Running a marathon is tough but not impossible. It took me more than 5 months to train. So, why did I run a marathon? I geek out over setting goals in running and cycling and reaching them. And what’s more goal-oriented than running a marathon?
To run a marathon, you need to bring lifestyle change in you, put consistent efforts in following training plan meticulously. The journey through all this is brutal on your body. You need to sacrifice many things you love to do. But I must tell you the joy of crossing the finish line is unparalleled.
Pre- race: The final count down started 1 week before (as taper period started 3 weeks prior to run) with carb loading and building enough nutrients, salts by proper hydration. Followed a basic rule, “just stick to regular diet, no food adventures”. I did 20k run on beach on 20th and that was final long run. It is important to keep your body warm, blood circulating in legs, so did couple of short runs a strength workout but most of the focus was on Yoga and Pranayama. This has helped me to relax. We were keeping an eye of resting HR to monitor on how body is recovering and getting ready for run.
Even though I ran many half marathons or runs over 30k, I filled in with nervous energy but equally excited and eager to complete 42.195k. Since it was self supported run, the task was to carry hydration around 1.8 with 4 fast and up tabs added, nutrition (6 gels every 45 mins / dates every 4k and bananas, every bars in between) along in camel back. Just enough as I wanted to carry minimum weight on my back. I had two pairs of Asic shoes. I did few long runs in new shoes as in early days were not comfortable (I lost my both big toe nails) but later did few long runs to get accustomed. And after lot of thoughts, with heavy taping on my toes, I decided to stick to them. I also wore clothes which I have been using & comfortable with. Used yellow florescent tee as 40% of my run is going to be in dark. Offline I am using tight legins to ensure I keep my legs warm and good blood circulation.
27th Feb, weather was ok but not as good as when I did my sub 2 half marathon. That’s why I decided to start around 4:15am. I slept an extra hour every day in prior week to add hours in sleep bank as I knew I am not going to get proper sleep night before. With warm up I started my run at 4:21 am. I said “You did everything right over last 5 months. You can do it!. You are strong”. I tried to be positive. I was blatantly aware of the fact that I had to run first 24k alone. But good thing was, well aware of the route where I did many runs.
Pace strategy: Was to aim for 5:00 to 5:30 finish by completing 1st / 2nd block of 10k in 70mins each, 3rd block in 72mins (thereby 30k in 3h28mins), last block in 75 mins (thereby 40k in 4h47mins). And final 2k walk / jog and wrap it up. The route was planned and registered well in mind. Kartik and me engaged in discussions to finalize the route and endorsed by TimTim. Kartik agreed to pace me 24k onwards.
0-10K : It was quiet morning when I started my run cautiously. Rarely vehicles were plying on road. I registered well 70 mins in my mind. After 7m56s, first k and muscles warmed up, I gradually increased pace completing 5k in 36 mins. I started sweating and more so because of camel back. I need to gradually move bit faster now if I have to catch 70 mins. So decided to bring pace to around 6:45m/k and that will get me closer. I had my first gel after 7k. this has put some energy in my body. Finally with crossing Juhu, finished 10k in 70m26s. No bad, this means I was on target. 11-20K: Stretch on Linking road. Need to be steady. and I knew, once I cross Mahim- Causeway, next 6k will be my favorite and joyful stretch with runners and cyclists moving along. I decided to better my pace and hold it till 20k. Gulped 2nd Gel at 15k that has induced energy back in me. I did 1 lap around Shivaji Park to add up a k in my kitty as planned. This block went well and I finished 20k in 2h18mins. (Nice, I was 4 mins faster than target !). 21-30K: Worli sea face- Haji Ali stretch. Good thing was, running groups has set up water station at Mela Restaurant. Volunteers asked me if I needed water but I politely told them that will pick up on my return and headed towards Haji Ali. I checked my watch and with more than 24k done, I decided to turn back. I was still going strong. As soon as I had my 3rd gel, Kartik called me to tell that he was waiting at Mela. I picked up a water bottle and set into run along with him. We were running on extreme side of the road and considering narrow part, Kartik decided to run ahead. Things were still looking good. Legs moving well. Kartik asked me to do deep and relaxed breathing. I held my sub 7 pace till 25k and later dropped a bit but still well under control. Kartik was talking to me. I was watching in disbelief as the miles ticked by far quicker than I’d ever anticipated. I was holding my head high ensuring I remain positive and focus on my run. 30-40K: The challenge has begun. Good thing was the hydration and nutrition help was coming up at 32k with Kartik’s friend handing over 2 bananas and energy drink at Prabhadevi which I filled in my bottle. I ate 1 banana to get energy and moved ahead. After Sivaji Park, some where after 34k, I decided to take a stretch break and release some tightness in legs that’s when the pace dropped significantly to 9m/k. Also it was time for 4th gel. But the break was essential. I was sipping energy drink inbetween just to keep me hydrated. Soon completed 35k as we moved towards Bandra. 7k to go, I said to Kartik. My breathing was normal though pace dropped a bit. As we crossed 37k, I was happy because of 2 reasons – first I clocked my longest distance run so far and just under 5k to go. Sun was on top now. With under 4k to go, we were on Linking Road. We decided to adopt now run / walk strategy after 38k. (2 mins run/ 30 sec walk which Kartik was monitoring). He called my wife and asked her to be at Juhu Garden where we will be finishing the run. I forgot to take gel which later I realized that it would have given me energy to finish even stronger. With munching second banana, I felt better. With sun shining and with long run, body temperature expected to be up so Kartik sprinkled water on my neck. The Final Push: I was now counting miles tickled by on my Garmin. 40k has boosted my morale. With just 400 meters away, Kartik called TimTim and I was screaming “about to finish”. Kartik said you are not tired, you still have energy left in you. He jokingly said, let’s run 50k. I need to finish strong for myself and my family, my coach who stood by me in last 5 months. As we were inching towards finish line, It gave me goose bumps and memories with all training/ hard work, pitfalls, fatigue, injuries – all rolled in front of my eyes. Though legs were moving, I was bit tired now. It was time to bring “Usain Bolt” in me so increased my pace. FINALLY, I began to see the finish line. As I approached, all I could think was, “I DID IT. I ACTUALLY DID IT. THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.” And then I heard the cheers from family and crossed in 5h09min. An emotional moment for me when my wife surprized me to hand over a trophy. Though I was very prepared to be sore and immobile after my race I was not bad as I thought. Not much soreness nor cramps, all thanks to hard training which prepared my body well. But honestly I was physically drained. We did some light stretching and felt better. We had breakfast together as promised to Kartk for pacing me.
So, man, WELCOME to MARATHONER’S CLUB”. My first ever Marathon. And I did much better than target !!
The Reflection: So would you run another marathon? Definitely yes, eyeing Tata Mumbai Marathon 2023 for sure. Anyone who has run that first marathon knows, no matter what the result, completing it and knowing that you purposefully pushed your body to those limits is a level of intrinsic elation that is hard to find elsewhere.
In looking back to that very first marathon there are many things that I can do differently next time. I learned more about my body. About its needs over 26.2 miles and about how to match them. I learned about hydration and best practices. I learned that you’ve got to test EVERYTHING out in training before trying to execute in a race. This applies no matter how small or easy to manage you think it might be. I learnt about managing injuries and all about resilience in getting back.
The most important thing I learned though, is that when challenged you can choose to embrace the potential for more positives and success ahead. It’s always out there, the potential to come out stronger and better than before. The potential to find positives in even the most atrocious, dehydration-cramp induced negatives. The potential to learn from an experience and do things differently the next time on your quest for success.
The Gratitude: Like every effort and success can not be achieved alone. It is always team working behind having same goals. I was so lucky to have such a wonderful team. TimTim my coach, mentor. it’s important to have communication, feedbacks every day. This has helped to set up a plan, correct it towards goal. She was very supportive in my lows but pushed me whenever needed. Created hydration and nutrition plans. Such a wonderful person. Thank you TimTim for being out there and equally or rather more to get happy with achieving goals. My pacer Kartik Iyer who always there for me, to run with me, motivating me and pushing at the fag end of the run. My wife, Neelima who always stood with me, encouraged me to follow my dream even I disturbed her when I did my training runs, workouts very early mornings.
“The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.” – George Sheehan