New Delhi Marathon is one the prominent events in India. Participating in it was a great experience and a rewarding one too.
“See this, everyone is improving except me. Last year they all were at my level and today they are so far ahead of me”. I said to my wife with frustration.
“That’s because they are doing what it takes to reach there, if you want to reach there, work like that” she replied.
“But I don’t have that much time, even if I have for some days, some or the other thing will break the schedule”.
“Then either make time for it or stop crying. If you don’t have time, it’s your problem not theirs. Either do it with 100% effort or don’t do it at all. We have had this conversation enough times now” said my wife.
We have actually had this conversation hundreds of times. Except for this time, I decided to go all in.
I love trail running more than the road running and want to go big in it. But the place, where I live, doesn’t have access to hills. So the idea of being a trail runner doesn’t sound sensible. I already knew, 2022 was going to be busier-than-ever year for me. No way I could train in the hills. So I decided to improve my strength and speed on the road and then use it in trail running. And hence I started my training block in April 2022. At this time the New Delhi Marathon was not in my mind, I was hoping to participate in some trail races at the end of the year.
Keeping speed and strength in mind, I started training for Half Marathon to achieve sub 90 mark. The approach was a little unconventional. Quite the opposite of what Mr Lydiard would suggest. I focused on low mileage and high intensity. Which included circuit training, short sprints, intervals, running specific strength training and no conventional and customary long run in the weekend. This training helped in enhancing the motor unit recruitment. I achieved my 5k and 10k PB in this process before attempting the HM. I even achieved my all time high VO2 max. My body had not only accepted this training but also yielded results for me. Unfortunately though, the event I had selected for my HM trial got postponed and I never got to test my training in a real race.
As I mentioned in the beginning, some or the other thing would come and break the routine. With no specific goal in mind I maintained a decent mileage and intensity for the next one month. After a lot of pondering and discussion with my friend Yogi, I decided to train for the New Delhi Marathon. I gave myself 5 months of time for that.
Before starting, I needed a base, a starting point, on which I could build my training. So I checked my current level in a HM event, which was earlier postponed. I clocked 1:29:36, my PB. This gave me the confidence to target big.
I thought of getting a coach for the New Delhi Marathon. So, I first got in touch with one of the famous coaches of India. Which turned out to be a wrong decision. So I turned to my old friend, the book, Cool Impossible from Coach Eric Orton. I started following the training schedule mentioned in the book (of course after reading it and understanding the philosophy). I had to make a few adjustments in the schedule based on my work and home responsibilities.
This time the focus was more on high mileage and low intensity. Customary weekend long runs were back. Circuit training and dedicated strength training days were gone. Strength training on hard days and upper body on easy days had taken their place. Focus had shifted to improve the overall, as Coach Orton puts it, “athleticism”.
HR based training helped a lot in building the base. I knew that slow running is good, but I practically experienced it during this training block. Mr Lydiard must be really happy seeing my Strava. Along with the intervals, hill runs and easy runs, I started playing with my long runs, added different paces, hills while gradually increasing the distance.
To keep the training interesting and get rid of the boredom, I decided to register for running events to enjoy my key long runs. Hence, in the last three months of training I participated in two trail events.
First event was the SRT ultra – 25km category with 950m+ elevation, 9th December 22. I bettered my previous time by 9 mins. This gave me proof that improving the road running will definitely transform into a better trail running. Read the race report here.
Second event was the Red Stone Ultra – 30km category with 300m elevation, 6th February 22. A 100% trail event, almost flat route with completely different challenges. To know about the challenges, read the race report here. Anyways, my road running legs had stood the test of trails. Now it was time to taper, relax and cut the tree.
THE NEW DELHI MARATHON:
Reached the venue well in advance to avoide any last minute hiccups. Dropped my bag and proceeded to start the warm-up. Did a 15 min easy routine, had a sip or two of RedBull and got ready to roll. Learning from previous experiences, I now place myself as close to the starting line as possible.
Those Two Runners
Countdown started and off we went. Within first km I was running in an open road. This time, I didn’t set any pace range on my watch. While it helps to maintain a consistent pace, it eventually starts to irritate in the long run. However, I was keeping my pace in check based on the perceived effort. I was running comfortable sub 4:20 splits and after 7 kms I found myself running alongside two gentlemen (I’m going to call them “those two runners”) who were also running at the same pace.
Along with maintaining the pace and form I also made sure to take a sip of RedBull at every 3 km mark to keep the energy flowing. To keep the salt level in check I had made 4 small pouches of black salt. I had the first one at 11 km mark, then at 23rd and the 3rd and last one at 35th. It helped me run and finish the Marathon without any cramp.
Feel Good Temptations
Those two runners and I were frequently changing our positions, not consciously though. It kept me engaged and away from distractions. We finished the first half in less than 90 mins. This game went on till 27th km after which my pace dropped and those two runners went ahead. My initial thought was to push and catch them but then I realised it might be catastrophic towards the end. So for next 13 KM I ran only to survive and to keep sub 3:05 in sight. I have been in that zone where you can’t lift your legs to even walk properly. Where cramps take control of your body, where muscles bind themselves together and bring you to the ground, and all your efforts go into drain. I didn’t want this to happen this time.
At 30th km mark, I had 51 min left to finish under 3 hours. I got tempted to push and even tried a little bit, but my body immediately showed the red flag and I had to pull myself back.
The Nike Guy
As the race proceeded after 30th km, the gap between those two runners and I was gradually increasing but they were always in my sight. Along the way, I shared the route with few other runners, until one guy stuck with me (I’m going to call him the Nike Guy) for the remaining part of the race. As we both played cat and mouse for few kilometers, I realized that we were inching closer to those two runners. At 35th km mark, I made my mind, come what may I am going to push in last 2-3 kms. From 36th km I gradually started to dig deeper, the Nike guy responded. Neither of us was letting the other one go. As the watch hit 40km, I gathered all that was left inside me and charged ahead.
The Last Surge
My Altras bid adieu to the Nikes of the Nike guy first and then to the Nikes of those two runners. Although my legs had been in deep pain for last 5 kilometers, but all I could give them was a little more suffering. Whole cardiovascular system was working on 100% capacity and I still had last 2 km to go. The last part of any race is always magical. You can never get that feeling until you reach that point. This magical part is not reserved for few fast runners, every runner gets to feel this part. This is the part which proves that we are capable of so much more than we think we are. (A little philosophical, I know, but it is what it is).
I had now taken a comfortable lead on them. Although there was no point in reaching ahead of them, we were all running against our own time. But it still feels rewarding. The kid inside us gets too competitive and it feels like everything is on stake. Any ways, I kept pushing till the very end and finished my race in 3:04.
New Delhi Marathon taught me to keep my head in the race, to make right decision at the right time. It also taught me, while training is crucial to perform well in the event, the execution of your training on the race day is equally important. I hope to keep this momentum going for my upcoming events.
Meanwhile, if you like the journey of the New Delhi Marathon, you will definitely love the race report of Solang Sky Ultra.