana, had an energy drink and said those magic words, “Chal yaar jo hoga dekha jayega” and started our run. 

I would like to flaunt a bit here as we both took off really fast and ran the next two kilometers in less than 9 minutes. Crossed a little stream, climbed few stairs outside a house and before we could start our so self-obsessed “fast run” again, we were hit by a wall. Yes, a wall of the gradual uphill and as we could see it was going long. We still tried to run but our legs had completely given up, our will power to run had completely given up, all we could manage to do was to walk and finish. And with this, our target of finishing under 8 hours became a distant dream. Now the only thing left to achieve was, finishing the race. 

So we started walking slowly like lost men in a big desert as the road looked never-ending. We got into a discussion of how Suresh was able to run so fast even after getting his ankle twisted, what kind of food does Santhosh eat and how do these Bangalore people train. Then we moved to cloud computing and how we don’t have any future in SAP. Again, how does Yogi keep himself motivated in such long distances? Where did we mess up in our training, how much more mileage was needed. Meanwhile, shoes were tightening their grip and squeezing my feet. Suddenly we realized that we had been walking for at least 25 mins and hadn’t reached the finish point. We feared losing our route, but fortunately, we were guided by local kids that the finishing point is nearby and later two guys from organizing committee, who were going on a bike, maybe to take pictures, also confirmed that we were on the right path. 

After taking the last turn we could see the finishing line in front of us that filled us with joy and we decided to run fast and finish with a sprint. But our cramps had different plans. We tried, but could not run beyond 3-4 steps, so we walked a little fast and crossed the line together making it a Bhai Bhai moment. Received our medal, a drink of 7up and lots of congratulations. We finished the run in 8:25:35 hours.

Last part of Vagamon Ultra
Last few steps
Finishing Vagamon Ultra
Finishing Line

Every time I finish any race, all the pain that I feel during the race disappears and feeling of happiness and satisfaction overtakes it. I will always remember this race for the pain it gave, for the teachings I got from it. It was an ego buster run for me and taught me that ultra running is no game, it is a real sport that is not meant for under-trained kids.

We need to improve a lot, need to train a lot for the upcoming races. Each and every word about pain, cramps, and struggle I have mentioned here has the sole purpose of explaining the changes our body goes through and thoughts we get during the whole run, and not to brag anything about myself. I hope I had conveyed it properly.
Keep running and #beyourbestversion

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Sinhagad Epic Trail Run

Race Report: Sinhagad Epic Trail Run

This was my first competitive event since the Vagamon ultrail in January. I participated in the 22km category, which had an elevation of 1200+ m, and emerged as a winner taking 2:56:17 hrs of time.

Our race started at 6:05 AM, 5 mins after the 42km flag off. Initial 1 km was a concrete road, which worked as a warm-up for the upcoming hill, the famous Trek of Sinhagad. The next two kilometers were pure trekking with 400m of elevation. Upon reaching the top I got along with two 42km runners and we started running together on the downhill until we hit the next hill, “The W”, full of greenery, mud, and water. Uphill running was fine but downhill wasn’t that much fun because the water had made the ground very slippery. While we three were putting every step very carefully, holding trees, bushes and whatever we could find, a girl came from behind and went really fast on that downhill, just like the water flows. She was so smooth as if she was not even placing foot on the ground. After crossing the last downhill of W, we hit the plain farming fields. The next few kilometers were easily runnable and I tried to cover the lost time here.
The next obstacle in the path was the marshy land full of water, mud, plants, and whatnot, it reminded me of my childhood days when I along with my cousins used to run barefoot in this kind place. And that’s what I did this time too. I removed my shoes and socks and crossed that field barefoot. That was fun!!

After crossing that part, I put on my shoes again and started running. The next one kilometre was a concrete road followed by another section of trail and small hills. Here I could maintain a steady pace and run comfortably. I was aware that after a few more kilometres I have to climb the Sinhagad again, so I didn’t want to push too much and lose energy. By this time I had started thinking that I am in the first place until I saw one more runner (Saurav) ahead of me. I increased my pace a bit and watched his bib number carefully, he was from my category and running strong. I knew that there is still fun left in this race. From here on we both ran almost together.

Soon we hit the road again and I started taking the lead slowly. I continued to build that gap until I reached a junction and couldn’t decide which way to go, luckily I started running in the right direction and reached the water station. The volunteers guided me for the next section which was the last uphill of the race, the trek of Sinhagad from the other side of it.


Meanwhile, Saurav also caught up with me and we both started climbing together. Pace had dropped and energy was going down exponentially. When I looked up to check how much climb was still remaining, I noticed two local people, man, and woman, climbing up with a huge bucket of fruits on their heads. I was like…whaaatttt!!!!
I got filled with energy and started climbing a bit faster. We were getting close to the top and the last aid station of the race. But before we could reach there, we had to climb the giant steps. Ohhhhhh…those steps were killers, even the encouragement of the volunteers there, could not encourage me to move faster. I had noticed that Saurav was also getting tired and as it was his first hill run, I speculated that upon reaching the top he would be more tired than I was. We reached the last aid station together and to my surprise that guy started running like anything. I took my time, started running slowly and built my pace gradually until I caught him and the game was on.

By this time the crowd had increased, we had to shout to ask for the way and before we knew we reached the point where we had to start descending from Sinhagad.
Here again, Saurav took the lead and soon disappeared from my sight. I could not see him for the next 100-200 m but was not ready to let it go. I further increased my pace and caught him drifting down the uphill. We ran neck to neck for some time and I overtook him eventually. After coming down, the last stretch of 1km was left, where I could run freely. I kept increasing my pace and crossed the finish line as a winner of my category.

I was happy with the result but there is a lot of room for improvement. When the winner of the 42 km category arrived, I realized how slow I had run my race.
But to an extent, it is a good thing, if we don’t see someone better than us, we might not push harder. Had Saurav not run faster I would not have pushed myself.
This race and other runners made me realize, where I lag and where I need to focus more.

In the end, I congratulate all the fellow runners, especially those who experienced this kind of terrain for the first time, for pushing their limits and finishing one of the toughest races.

Congratulations to the organizers and volunteers for giving continuous support and encouragement even in the heavy rains.

Sinhagad Epic Trail

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Running Injuries: Prevention and Cure – Part 1

Running Injuries: Prevention and Cure – Part 1

Back in 2018, when I joined a new organization and my colleagues came to know that I am a runner. After asking about my running journey the unavoidable topic came up and the whole focus shifted from running to running injuries. I have had this kind of conversation before as well and one thing that I have noticed every time is, people, especially those who do not run, completely overlook the innumerable benefits of running and focus only on few injuries, which, as a matter of fact, can be prevented and cured.

The most common injuries that make it to the top of the list are shin splints, calf pain, knee pain, muscle soreness, stomach ache, ankle pain, etc. In general, they complain about having pain in every joint and every muscle. While all of this is actually true but these can easily be prevented by adopting the correct approach.

I’ll be dividing this article into two parts so that it doesn’t get boring and people do not declare it useless without even reading, just like running.

This one is going to cover the prevention part of almost all the injuries that one might experience.

There are two kinds of people, one, who is a little active, they do some physical activity in form of any sport, walking, yoga, etc and second, who do not get time to do any of these due to personal and professional commitments. But there comes a day when the latter decides to break the routine and become healthy and more often than not they turn towards Running. They buy running gear, get up in the morning, go out, run, pant, get tired, come back and sleep. More often than not people stop their fitness journey then and there and curse Running for giving them pain. If they are a little motivated, they will bear the pain and continue the same routine for 5 days and then say goodbye to Running. By doing so, they close the door of a whole new world, which can offer them a fit and healthy life along with the company of amazing people.

Prevention from these injuries is only possible if we know what is the reason behind the pain. It is not “Running”, but the sudden unrest in the muscles and joints which were in hibernation for several years.

Our body has become used to being in a comfortable position, in our homes as well as in offices and when we break this comfortable position by doing a little intense physical activity, it creates pain. One thing worth noting here is, a little pain will always be there in our muscles when we ask them to do something different than their daily job (My butt still pains when I do jumping squats).

Below are a few points which will be helpful, the next time you plan to take up running.
 

1) STRETCH PROPERLY: No, this stretching doesn’t mean stretching your legs in L position like Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. It means just waking your body muscles up from the slumber. Start with your neck and go all the way down to your toes. A proper sequence can be (aka pre-run workout):

 a) Neck rotation
 b) Shoulder rotation
 c) Wrist rotation
 d) Back Twist (left and right)
 e) Hip rotation
 f) Knee hugs and hip cradle
 g) Lateral hip movement
 h) Calf raises
 i) Ankle rotation
 
It might look like a long list but it won’t take more than 5-7 minutes and your body will be ready for an easy run. It is advisable to do dynamic stretches like mentioned above before you go for a run. It will give the much-needed heat to your muscles so that they can move freely.
 
2) LAND ON BALL OF THE FOOT, NOT ON HEEL: Because of our habit of walking, where we place our heel first on the ground and then the rest of the foot, we tend to run like that too, which is the major cause of knee pain, because the impact of that hit goes straight up to the knee. It’s a lot easier to correct this thing in the beginning than in the later stage.
Running drills can help you with this, like Penguin jumps, and A-skips etc.
 

3) START SLOW AND BUILD THE ENDURANCE: Start with slow runs, make your body used to short distances and once you become comfortable with it, then slowly introduce it to long distances. The initial focus must be on building endurance and stamina. Speed and strength can be gained later anytime. We have a lifetime for that (recently Gene Dykes, a 70-year-old man ran a marathon in 2:54:23).

4) HYDRATE YOURSELF WELL: Remember, “Runners don’t “drink” water, they hydrate themselves”. It includes drinking lots and lots of normal water, lemon water, water with honey. Symptoms of not hydrating yourself well include stomach ache during the run, muscle soreness, cramps (these can also happen when you try to run faster than the pace that your body can allow).

5) DEDICATE ONE DAY TO STRENGTHENING: Strengthening includes doing power exercises that can either be the only bodyweight or with weights that we use in the gym. Typical bodyweight workout may include the following:
 a) Pushups (Normal, Hindu, Wrestler, Diamond)
 b) Pull-ups (Close grip, wide grip)
 c) Squats (Normal, Sumo, Half, Jumping)
 d) Lunges (Forward, Reverse, Walking, Cross, Jumping)
 e) Burpees (Full, Half)
 f) Plank hold
 g) Core Workout
 
However if you are planning to use weights then remember, we are training our muscles to withstand fatigue not to lift heavyweights. So it is advisable to train with lighter weights.
 

6) TAKE PROPER REST: Here we are talking about two kinds of rests. One is taking proper sleep every day and the other is taking one day off running. Sleep is the most underestimated thing. In order to achieve what we want, the first thing we sacrifice is sleep (Probably by watching those motivational videos or movies where the guy wakes up at 4 in the morning and goes for a run, what they don’t show is, the guy is clever, he goes to bed at 9 itself in the night or max at 9:30). So please don’t be too motivated and sacrifice your sleep, take at least 7 hours of sleep every day. Coming to the second type of rest, take one whole day off, no running, no workout. Our body needs time to recover from the daily routine, give it some time.

7) INCLUDE CROSS-TRAINING: The best way to cross-train is by practicing some other sport. It can be swimming(the best), cycling, football, volleyball, kabaddi, badminton or even cricket, it can be any other sport. It will not only break the monotonous daily routine but will also engage those muscles which go untouched during running.

So next time you plan to give up on Running, please give it a second thought and try these preventive measures. Running has a lot to offer, just give it some time and your body will bloom.

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RUNNING THE FIRST MARATHON

MARATHON, a word that amazes those who have never thought of running it, fantasizes those who are into long-distance running and wish to do it someday and, gives a sense of satisfaction to those who have mapped this distance on their feet.

A marathon is a long distance, it is a journey that your body, mind, and soul travel together. It is the true test of an individual’s endurance and willpower. Your body goes through various different phases and once you cross the finish line, you realize that your body is capable of doing much more than you think it is.

Running your first marathon is an out of the ordinary feeling. To me, it was like clearing the exam for which I had been preparing for a long time. I still remember when I first decided that I will run a marathon someday. It was 2 years back, that time I had not even started running 5KM and my first 10KM felt like I had achieved something humongous. While these distances, 10K, 15K and 20K can be done with few months of training, but a Marathon requires more than just training. It requires discipline, it requires dedication and courage to attempt it, because the real game starts after 30KM and training for the last 12km requires much more efforts than the efforts required for initial 30KM. It will always look impossible until you decide and do it. In the words of Eliud Kipchoge, “No human is limited. With a strong heart and good mind, you can do it”.

Basic Training Approach:

Training for a Marathon is a life-changing process. It is not something that will happen like a flash, it will take time but the result would be worthy of all your efforts. While preparing your mind to go for a marathon is one part of training and preparing your body for it is another equally important part. Although a strong willpower can do anything it would be even better if you can render a helping hand to your willpower by keeping your body fit and strong. To prepare our body, we need proper food and physical training.

While one may train under a coach as well, but if in case that is not feasible for you, because of your daily life commitments, that cannot stop you from running your dream distance unless and until you keep your foundation strong and follow the golden rule “One step at a time”. Foundation for a marathon is the small distance run with which one must start. Our body is like a growing baby, if you expect a baby to learn difficult words and make beautiful sentences without even giving him the knowledge of alphabets, you know what the result would be. Similarly, until and unless you make short distance runs your muscle memory, your foundation would not be strong.

Below are a few points that I experienced and learned from fellow runners in my journey of marathon training and which actually helped me in preparing myself for this mammoth distance:

  • Start small: This is the first step of the ladder. Start with the training for 2.5 or 3 KM distance. Make running a habit, get used to it, learn how to synchronize breathing with your steps. Once you are comfortable with this distance, go for 5KM. Add some fun to your running, go for speed runs, slow 7-8 km runs (these would be your long runs). Do not think of too many technicalities, keep it simple.
  • The next step: The next step would be to train for 10 km run. Till now you would have gotten a very good idea about your body, how does it react to pain and how do you recover. Follow the same routine, just increase the distance. Try and go for little longer runs, say 13 to 15 KM.
  • Build the endurance and go long: The best way to build endurance is to run one or two kilometers extra once your body starts to get tired. Add strengthening workouts, mix them with fast and short distance runs. Try some different schedules for one or two weeks. For example, try running 10 KM daily for 5 days, or mix interval runs and speed-running sessions. These sessions will help you build your endurance which is needed for your first Half Marathon.
  • Make slow long runs a habit: Make a routine of going for one long run in a week, with long, I mean 25KM and more. Do not bother about the time, just run to see how much your body can take, slowly increase the distance. Ideally, you must increase 10% distance every week. You may go for more than that as well if your body permits. Throughout the week, keep doing speed runs and strengthening as well. Stick to the plan and within a year you will be a Marathon Runner.

Importance of Nutrition:

Till now we talked about physical training and how should we approach a Marathon distance. The other equally important part of Marathon training is, how do we fuel ourselves to keep our body up and running. What are some important things we should keep in mind while taking the diet?

While there are many fancy kinds of stuff related to the balanced diet. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber-rich food and whatnot. It’s not that these things are not relevant, but it is also not an obligation to focus too much on the mathematics that how much of what should I eat in the morning and in the evening(Of course unless and until you are training to participate in world championships or Olympics, in that case, you would be having a dedicated dietician). To be honest I never bothered about taking all these things into account. All I did was, ate simple food. Right from my childhood, I have been eating chapati, daal, vegetables, and rice. My body is used to these things, so I did not change the basic fuel of my body. I firmly believe that one should not force their body to adapt to completely different food, other than what they have been having throughout their lives. But there are few changes that have to be made, and those are:

  • Cut the oily or fried stuff: If you can not completely stop eating junk food, at least try to minimize its intake, your body will lose a lot of energy in burning that oil. To kill your craving for fried food, you can enjoy homemade vadaas.
  • Have mercy on your lungs and stop smoking: Nothing affects your performance and stamina more than a cigarette.  Unless and until you want to be an ultra-legend like some of my friends, you must stop or at least minimize your smoking.
  • Eat seasonal vegetables and fruits: Eat those fruits and vegetables that nature is providing and are available as per the season, do not rush for those that are not available but some article says that you must eat this particular fruit.
  • Drink water: The single most important drink for your training is the combination of hydrogen and oxygen. Drink as much water in a day as you can, no matter how many times you have to visit the restroom. Your training will squeeze water along with the salt, out of your body very quickly in the form of sweat, you must fill the water tank and keep it ready. To make it even better, include lime water as well to keep the salt level in check.

These are the few basic and necessary steps that any Marathon aspirant must take to train for it. Marathon or running, in general, will give you the best version of yourself. It will give you more than just health, it will make you a strong person both physically and mentally, it will give you self-confidence and most importantly it will give you the company of many good people whom you will meet during your training. It will make you a disciplined person and as per a saying, that one of my friends told me, Marathon makes you humble. It is actually logical because after covering that distance you will not have any energy left to show any kind of aggression.

Marathon is a journey, not only distance-wise but also personality-wise, the training for a marathon will change you as a person, which only you would understand when you will compare your present self with the one who started the training one year back. You will always cherish each and every step you take to finish your first Dream Distance, just like I did.

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10*10: A perfect base for building endurance

10*10: A perfect base for building endurance

“Oye tu 10*10 kyu nahi try karta” (Why don’t you try 10*10), said the guy, Jagdish,  standing next to me in the left picture below and before I could respond to him, most likely by saying “Paagal hai kya bhai” (Are you mad bro?), another friend of mine supported him and added, “yeah it would be fun Yash”. This guy is an ultra runner and his definition of “Fun” is totally different from mine. We fondly call him “Guru Ji”

But, since I was running almost 45 to 50 KM per week, varying my distance and pace daily, doing some strengthening in between my runs and taking proper rest, this idea did not seem to be that bad and I decided to go for it.

First two days were good and I felt strong and fresh after the run. Since it didn’t feel that difficult, I decided to put on ankle weights and run and that is what I did on day three. The pace was slower than the first two days, but it was something new, so the third day also went well. 

But the morning of day four was not at all friendly. The first thought that came to my mind was, “I am going to run the same distance, on the exact same path again, and not only today but for the next seven days. Could it be any more boring?”. But, since my reputation was at stake I got up and went out for the run. Throughout the run, I was trying to divert my mind by thinking about all the possible irrelevant things in the world. Apparently, that was not enough, because after running out of all the thoughts, I realized that there are still 3 more kilometers to go. So I cursed both of my friends and somehow finished the run. Day five was even worse, I was reluctant to go out and for the first time in these five days, I felt tired before the run itself. But as it was a daily routine so I started throwing my legs forward one after the other on the road and finished the run.

To my surprise, day six was refreshing and there was no feeling of reluctance, rather I was excited to go out and start the run. The same route that was killing me with boredom, had filled me with elation. Since I was running on that route from past 5 days, so I had marked the milestones for every Kilometer, in my mind and every time I used to run past that point, I used to check the distance in my app and feel very proud of myself and this tiny little skill of remembering that milestone. After finishing that day, I decided to run in the evening for the next four days.

On day seven, I ran on the same path for the last time and last three days I ran in my office. I asked my crazy ultra runner friend to give me the company for the next 3 days. Since this thing is “Fun” for him, he happily signed the agreement. The last three days were the best in this challenge. Not only because I had company, but also because my body had been adapted to this distance now and I did not have to divert my mind by thinking about futile things; rather I focused on my breathing and posture. On the last day, I ran freely at a very good pace and finished this challenge with a strong 500m sprint.

There were many important takeaways from this challenge:

1)      This is the best workout to build up your endurance.

2)      This is the best way to reduce body fat.

3)      Nothing can beat this workout in reducing weight.

4)      Since your whole body is engaged in it, it is the best way to tone your muscles.

5)      Best way to set up a firm base for your half marathon.

6)      It gives you a sense of distance, time and speed. Believe it or not, after running daily your mind will automatically start guessing your distance and current pace, even if you are going to the nearest grocery store from your home.

Since there is a lot of effort involved in it and you do a lot of physical work, you need a proper recovery, which not only involves the sleep but also the pre and post-run workout and your nutrition.

As far as sleep is considered, I was sleeping for 6.5 to 7 hours daily with few power naps on my desk.

Pre and Post-run workouts are not only helpful but necessary too. After a long run, your whole body becomes stiff, especially legs, they become heavy. 

Because of the continuous running for almost 50 minutes, the circulation of blood to our upper body gets reduced. We hit the ground with every stride and it is our joints that bear the maximum punishment. 

So we need to do something to reverse this impact and that is why we do stretching. It may be static or dynamic, both having their own advantages. Although, experts recommend doing dynamic stretching before the run and static afterward. The main point is that we relax our muscles after all the hardships that they have faced during the run.

We all know the importance of fuel to run a machine. So to make your own machine run smoothly we need proper fuel. 

We can’t fill diesel in a petrol car and expect it to go smoothly. Similarly, we can not keep feeding all kind of junk to the body and expect it to work like Mo Farah’s. A proper nutrition is a must to keep your body moving. 

I used to include dry fruits, milk, dalia, oats and seasonal fruits in my breakfast, home-cooked food for lunch and raw vegetables such as carrot, beetroot, cucumber, tomato, etc. along with dinner. I maintained a good distance from oily stuff and kept a healthy relationship with organic food. An extremely important and most often ignored thing is water. During a run, our body sweats a lot and we lose a lot of water and minerals with that. So I kept myself well hydrated throughout the day and had a glass of lime water with sugar and salt, after the run.

To conclude this experience, I must say that on the last day, I felt it was indeed a great idea to take up this challenge, to test and build my endurance. I take my curse back as well!

 

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